Financial Resolutions for 2017 You Can Actually Keep

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Lose weight. Be neater. Save more money. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. If those three sound familiar, it’s not just because they’re common to many people (though they are) but because we tend to make them year after year—usually, because we failed to keep them the year before.

We can’t help you with your waistline or your housekeeping. But we do have some tried-and-true financial resolutions for 2017 that can really help you get your financial life on track. Often, the key to making a successful change is making the changes easy to adopt, and easy to keep. When time gets crunched, as it does for all of us, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is sitting down at the end of a long day and updating a long budget spreadsheet.

Instead, make these small and painless changes, and see how they add up.

Get an App for That

You know you should keep a budget, but you also know you’ll never be able to keep track of all those receipts and find them when it’s time to enter them into the spreadsheet (that you probably also didn’t have the time to create). Instead, use the tool that’s always with you: your smartphone. Apps like Mint and the aptly-named You Need a Budget can help you keep track of your money on the go, instead of forcing you to do big chunks of financial analysis when you’re not in the mood (and you’re never in the mood).

Have “Special” Money

Have you ever seen that ad for the retirement fund that features money of an unusual color, indicating that it’s designated for retirement? Doing something similar can help you save. No, you don’t have to dye your cash. Take a certain denomination (people who have tried this report that five-dollar bills work well) and whenever one falls into your hands, tell yourself that it’s for saving, not spending. Whether a bill is orange, or has Abraham Lincoln on it, the visual cue can help you establish the habit of not spending it. Keep all those fives in a safe place (not your wallet), then take them to the bank once a month, if not more often.

Go Retro for the Holidays

No, we’re not talking about getting a shiny pink metallic tree. We’re suggesting starting a Christmas club account. It may sound retro, and it is (these accounts peaked in popularity in the 1970s), but it can help get you into a savings habit and avoid the shock of that January credit card bill that tells you you overspent (and set yourself up to start the year on the wrong financial foot). If you put $25 a week into a Christmas club account, you’ll have $1300 to spend on gifts at the end of the year—without the financial hangover.

If you’re protesting that you can’t afford to set that much aside weekly, realize that you probably won’t be able to pay off that huge credit card bill in a month, either. If you have the Christmas club funds automatically deducted from your regular checking account, you may not even miss them. And if your bank doesn’t offer Christmas clubs, try a local credit union.

Make a Date

For most people, dealing with financial issues is something they’ll take care of “later.” The problem is that later never usually comes until it’s too late. So, as one of your financial resolutions for 2017, make a date to sit down with a professional. It doesn’t matter if the date is months in the future, as long as you keep it. If you’re feeling whimsical, pick April Fool’s Day; if you’re feeling sentimental, your late grandma’s birthday.

Make a list of your needs, such as drawing up a will, reviewing your retirement plans, or putting powers of attorney in place. Depending on your needs, you may need to talk to an estate planner or a financial planner, or both. Just make the call now. When the time comes for the appointment, you’ll be busy and won’t feel like going. Just go anyway. You’ll be glad you did. And unlike going to the gym, it’s something you only need to do once to see results.

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