Guest blogger Nichole Coyle, Certified Financial Planner™, talks about sticking to a budget, setting financial goals for the new year, and when to meet with a financial advisor.
The start of the new year can bring the promise of a fresh start. Many of you will make resolutions to eat healthier, work out more, or spend more time enjoying a hobby. Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves that will help improve our lives in some way. So, why not resolve to be more financially prepared this year?
Here are some of the most common financial resolutions:
- Create and/or stick to a budget
- Plan for emergencies
- Gain control over spending and debt
- Plan for short, mid, and long-term goals
Stick to A Budget
Having (and sticking to!) a budget is one of the essential pieces of a healthy financial foundation and a good way to start reaching your financial goals. I know it might sound boring or restrictive, but a budget is a tool you can use on an ongoing basis to prioritize where your money goes. If you use it to control your spending, you could free up the funds for new purchases such as a new home, new car, or summer getaway.
Need help creating a budget? Here are some quick tips:
- Fixed Expenses – mortgage/rent, utilities (some may have the option for a fixed budget), cell phone bill, etc.
- Variable Expenses – groceries, eating out, clothing, entertainment, gas, etc.
Include the amount owed and the date it’s due. Make sure you write down the highest amount you’ve paid in one month (over the last year), as well as the average amount you pay monthly.
List out every single income source and write the minimum per month you’ve made in the last year, as well as the average monthly income. Maybe you only have one, and that’s ok! But if you drive for Uber or Door Dash occasionally, sell Mary Kay, or sell something on Etsy, make sure to include that.
Now, it’s time to put it all together and see where your money is going and ways you can cut back and save!
There are many ways to do this. You can create your budget on paper, make an electronic spreadsheet, or go through an app. Trello, Evernote, and Mint are some of the top three budgeting apps you can use. The goal is to gain control over your cash flow. When you know what’s coming in, how much is going out, and what you’re spending your money on allows for control.
Plan for Emergencies
Once you’ve created your budget and know where you can cut to start saving, it’s time to start allocating funds to a savings account that is earmarked for emergencies. If you have no savings at all, this is a great time to start with a small goal of $500-$1,000.
After you’ve hit your first benchmark, set the next one, and continue saving until you hit three months of expenses.
At the three-month benchmark, it’s time to prioritize. The next savings goal is six months of income, but if you have debt (especially high-interest debt like credit cards) or other financial goals that need attention, it may make sense to focus on those goals first.
There are a few ways to pay off debt, including the debt snowball and the debt avalanche methods.
Then you move on to the next smallest, then the next, until you are debt-free. This method does not consider interest rates, so you may pay more interest in the long-term, but it can give you a paying off debt sooner because you are starting with the smallest balance.
Debt Avalanche Method
This is when you apply extra funds to the debt with the highest interest rate while paying the minimum balance on the rest of your debts.
Then you move on to the debt with the next highest interest rate, and so on until you are debt-free. This method may take longer to pay off your first debt but will save more in interest and pay off your total debt quicker.
Set a Goal
I want you to visualize what is important to you and take those first steps to set your goals. To get started, make a list of all the financial goals that are important to you and order them according to the time frame. I’ve included some examples below to help you begin.
Short term (0-12 months) examples:
- Establish or fully fund an emergency account
- Control spending
- Create a budget
- Save for short term savings (like for a vacation, Christmas, etc.)
Midterm (1-5 years)
- Pay off debt
- Insurance review (life, health, disability, etc.)
- Save for a new house (or vacation home)
- Save for a child/grandchild’s education
Long term (5+ years)
- Legacy Planning
Meet with a Financial Advisor
Consider making an appointment with me to help set your financial goals or if you are going through any of the following situations:
- Do you need help paying off debt? Has something recently changed with your income or your lifestyle? You may also need to check your tax situation, financial accounts, retirement plan, and so on. These are things to discuss with a financial professional. They can help you create a plan that will work best for you and your unique situation.
- Are you saving for a goal that isn’t immediate? Speaking with an advisor can help you learn about options you didn’t even know existed and also help you navigate tax implications, fees, investment risks, and more.
- Has it been a while since you’ve met with a financial professional? Life happens quickly. Whether you have had a child, changed jobs, gotten a raise, become an empty nester, or are getting ready to retire, there are so many significant life changes that can impact your financial and insurance needs.
Regardless of where you are at with your finances, take some time this month to think about the financial future. What do you want to accomplish this year? What do you want to put in motion now that will positively affect your financial situation down the road for you and your family?
Nichole M. Coyle
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
20333 Emerald Pkwy
Cleveland, OH 44135
Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a Broker-Dealer, and a Registered Investment Advisor. Cetera is not affiliated with the financial institution where investment services are offered or any other named entity.