New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution!

The number two resolution for 2014 is to make a budget (right behind weight loss, which I have no advice about other than: stop eating so much ice cream for breakfast).

Hopefully you have already been reading my brilliant blog and are taking all of my amazing advice immediately. Right? Right?!?

If, instead, you have just been reading my brilliant blog and then intending to take my amazing advice at a later date….that’s ok too. But things won’t improve unless you take action, so let’s use New Year’s as an excuse for some action! Yeah! Plus isn’t improving the state of your bank account more appealing than getting up at 5 am in the icy cold tomorrow to run 5 miles? (why the heck do people do that??!)

Here is your New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution Plan:

1. Set up at least two bank accounts: one for checking and (at least) one for saving. Make sure you aren’t paying any extra fees (because that is NOT a good way to start the New Year). Might I recommend Charles Schwab for checking and Ally or Capital One 360 for savings? Fill out the forms and call the excellent customer service numbers if you need help. This one takes a few days for the paperwork to go through, but it is worth it!

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: January 15. Yeah! Pour yourself a hot toddy, this was the most annoying part of your whole resolution!

2. Set up automatic bill pay for all of your bills. Never pay late fees again! Pat yourself on the back for being a financial whiz kid!

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: January 31.

3. Start tracking your spending. This one is ongoing, but thanks to Mint (or whichever tracking software you use) it should be painless (and if you are like me you will think it is fun to play with the graphs).

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: set up a budget tracking system by February 15.

4. Make your best guess at a budget (based on your spending) and do your best to follow it. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right at first, it is a marathon, not a sprint!

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: make a budget by March 15 (beware the Ides of March!)

5. Start paying off your credit card balance and use automatic bill pay to pay off more than the minimum each month. This will feel awesome! Make a plan and stick to it, and you can beat the system!

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: April 1.

6. Start an emergency fund. Again- marathon, not a sprint. You won’t suddenly wake up with a rainy day fund of savings- this may take a year or two to accomplish. When you start it, have money automatically transfer into your savings and then poof! You have completed step 6 of your Budget Revolution Resolution!

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: April 15 (tax day, boo!)

7. Start investing to earn some sexy compound interest! More information coming soon on where you actually are putting your money when you invest it.

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: May 15.

8. Review your budget and tweak it. In the red? Try slenderizing your spending (stopping eating ice cream for breakfast works here too, your ice cream bill will go down).

New Year’s Budget Revolution Resolution deadline: June 1.

What is this? Just halfway through the year and you are already done with your New Year’s Resolution?!?! You didn’t even have to get up at 5 am in the icy cold to go running? YOU ARE AMAZING!

Obviously some of these items will need updating or monitoring as your finances change in the future, but the hardest part is getting a system set up. Six months of baby steps to set up a system that will lead you on the path to long-term financial confidence- that is an awesome resolution!

Here’s to a financially savvy 2014!

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Doing Christmas Right This Year

We hosted a Christmas party for a few of my friends last night. It was fantastic, and one of the most successful parts of the night was the gift swap that we organized. This particular group of friends is very environmentally conscious, so I knew they would be into the theme, which was:

Zero Net Impact Gift Swap

The rules were traditional except for a twist: no buying anything new! Gifts could be 1. something you already had around the house but were ready to part with (a book you’ve read, exercise equipment you don’t actually use) 2. a re-gift (remembering to be sure the original giver wouldn’t be at the party!) or 3. something purchased from a consignment store/Goodwill. I reminded everyone that the people invited to the party are FRIENDS so crappy gifts aren’t appreciated (a risk you run with any gift swap). This might not work with all groups, but these pals are pretty good sports.

It was a big hit! No one had to spend any more money or do any extra errands (although if you were feeling desperate you could have gone to Goodwill I suppose), you got to clean out your closet or get rid of an unwanted gift that made you feel guilty. Someone else got use out of it, and at the very least….we all had a good laugh!

This is an alternative to consider if you are looking to cut back on the superfluous gifts on your to-buy list, if you’re in charge of your office holiday party or if you are a large family looking for ways to cut back on spending. Christmas consumerism can feel stifling, especially when you have to buy gifts without a specific person or need in mind. This is just a small way to reduce your impact while still celebrating and having fun with the people you love.

Merry Christmas!

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