5 financial New Year’s resolutions you can stick to

A young couple embrace in a kiss as they sit on a couch together at a New Year's Eve party.
December 14, 2023 | Alliant Credit Union

The new year often comes with the tradition of formalizing goals for the coming months. In a study by Forbes, 38% of adults surveyed said their top New Year’s resolution was improving their finances. This stat comes as no surprise, as financial goals are often tangentially tied to many other aspirations on our list.

Let’s dive into some financial New Year’s resolutions that are easy to achieve and stick to for the long haul!

1. Build a budget that prioritizes savings

If you’re part of the 38% of Americans prioritizing saving this year, you should know a few key things before you start. First, keep your goal attainable! Fortune recently reported that 57% of Americans could not cover a $1,000 emergency, so saving even a grand in an emergency fund puts you ahead of the game!

The best way to keep your savings resolution is to automate it. Start by picking a budget that prioritizes saving first. The zero-balance budget is a method of managing money where every single penny of your paycheck is accounted for. This type of budgeting lets you consistently automate your savings on payday.

The 50/30/20 budget may also work well for you! This financial plan automatically allocates 20% of your after-tax income to a high-rate savings account and/or debt repayment.

2. Step up your retirement contributions

If the start of the new year also means performance reviews at your workplace, this goal is easy to tackle! Retirement savings is one of the most important long-term financial goals you can work toward.

After your performance review—and hopefully merit increase—commit to boosting your retirement contributions. Experts recommend increasing your 401(k) contributions by at least 1% annually. If you receive a 3% raise, try increasing your retirement contributions by 1%. You’ll still be getting a 2% raise every paycheck and setting yourself up for success to live a comfortable life when you retire.

3. Commit to improving your credit score

Have you ever taken a deep dive into your credit report to see if everything is correct? If you answered no, this is your year to familiarize yourself and better understand what impacts your credit score.

Many banks and credit unions will give you a free quarterly credit score so you can check your progress. Regularly reviewing your score and comparing it to your financial decisions during each quarter can help you learn what habits impact your credit score the most.

It’s essential to know more than just your credit score. Monitoring your credit report once a year will bring you peace of mind and help you spot any potential fraud issues before they spiral out of hand. Remember, you can access one free credit report—which includes your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score—every year at freecreditscore.com.

4. Assess your finances for extra saving opportunities

Saving more than you already are can sometimes feel like a stretch. Assessing your monthly spending habits can uncover extra saving opportunities you may not even realize you had!

Start by setting aside a weekend to negotiate your cable and utility bills this month. You may be surprised to learn there are perks for going paperless or for paying bills like your car insurance all in one sitting.

Another savings hack is to switch to generic brands when grocery shopping. You can often get the same foods, medicines and household goods in a generic brand for 30% cheaper than the name-brand option. For an added shopping bonus, try using the small shopping carts when buying groceries. Studies show people spend 40% more when using larger carts at the store, not because they need those extra items!

5. Make extra payments to eliminate debt

Do any of your financial resolutions involve paying down debt faster? Commit to putting “extra” money that comes your way to paying down student loans, credit card debt or your mortgage. Prioritize paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first.

Use tax refunds, garage sale loots, and 3-paycheck months to get ahead on payments and decrease the interest you’re paying on your loans. If you’re new to saving, allocate this extra cash to an emergency fund first before paying off debt.

Looking for more ideas to help ring in the new year? Read these other blog posts:

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