While the holidays are time for family and good cheer, they also often are a time for over indulgence and poor spending. The new year is a time to wipe the slate clean and rededicate yourself to better spending habits. This New Year's Eve, make the resolution to make these simple changes to increase savings accounts and cut back on non-essentials.
Resolution 1: Reflect on the Previous Year
While a monthly budget is Finance 101, at the end of the year, there's so much more a monthly budget can offer in terms of money-savings. Make a New Year's resolution to carefully review last year's budget. Look beyond big ticket, one time expenses and into unnecessary, recurring expenses. Monthly expenses, such as gym memberships or video services, which are being used inconsistently may be a bigger drain than asset. Plan to cut down on or cut out those spending habits that regularly impact the budget.
Resolution 2: Adjust Withholding
While tax refunds are a fun infusion of cash, they ultimately are an interest-free loan to the government. As a New Year's resolution, sit down and assess the last few years taxes. Those who are regularly receiving refunds should reduce withholdings while those paying at tax time should increase withholdings. Make an appointment with a trusted accountant or spend time adjusting withholdings on a tax software program to determine the best amount for withholding. Those who were receiving refunds should divert that newly found money into a saving account or automatically withdraw it every paycheck to pay off debt.
Resolution 3: Open a Health Spending Account
Health Spending Accounts (HSA) are a great way to pay for yearly medical expenses tax-free. Contributions are topped at $3,250 for individuals and $6,450 for families. Not only does the money go into the account tax-free but it gains interest tax-free. The money rolls over from year to year so even if the account is overfunded, contributions won't be lost. The money can be used not only for medical and dental costs but over the counter medical supplies such as first aid kits and Band-aids. A HSA is a simple way to save money.
Resolution 4: Maximize 401(k) or Roth IRA Savings
With more retirements being put in jeopardy by insufficient funds, use the new year to increase retirement contributions. Max out any employer match on 401(k) contributions and try to reach the $17,000 ($23,000 for older adults) 401(k) limit. Those who are still early in their careers should also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. These funds tax on deposit rather than withdrawal and offer significant dollar leverage to generations with decades left in the workforce. Plan for retirement in the new year to prevent spending all future New Year's working.
Resolution 5: Set Goals
The new year isn't only a great time to assess the past but also to look toward the future. Take the time to set short term and long term goals for the coming years. While retirement may still be decades away, a long term goal of ramping up contributions to hit IRS limits is a great long term goal but short term projects, such as saving for a 20 percent down payment on a house, can keep motivation for success high. Make goals clear and concise for a yearly touchstone.
Typical New Year's resolutions to lose weight or quit smoking are great for health but not effective for financial health. Take the time over New Year's day to fully assess financial health and future.