Making New Year’s resolutions together can help a married couple identify a long-term financial goal that has been neglected and help them move closer to attaining that goal. Take the time as a couple to make a New Year’s resolution about money together.
New Year’s Resolutions About Money
Money resolutions are among the more popular New Year’s resolutions that couples can make together. The start of a new year is a good time to create a plan to help achieve long-term goals together. These goals often include reducing credit card debt, becoming debt free, having larger savings or making a large purchase.
Pay Down Credit Card Debt
One positive step married couples can take in the new year is to total their existing credit card debt and make reasonable goals toward paying down their debt. It can be easy in January, when faced with credit card statements from December’s holiday purchases and travel, to resolve to get rid of credit card debt but it is a long-term goal that works best when both spouses are on board.
Couples who make money resolutions may want to try credit counseling together or enroll in a program like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to learn how to pay down debt and move to a cash-only system. Other programs teach how to increase savings by having money automatically deducted from paychecks.
Save More Money Each Month
Couples who resolve to save more money each month or who want to make a big purchase can create plans for achieving these goals. To save more each month, couples can either choose to eliminate certain luxuries or to set up an account for savings prior to spending any money each month. Get creative and challenge each other to give up one little habit or luxury that adds up to a large total on a yearly basis. The combined savings can help kick-start an emergency fund, pay for a vacation or go toward a purchase to improve the home.
Couples whose long-term goals include making a big purchase can map out their financial year and decide how much they need to save each month to make their purchase by the end of the year or achieve a certain level of savings toward the purchase.
Update Financial Documents for the New Year
The new year is also a great time to take a fresh look at key financial documents or to stop procrastinating on the tough decisions. Couples who want to put their financial house in order can resolve to make this the year they make a will, choose life insurance options or start saving for retirement. None of these decisions can be made lightly, which is why it is so easy to put them off for later.
Couples who have these financial documents can resolve to evaluate their financial documents to make sure they are up to date and reflect any changes in the past year. For example, a husband and wife may want to review the life insurance plans they have, see if their homeowner’s or renter’s policies are adequate and review their retirement savings plans. These documents can become outdated if years go by without updating them to reflect the birth of children, renovations to the home, additions to valuable collections and more.
Making New Year’s resolutions about money is a great way for a married couple to start off the year on the right foot. Take the time to set a financial goal and make a plan to meet it together. Ideas include paying down credit card debt, increasing savings, working toward a large purchase, creating a will or updating financial documents to keep their financial house in order.
Learning to Budget Effectively
If there is anything that the economic recession has taught most married couples, it’s to be prepared for the financially unknown. Many of them have experienced the unfortunate circumstances of not having adequate savings to fall back on in the time of financial crisis. So often financial advisors speak of the ‘emergency fund,’ which most define as having enough money saved to cover a minimum of six to eight months worth of expenses, assuming no income.
Theoretically, this is a great plan because in the event of a lost job, having an emergency fund will create a window of time to find a new source of income without the stress of not being able to meet current financial obligations. The problem is finding money in the budget to build that emergency fund. However, contrary to popular belief, creating an effective budget can be easy to do and it can help ensure a better financial future.
Understanding Discretionary Income and Expenses
The first step to creating an effective budget is realizing that any amount of money put away will be beneficial, the hard part is getting started and finding effective ways to reduce discretionary expenses. The next step to creating a budget is gaining an understanding of monthly revenue versus monthly expenses. For those who have never actually taken the time to write down the figure, it may be somewhat surprising to see that their spending is sometimes greater than their income.
Many people use credit for random purchases, not realizing that they are effectively funding the gap between their actual spending and actual income, causing themselves to build more and more debt. If this is the case, an immediate cost reduction is necessary before moving any further. But for those who do find that they have some money left over after paying their monthly expenses, this is considered discretionary income. Discretionary income is important because it represents the money left over to spend on shopping, movies, concerts and most importantly money available to SAVE.
Tips for Building an Effective Budget:
1) Create a spreadsheet that lists all sources of monthly income and all expenses:
All sources include the primary source of income as well as any secondary sources (for example rental income)
All expenses include any monthly recurring expenses (including mortgage/rent, utilities, car payment, cable/internet, credit cards, gas, groceries, etc.)
Create a column for variable/discretionary expenses that may have amounts that fluctuate from month to month (including entertainment, restaurant dining, hobbies, clothes, etc.). Because these expenses change often, a best guess or estimate will suffice.
This information will provide a visual to better understand exactly where the money is going. It’s important to primarily understand income and fixed expenses first, because these will typically remain constant each month. Variable/discretionary expenses are also important because these expenses are expendable when looking to potentially cut costs. Often times people don’t realize how much money they effectively waste until they visually see the breakdown.
2) Calculate discretionary income as a means of determining an appropriate amount to save:
After calculating monthly discretionary income, (fixed income less fixed expenses) determine a realistic amount of money to save on a monthly basis. It’s important to keep in mind that the amount that a person is looking to save comes out of discretionary income, the money that is also used to go out and have a good time. It’s important to stress that this should be a reasonable and realistically attainable amount.
3) After making a solid, realistic plan for saving a certain amount of money each month, there are two things to remember:
If a situation comes up that restricts the amount available to save in a particular month, don’t get discouraged! Missing the budget from time to time is bound to happen. The important thing is getting back on track and seeking to stay on the right track.
People must also make certain that they reward themselves! After working hard everyday and it’s important to splurge from time to time. Set small milestones, meaning, after staying within the limits of the budget for 3 months in a row, in the 4th month buy a new outfit or a new pair of shoes. Setting and reaching small milestones, and being rewarded for reaching them, will provide the necessary momentum to successfully keep the finances in order!
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