We’ve all done it: start the year with a host of fiscal resolutions and good intentions—from breaking bad financial habits to getting on top of our investing game. But somehow, the months whiz by, and from a money management perspective your next New Year’s Eve is looking more like Groundhog Day. Studies show that only about half of all Americans finish the year having met their financial resolutions.
Want to break the pattern? The end of summer can be an excellent time to check in with yourself and make some adjustments to be sure you’re staying on course.
Here are three key questions to ask yourself now.
1. Are you visualizing future expenses?
Stark spreadsheets often fail people when it comes to tracking home renovations, vacations, and other high-volume purchases because they don’t allow you to see the smaller expenses that can add up.
When there’s a lot of data to keep straight, it’s easier to leave out the little things and go over budget. Instead of crunching numbers in Excel consider visually tracking your purchases and future expenses.
For example, one of my clients wanted to remodel her home. She used a productivity app called Evernote to help track the budget.
(Please note: All apps mentioned are free and available on Google Play and iTunes.)
2. Have you leveraged financial technology?
We don’t go anywhere without our phone, so use it wisely and download one of the many available tools. Apps like Mint sort and analyze your spending and savings data from multiple accounts, helping you stay in line with your financial goals.
SavedPlus helps build your savings by automatically adding a percentage of every purchase you make to your savings account (you can select from 5 percent to 20 percent, so at 10 percent a $100 purchase would send an additional $10 to your savings).
Wallaby lets you select your credit cards and then makes recommendations on which to use based on the type of purchase you’re making and each card’s rewards program.
Having tools like these at your fingertips will help you use better judgment at the checkout counter and keep your savings and spending plans on track so you can get closer to your resolutions.
3. Are you making the most of your savings and investments?
If saving more for retirement was one of your resolutions, now is the time to assess your financial situation.
Are you taking advantage of your employer’s match with your 401(k)? Because small increases yield big results, take time to run the numbers and see if you can up your contribution and take full advantage of any employer match.
Whatever your financial situation, you can benefit from having a professional take a look and review your financial strategy and performance. Small changes often make a big difference.
Wishing you a happy end of summer…
Until next time,