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Financial Resolutions

Any day is a good day to pay more attention to how you spend and save. Our list of 12 resolutions provides simple steps that can dramatically improve your financial health.

  1. Save automatically. Credit unions will automatically deduct a designated amount from your paycheck for deposit in savings. This is an essential step for those who are unlikely to save on their own. Remember, even small amounts add up!
  2. Save your raise. If you get a raise, deposit part or all of it into a savings account or retirement plan. By sacrificing a small amount of take-home pay, you can achieve long-term growth in savings.
  3. Control your credit. Pay off your balance, and then consciously manage credit purchases. Charge only what you can pay for at month’s end. Resist temptation by leaving credit cards at home. If your existing balance has become overwhelming, work with a credit counselor or financial planner to create a payment plan. Your credit union can refer you to services in your area.
  4. Pay as you go. When you can’t use cash (for instance, when purchasing online) then use a debit card so the purchase is deducted from your checking account.
  5. Keep the change. Every day, deposit loose change in a jar or another container. It’s likely to add up to several hundred dollars a year. Dedicate the change toward a goal, such as a family outing or holiday gifts, as an incentive to save in advance for special things, rather than relying on credit.
  6. Reward progress. Choose small rewards that won’t undermine your new habits. In other words, never celebrate a reduced credit card balance with a spending binge. Try ice cream instead.
  7. Get organized. For two weeks, track every penny spent by writing down what you spent in a notebook. Or, if you’re truly committed, buy a software program and enter expenditures every day. Keep careful records of bills, investments and other financial matters. Set up a filing system and use it.
  8. Plan for retirement. If your company has a 401(k) plan, join it. If not, set up automatic deposits to your retirement fund.
  9. Clear out clutter. Take time to organize your closet and sort through castoffs in the basement or garage. Looking at “stuff” you own but don’t need will reduce the urge to buy more “stuff.” Donate unused items to charity and record the gift for a tax deduction, or hold a garage sale and donate the proceeds.
  10. Cut the cost of fun. An afternoon at a park or a family sledding party offers fun for free. Low-cost options include plays or concerts by community groups; local sporting events; outings offered by clubs or social groups; museum trips; and special events sponsored by libraries.
  11. Rely on your credit union. Studies prove that credit unions offer higher returns on savings and charge lower rates and fees on loans. Avoid high-cost financial services by taking all your business to a credit union.
  12. Make bite-sized changes. Changing habits takes time. Pick one or two areas where you need improvement, such as saving a small amount each month or making fewer fast food purchases, and get those under control before moving on to other goals.

Remember, making small changes in your spending habits will add up to significant gains—but only if you stick with it!

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