New Years Financial Resolutions- 10 Smart Money Moves For The Year

07/23/2021

When it comes to money, we all have some room for improvement. It's no surprise that Health and Wealth are the top 2 resolutions most Americans make on New Year's Day. When the clock strikes 12, the champagne starts to pour, and you are done kissing strangers (ewww…COVID cooties), ~70% of us will have made a financial promise to do better next year.

Yet, we are terrible at following through on our resolutions. Our goals are the financial equivalent of "getting in shape." We all want to get fit, but we can't put down the damn chocolate chip cookies.

This year I have your back. I brought in a panel of personal finance and Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) bloggers to share their insight on what they did right this  year and their financial priorities for next year. 

Let's look at their advice on the 10 Ten Financial Resolutions you can make for 2021. Getting your financial house in order sets the tone for good financial habits for the rest of the year. 

Financial Goals For The Year

  • Create a realistic budget you can live with
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Reduce your debt by 20% 
  • Increase your retirement contributions by 20%
  • Identify and set financial goals.
  • Diversify your income streams
  • Increase your financial literacy
  • Write down plans and goals
  • Be flexible
  • Learn to celebrate your achievements

Create A Damn budget

I hate budgets. There, I said it. I was a former Accounting and Finance guy, yet I still can't stand them. I know I'm not alone. According to Fidelity Investments 2020 Study,

  • 59% do not tracking their spending
  • More than 1 in 3 confess spending more than they save
  • 2 out of 5 have never had a budget

Yet, nearly everyone on the panel mentioned it as the first step you need to take.

Save more; Spend less are two of the most popular financial resolutions people make. If you want to prioritize getting your financial house in order, you need to understand where your money is going.

Top 3 Financial Resolutions Made During New Years: Save More, Pay down debt, Spend Less

If you haven't already, one thing that I would suggest for everybody is to start a budget. This is the first step anybody can take to get their finances under control right away. It's easy to swipe a credit card and forget about it. Expenses can quickly pile up, and before you know it, you can be easy to find yourself swimming in debt.

Alex Roszkowski - Plant money seeds

With a budget, you will see where you are spending, what expenses are optional, and where you can cut some corners. With a budget, you can pick where your biggest opportunities are.

As an example, I tracked my full year's expenses last year and identified the three key areas where I save the most money using geoarbitrage and living overseas

Spending 

Average American

Marco Living Abroad

HOUSING

$1,026

$228

TRANSPORTATION

$800

$38

TAXES

$687

$0

Total Saved

$2,513

$266

Monthly Cost Savings = $2,247

The good news is a budget doesn't have to be restrictive. Nor does it need to be complicated. The more simple the budget, the easier it is to follow. There are several ways to design your budget.

 You can choose what period to start

3-Months: Those who want to get their finances in order should track their spending for the last 3-months and identify what kind of expense it is, such as rent, grocery, bills, shopping, etc. 

JONATHAN SANCHEZ - Parent Portfolio

1-Year: Our #1 action tip to get your financial house in order is tracking spending. Not just for a month, not just the big stuff. Track every single penny that goes out for the entire year. Preferably in some tool that allows trends to appear. How much is spent on groceries each month? Is it consistent? What's happening behind those numbers?

Tracking for the whole year allows infrequent expenses to pop up. Car insurance that's paid twice a year would be a good example. Or a $450 annual fee on a credit card you find valuable. Understanding your spending is a mandatory part of the FIRE equation. With a complete picture of a year in expenses, you're ready to plan your financial independence.

Amy and Tim - Go With Less

You can choose the type of budget you want to follow

  • 50/30/20- Senator Elizabeth Warren popularized this method of dividing up your after-tax income. 50% should be needs (housing, food, etc.), 30% wants (eating out, shopping, travel), and 20% to savings.
  • Backward Budget- I used backward budgeting to reach Financial Independence. Because I was too lazy to track my expenses and because my financial priorities were to build my investments, paying myself first worked well for me. 
  • Zero Based Budget- Jonathan, from Parent Portfolio, prefers zero-based budgeting. This budget assigns every dollar of income a purpose. It's a time-consuming method but provides more detailed information to take action. 

You can choose how you track your budget 

There are loads of budgeting apps (Acorns) and websites (YNAB, Mint) to help you budget and track your spending. There are even applications (Personal Capital) that will import your brokerage accounts and loans to get a net worth snapshot all in one place.

Don't get overwhelmed in choosing your software. Starting is more important than choosing a tool. A simple spreadsheet (Excel or Google Sheets) is an excellent first step.

Spend a little bit of time to find a budgeting platform that works for you, my wife and I use an excel spreadsheet that we built. If you're curious about how that looks, you can find our October Budget Review here! Take a little bit of time once a week to look at all your expenses. You will quickly find out if there are any places where your hard-earned money is wasted, and you will see what you need to rectify to live within your means. Remember, a budget helps control spending; it is not made to shame it.

ALEX - PLANT MONEY SEEDS

There are different ways to track your money. You can make a budget as simple or as detailed as you want it. The most important thing is to find one that fits your personality and lifestyle and start.

Prepare for the unexpected

Build Up Your Emergency Fund

After preparing your budget, your next financial resolution should be emergency savings.

 4 in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. 

Most financial advisors recommend having 3-6 months of cash in an emergency fund. Your fund covers your family if you lose your job, your car breaks down, the house needs a major repair, or basically, when real-life happens in ways you didn't plan (i.e., a global pandemic).

Well, 2020 is coming to an end, and fast! But the biggest takeaway for me from 2020, apart from washing our hands thoroughly – would be the importance of having an emergency fund. It's so paramount and now more than ever to be able to survive. 

Coupled with a health emergency or a job loss – you need to make sure you have enough cash to ride out the bad times, as well as have the ability to take advantage of attractive valuations during downturns. 

Hopefully, 2020 has highlighted the necessity of holding some cash in reserve for many people, so we are better prepared for the next downturn when it occurs.

For a post-COVID world, people should get serious about building emergency savings. I recommend saving up to 3 to 6 months worth of monthly expenses. People have realized how financially dependent they are on their employers and still haven't stored anything away if it were to happen again.

JONATHAN SANCHEZ - Parent Portfolio

In 2021, I'll continue to save up extra money in a savings account rather than putting it towards the mortgage principal. Due to the instability of the economy and the risk of having our household income fluctuate, by saving this money in an account, it's there as an extended emergency fund. My household already has a 4-month emergency fund saved, but jobs aren't easy to come by. 

Many people who lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic still haven't found jobs to replace their full-time income. Instead, they're working 2-3 jobs to try to make ends meet.

Steffa Mantilla - money tameR

If you don't have an emergency fund, that should be your first priority. Aim for $1000 to start, but ideally, 6 to 12 months' worth of expenses provides an excellent safety net.

I sure was glad that when everything hit, I already had a strict budget, a cash emergency fund, and a frugal but satisfying lifestyle that doesn't require much luxury.

Have money set aside to take advantage of market conditions

2020 was a crap storm, and we don't know what to expect for next year. Be ready. But being prepared for the unexpected isn't just build emergency savings and hope for the best. Poor market conditions can be the perfect time to invest.

UNCERTAINTY = VOLATILITY = OPPORTUNITY

If you have a long timeline and the proper risk tolerance, uncertainty is your friend. Buy low, sell high, is the mantra of every investor, but when is "buy low?" Prices are low when people are scared. Fear presents you with an opportunity if you have money available to invest.

Understanding your risk tolerance is the first step

Knowing your risk comfort-level equips you to make smarter financial decisions. Take this short 13 question quiz to determine your Risk Tolerance. Your results will help you identify the investment strategies that fit your personality.

I plan on increasing my cash reserves as I scale my rental properties… I'm also anticipating a lot of properties going into foreclosure next year. The pandemic has caused people to claim forbearance on their homes with the expectation that they will just add the delayed payments to the tail of their loan. Unfortunately, some lenders want their money back sooner and in one lump sum. This will force people into foreclosures.

Initially, I was just planning on holding steady with my current rental property portfolio. However, if an opportunity presents itself, I could acquire one or two more properties next year. It all depends on the numbers and if I determine it to be a good deal.

JONATHAN SANCHEZ - PARENT PORTFOLIO

In 2021, I plan on getting serious about investing with the goal of buying an apartment in Italy in the next 3-5 years. My savings are currently sitting in low interest-earning accounts because I haven't made an effort to find better alternatives.

I have some control over my retirement fund (Australia's version of the 401K), which is mainly invested in shares. After the pandemic was announced in March, I lost $10,000 AUD in my superannuation, but after making some changes to my investments, I've already gained back $5,000 AUD.

Now I plan to conduct extensive research and seek professional guidance to maximize my return, which will most likely involve investing abroad.

Chantell Collins - BUDGET TRAVEL BABES

If next year leads to a turn around with economic stability, I'll put all of this saved money towards my mortgage principal. Depending on how much money I'm able to save, I could become mortgage-free during 2021.

Steffa Mantilla - money tameR

Identify and set financial goals

One tip I recommend people do before the end of the year is set a financial goal for the new year. This goal could be paying off debt, saving up for a down payment for a house, or acquiring a rental property. Do some research to estimate how much it will cost and create a budget to complete the goal.

JONATHAN SANCHEZ - PARENT PORTFOLIO

Before you can make progress toward your financial goals, you need to identify what they are. But I challenge you to dive past the broad general financial resolutions of "save more" or "spend less." Understand your purpose behind the goal. 

Knowing why we set our goals makes us more like to achieve them. Why brings clarity and purpose. It makes the intangible real. Having a goal of "I want to be rich" isn't as engaging as "I want to spend quality time with my family every weekend." Know your "why."

 INSIDER TIP : Knowing your "why." The path to achieving your financial goals may not be smooth. Mine for sure wasn't. I went through two stock market corrections, a housing crisis, a failed small business, and getting fired.

Having a goal is what kept me focused during those ups and downs. My "why" was to travel, climb all the mountains, eat all the desserts, and *cliché alert* live life to its fullest. I wanted to surf, eat, drink, love, shoot my shot, and not eliminate as many "what-ifs" from my life.

Our family's plans to move to Spain for a one-year mini-retirement in August 2020 were completely scuppered by COVID. As I write this, I am supposed to be fully immersed in life in Spain.

After watching my fund values dive on March 23rd, 2020, I learned a bit more about my risk tolerance, mainly that it wasn't as high as I thought. I was careful not to withdraw funds and lock in any losses. Still, I decided at that point that perhaps paying down debt could balance out my risk tolerance as we already had a full emergency fund with enough cash to survive at least a year of unemployment.

Emma-Mums money

Reduce your debt

Paying down debt is the 2nd most popular financial resolution. There is a good reason. Few things can kill your financial plans than out of control personal loans.  

Before you know it, you can easily find yourself swimming in debt. Worryingly, a lot of people don't understand the effect that bad debt can have on their finances.

ALEX - PLANT MONEY SEEDS

To keep your financial priorities on track, avoid general goals like "I want to pay off my credit card debt." Instead, make specific but realistic financial resolutions like:

I want to pay an extra $X per month to wipe out my credit card debt

You can then choose which method to apply your extra payments.

Different Loan Payoff Methods

Avalanche Method

 First, you make a list of all your personal loans and rank them highest to lowest based on the loan interest rate. The avalanche method focuses on paying down the highest interest rate (usually your credit cards) first. Mathematically, this is the method that saves you the most money.

Snowball Method

This popular paydown method arranges your loans by total owed (vs. loan interest rates like the avalanche method). The method attempts to eliminate your smallest loan balance first. The idea is wiping out an entire loan is emotionally motiving and will encourage you to pay down more.

Credit Card Cut Up

The idea is to choose a single credit card with a sizable but realistic balance to wipe out. When you pay off the card, cut it up to celebrate.


Student Loan Debt Crush

The average student loan balance is $30,000. The average payment student loan payment is $200 to $300 per month. Someone paying an additional $250 per month could reduce the average student loan balance by 10% by the end of the year.

Paying down debt has become a key focus for our family after COVID…

Across three rental properties, we have around $498,000 worth of debt. Each of our properties are fully cashflow-positive, meaning the rental income covers the monthly principal and interest mortgage payment as well as taxes, management, and maintenance.

Since March of 2020 and going forward into 2021, I have split our investment money 50/50 between paying down that mortgage debt and growing our FIRE stash.

With interest rates so low, many real estate investors probably think I'm crazy to be plowing more money than I have to into my loans…But seeing extra loan payments eating directly into the principal of the loan is a comfort to me. It helps me sleep better at night.

My goal is to pay off one loan completely (currently $38,000) in 2021 and reassess the plan to move to Spain in 2022.

Emma-MUMS MONEY

Accelerate building your retirement plan

Retirement is the most expensive financial goal you will have in your life. Retirement will cost you more than buying a house, paying off your student loans, or paying for your kid's college fund. Yet all too often, we put our retirement on the backburner to focus on near-term financial priorities.

Source: CollegeData.com, 2016; USDA/Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2014; U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2016; Fidelity.com

If this describes you, make starting your retirement plan this years New Year's resolution. There is little doubt that time and the power of compound interest are powerful tools to grow your net worth. If you haven't already prioritized your retirement, beginning your contributions today is a good start. 

The best time to start saving for retirement was 20 years ago.

The 2nd best time is today. 

Boost retirement contributions using all the available tax advantaged accounts

If you're looking to squirrel more away for retirement, start with your company 401k plan. Especially if your company has a 401K plan with matching, contributing enough to get a full company match is free money.

If you are ineligible for the company 401K, or your company doesn't offer a plan, you may qualify for an Individual Retirement Account or IRA. If you have a qualifying High Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP), you should take advantage of the Health Savings Account (HSA).

Different Tax Advantaged Retirement Accounts

Start with a company 401K Plan

If you can contribute more than the company match, the maximum 401(k) contribution limits for 2021 are $19,500 + an extra $6,500 catch-up if you are 50 or older.

Open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

If you don't already have an IRA, it's time to open one and start your contributions. Check with your tax accountant to determine if a Roth or Traditional IRA is better for you. Both offer considerable tax advantages, but how IRS will tax your money differs substantially. 2021 IRA contributions limits are $6,000 or $7,000 for those 50+.

HSAs are the Triple Crown of tax savings.

I choose a High Deductible Health Plan for the HSA benefit. The HSA is the BEST tax-advantaged investment account. Contributions are tax-free, investment growth is tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free. If you qualify for an HSA, you NEED to max the account out ($3,600 max for an individual or $7,200 for a family in 2021). 

Impact of maximizing your retirement account contributions

If you can prioritize funding your 401K, HSA, and IRA entirely (roughly $29,000 per year) each year, you can build life-changing wealth. Why do I consider it "life-changing?" There are $6.4 MILLION life-changing reasons.

"Fund your HSA, 401k, IRA – Your future self will thank you.

― AMY AND TIM - GO WITH LESS

Calculate how much you need for retirement

So, when people ask the question, "How much money is enough?" there is no amount that should be defined by other people. The solution is to ignore them. It sounds obvious and simple, but it's a habit that people don't realize. When we talk about managing "personal" finances, that means "only your household's," and no one else gets a say.

JONATHAN SANCHEZ - PARENT PORTFOLIO

I've always said that personal finance is exactly that, personal. How much you need for retirement is unique to your situation. The lifestyle you want in retirement and when you want to retire will determine how much money you need to save. I have a future article to help you calculate how much money you need for retirement (sign up below to get updates).

Here are some benchmarks to help you get started

Three Methods To Calculate How Much You Need For Retirement

4% Rule

The most popular method is multiplying your annual spending by 25x. If you currently spend $30,000 a year in total living expenses, you would need $750,000 in retirement. Or working backwards, $750,000 x 4% = $30,000. 

Multiply Annual Salary

This method assumes that you will need 10X your annual salary by the time you retire at 67. As an example, if your annual salary at age 67 is $30,000, you would need $300,000 saved. 

How Much Should You Have Saved At What Age

AGE:

30

35

40

45

50

55

60

67

X Times Annual Salary


1X

2X

3X

4X

6X

7X

8X

10X

Retirement Savings Milestones = X Times Annual Salary

Percentage of Annual Salary

Another common method is to assume you will need roughly 80% of your annual salary for each year in retirement. Then you use a long mathematical formula with assumptions around investment returns, inflation, and when you expect to die. 

Before the pandemic hit, our focus was solely on building up our FIRE stash. Every spare dollar would be directed into our index funds, with the idea that once we have 600k in the stash, we could use the 4% rule to withdraw 24,000 per year to cover our day to day living expenses - we live frugally, so this is ample for us… We have three rental properties that will provide the extra cashflow for the nicer things in life, such as travel and eating out.

EMMA-MUMS MONEY

There are also a few Online Retirement Calculators you can play with.

Diversity your income streams

Consider how to make additional income

Emergency savings, pay down personal loans, invest for retirement. I can see this list is starting to look overwhelming. "Where am I going to come up with this 'extra' cash flow?" you might ask. Whether because of low income, student loan debt, or credit card bills, many people find coming up with extra cash to save a bit of stretch. 

With the rise of remote work and the gig economy, this is the year you need to look at ways to generate additional income streams.

With respect to my finances, I plan to continue to find ways to diversify my sources of income. If there's one thing that the pandemic has shown all of us from a financial perspective, it's that it may not be a good idea to rely on only one income source as you never know when it could suddenly be impacted.

Anna Barker - Logical Dollar

House Hacking

I shared several tips on financial security during my interview with US News and World Reports. Including this one on house hacking:

Downsizing or renting out part of your space may help free up funds in your monthly budget. "I bought my condo immediately after graduation and rented out one bedroom to cut my mortgage in half," Sison says. "Although not for everyone, if you're willing to get a roommate or rent out a spare room, you save thousands of dollars a year."

This tip alone added ~$200,000 to my retirement fund. You effectively take the most significant monthly expense and drastically reduce it or turn it into a side income.

 I've decided I'm tired of paying rent all the time - even though I stick to nomading in cheaper places like Croatia and Greece and supplementing with housesits, I'd love to cut my largest expense even further. I'm saving to buy an apartment in Athens, Greece - a city I absolutely love as a digital nomad, with reasonable real estate costs to boot. That will give me six rent-free months a year, plus some rental income from the summer months. The more sources of income, the better in these times!

Kathleen - my lonesome roads   

Side Hustles

The gig economy is alive and well. Online platforms are looking to pair people with skills and time with jobs that need to get done. Here are a few to give you an idea.

Skill

Platform

Pay Per Hour

Native English Speaker

$11

Native English Speaker w/ degree

$17

Excellent Organizational Skills

$18

Handyman

$45

Jr. Software Engineer

$40

Think about what skills you have to offer and how much time you can commit. The rarer the skill (coding), the better the pay. But simply being able to speak English and earning a TEFL certificate can earn you an extra $10-$20 per hour. There are dozens of freelance websites offering access to potential customers for a cut of your earnings. 

Even jobs that may have seemed completely reliable before have been put at risk this year, showing that it can be a good idea to make sure your income is coming in from multiple sources. That way, if one of them is suddenly cut off, you know that you'll still be able to rely on your other earnings.

In my case, I plan to do that by further branching out my side hustles by developing new digital products to sell online. 

Anna Barker - Logical Dollar

As a freelance writer, I spent this past year, increasing my client base to work with multiple clients and expand into a few different industries. In 2021 I'm looking to take this diversification even further - looking into ways beyond content writing and copywriting to make money by writing. I plan on bumping up my plans to create passive income sources by writing a few ebooks and monetizing my travel blog. 

Kathleen - my lonesome roads   

Maybe this is the year you finally start the business you have been considering. Is starting a blog, opening an Etsy store, or becoming a part-time real estate agent a potential financial goal for you this year?

If you’re looking to earn more money while at home, look into offering your services in a freelance capacity. Often people don’t realize that the skills they already possess can be profitable. Online businesses hire many marketers, graphic designers, writers, and ad managers on a project-based freelance contract. This is an excellent way to supplement your income while also keeping you socially distanced.

Steffa Mantilla - money tameR

Covid has shown us that safe jobs do not exist. If you've ever wanted to start a business, now is the time, and you'll probably find that your friends and family are more encouraging than they might usually be due to the extreme changes we've all seen after Covid.

Emma-Mums money

Get an A+ in Financial Education

If you are starting out, then learn, learn, and learn some more – there are so many free resources out there for you to tap into.

 Victor - The Frugal Samurai  

You don't have to be a personal finance expert to be successful in your plans. But it's essential to understand the basics of how to earn, grow, and save your hard-earned money.

Let's look at some ways you can increase your financial knowledge

Financial Literacy Resources

Subscribe to a personal finance podcast

While you are working out or commuting to work, queuing up a personal finance podcast is an efficient way to get actionable advice or get introduced to new strategies to improve your finances.

While US News has only featured me on their blog and not their podcast (come on Antonio, you're missing out), I can vouch for the level of expertise US News' Wealth of Knowledge podcast puts out. 

Read a Finance Book

If podcasts aren't your style, you can go old school and read a personal finance book. In the true spirit of your "spend less" financial resolution, borrow the book for free at your public library.

Get a money buddy

Sometimes the journey to financial independence is a lonely one. Your friends might not be in the same financial mindset. Your parents and family might think your goal of retiring before you hit your 40s is nuts. It's hard to find out who you can turn to.

A "Money Buddy" who has the same financial priorities and is experiencing the same struggles can help.

Subscribe to a Finance Blog

You know, like this one 🙂

Bring in Professional Help

A good tax accountant is worth their fee many times over. When starting a business, side hustle, or real estate investing, seek help. I think tax laws are confusing as f*ck and I have an Accounting degree.

Penalties and fees for incorrect taxes can be expensive. Whereas a proactive accountant saves you money by identifying missed deductions and write-offs. 

Book a consultation with an accountant! I put this off for too long, not wanting to pay for a consultation, but it was tax-deductible (in Australia) and has helped me to identify ways I can save money by claiming business-related purchases. I have two businesses, one which is travel-related, and therefore I can potentially claim 100% of professional development, 100% of all electronic purchases, and 50-100% of all travel expenses. My accountant explained how I would need to keep records, especially for car and travel-related expenses.

If you work from home or have your own business, it can be extremely worthwhile to seek financial advice about what expenses may be tax deductible and what paperwork you will need to show when filing your taxes.

Chantell Collins - BUDGET TRAVEL BABES

 INSIDER TIP : Knowing your "why." The path to achieving your financial goals may not be smooth. Mine for sure wasn't. I went through two stock market corrections, a housing crisis, a failed small business, and getting fired.

Having a goal is what kept me focused during those ups and downs. My "why" was to travel, climb all the mountains, eat all the desserts, and *cliché alert* live life to its fullest. I wanted to surf, eat, drink, love, shoot my shot, and not eliminate as many "what-ifs" from my life.

Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return

Americans abroad need expert advice from people who understand the complex and ambiguous laws applicable to United States citizens living overseas.

Full Disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you use the link, I earn a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. You get the benefit of $25 off your return and a FREE 30-minute consultation with a Tax Advisor.  

Write down your financial plans and goals

Reduce loans, increase savings, or 2x your stock portfolio, regardless of what you want to achieve, write it down, and look at the math.

How much extra can you pay toward that student loan bill each month? What if you increased that monthly payment by 20%? What would the extra 20% do to your financial picture by the end of the year?

The average 401K contribution is $7000, what if you increased your contribution by 20%? How much earlier can you retire? What if you tweaked your investment strategies and increased your risk, what would the impact be on your portfolio. 

Putting the details behind your resolutions turns them from empty wishes into concrete goals. 

We would be looking to continue to acquire real estate, hopefully with another property or two. Real estate investing has worked thus far for us, and I can't see us ever not continuing with it. I think building up the equities portfolio would be nice as well, I have an ambitious aim to 2x it, so wish me luck!

 VICTOR - THE FRUGAL SAMURAI  

Make your plans realistic

Check the personal finance review you made earlier. How do your resolutions look when compared to what you did last year? Can you make it work?

See how your resolution fits into your budget. If it's tight or unreasonable, what can you change to make it work? Can you make several small changes to make your resolution fit?

Action

Savings Per Year

Cut cable TV

Cook vs. Eat Out (2 meals per week)

Downgrade Cell Phone Plan

Savings

$2,650

Do you need to rearrange your financial priorities to make bigger changes?

Get A Roommate

Yearly Cost Savings = $8,350

 INSIDER TIP : Want to make a real impact on your savings? The most powerful tool is moving to a cheaper country. I save $25,000+ a year leveraging geoarbitrage.

Look at this example. Imagine crushing your financial resolutions by an extra $24,000 by moving from Portland to Medellin ($3,057 vs. $740 = $2,317 saved per month). 

Cost of Living Calculators from The Earth Awaits

Take action

Work the math until you get numbers you feel are realistic, yet would make next year a financial success. Now, let's automate your plan.

  • Looking to pay down your student loans? Set up automatic transfers with your financial institution starting January 1st.
  • Ready to invest in your retirement? Set up a payroll deduction with your company's 401K plan for the amount you want to contribute.

Whatever your goal, take steps to start automatically in January. Hit the ground running, rather than waiting until January 1st to start doing something.

There are only a few days left in 2020. I'm sure many people will be looking at their finances, planning to write off this year, and start fresh in 2021. Do not do that! Every financial decision that you make now will have an impact on the future.

If there is one thing you should do before the end of the year about your finances, it is something! Create a plan. Make a budget. Start investing. Something. Too many people wait and never take action. The key is to take that first step. Let your New Year's Resolution start now, not January 1st!

Alex Roszkowski - Plant money seeds

Be flexible

"Mann Tracht, 

Gott Lacht"

― Old Yiddish Proverb

<translation>

If this year taught us anything is that life is unpredictable. No matter how much we plan, it is inevitable that we will get off track. Remain flexible. If you overspend in one area, don't stop completely. Adjust your budget, modify your resolution or both. The key to making financial New Year's resolutions work is not to give up. 

Getting your finances in order for 2021 is vital - we don't know when the world will be back to any semblance of normality. In a post-covid world, we'll all be much more aware of the inherent insecurity of most jobs - do you need to think outside the box a bit to increase your income or save extra money? What things do you spend on that don't bring you joy and take you further from your goals?... Did you develop some unhealthy financial habits during quarantine and lockdown to cope? That's understandable, but now's the time to start looking at them closely so you can break them.

KATHLEEN - MY LONESOME ROADS   

Remember there are times when you need to buckle down and there are times when you need to go easy on yourself. Remember your goals and control what you can control. You can't control a global pandemic, so focus on what you have power over. 

2020 kicked off with a solid plan. We had house sits booked in the US, Europe, and Asia and a budget of $36,000 USD. While we don’t charge to house sit, we also don’t pay to stay in someone’s home. So, our budget should have been cushy!
Due to the pandemic, SEVENTEEN house sits canceled…ALL OF THEM. SEVENTEEN!!! UGH. Our hope of sticking to $36K went out the window.

We had to rein in our spending. Here we are in December and we’re so close to hitting our original budget. We’re pretty blown away. It’s still unknown if we can make it while not eating 50-cent ramen noodles for our Christmas dinner!

AMY AND TIM - GO WITH LESS

With a turbulent 2020 almost finished, 2021 is set to start with the single biggest financial action my wife and I have ever made - buying our first property! Having both just turned 24, we are currently buying a house and are set to close in the middle of January! While we had planned for a while to buy our first property, the pandemic really accelerated that decision. 

Living in New York City certainly has its perks, but almost all of those perks don't count for much when the city is in lockdown. Right now, we are paying a premium for essentially nothing of value to us. For those reasons, we decided to take the plunge and buy our first property in Connecticut!

Alex Roszkowski - Plant money seeds

Celebrate your achievements

SECRETS OF THEIR SUCCESS: TIPS FROM THOSE WHO ARE KEEPING THEIR FINANCIAL RESOLUTIONS 

5 tips on how to keep financial resolutions

Most importantly, remember to be kind and flexible with yourself and to celebrate any and all progress along the way. It's not just the end goal that matters—it's the journey along the way.

It will be hard to keep up with your goals if you don't take time to acknowledge the progress you made. It's important to reward yourself for making progress. When you are on a long trip, it's not just the destination at the end that matters- remember your "Why" and enjoy the journey along the way.  

We're looking ahead to 2021. We have a new plan for our spending. As long as we're in the US, we are open to spending significantly more than in 2020. 

We don't hear many people say their goal is to spend more money, but we're continually seeking to maximize our lives. If we're too stressed on a tight budget and can afford to increase it, then we'll consider loosening up our self-imposed restrictive boundaries.

AMY AND TIM - GO WITH LESS

WRAP UP: Keep your financial resolutions positive, not punishing

Especially given the trying year we just went through, it's crucial to make money resolutions that stick. Try reframing your resolutions into positive goals. Remember your "Why."

  • You're not "paying down debt," you're reducing your financial stress.
  • You're not just "spending less," you're working toward the financial freedom to spend more time with your family
  • You're not "saving more for retirement," you're buying yourself time to learn to ski, garden, climb a mountain, or doing more of the things you love.

Another thing you want to avoid is making financial goals that don't reflect values you actually care about. 

Your New Year's financial resolutions are yours. Don't base your financial priorities on what other people do or how you want other people to perceive you. Instead, make this year's goals reflect what you actually want to accomplish. 

It's important to remember that personal finance is exactly that, personal. Don't worry about what everyone else thinks.

Your New Year's resolutions are not to be better than everyone else. Your goals are to better than who you were last year.

NEXT STEPS

This was part one of two. Join our Finance bloggers when they share "10 Financial Mistakes To Avoid Next Year" Leave your email in the boxes below to get notified when published. 

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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

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