ATLANTA — Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be a challenge, particularly when they have to do with money. But making small adjustments to your finances consistently throughout the year can dramatically improve your financial picture.
Mechel Glass, vice president of community outreach for Atlanta-based nonprofit CredAbility, offers a few simple suggestions to help keep the momentum going:
■ Track every dollar you spend for 30 days. If you don’t have money left at the end of each pay period, or you can’t save money, it’s time to start tracking it. For just 30 days, write down every penny you spend. Review this list for expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. Small changes can add up to big savings and can help you reach your goals more quickly. Use the budget calculator from CredAbility to help you track expenses or use the free Pocket Tracker app for iPhone.
■ Put $10 a week in the bank. Even if you think you are living paycheck to paycheck, it is possible for you to save money. You can save as little as $10 each week just by making simple changes. Here are five ways to save $10 or more:
1. Eliminate your home phone. If you only use your cellphone, consider turning off your land line or at least slashing services.
2. Have coffee at home.
3. Bring your lunch and snacks to work.
4. Skip the lottery tickets.
5. Avoid unnecessary trips and carpool when possible.
■ Ask for lower rates on your bills. You can reduce your auto insurance costs and bills for your cable, cellphone, and credit cards with a simple phone call. Do some comparison shopping on auto insurance rates and call your carrier to see how you might reduce your premiums. Your cable company might be able to lower your monthly bill or offer you a special promotion for a period of time that can result in savings.
■ Tuck away those savings in a CD or IRA. Don’t scrape by each month only to fritter it away the next month. Take your savings from the 30 days of scrimping and open a CD or an IRA. Putting the money in a regular online savings account won’t work; it’s too easy to reach in an emergency.
■ Raise your 401(k) contribution by 1 percent. As the economy improves, investment returns may improve. For a person earning $50,000 annually, 1 percent is $500 — about $10 per week. Think about the amount of money you will earn over several years, and the tax benefits next year.