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New Year’s Resolutions – Who Says They Can’t Be Achieved?

Come on, we all do it. We will make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, make more time for ourselves, save more money… you get the picture. Our intentions are good, it’s the follow thru that we have a hard time with. So change it up this year. Don’t look at your resolutions as an all or nothing proposition. “Break them down to baby steps,” states Jana Castanon spokesperson for Apprisen. “Think of things you can do today that will ultimately get you to your goal.” For example, if you want to lose weight, make a choice not to park in a space close to the building but further out in the lot.  Once you are doing that on a regular basis, make another small change to your routine. Before you know it, you will be losing the weight.

At the top of many New Year’s resolutions there is one that deals with finances; saving more, paying down debt and improving your credit score are some examples. Again, create a plan to start making changes to the little stuff that will help you build the foundation and allow you to reach your goals. Here are some suggestions.
 

  • Check Your Insurance Rates – Paying your auto or home insurance is a routine occurrence. You get the bill, you pay it. Often times, the rates increase and you don’t even realize it. This is the perfect time to get out your policies, so you are comparing apples to apples, and call around for new quotes. Insurance companies want your business and you might be surprised at how much you could be saving by switching insurers. Most insurance companies offer discounts for multiple policies (car, home, etc.). If this applies for you, make sure you are getting that discount and use it as leverage in negotiating with your current provider.
  • Check on Your Retirement Plan - If you have a company-sponsored 401(k) plan, make sure you’re enrolled and contributing enough to get the full company match. Consider increasing your deposit to this account by one percent; you will be surprised how little this would affect your paycheck but could make a significant difference when you retire. If you don’t have a company 401(k) plan or want to save more for retirement, consider an Individual Retirement Account. Also, use this time to make sure you are happy with your investment choices and if necessary, make changes.
  • Update your tax profile – The tax code changes yearly and you could be paying too much or too little. You can go to the IRS website (www.irs.gov), and use their tax withholding calculator to get an estimated tax for this year. It will tell you, based on the information you provided, how much you would owe or get refunded and how to adjust your withholding. If you find that you need to make changes, ask your employer for a new W-4. 
  • Track Your Expenses – Make a commitment for the next two weeks to write down where you are spending your money. You might be surprised at how much you are nickel and diming yourself. If you find your spending is out of control, give yourself a cash allowance for eating out, entertainment and any other “extras” you might be purchasing.  
  • Put Your Utilities on a Level Payment Plan – With the winter cold surrounding us, your heater is getting a workout and your gas bill is skyrocketing. Call your utility provider and ask about their level payment plan. They will evaluate your usage for the past year and average that out over the 12 months, providing you with the ability to better budget for these costs. The benefit is that you have the same payment every month and won’t be surprised with a large bill. May is a good time to call your electricity provider to get on their level payment plan before the heat of summer and high electric bills.
  • Plan for the Holidays – Time goes by quickly; look how fast last year went. This is the perfect time to plan for this year. Determine your budget based on what your spent last year. Examine who you are buying for, food, travel, entertainment, decorations, postage, etc., and start saving. If possible, start shopping now. It will give you time to look for deals as well as purchase that perfect something without all the holiday stress.
     
    Your New Year’s resolution can be achieved. Start with something simple and then build on it. Don’t give up. Whether you are trying to lose weight or build your savings, it is one step at a time, but you’re not going to get there unless you start!

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Apprisen, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been helping consumers manage their finances and get out of debt for almost 60 years.

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