5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Finances Before the New Year

December 5, 2020

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It’s almost the New Year!

It is time to take some massive action to improve our financial situations before the year is up. That way we’ll kick things off in January with confidence and more money in our pockets.

If you made a list of goals or new years resolutions earlier this year, now is the time to look at that list and assess how you’re doing. Think about what action you can take to accomplish those big goals you set for yourself earlier this year.

Now if you didn’t make any goals or can’t find that list, that’s okay! I have 5 goals for you to consider to help you improve your financial situation before the new year.

1. Make Your First Budget

We can’t improve our finances if we’re not tracking our finances.

With the few weeks we have before the new year, detail out your income and your expenses.

Write down how much you make each month and how much you spend each month.

December may be a disaster of a month for tracking with holiday shopping, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

A great place to start is with your credit card and bank statements. Print out the past few months of statements, break out the highlighter and calculate what you typically spend each month.

Start with the big expenses:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Utility Bills
  • Entertainment

This exercise may be extremely revealing for you. You may find some trouble spots that are really dragging down your ability to eliminate your debt and build wealth.

If you’d prefer to utilize technology to help you out, check out Tiller or Mint to support your budgeting efforts. I love both of them. They sync up your accounts so you don’t have to import the numbers manually. They save you time and save you money!

Related Article: How to Create a Budget on Mint in 10 Simple Steps

2. Eliminate Unnecessary Subscriptions and Memberships

Watching TV

Our monthly subscriptions and memberships can really add up. Netflix, Disney Plus, Spotify, Hulu, Audible, Amazon Prime, the local gym, cable TV, etc. … the list goes on and on.

Ask yourself, “Which of these are not actually making me happy?”

Or … “Which of these am I actually using?”

Let’s say you got Amazon Prime years ago, but you haven’t watched a show on there in a while and the “convenience” of 2-day shipping is actually making you buy a whole lot more when you’re in debt. Then you should stop paying for it.

Or you have had that gym membership all year, but you’ve only gone once. It’s time to reconsider if you’re a gym person or not.

These subscriptions and memberships can add up to big dollars, take over your budget and put you in debt. Ask yourself if they’re worth it.

And if they’re not worth it … cancel them today.

3. Earn $500 Extra and Put it into Savings

Let’s say you’ve examined your budget and there’s not much you’re spending on that isn’t a necessity … then it’s time to make more money.

I want to help you earn $500 before the month is over.

Here are some thoughts on how to get it done:

Take Advantage of the Gig Economy

You can make fast money by working with partners like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit or even Lime (I know a guy who’s made between $150 – $600 per month charging up scooters!)

Sell 10 Things Around Your House on Facebook Marketplace

Our trash can be turned into cash.

Clothes, bikes, toys, video games, furniture … you name it, people may be willing to buy it. Especially during the holidays!

Extra Hours or Overtime

Do you have a job where overtime is an option? This may be the time of year where your employer would appreciate the extra hours … and you’d appreciate the extra cash.

It can’t hurt to ask!

Make Money from Your Hobby

You may love photography, writing or even woodworking. Let’s find a way to get paid for it!

There are thousands of people (trust me, I’ve interviewed a lot of them on my podcast!) who have followed their passion and made great money. They’ve used this money to pay off their debt, pay off their mortgage and even reach financial independence. 

Now, when you get that extra $500, consider throwing this money into your Emergency Savings so you don’t have to go into debt for the next Emergency. The washer goes out, something breaks at the house, our tire goes flat … we’re not putting it on the credit card, we’re paying cash for it.

That way, we’re avoiding the high interest debt and creating more freedom for ourselves!

Related Article: Work from Home: 14 Profitable Side Hustles for Parents

4. Develop a Debt Snowball Plan for your Debt

Okay, we’re creating our budget, we’re eliminating unnecessary expenses and we’re making new money … We’re feeling good!

Now it’s time to eliminate our debt.

Write down all of your debts and the balance of your loans. Who do you owe? And how much you them?

These debts can be:

  • Credit card debt
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Home equity lines of credit

Line them up from smallest balance to highest balance and then decide how quickly you can pay off the first debt.

Let’s say you have a $1,000 credit card at a clothing store (because they had you sign up and gave you 15% off) and that’s your lowest debt.

What can you do to reallocate $100 from your budget to eliminate this card in 10 months?

Not aggressive enough? What can you do to reallocate or earn $250 extra per month to eliminate this card in 4 months?

Make a plan and stick to it. You’ll eventually earn your debt freedom.

5. Make 5 SMART Goals for Yourself

Planning and action go hand in hand. Let’s make some SMART goals that make our new year better.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action-Oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time-Based

Here’s an example:  “I will pay off my $1,000 credit card by May.”

We’re specific about the goal, it’s measureable in terms of the debt amount, we’re putting action around it, it’s realistic for our finances and we set a date to have it done by.

Here’s the opposite of a SMART goal:  “I need to get my debt situation under control”

Nope! Not a SMART goal … see the difference?

Now do this for 5 financial goals of yours. This can be around your debt, your savings, your net worth, your career, your business or anything else you want. Remember to be SMART with your goals – Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-Based.

By the time January rolls around, you’re going to be ready to tackle even bigger goals. Who knows? You may just experience financial freedom earlier than you thought.

What goals are you shooting for the new year? How about next year?

Please let me know in the comments below!

Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping young families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and watching Marvel movies.

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