New Year’s resolutions aren’t all about eating less and getting to the gym more — just as important are the financial wellness goals we set for ourselves and the resolutions we make to support getting there. Read on for the nine financial commitments to make to yourself in 2019.
1. Start an Emergency Fund
This is the number one thing you should tackle in 2019 if you’re getting your finances in order. A great initial place to start is bringing together that first $1,000 — this can seem like a huge number, but little contributions paycheck after paycheck definitely add up! This is a helpful stash to cope with unexpected expenses (think medical bills, unexpected car troubles, etc.). Over time, aim to save three months of living expenses that could assist you in the event of a major life surprise.
2. Pay Cash For Splurges
It can be a vacation you’ve been dreaming of, a handbag calling your name, or even an extra luxurious date with your partner or friends. Whatever is a splurge to you, get used to paying cash for these mini-adventures. You may even think about setting up a separate checking account for “fun money” that doesn’t have to keep up with your routine bills. Remember, if your splurge is going to sit on a credit card for months without a plan to pay off, you might be better off holding out until you can truly fund it.
3. Finally Find a Budget that Works for Me
Budgets are not one size fits all! If you’ve never worked with one before you may just want some simple structure, or a few tips on getting started. If you’re a budgeting wizard but have major financial goals you’re addressing this year, you may need a little more sophisticated plan. As your life evolves, your budget should too, because it needs to adapt to new financial demands, or even additions to your family.
As you head into 2019, think about jotting down three styles of budgeting you might try out and give them a test in the first quarter. Make it a goal to have one style nailed down that you can stick with through this year!
4. Recognize Lifestyle Creep
Lifestyle creep can be one of the biggest saboteurs of our financial goals because it happens in such tiny increments it can be hard to notice. I personally see lifestyle creep most in little things like how many Ubers I’m taking or how much I’m eating out instead of cooking at home.
It can also show up in small routine purchases that you don’t give much thought to. A 2018 Fidelity study found that seeing our peers buy expensive, meals, vacations, or clothes on social media creates a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality” that can harm our financial well being. Curb these purchases by vetting them against your budget and asking yourself if you’d be making it if you hadn’t seen it on your favorite influencer.
5. Invest in My Home
Notice that this isn’t saving for a house. If that’s on your financial checklist for 2019 — congratulations! Instead, this is about investing in whatever space is your personal corner of the world. For me, this meant cutting out fancy coffee for a month so I could afford a bookshelf that transformed my living room and made the space cozier. Other days, this might mean making a tiny purchase that just makes my life run a little better or organizes my space.
Also know that home isn’t always a place. It can be a state of mind or people you love, so that might mean your investment is a plane ticket! Whatever home looks like to you, find an investment strategy in 2019 that gets you there.
6. Stop Fearing Finance
Fearing finance takes a million forms. It can mean letting an e-bill sit in your email unopened, or staying quiet and on the sidelines of a chat about investing. Whatever your personal finance fear looks like, make 2019 a year to conquer financial illiteracy.
How do we get there? Start small, and not with the thing that freaks you out the most. Instead, just amp up what you’re already good at. Savings queen? Shop around a few banks to be sure you’re getting the best rate and service on your money and sign up for alerts to tip you off to pre-set savings milestones (well done!).
Once you’re building up confidence about what part of finance you do well, work at the edges of the scarier stuff. If budgeting is your personal nightmare, commit to reading a finance blog weekly or scouring Pinterest for budgeting articles or top finance apps and starting board on personal finance. Information is the best antidote to fear!
7. Remember that Self Care Doesn’t Equal Spending
The visuals that go along with self care would have us believe that it always requires a mani/pedi, an armful of favorite shopping bags, or a getaway — not so! Self care is a million smaller things, many of which don’t cost a dime.
Meditating with a free app, a few minutes stretching in the morning to a YouTube video, or a long walk with a friend are only a few of the financially-free way to enhance your well being. And since almost 70% of us have felt stressed at some point because of income, you’re killing two birds with one stone by finding a more affordable or free way to cope with stress.
8. Revisit My Retirement Plan
Saving for retirement is a critical part of holistic financial wellness. Even if you can’t contribute big dollars today, getting in the habit paves the way for big savings in the future. The time value of money means that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future, so even when starting small, your future self will thank you. If you’re working for a traditional company, you almost always have perks like retirement savings matching that you should be taking advantage of. Don’t leave free cash on the table! Check in with your HR rep about these benefits so you can completely take advantage of them.
Self-employed or working more sporadically? You have options, too. There are a number of investment products geared toward building your own savings and retirement plan, so be sure to talk to a financial planner about what you should be doing.
9. Share What I Know About Money
We are stronger financially when we share what we know. As women, we live longer, but generally spend fewer years in the workforce. We still make about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. We’re taking on greater responsibilities in the workplace, but often find ourselves with equal increases in responsibilities at home around those same times in life.
Whew! Sometimes the deck feels stacked, ladies. So in 2019, as we push forward with all kinds of change for women, make it a year to share your financial toolkit with the women in your life. Talk openly about salary goals, savings plans, and lessons learned (or questions you have about finance). Someone in your circle of influence is the above saving guru. And you might just be able to give her some tips about how you’re managing your own financial wellness.