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Keep Money in Your Pocket by Keeping Your Resolutions

  • Deborah Nayrocker Contributor
  • 2011 21 Jan
Keep Money in Your Pocket by Keeping Your Resolutions

Are the bills piling up? Wish you had more money left after paying the bills? Some of the top new year's resolutions, according to a recent study, deal with money management.

Some people believe it's a waste of time to make new resolutions. They say they've tried making changes before and it didn't work. So should they give up or try again?

People who make resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals, says psychology professor John Norcross, of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. "Keeping a resolution isn't a 100-yard dash. It's a marathon," reports Norcross.

It's not too late to take control of your money and keep more of it.

One reason people don't follow through with their resolutions is that their goals are too general. Making the goals more specific makes them easier to achieve. Now is the perfect time to resolve to make changes you can live with.

To help you keep the resolutions, you must go back to your basic motivations. What really motivates you? What is important?

How can you keep more money in your pocket this year? You can hold on to thousands of dollars by taking control of your spending.

Get more organized financially.

Although you may not always have control of your wages, you can have control over money-handling habits. Start by keeping track of how much money is coming in and record where it goes.

One money manager reports that 52% of Americans lose $3,000 a year not knowing where their money went.

When I was in college, my friend told me she was broke and didn't have any extra money. "Don't you watch where your money goes?" I asked. "I sure do," she said. "I watch it leave my fingers as soon as I get it." At least she was honest about it.

Get a good grip on spending, especially discretionary spending. Save the receipts and write down what your family spends on everything. Keep a small notebook to list expenses, if necessary.

Shop from a list and stick with it. Without a list, it is easy to spend more than the amount budgeted.

Balance your checkbook every month. This is a good financial habit to keep. It doesn't take long, eliminating hassles and saving a lot of time in the long run. You won't need to worry about your checking account being overdrawn. Consumers now use debit cards more than credit cards for purchases. With more people using debit cards, banks are charging more fees for overdrawn accounts.

Establish a routine for bills. Have an effective bill paying system. Pay them as they come in to avoid late fees and high interest rates.

If you're married, in order to tackle money management, work as a team. Create priorities together and then work together to achieve the shared goals. A hot button issue is charging on the credit card and not paying it off every month. Another one is borrowing money without letting the other spouse know.

Make fewer coffee shop visits.

Prepare coffee at home and you will pay just a fraction of what you would spend at a trendy coffee shop.

Specialty coffees may be enticing and taste great. It may seem like it's just a few dollars here and there for a hot drink. But it is also pricey, costing around $2 to $5 a drink. By cutting out the weekday latte, you can save $40 to $100 a month.

When Lori Biancofiori's husband lost his job, as a couple they decided to trim spending. After examining their spending habits, they stopped the daily trips to the coffee shop. Although it was hard at first, the couple has got accustomed to brewing their own coffee.

This was one of the first expenses Lori's family eliminated, keeping a lot more money in their pockets. In fact, by kicking the specialty coffee habit, they save $1200 a year.

Eat out less often.

Restaurant expenses can easily add up. Even fast-food costs are not what they used to be. Families are paying a big price for the sake of convenience.

Plan ahead. Pack lunches at home for work. Make a simple meal plan for the week. Make a list of groceries for easy-to-fix meals. Quick and easy meals can be prepared for a lot less than eating out.

For a family of four, eating at a good restaurant can cost $50, with drinks and gratuity. By cutting out one restaurant meal per week, a family saves $200 per month.

Spend less on entertainment.

The average U.S. consumer spends $2,698 on entertainment, according to the Department of Labor's latest survey (October 2010). That is 5.4% of their annual paycheck.

Imagine if the amount spent on entertainment would go to a savings account instead. If you had 5% of your income automatically deducted and redirected to a 401(k) account, you'd save even more, including tax savings.

There are free and fun ways to entertain the family.

Attend concerts and plays at local high schools and colleges. High school musical events may include choral concerts, or orchestra, band, and jazz performances.

Check out community events. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and discover activities held year-round. Take free tours. This can be educational as well.

Make use of the library to check out books and free movies for the family. Library services include a variety of programs for the whole family.

Go to the park. Use the walking and biking trails in your area.

Or stay at home for some backyard entertainment. Play badminton, croquet, or baseball. Camp out in the backyard when the weather is good.

Stay focused.

Make a commitment to yourself and your spouse to be accountable with spending. To keep more of your money, focus on the benefits of moving forward with your goals. Link your new habits to positive rewards now and in the future.

Copyright (c) 2011 Deborah Nayrocker. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

Deborah Nayrocker is the author of The Art of Debt-Free Living and Living a Balanced Financial Life.