The last few years have been horror ones financially for alot of people. But 2015 is starting to look pretty good. Dr Adrian Raftery, senior lecturer in Financial Planning and Superannuation at Deakin University, provides a few ideas for creating your own list of New Year's resolutions to help put your finances in better shape in 2015.
Let's be honest - we are all terrible at keeping our New Year's Resolutions - but you are more likely to find success when you set goals that aim to reduce debt or save more for your retirement rather than trying to lose weight or give up smoking! Just because the economy appears to be tracking along fine does not mean we can relax. Now - the start of a new year - is the best time to get serious about your finances. Here are 12 resolutions (one for each month) for you to try and achieve in 2015:
1. Control/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.
2. 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.
3. Government co-contribution
Want some free money? If you earn less than $34,488 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 $49,488. If you haven't started yet this financial year then start putting in $40 per week from now til 30 June.
4. Pay off HELP debt
The legislation to implement the 2013 Federal Budget changes in relation to the HECS-HELP program that was to take effect last year have not yet been passed by the Senate. This means that until further notice if you make a voluntary payment of $500 or more, you will receive a 5% discount. In any instance, make sure you make any voluntary payments before 1 June when these debts are adjusted by CPI.
5. 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.
6. Write up a budget
Most people get put off with 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.
7. Save for a rainy day
Got caught out in the GFC? Don't let it happen again and 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!
8. Start studying
The best investment is in yourself. There are going to be some great opportunities in the job market later in the year. Doing extra study to acquire more skills which may lead to a promotion or that better paying job. Nobody can take your education away from you. And you are never too old to learn new tricks.
9. Make yourself indispensable
Times are tough for businesses too and a few are going to make the tough call and lay off some staff. The key to make yourself indispensable with your positive attitude and willingness to do a variety of tasks.
10. Spending diet
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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
6 golden rules when setting goals
Write them down - by putting your goals onto paper you develop a challenge for yourself to try and achieve. Don't be afraid to put some pressure on yourself.
Be specific - don't just say that you are going to save. Put down an exact figure that you want to save such as $325 per month.
Goals must be realistic - you are not going to make a million dollars so it is a waste of time putting that down. You want to set goals that are challenging yet attainable if you put in the hard yards. Dangle the carrot sufficiently in view by not making them easy either.
Set timeframes - don't leave your goals open ended. Set a date that they must be achieved by. For example, pay off your credit card by April 2015.
Monitor your goals - put a note in your diary or Outlook calendar to review your goals every three months. A mid-year financial check-up can set you back on track if you have been slack.
Don't get lazy - get into the mindset that you are going to take control of your finances this year and just do it!