Another year has passed, and now we look forward to 2012 and the hope that things will improve. Could this be the year we finally lose those extra twenty pounds, or get that raise at work, or even clean out the garage? Whatever you have resolved for the new year, here’s hoping you make good headway in the first month. Personal finance, especially in this questionable economy, should definitely have a place on your list.
What do you need to resolve in 2012 as far as money goes? Obviously saving more and spending less should be priorities, and in some cases these issues may already be set for you. If you have a stable job and your bill-paying situation is under control, let this be the year you get started on investments for the future. Here are a few ideas to get you started toward good financial health in 2012 and beyond:
1) Start saving toward retirement. If your job has options for a 401(k) or similar program, find out about enrolling if you haven’t already. If you don’t get such benefits at work, look into a financial program and start putting money away for the future. We can debate over whether or not Social Security will exist in twenty or thirty years, but either way you want to have something saved up for your twilight years.
2) Start saving for the childrens’ college funds. It’s quite simple to open a 529 account for college savings. Higher education will not get cheaper as the years pass, and even if your child plans to attend school in-state you’re looking at a major expense. Even twenty dollars a month placed in an account will help when your child turns eighteen.
3) Evaluate your luxury spends. If you find yourself short on cash by months’ end, consider what you’ve bought in the last month. If there’s a way to cut down on certain costs, do it. For example, why spend three to four dollars a day on a latte from a coffee shop when you have a coffee maker, milk, and coffee beans at home? Little things like this, when changed to keep your wallet padded, make a huge difference.
4) Work smarter, not necessarily harder. Look for ways you can cut down on energy bills with a few simple fixes that also “green” your living space. Watch your grocery shopping to purchase what you know will be used in a timely manner, rather than left to go bad in your refrigerator. Little things can help to save you big.
Above all else, keep track of where the money goes every month. By keeping a spend log, you can track how you handle money and figure out where to stop any hemorrhaging. Good luck!