While I realize that resolutions are kind of bogus, as a new year rolls around I STILL can’t help but think about all of the ways I want to improve in 2016. That's going to include wearing high heels, going to Pilates, and trying new recipes. And there's one more project I really want to accomplish in 2016: Getting my finances organized. You would think since I write about money for a living, I’d have my act together, but like so many of us, I'm far from perfect. I’m determined to make a change this year, and with Priya Malani of Stash Wealth in my corner (yes!), we developed a plan that will help everyone manage their money better in 2016.
A major focus of this challenge is mindfulness. I can’t be the only one who breezes through the checkout line at the grocery store and swipes my credit card without even taking a look at the total. And we wonder where our money goes each month. In January, we’re providing you with a money diary, so you can write down what you spend each day. I tried it out for a week while prepping for this story, and while I didn’t make sweeping changes to my daily habits, it did make me think twice before paying $3-plus for a latte every afternoon. It’s not much money, but it’s more than I realized I was spending. And it adds up quickly: That’s $60 a month and $720 for the year! I like my lattes, but maybe I could be using that money for something better?
Speaking of wanting something better, the other piece of the challenge involves saving for something you want. We talk so much about setting up an emergency fund — and that’s so important — but this month, we want to focus on something more instantly gratifying. Saving isn’t all terrible when you’re setting aside money for something you really want, whether it’s a new sofa or an exotic vacation (both sounds pretty good to me right now). And instead of urging you to save $500 or another flat amount, we want to encourage you to stash away 5% of your net income (that’s after taxes). You could use that to save for something bigger or to put a dent in your emergency fund. It’s up to you!
So if you make $50,000 a year, you’re setting aside around $166 in January. It won’t buy you a ticket to Bora Bora, but if you keep up that savings goal through 2016, you’ll end the year with nearly $2,000, and that’s probably enough to ring in 2017 on a tropical island in the South Pacific.
One quick note: Some of you are probably thinking there's NO WAY I can afford a trip to the South Pacific; I only make $28,000 or $12,000 or whatever. This isn't really about how much money you make, it's about feeling more confident with managing your money. Priya and I hope that's what you take away from this story: A better sense of how you spend your money and small changes you can make so you can achieve your dreams, whatever they might be.
Ready to get started? I thought so. Ahead, a four-week plan for getting your finances in order. Happy New Year! Here’s to a year when wealth is a priority and making those big dreams real life.