More than 40 percent of us will make at least one new year's resolution, but only eight percent will keep it."This time of the year we find people bite off a little more than they can chew. In other words, their goals are too big," Financial Professional, Curtis Blair said. Blair advises to begin January with a smarter approach: starting small. "That could be maybe taking your lunch to work as opposed to eating out so much. If you're like me, cut down on a few of those Starbucks runs from time to time. At the end of the year you may have several hundred dollars you can put back into your pocket," Blair said. Then in February, take a look at budgeting "Every family needs a budget. Once you've got your fixed costs set, then look at your variable costs to monitor those to see how you can save money through the end of the year," Blair said. In March, put your debt on a diet. "The average family now has a bout 15,000 dollars in credit card debt. At 19 percent, if you're servicing that every year, it will run you a little more than 3,000 dollars a year. Let that be one of your New Year's resolutions. Get the credit card debt down, so you're not paying so much out in interest," Blair said. April is a great month to focus on saving. "We usually recommend to folks to put aside about ten percent each month," Blair said. However, he cautions that interest rates aren't great for short-term savings right now. "Put it in a long-term savings. for instance, a 401k, IRAs, and you'll have a better chance of a better return longer term, if the market cooperates properly," Blair said.
Tackling one goal per month, and adding as the months go on, will help get budgets on track gradually.
Here are the remaining month-by-month tips:
May: Financial spring cleaning
Take a good look at your assets - is there money in an old account that should be moved? Do you have money in a low-interest savings account that could be put to better use? Make sure you have a well-thought out financial plan and you are maximizing savings for retirement.
June: Protect yourself
With severe weather season approaching, now is the time to make sure you have the insurance policies that you really need.
Look at your homeowners, renters and auto insurance, but don’t forget life insurance as well. Being underinsured can put your family and your finances at risk.
July: Check your credit reports
One in five people have errors on their credit reports. I advise my clients to check their credit reports once a year and dispute any errors they find.
August: Is your bank hurting your budget?
Take some time to shop around for a bank that better fits your needs. Consider what fees you’re paying and the accessibility to ATMs. There are lots of tools online that will help you compare different banks.
September: Get organized
Keeping all of your financial paperwork in one place can help you stay on track with your financial goals.
If possible, move your documents into an online system, or keep a file with tabs for bank statements, retirement paperwork and credit reports.
Remember to keep important documents like birth and marriage certificates and social security cards in their own separate file.
October: Create a holiday shopping budget
Setting a holiday budget will help you avoid using credit cards for your gifts, which often carry high interest rates.
I recommend starting your shopping early so you can spread out your holiday purchases across several paychecks in October, November and December.
November: Get on the same page
It is so important for adult children and their parents to be on the same page financially.
The Thanksgiving holiday may seem like a strange time for that discussion, but it may be the only time the whole family is under the same roof.
December: Look to the future
This is a good time to take a look at your financial progress over the last year and start planning your financial goals for 2015. What were your successes? Any failures?
Writing down your goals makes them more concrete and easier to track throughout the year.