5 Financial Resolutions to Try

Many Americans report having financial regrets or say their finances are a source of stress. While working with a financial advisor can help you get proactive about managing your money, there are steps you can take on your own to start feeling better about your finances.

Here are five resolutions to try.

1.Update your housing budget

As home and rent prices increase, so too does the amount of budget we allocate toward the expense. Before you know it, costs that once felt manageable are straining your budget. Take a look at how much you spent on housing this year: Is that number more than 30% of your income?

Make sure you include expenses beyond the headline amount: What are you spending on home repairs, furnishings, insurance, and add-ons? If the answer is yes, start reviewing your expenses to see if there are areas to cut back or save.

If you aren’t actively feeling the strain, consider simply monitoring housing as an expense in the year ahead. If you start to feel “house poor” you might consider a more proactive approach the following year.

2. Review any student loans

Student loan debt remains a top concern for Americans planning for, or paying off, a college degree. Take a minute to check your mindset on student loans. If you’re actively repaying your loans, does your payment plan make sense for your current financial situation? Be sure to consider how your loans are structured and the rate that you’re paying.

If you’re saving for your child’s college, make sure you get an accurate handle on how much college will cost and how much you may be able to help out. You may want to discuss whether, or how, cost may play a factor in your child’s post-secondary education. Having this conversation early on can help your student prepare—including getting proactive about extracurriculars or academics that could lead to scholarships or grants. Resolve to have that conversation with your kid(s) this year.

3. Adjust your auto expenses

Currently, the price difference between new and used cars is smaller than normal, creating some unique opportunities for anyone who drives a lot.

Today’s market may present opportunities to either reduce driving costs or improve your family vehicle while keeping costs the same. For instance, if you bought a used car in the past few years, look up its trade-in value compared to newer models.

If prices are similar, you might consider the trade-in, since new cars tend to come with better financing options and cheaper insurance quotes, both of which may lower your monthly expenses.

Or, if interest rates come down in the coming year, you may be able to refinance any outstanding auto loans to a lower rate or even a shorter term.

4. Create a social media plan

We used to call it “keeping up with the Joneses,” but these days, it might as well be called “keeping up with Instagram.” The growing importance of social media in our daily lives and communications makes it easier than ever to see and experience the lifestyles of friends, family, colleagues, and even celebrities.

When you’re constantly inundated with images of nice or expensive things, it’s natural to want those things for yourself, and be tempted to spend beyond your means. To ensure you spend your money on what you value, instead of what you see other people valuing, create a plan for social media and money management.
Consider writing out what you value and how you want to spend your money this year—putting it on paper can help ensure you spend money on what you like, not what generates likes.

5. Review your savings

If you aren’t saving as much as you want, there’s likely a good reason for it. Advice that simply tells you to “save more” rarely takes this into account. Hopefully, you’ve spotted some opportunities for rethinking your finances this year in the first four potential resolutions.

If you have, think about whether those adjustments might free up some money for you to put towards your future.

Remember, reviewing your savings doesn’t have to be about shaming yourself for not saving enough. It could be about improving your mindset or habits. What if you put a picture of your dream house next to your computer?

You might think twice about an impulse purchase online if it means you can put that money in a down payment fund. Or, consider automating your savings if you haven’t already.

Regardless of whether you try these resolutions or make some of your own, keep one thing in mind: Most decisions have a financial component. Simply being more aware of how money intersects with other areas of your life, from fitness, to food, to your day-to-day mindset, can lead to positive changes in the year ahead.

If you think your resolutions could benefit from professional guidance, schedule time with a Bogart Wealth Advisor to get started.

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