Valdosta Daily Times

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January 5, 2014

Resolutions that matter

VALDOSTA — It’s 2014 and you know what that means ... You’re going to lose 20 pounds and finally achieve that perfect six-pack, you’re going to stop beating yourself up about your love life and focus on yourself for a change, and this year is finally going to be the year you get your finances in check. Luckily for you, at least one of those things is going to come true.

That’s right, you’re going to become financially stable. Let’s face it; if your weight loss and love life are tied to a resolution, you’ve already lost.

 

1. Kick discretionary spending to the curb.

How important is your Netflix account? Do you really need that $5 coffee every morning? Do you really need a new outfit every time you hit the town? These are all questions you need to be asking yourself. Right now, you’re probably spiraling into denial and arguing with the newspaper you’re holding. Here’s how you can prove me right: Pull three months worth of bank statements (I use three months because that’s a quarter of your year and it’s how businesses measure their financial success or failure). Go through your statements and highlight everything that is not a necessity, then go through the statements again and highlight everything that is a necessity in a different color. If your non-necessities outweigh your necessities, you have a problem. Just for kicks, add up how much you spent each month on those non-necessities ... I’ll pause for a moment and allow you to go throw up. Welcome back, and congratulations, now you know how much you need to start saving as opposed to spending.

 

2. Assess your credit card debt.

As much as we all try not to accrue debt, now days, it’s nearly impossible. Your dog gets sick, you have an unexpected visit to the emergency room, your car broke down, etc. However, more times than not, your credit card debt is made up of, you guessed it, junk you don’t really need. Do you have store credit cards? Of course you do, how else can you afford $500 worth of work attire to make that heinous woman you work with jealous? While your justification is valid, it’s not economically smart. Make a goal to stop using store credit cards and to start paying them off. The easiest way to do this is to pay off one card at a time. Find the card with the highest interest rate, and work your way down from there. As far as a general credit card goes, make a pay-off goal and figure out what you need to put towards your card every month to pay it down in that time period. If you keep paying the minimum, it’s like almost paying nothing at all.

 

3. Pay into savings like a bill.

Last year, I learned that I am very good at living within my means, so I used that to my advantage. Every paycheck, I would put the same minimum amount into my savings account, even if it only left me with little money in my checking account for the next two weeks. I surprised myself, and found out that every time I would make it on what little I had. It really forced me to cut back on my discretionary spending. Try it, I bet you surprise yourself, too.

 

4. Make a vision board.

I have become a really big fan of vision boards. A vision board is a board or piece of paper that contains pictures that represent various goals you have for yourself. You hang it in a place that you frequent every day. Not only have my boards helped me make goals, but also they have helped me attain them because it allows me to keep my true desires in perspective. I just made my 2014 vision board on Thursday, Jan. 2, and I have it hanging on my fridge. It contains the New York City skyline and picture of two plane tickets because I want to save enough to visit my brother in May. It also has screen shots of my credit card and savings account totals from my online bank. I put white out on the actual amounts and wrote in what I would like to see there instead. It’s a great motivation every time I pass by it.

That’s all I have for you this week, budgeteers. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @BudgetBrittany.

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