Stress is an omnipresent issue in our lives, and there’s no time that highlights it like the holiday season. That’s why New Year’s resolutions come at the right moment: when we’ve just spent a lot of money and let ourselves go a little bit.
There’s no time to fix that like the present. And according to Stress.org, some of the top stressors in our lives come from career and money-related matters, especially job pressure and tight money situations. That means people who want less stress in their lives should consider making personal-finance resolutions to change the way they interact with money.
Here are some of the top resolutions that will have a maximum impact on your financial stress in the new year.
Resolution #1: Build an Emergency Fund
Think of an emergency fund as the buffer between you and the real world. As long as you have a fully funded emergency account, you’ll have a cushion between surprises and your bank account. That means you don’t have to wake up every day worrying about something going wrong with your car or having a faucet break. If you have an emergency fund in place, you’ll be ready for it.
Why is this so important? Most Americans wouldn’t be able to come up with $1,000 to fund an emergency, according to The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs research. That means a broken-down car can be enough to send most Americans into sudden debt, which in turn fuels a cycle of bad habits and stress.
A new year is a perfect time to change those habits by committing to building an emergency fund that eases that stress and adds a financial cushion.
Resolution #2: Budget Consciously
According to USA Today, the average household carries well over $100,000 in debt. While it’s possible to attribute much of that debt to mortgages, other issues like lingering credit card debt and student loans suggested that the debt isn’t always so easy to manage.
That means budgeting more consciously makes for a good New Year’s resolution this year. Budgeting allows people to actively manage where their money goes. It shines a light on their finances and allows them to make more targeted decisions when it comes to what happens with their paychecks—and in turn, that means more money can go where it needs to go.
Resolution #3: Spend Consciously
After the holiday spending craze—from Black Friday all the way until New Year’s Eve—it can be difficult to shift gears. But spending consciously is integral to easing financial stress.
It’s important not only to reduce the spending on small, frivolous items in your budget. It’s also important to consider how much you spend on bigger items, including:
· Mortgages. Zillow’s home affordability calculator will let you know exactly what kind of price tag you should look for before you buy a home. This will take into account your household income, current debt levels and the amount you have set aside for a down payment.
· Cars. Do you have more cars than is necessary, and do you always feel like you need the latest and greatest? It might make more sense for you to drive a car that’s more about getting you from point A to point B without all the frills.
Once you have these under control, you can look to the next step: spending. Spending consciously means monitoring your spending, which is easier to do when you have a credit card that automatically tracks your transactions. You can use an app like Personal Capital or Mint to keep an eye on your regular financial performance.
Another advantage of tracking your spending with a credit card is that you’ll earn rewards on your spending as you go. But remember not to let the temptation of the plastic take over your spending habits. Use the credit card for typical expenses you already incur, such as entertainment subscriptions or groceries and gas, and you’ll earn rewards while spending responsibly. That helps you get a better handle on your spending while giving you a slight return on the money spent.
Reducing Stress This New Year’s Season
New Year’s resolutions sometimes have a bad reputation. People think they’ll only work hard for a few weeks and then give up and wait until next year. But as long as you make small, incremental changes to your spending habits, you can greatly reduce the stress of financial planning and make your monetary situation much easier to manage.