By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
5 Financial Resolutions To Consider in the New Year
By: Jennifer Maggio
Well, the holiday season is over and the Christmas trees are all coming down. The gifts have been unwrapped. The children are likely back in school or headed there soon. The money has been spent, and in some cases, the credit card bills may even be coming in. What many of us are left with are New Year’s Resolutions and the hopes that 2022 will be our best year ever.
Perhaps you are like many that use the new year to evaluate past success and set goals for future achievement. However, goals can be quickly forgotten under the busyness of life’s demands. Maybe in prior years you came out strong in January with fitness goals and were doing well until Valentine’s Day hit and then, the house was filled with sugar and candy! Or maybe you decided to be more intentional with friendships and met for coffee with girlfriends a time or two, but the demands of raising children and carpool and baseball practice took their toll. Regardless of the challenges, New Year’s Resolutions can be helpful in giving us the push we need to achieve life goals and get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Financial resolutions are no exception. When approached with intention, they can greatly help us move the needle of our finances forward towards long-term goals and financial success and reduce the stress often associated with financial challenges. The key? They must be realistic, attainable, and fit into a busy schedule.
Here are a few tips to get your finances in order in the new year.
Create a budget and stick to it. When we attempt to lose weight, what do we do? We watch what we eat and integrate exercise in our regular routine. It’s pretty simple, right? The problem with many of us is that we get excited for about 32 seconds, then the real work begins! The same is true for establishing a budget. Most of us know we need to do it. We hear it’s important. We may even take the time to complete a budget worksheet or online app. The problem? We don’t often stick to it. Here are a few helpful hints on creating a working budget. First, don’t let a budget scare you! Simply put, it’s merely a written reflection of what income flows into the family, what expenses flow out, and what is anticipated in the future. That’s it. A budget can be written on a sheet of notebook paper. You cannot achieve financial goals, when you have no idea where you are headed. Second, set short-term and realistic goals that help you achieve financial success. For example, if your future financial goal includes a home purchase, perhaps the best first step in 2022 is simply ordering a credit report and beginning to work towards paying down debt. Speaking of credit reports....
Order a free credit report. Assessing your current credit picture is critical to future financial success. Even if you have poor credit history, it’s important to know where the starting line is. Assess what is on the report, particularly looking for errors. Many of us know that our credit report is important, but did you know it can be utilized not only for mortgages and car loans, but future employment, credit card rates, and terms on insurance policies? Our credit is important, but often the busyness of life prevents us from keeping up with what our report says. Perhaps you’ve had a set-back with your credit due to some poor decisions or a divorce or medical issue and it is overwhelming to even look at it. Order a free credit report online and begin somewhere. There may be errors on the report that, once rectified, can immediately boost your score. There are also ways to begin the discussions with old creditors on payment arrangements or reduced payoffs.
Save. Save. Save. There are hundreds of ways to save and a handful of dollars makes a big difference over time. Don’t discount the value of the $4 you saved skipping the coffee line and how it can grow and make a meaningful difference over time. Ways to save can be endless, but a few ideas include: skipping the lunch date and meal prepping at home, utilizing rebates & coupons, foregoing coffee shops for the at-home brew, driving slower (yep, it reduces gas usage), doing a manicure at home, unplugging unused appliances (toaster, television, lamps, etc.) for bill reduction and so much more. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of ways to save. The point is to be intentional and put back now for the unexpected, the holidays, and the children. Even putting a small amount of money away each pay period can bring a huge sense of satisfaction and comfort.
Plan for Christmas now. Christmas may seem like light years away, as we’re fresh off the holiday season, but it will be upon us before we know it. And many lose the joy of the Christmas season, because we’ve stressed ourselves out about what we’ll buy and how we’ll pay for it. Let’s begin now with a small Christmas budget that can be used this coming season and alleviate that stress early.
Tithe. I strongly believe the tithe conversation should be part of any household of faith, as it pertains to finances. Now, there will be some who will argue that tithing is Old Testament and we're no longer under the law. But here is what I will say, "You simply cannot outgive God." Giving 10% back for Kingdom work just feels right to me. Stewardship is very important, because it quickly helps us realize that everything we have is owned and gifted by God anyway. For me, it is a heart issue. I can remember being a young single mom with two children living in government housing. I remember contemplating how I would feed them or literally where our next meal would come from. But God has always been faithful. Always. And the catalyst that changed my financial picture was a revelation that I could never outgive God. It isn’t about the amount given if you currently have a modest income or the religious tradition or even the pastor’s motives or obligation. It’s about fully surrendering every part of your life back to the Lord, trusting he’ll provide in every way. His provision is always just enough and the Biblical principles of blessing are just too good!