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2012 New Year’s Resolutions: A 12-Month Strategy You Can Stick To

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Every year when the new year approaches, it occurs to me that I still have a lot of work to do. Whether its my health or habits, fitness or finances, I can always think of plenty of things I can add to my list, and it’s overwhelming. So, I like to split my resolutions up and tackle them throughout the year. It makes it feel more manageable, and I find I have more success. Here are my financial resolutions for 2012, and how I plan to achieve them.

 

January: Reassess my Budget

Last year I made a budget, and for the first time I really stuck to it. I was able to save for necessary travel and legal fees on a part-time wage earner’s income. However, this year, I won’t have all the airline tickets and lawyers to worry about, but there are other goals I want to achieve. This is the time to plot them out and put them on the map.

 

February: Go Without TV

OK, I’ve already started doing this, and I don’t intend to do it all year, but for a couple of months, my budget could use a little help, and this is a relatively painless way for me to do it. I have the Internet, so I can still watch shows and such. Also, it’s not hard to negotiate with most cable providers. Tell them you’re going on an extended vacation (you don’t have to say it’s just a vacation from TV), and they’ll stop your charges for whatever time frame you give them. Dish Network will give you up to six months without canceling your account. This will give me a chance to start some new family traditions like game night or get together with friends to make dinner.

 

March: Plan my Giving

One of the joys of making money, ironically, is giving it away. However, unlike my saving, this is not something I like to put on autopilot. First, I like to research reputable organizations. Last year I found Samaritan’s Purse and was able to help with the crises in Haiti and Japan, knowing that my donated dollars were being spent wisely.  In other months, though, I like to just be on the lookout for needs. So, when I budget, I’ll figure out what I can afford to give each month this year, and then I’ll wait for a friend to confide in me about a need, or to see someone on the street who could use a hot lunch, and I’ll have that money ready to act. Planning my giving opens opportunities to me that make my life fuller and connects me to others more deeply.

 

April: Increase my Savings

I saved last year, but not as much as I would have liked, and at one point I had to gut my emergency fund a little. With a budget set, it’s time to decide how much I can afford to save every month and start replenishing the fund. Also, I can plan on getting my tax refund back around this month, and that will help a lot with this goal.

 

May: Plant a Garden

For the past three years, I’ve had a garden (although last year’s garden was something of an accident–the tomatoes and herbs re-seeded themselves and I didn’t have to do a thing). It’s not a passion for me, but I do like having fresh herbs and vegetables ready when I want them. I try to choose those things that are kind of pricey in the store, like basil and dill. They grow like crazy and I can make enough pesto to freeze for the year. I also plant plenty of tomatoes since my husband and I eat salsa daily. There’s a lot of trial and error involved (zucchini is too big for our space; cilantro just doesn’t grow in this climate), but it’s fun to plan, cheap to grow, and saves me money throughout the summer on food.

 

June: Get the Bike Tuned Up

Summertime is easy on the budget because of my garden, but I often make up for that by driving too much. Gas prices always go up in the summer, and I like to go places out of the ordinary for hikes and such. Well, if I can drive there, I can usually bike there as well. One year I made a goal to bike everywhere within town for the summer. Not only was I lean, but my wallet looked better too.

 

July: Start Saving for a New Computer

Once the emergency fund is replenished, I can start aggressively saving for a new computer. My dinosaur has lived a long, productive life, but so many programs don’t work properly because the software is old, and new software isn’t compatible… and on and on. I use SmartyPig to create savings goals, and then automate the withdrawals on a monthly basis.

 

August: Learn about Investment Opportunities

Knowledge is power, and there are certain areas of financial literacy that are still foreign waters to me. Investing is one of them. So this month, instead of reading another Alexander McCall Smith book (he creates the most amazing characters), I’ll pick up a tome on investing like The Intelligent Investor or One Up On Wall Street. Not only will it help me in my professional work, but in my finances as well.

 

September: Eat In More

This is my birthday month, and well, I may not have week-long parties and spending sprees, but I could use a little more control when it comes to eating out. I love to eat out–and not just for my birthday. Maybe this is the year to have the family and friends over for a potluck instead of splurging on a fancy meal. I’ll still have a wonderful dinner with the people I love. I just won’t have to spend all my birthday money that night.

 

October: Do An Energy Assessment

This is fancy speak for saving money by fixing my drafty doors and windows. Every year I bemoan my energy bills while I can clearly see light shining around the edges of my front door. Time to caulk that up.

 

November: Shop Smarter for Gifts

For $2.99, the Save Benjis app scans barcodes and finds the best available prices. If the store isn’t willing to negotiate the price, the app also allows you to place an online order for the item you desire. This is a shopping weapon that will not only demystify Black Friday but your grocery shopping trips, too.

 

December: Pay Off My Car

While I will have budgeted this in January, by December my goal is to say sayonara to my burdensome car payment. I love the feeling that comes when I free myself from another debt. Attacking my debt throughout the year will give me the best Christmas gift I can think of: financial independence. And that’s what all these resolutions are for in the long run… they’re steps to stay out of debt, create wealth, and the discipline to enjoy it.
What are some of your financial resolutions for 2012? How do you hope to achieve them?

 

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