Do you have some personal finance goals for 2017? I sure do! After finally settling into my newly-renovated home, I’m ready to save more, give more, and pay off more debt this year!
Regardless of your specific goals, you can take a few simple steps to supercharge your finances this year. Here are 15 options to try:
1. Max out your pre-tax benefits
Open enrollment may be over for your workplace, but it’s possible that you can still make some changes.
First thing’s first. If you haven’t taken advantage of all of your workplace’s pre-tax savings options, now is the time to do it.
Next, does your employer offer a dependent care FSA? If you have to pay for daycare, you’d be silly not to use this benefit. According to this calculator, a married couple with a 30% tax rate could save $1,500 just by funneling the maximum of $5,000 in daycare expenses through a dependent care FSA. I don’t know about you, but even with just one child in full-time daycare, my family spends more than $5,000 per year!
The same savings goes for other pre-tax benefits, including HSAs and health care FSAs. If it’s too late to take advantage of these savings options this year, add it to your to-do list for open enrollment this fall.
2. Get your budget out of the Dark Ages
Are you still tracking your budget with an Excel sheet or pen and paper? That’s not a bad option for some people. But for others, it doesn’t work at all. In order to consistently track our family budget, I have to have an online option that imports transactions for me. Otherwise, budgeting takes too much time, and then just falls by the wayside.
Related: 10 Online Budget Tools
There are so many great budgeting softwares online. My personal favorite is You Need a Budget (YNAB) because I think the budgeting based on last month’s income model is excellent. It’s also an easy-to-use option. I’ve also used Mint.com in the past, which was also great. I particularly like the visual aspect where you could get an at-a-glance idea of where you stood in your budget categories.
Regardless of the software you choose, moving your budget online could help you keep better tabs on your spending, moving you towards your financial goals.
3. Or don’t budget at all
Unlike me with my super-detailed YNAB budget, Rob doesn’t like budgeting much. He’s tried it all, but prefers a much simpler approach to budgeting. If you find yourself consistently frustrated with trying to track your budget, consider his approach.
Resource: Tracking and Managing Your Cashflow
In short, it involves tracking only a handful of items, but focusing more on saving first. This can be a great option if you’re more comfortable with where your spending is, rather than trying to whittle down on your spending each month.
4. Get a side gig
One of the best ways to supercharge your finances is, of course, to make more money. If you can’t do that at your day job, consider adding a side hustle this year. There are loads of ways to make money on the side. Some options will make you a few extra bucks a month, while others could eventually turn into a full-time job.
If you’re in a serious financial crunch, you can push yourself to tack on a boring hourly side job for a while. But for longer-term success, it’s best to do something you love. Trust me on this one! The only reason I can work a full-time job, parent, run the household, and write about personal finance is because I really enjoy my side gig!
5. Get a raise
Don’t have time for a side hustle? Or has it just been a while since you’ve had a raise at your day job? It’s time to work towards that pay jump!
Negotiating for a raise can be tough and emotional, especially for women. But that doesn’t mean negotiating isn’t worth your while. In fact, just asking for a raise may be enough to get you one.
It’s best to do your homework first, though. Take time to document why you deserve a raise, and take the right approach when it’s time to ask for one.
6. Sock away that raise
Whether you negotiated for that raise or just got one for meeting your annual goals in 2016, don’t start spending that extra money yet. Check out just how much your annual or hourly raise boosts your paychecks, and then start saving that extra money instead of spending it.
Saving your raise is a great way to increase your savings rate without pinching your lifestyle. After all, you’re already used to living on your old income. So putting your extra money into savings shouldn’t be that big of a leap.
If you’re still paying off debt, you can always put your raise towards debt this year. Or if you’re nearly debt-free, consider saving it for retirement or other purposes. Whatever you do, don’t just let it become part of your everyday spend. That’s how you end up frittering it away without a second thought.
7. Try a cash budget
There’s a reason we keep circling back to this idea of budgeting: it’s essential to know where your money is going. Whether you try a super detailed budget or a savings-first approach, one way to stick to your budget better is to spend cash.
In fact, studies show that people tend to spend more money when swiping a plastic card than spending cold, hard cash. So if you’re trying to cut back on spending this year, consider leaving the debit and credit cards at home.
Maybe you don’t need to do a completely cash budget. Maybe you could try spending cash only in the areas where you struggle. For instance, if you’re always spending more on dining out than you should, consider spending only cash when you dine out. This is a great way to limit your spending automatically. When you’re out of cash, you’ll have to cook at home!
Learn More: Should You Pay With Cash or Credit?
8. Find big ways to save
While couponing and other savings strategies can save you money, these options can take a consistent effort over time. And if you don’t put in the effort to learn how to use strategies like these, you won’t save much money. Sure, a penny saved is a penny earned. But it’ll take a lot of thirty-cent coupons to make a dent in your 2017 financial goals.
So instead of focusing on little ways to save, focus on bigger savings options. Rob calls this the “one-n-done” savings method. It involves finding a cheaper option for things that you pay monthly, such as your rent or mortgage, car loan, school loans, other debts, cable, subscription services, insurance, etc.
If you can negotiate or find better rates on items like these, you could save some serious cash over the course of this year!
9. Split your savings
Having multiple savings accounts can be a great way to separate out your money, especially if you’re not that great at saving for future expenses. One basic example is Christmas. You know it’s coming every year, and you probably know about what you want to spend on it. But you may not be great about saving up ahead of time.
A savings account just for Christmas can be a great way to solve that problem. Consider splitting your savings into short-term, long-term, and health savings, at minimum. With free savings accounts, you could set up even more separate accounts for dedicated purposes. Put money into these accounts on a monthly basis, and only touch those funds for their specific purposes.
10. Rent out a room
Don’t have time for a side gig but want to make some extra cash? Consider getting a long-term roommate or renting a room part-time through a service like Airbnb. We actually do both. We have a roommate, a friend we’ve known for years, whose rent is part of our regular budget. Then we went our other spare room through Airbnb for extra cash.
Maybe you don’t have the space for this at the moment. If your lease is expiring this year, consider splitting a larger space with a friend to pay less overall in rent and utilities. Or if you’re planning to buy a home, look into the Airbnb and other home-sharing options in your area when deciding how many bedrooms you’ll want.
11. Sell some stuff
Another great option for making extra money to start your debt avalanche or boost your savings is to sell things. Spring is an ideal time to do this, since you may already be spring cleaning your home. Facebook garage sales, eBay, and Craigslist are all great places to get rid of things.
Post larger items, like furniture, on Craigslist or another local group online. Put items with a higher potential value on eBay. You never know what kind of cash you can get for things you no longer want or need.
12. Split your mortgage payment
Want to make an extra mortgage payment this year with virtually no pain? Split your mortgage payments. Instead of paying once per month, pay half of your mortgage’s minimum payment every two weeks. For many people, this works out best, anyway, since they get paid on a biweekly schedule.
Over the course of a year, you’ll have to make 12 mortgage payments. But if you make biweekly payments, you’ll actually wind up making 13 payments. Plus, you’ll save in interest, too. Check out this calculator to see how much you could save just by making your mortgage payments every other week.
13. Refinance your debt
This option is actually part of the one-n-done method of saving, but it’s worth considering on its own. Interest rates are rising slightly, but they’re still historically low. This means you can get a better deal on many types of debt than you might currently be paying.
Refinancing larger debts, like your mortgage, can be complicated. But a refinance could save you money every single month. And then you could put that money towards other financial goals. Don’t forget to consider other options for refinancing other debt, though. This could include refinancing your vehicle loan, or moving credit card debt to a card with a 0% introductory APR.
14. Set specific goals
When it comes to your finances, it’s easy to set vague, nebulous goals that are somewhere out there in the future. But you’re more likely to accomplish your goals if you set specific, actionable ones.
This year, instead of saying you’ll get out of debt, set a defined goal. Decide that you will pay an extra $200 towards debt every month, for instance. And rather than saying you’ll spend less this year, say that you’ll increase your savings rate to 10% of your income by July.
Actionable, specific goals give you something to work towards. They also help you stay focused and excited about actually achieving your goals, which can help you get there more quickly.
15. Practice gratitude
Sometimes, when it comes to keeping your finances under control, all you really need is a change in perspective. Instead of focusing on buying less stuff, for instance, focus on being grateful for what you already have. An attitude of gratitude can help you see what’s already in front of you. Breeding contentment makes you naturally less likely to overspend.
This Book Asks: ”How Much Is ‘Enough’ In Your Life?”
Even as you practice some of these other ways to supercharge your finances in 2017, look to your own attitude. Make changes there, and you’ll naturally make progress in your finances this year.
What have been your most effective, supercharging tips for managing money? Share them below!