With many bank balances likely to be worse for wear after the holiday season, a Deakin University financial planning expert says now is a good time to get on top of money matters and plan to be in better financial health by Christmas 2017.
Deakin Business School’s financial planning expert Associate Professor Adrian Raftery says it is possible to stop money problems from being the Grinch who stole Christmas.
“The new year is a great time to get serious about finances, with people more likely to find success in setting goals to reduce debt or save more rather than resolving to lose weight or give up smoking,” he said.
Associate Professor Raftery suggests the following New Year’s money resolutions to put people in the best position to weather the end of year Christmas spending.
Ten New Year's Money Resolutions
- Control or reduce debt
“We have been blessed with some large interest rate cuts over the last few years but expect them to be on the rise … and fast. Just how much they will rise by is anyone's guess but I suggest you prepare for them to rise by 2 per cent. There will be pain so try and take advantage of these lower rates (and petrol prices) whilst you can and create a buffer for future years.”
- Cut up the credit card
It is probably the hardest thing to do as most of us view the credit card as our "security blanket". But it's really the devil and the quicker that you take decisive action the better.
- Government co-contribution
Want some free money? If you earn less than $36,021 then put an extra personal contribution of $1,000 into super and the Government will match it with $500. It phases out when your income reaches $51,021. If you haven't started yet this financial year then start putting in $40 per week from now til 30 June.
- Don't incur late fees
Get into the habit of paying bills on time. Don't be lazy and get slugged with late fees by being inefficient. $30 here and $50 there adds up over 12 months.
- Write up a budget and go on a spending diet
Most people get put off by the thought of having to write up a budget but they are really important for any household savings plan. Excel spreadsheets has an excellent tool to make it an easier process. Simply type "Personal Budget Template" in the help menu. There are two ways to save money – earn more or spend less. "Cut the fat" out of your spending. Eating out, socialising, technology, clothing and transport are the main areas to focus on. Look for bargains and buy in bulk. Worry about the cents and the dollars will look after themselves.
- Save for a rainy day
Got caught out in the GFC? Don't let it happen again. Open savings accounts – one each for education, holidays, Christmas and emergencies. Put a regular amount from every pay packet into each account – as well as some extra funds into your superannuation as a pre-tax (concessional) contribution. Remain disciplined and don't access these funds. One of the most unique ways to save for Christmas that I have ever seen was by a good mate of mine who over the course of a year kept every $5 note that he received in change and put it in a jar of savings. It may sound bizarre but it worked as he saved well over $1,000!
- Build your nest egg quicker by paying 15% rather than 49% by salary sacrificing into super
Salary sacrificing into superannuation is one of the best, and legitimate, ways to minimise your income tax bill. You can contribute up to $30,000 per year into super ($35,000 for those aged 50 and over) which is only taxed at 15 per cent instead of your marginal tax rate (potentially 49 per cent).
- Get fit
Enter into a few fun runs and challenge yourself to get fit. Behind the scenes you will be reducing your binging on junk food and alcohol, which always puts a dent into savings.
- Spread those purchases
It's all too easy to overspend when Christmas shopping is left until the last minute. People get into a panic as they know they have to buy something and will often spend more than they can afford. Why not try to spread the cost here by buying some presents in the months leading up to the Christmas? A few stocking fillers or small gifts each month makes a difference. Also consider using lay-by, the great old-fashioned way to save up for a present.
- Monitor your resolutions
The worst part about setting New Year's Resolutions is not following through with them. A note in your diary (or Outlook calendar) to review your goals every three months can set you back on track if you have been slack.
Originally published on Deakin.edu.au