Resolving to make positive changes when the calendar flips to January is a cross-cultural tradition that dates back thousands of years. And, with the new year here, many are once again refining their resolutions — or just rehashing their abandoned aspirations from 2017 to get their body and budget in shape.
GOBankingRates spoke with Trish Regan, Fox Business Network anchor and host of “The Intelligence Report,” who shared some of her personal time and money tips, as well as her New Year’s resolutions for 2018.
Save More, Spend Less
Twenty percent of people polled in a recent GOBankingRates survey chose this as their top goal for 2018. And Regan said sticking to this perennial resolution requires daily discipline and beginning with the end in mind.
“It’s a lot like a diet,” she said. “You need to remind yourself to stay focused on long-term goals — whether that’s retirement or saving for a big-ticket item.”
Identifying important objectives and making them a priority can help keep temptation at bay regardless of your favorite financial foible.
“Some people love clothes, some people love to go out to eat,” she said. “The truth is, none of us really need any of it. You can eat better, cheaper food in the surroundings of your own home without a hectic restaurant atmosphere and, let’s be honest, do you really need another dress or sweater?”
Spend More Time With Friends and Family
It also helps that many of life’s most enjoyable moments are free. But taking the time to enjoy them can be a challenge. In fact, 19 percent of those polled in the GOBankingRates survey chose spending more time with friends and family as their top resolution this year. Regan got a head start in 2017 by simply saying “no” more often.
“My biggest lesson this year was learning to scale back,” she said. “Time is truly the most precious commodity we have. And, there’s nothing better than snuggling with my little ones on a snowy Saturday night, watching a family movie with the fireplace glowing in the background or having a date night with my husband. Remember to leave time in your schedule so you can enjoy the incredible moments.”
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Enjoy Life to the Fullest
This was the most popular New Year’s resolution in this year’s GOBankingRates survey, with 32 percent of those polled naming it their top goal for 2018. Enjoying life to the fullest, though, shouldn’t entail emptying your bank account.
In fact, another GOBankingRates survey found debt is the No. 1 cause of financial stress in most states. This is no surprise, considering American households held $808 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter of 2017, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.
Pay Down Debt
Attacking debt ranked as the most popular goal directly related to finances, with 21 percent of GOBankingRates survey respondents putting it at the top of their New Year’s resolutions list. Altogether, American households held $12.96 trillion in debt in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.
But not all debts are created equal. Some, such as credit card balances, typically carry much higher interest rates than other types of loans. So experts say those trying to banish balances in 2018 should start by paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate and work their way down from there.
This goal was the second most popular New Year’s resolution for 2017, according to search data pulled from Google by digital marketing firm iQuanti. For Regan, controlling her calendar was also a priority in 2017 because it helped her learn her limits.
“I have three children, a husband and a full-time job. I’ve got a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and tend to want to do it all,” she said. “But, I can’t be everywhere, and I can’t do everything. I recognize this now. As a result, prioritization has become critical. Organization is critical. And, understanding one’s own time limits is essential when you’re trying to balance a whole lot of stuff at once.”
Track Your Spending
Next year, Regan wants to get a similar handle on her budget. She plans to devote more effort to pinpointing where her money goes and how she can develop smarter spending habits in 2018.
“Too often, money gets spent, and you may not know where it’s all going. It’s important to track your spending, and there are lots of great apps and ways to do that now,” she said.
Live a Healthier Lifestyle
Eating better, exercising more and otherwise living a healthier life ranks as one of the most common New Year’s resolutions year after year. Aside from doing wonders for your overall health, watching your waistline can also benefit your bottom line.
Studies show the healthiest 20 percent of people in their 50s had more than double the assets of the least healthy 20 percent of people the same age, and the gap grew with age. People who were healthier in midlife also had lower medical expenses, even much later, and were able to work and earn longer — another big bank account booster.
Increase Your Income
With unemployment at 17-year lows, now might be an opportune time to land a higher-paying position, especially for the 14 percent of GOBankingRates survey respondents who ranked this as their top goal for 2018.
For those who aren’t on the hunt for a new job, a little research and resume revamp could still pay off. Investigating employment opportunities will give you a better idea of what you’re worth in the current market. If other employers are offering higher pay and better benefits for someone with your skills and experience, that puts you in a stronger position to request a raise or other payday perks.
You can also take up a side job to earn more income. Sites such as TaskRabbit, Care.com and Upwork make it easier than ever to find a side hustle, whether you want to help homeowners assemble furniture, provide pet sitting services or act as a virtual assistant.
Save More for Retirement
According to a 2017 GOBankingRates retirement savings survey, 34 percent of Americans have $0 saved for retirement. Another 21 percent have less than $10,000 in their nest egg.
Experts recommend diverting money directly from your paycheck into retirement savings and maximizing the match for your employer-sponsored retirement account. If you can’t do that while covering your monthly expenses, consider ways to slash spending on discretionary items, cut costs on fixed expenses, pay down debt and bring in more money.
Scale Back Your Lifestyle
Finding more money to nurture your nest egg might be easier than you think if you scale back. Shop around to cut costs on items like bank fees, retirement account fees and loan interest rates. Scrutinize spending habits for unnecessary expenses, including subscriptions you aren’t using. And consider selling underused items for extra cash.
Those who really want to minimize money woes could even consider moving to reduce rent or mortgage expenses or cutting commuting costs by carpooling, using public transportation or biking to work. In addition to helping you secure your financial future, some of these steps could help you get healthy and get organized, so they might not seem like sacrifices at all.
As Regan puts it: “Simplify your life, plan ahead and remember (being) around your family and friends is the most important thing in life.”