Chances are your goals for 2020 will include everything from becoming more physically fit and sleeping better to achieving new career ambitions and becoming financially healthier.
So how do we avoid these goals turning into empty promises? And when it comes to your money, what is actually realistic? There is no one-size-fits-all model for financial wellness. Instead, it’s about starting where you are, setting goals that drive behavior change, and ultimately following through.
Here are three things that you can do today to improve your financial future.
Cut unnecessary spending
Most of us have unnecessary expenses that we can cut. The trick here is to find a few expenses that you can live without that don’t negatively impact your happiness. For example, I need to be well-caffeinated during the day, and I enjoy a nice glass of wine after work, so obviously I’m not going to cut my coffee or alcohol budget. My friends, colleagues, and husband can thank me later.
That said, I enjoy running outside, and I have used my gym membership exactly once in three months. It’s time for that membership to go. In that vein, think of all of your expenses that are well-intentioned, but you’re not using. Or identify a free alternative, such as using audiobook subscription services or library apps instead of buying books. There are great services out there that identify your recurring payments. First, check with your bank to see if they do it, and make a goal to cut a few of those if you can.
And it’s not just the small stuff. The neighborhood you live in, public versus private school for kids, and whether you can cook (as opposed to eating prepackaged or takeout food) all have a significant impact on your finances.
Consider a side hustle
It’s never been easier to take on a side hustle. Getting started can be as easy as decluttering your closet and selling items you no longer use on eBay, driving for ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft, or putting your skills to work as a freelancer. While I don’t recommend it, dumpster divers are even seeing success selling stuff on Amazon.
The beauty of a side hustle is you can spend as much–or as little–time and money as you have. What matters is that you pick something that works with your schedule, skills, and maybe even a passion that you’ve ignored for too long. The key here is to be intentional. Use the extra money to accelerate debt reduction, or save for a down payment on a home to get out of the rental cycle.
Another often-overlooked side hustle is getting more money from your current employer. If you haven’t received a raise in a while or are killing it in your current role, consider asking for more money. Just make sure you are asking the right way.
Automate where you can and commit to cash
Good financial hygiene is crucial to your financial health, and this means avoiding late fees, overdraft charges, and other penalties. Where possible, automate any and all recurring monthly expenses, such as your mortgage, utilities, and cell phone expenses. Late fees add up and impact more than just your bottom line.
And although it may seem crazy, try committing to cash. Studies have shown that when we have to pull out cash to pay for groceries or other daily expenses, we’re more careful about how much we spend. Set yourself a challenge. Commit to using cash for a short period of time and see how it feels. You may be surprised by how much less you spend.
Healthy money habits lead to less stress and better financial outcomes. So, as you’re setting your New Year’s resolutions, don’t make empty promises to yourself or set unrealistic goals that you’ll abandon by March. Instead, focus on making a few little changes that can reap massive rewards in the future.