12 Money Resolutions for 2019
Start the new year off right with a calendar of financial goals.
Heading into 2019, many people are taking the opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous year. They might be asking themselves “What have I accomplished?” or “What can I improve upon?”
Akin to goal-setting, making a New Year’s resolution is a formalized declaration of your intentions for the coming year. If you’re someone who firmly believes in making an annual resolution in the hope that speaking your goal will give you the momentum to see it through, you’re not alone.
But what are people most interested in changing this year? While some opt for career, health, or romance-centered resolutions, nearly one out of three Americans is considering ones that are financially focused, according to a new survey. The most popular money resolutions among respondents were saving more (48 percent), paying down debt (29 percent), and spending less (15 percent).
Ready to make a change? Here are 12 resolutions—one for each month—to whip your finances into shape.
January: Financial Health Checkup
The first step to financial wellness is taking stock of your financial health.
Start by reviewing your spending habits. To do this, focus on the past month. List your sources of income and the total amount you made. Then, think back to what you purchased and write down all of your expenses. Compare the amount you made to the amount you spent.
February: Pay Off Debt
One of your first financial goals should be reducing debt. Consider a strategy like the “avalanche” or “snowball” method. The faster you pay off your debt, the more money you’ll save in interest.
One of the most common forms of debt is credit card debt. If you have more than you’d like, write down a detailed payment plan and work toward getting those credit card balances back to $0. It’s not wise to carry a balance from month to month—you get charged interest for it. If nothing else, focus on getting the amount you owe below 30 percent of your total available credit. (For instance, if your credit card has a limit of $1,000, 30 percent would be $300.) This is called your credit card utilization ratio, and it’s one of the factors that are used to determine your credit score.
March: Tax Season
Tax season officially began January 1 and lasts until mid-April, when personal and business taxes are due.
With the upcoming deadline, now is the time to learn how to file your federal income taxes by yourself or to review what you already know. Especially if you haven’t filed yet!
First, figure out your filing status. Next, sort out the documentation you’ll need to file. Then, get it done!
April: Financial Education
It’s National Financial Literacy Month! This initiative is recognized in the U.S. during April in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teaching Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. It’s the perfect time to get involved in financial education programming.
Take advantage of free events and outreach done by local colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and financial institutions in your community. Don’t see any local events? Sign up for an online course to focus on the financial area you’re least comfortable with.
May: Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund is the best way to make sure that unexpected emergencies, like a job loss or health care bills, don’t throw you off track. Already have one? Challenge yourself to bulk it up by saving three to six months’ worth of expenses. This will create a comfortable cushion to fall back on, making your present and future a little more secure.
June: Check Your Credit Report
Did you know that you can request a free copy of your credit report? Well, you can. So do it!
Your credit report will give you an in-depth, accurate picture of your financial health. It will list your account information and payment history, telling you exactly whom you owe money to and how much you owe them. It will also show any payments that entered delinquency or default.
When you request it, the credit bureaus may also provide an estimate of your credit score, which is what lenders look at when considering a loan or credit card application. Essentially, it represents your ability to pay back debts, and the higher your score is, the more likely you are to be approved and receive a good interest rate.
July: Improve Your Credit
After checking your credit report and credit score, make a commitment to strengthen your creditworthiness. Watch our video on how to improve your credit, or take any of the following steps:
- Keep credit card utilization under 30 percent
- Pay off credit cards entirely each month
- Make on-time payments
- Keep accounts open and in good standing to lengthen your credit history
- Keep hard inquiries down by not applying for credit unnecessarily
- Dispute any errors on your credit report
August: Set a Saving Goal
You’re more than halfway through the year! Now is a good time to check in on how you’ve been doing. Have you been able to stick to a budget? Are there certain spending temptations that you’ve been missing? Well, you’re in luck!
This month, commit to learning how to save, but do it in a fun way. Create a saving goal by choosing something to save for. Maybe start with something practical, like putting aside money for a downpayment. But then choose something that you’re excited about. Is there a trip you want to make? Begin saving and make it happen.
September: Get Wise About Student Loan Debt
September is when colleges welcome students back to campus and classes kick into full swing. Are you currently a student? Do you have any debt remaining from when you were? This is the month to take care of it.
Determine if consolidating your student loan debt for the sake of a better interest rate is the right choice for you. Once you know your total loan amount and projected interest, plan an aggressive payment schedule. Celebrate each payment as incremental progress.
October: Face Your Financial Fears
Money can be an intimidating topic. For the spooky month of October, face your financial fears.
Are your finances too scary to even look at? Are taxes your boogeyman? Maybe you’ve always wanted to invest but feel nervous about putting money in the stock market. Whatever it is that keeps you up at night, muster your bravery and show it who’s boss.
November: Make a Charitable Donation
In November, many people choose to make charitable donations. (Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday that follows Thanksgiving.) If you’d like to join in the spirit, ask yourself a couple important questions.
- Where will you donate? Find the right organization by using a site like Charity Navigator, which is a trustworthy resource for assessing the quality of charitable organizations. For those without extra money to give, consider Kiva which allows you to invest with reimbursable loans as opposed to donating. It’s a great alternative for those without enough extra income set aside for donations.
- Is your charitable contribution tax-deductible? Check the IRS’s tax information for contributors to search eligible organizations, learn how to report contributions, and read useful tax tips. Also, ask if your employer offers matching donations to make the most of your giving.
December: Review Your Financial Goals
Congrats on making it through the year!
December is the time to review your financial goals. Did you complete everything you wanted to? What areas were challenging? Maybe you didn’t pay off all of your debt or you splurged outside of your budget. And that’s okay! Remember that your personal finance journey is just that: an imperfect journey with plenty of room to learn and grow.
What are your money resolutions for the new year? Let us know on Twitter at @OppUniversity!