If you read John’s post, you’ll know that the best way to keep up with your New Year’s resolutions is to set realistic goals. Setting smaller goals is the key to getting what you want. So if your 2013 resolution is to save more money, the most effective way to change your financial habits is to take things one step at a time. For a more frugal 2013, here are some small, nearly-painless steps you can take.
Go green to save money
Living greener is often living cheaper. Your goal for 2013 is to pick at least one greener lifestyle choice and stick to it. You’ll be surprised at how your green savings add up! Here are some smaller steps you can take to living a greener (and more economical) lifestyle.
- Get energy-efficient light bulbs. Lower your electricity bill by ditching your energy-sucking incandescent bulbs and screwing in an LED or CFL bulb instead.
- Grow your own produce. Now’s the time to start planning your garden. Stop paying top dollar for organic produce, and start eating fresh-from-the-garden fruits and veggies.
- Make your own cleaners. Don’t buy expensive cleaners; use natural substances to clean your home instead.
Comparison shop more often
Comparison shopping can save you a lot of money on all of your purchases, both big and small. Start taking the time to research prices before you buy anything. The best way to tackle this change is to pick one or two areas of your budget where comparison shopping would benefit you the most.
- Change the way you grocery shop. Compare prices between supermarkets, dollar stores and savings clubs to get the overall lowest price on your groceries. Commit one hour of your week to planning the shopping trip.
- Don’t renew your cell phone plan without shopping around. Is your contract up for renewal this year? Don’t sign on the dotted line without knowing all your options. I found that the right prepaid data plan can save you hundreds of dollars a year, even if you have a smartphone. Check out this post for more about cheaper data plans.
- Download GasBuddy to save on gas. Sometimes, going an extra mile or two can save you money at the pump. The GasBuddy app is the king of comparison shopping, and it’s sure to help you find a cheaper price for gas.
Build an emergency fund
Every financially responsible adult should have an emergency fund, but most don’t; your goal for 2013 is to start one. An emergency fund can save you from the financial pain of job loss, home-related tragedies, unexpected car repairs, and more. You can start by determining the size of your emergency fund. Then, set a savings goal for each paycheck and put the money into a separate account. Even if it’s just ten bucks a week, this small change can give you the resources to avoid debt in a crisis.
Work on your credit
Your credit score has an impact on just about everything. In 2013, pay more attention to protecting your credit. Stop making mindless credit card mistakes, and start managing your credit responsibly. Here are a few ways to do that.
- Sign up for automatic bill pay. Late and missed payments are 100% avoidable. Signing up for automatic withdrawals will keep you from ever missing a payment.
- Pay more than your minimum. You’ll never get out of debt by making minimum payments. Commit to paying at least 10% more than your minimum each month.
- Sign up for Quizzle. Quizzle is a tool that can help you improve and monitor your score. Sign up here.
Stay aware of your finances
It can be painful to check your bank and credit card statements when there’s not always good news. Commit to staying aware of your finances. You’ll be amazed at how much your spending habits change when you know where your money is going. Here are a couple of things you can do to monitor your finances.
- Download a financial app. The Mint.com app, which syncs your bank accounts and credit cards, is a great tool that gives you an accurate picture of your finances. You’ll get alerts for low balances, bill due dates, merchant refunds and more.
- Talk to a financial planner. If you need help managing your finances, a financial planner can give you some pointers.
The best way to make a major change is to take small steps. Incorporating these small changes into your life, one at a time, is the best way to make bigger changes stick. I’d love to hear your money resolutions for 2013, so shoot me an email or leave us a comment to share with other Zing readers!