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2014: The year to transform your personal finances

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A new year has arrived and that means it’s time for a fresh start and achievable resolutions. According to a Fidelity Investments survey, more than half of respondents said they want to save more in the coming year, while other studies suggest people want to pay down their debt or earn more money.

All three are attainable goals, but individuals should not languish in despair because of past aims that were not exactly met. Perhaps fixing one’s finances is the top priority for 2014; there are a number of ways to meet this objective.

Indeed, it does take willpower to save money, it does take discipline to pay down debt and it certainly takes a strong work ethic to see a higher paycheck. It’s not impossible if people follow these steps over the course of 2014.

Establish a Goal

Whether it’s to save extra cash or get rid of a chunk of credit card debt, consumers have to sit down and think about what they want to financially achieve in 2014, in what time frame and what purpose.

For instance, if a consumer wants to save $1,000 then he or she must ask themselves: for what? In what time do they want to save that money? What will they sacrifice? These are pertinent questions to ask before working to complete such an aspiration.

Create a Budget

Now that the goals have been written down, it’s time to start a budget. A study by FindLaw.com found that nearly two-thirds of Americans either don’t have a household budget or have difficulty maintaining a budget.

Creating a budget doesn’t have to be difficult. Write down how much income is earned, how much is spent on monthly expenses and what can be cut. After a couple of months, a significant number of people will find that it’s relatively easy to stick to a budget. The most important part of a budget is to remain honest.

Debt vs. Saving

This is a very difficult question to answer and depending who is being asked, there are varying answers. The best advice is to pay down the debt as quickly as possible, even if it outpaces the savings amounts. Debt can be a burden and with interest it can hold back any financial gains in the future.

How to Save

A study by LIMRA, a trade association for the financial services industry, concluded that nearly half of Americans are not saving for retirement. There are other figures that show individuals are not saving any money for a rainy day or very little.

There are simple steps to take in order to save regularly:

  • An automatic savings plan that lets the bank transfer money from chequings to savings
  • Putting any loose change in a piggy bank or container
  • Depositing any extra cash, like a tax refund or bonus, into a savings account
  • Finding efficiencies in a grocery budget and putting it back into the savings
  • Make saving a habit by depositing money into a savings account on each payday

Daily Tracker

Keeping a track on how much is spent daily, weekly and monthly is important. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, just a notepad and pen to note how much was spent Monday to Sunday, such as coffee, lunch, movies and accessories.

Finding Efficiencies

Sure, everyone wants to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but if money is tight and the goal is to fix the financial situation in 2014, then it’s best to discover efficiencies. For instance, an ultimate VIP cable package is certainly not a need, having a top of the line data plan is not crucial and maintaining a gym membership that isn’t used at least once a month is a waste of money. There are different ways to cut back and still enjoy the standards of life.

Rewards

By the time all the goals are met, it would then be a perfect time to get a reward. Whether it’s going out to a nice restaurant, purchasing that dress or suit or getting front row tickets to a sporting event, treating oneself after months of squeezing every penny is a great idea and one that will reinforce prudent financial behavior.

Part-Time Job

Getting a part-time job is great for individuals who want some extra cash to pay down debt or save. It’s also a good opportunity to get a change of scenery when it comes to work. A part-time job doesn’t have to be a second career or 20 extra hours a week, but enough to bring home some additional bacon for the household reserves.

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