Savvy Money
By Kim Sponem

How do I start the new year off on the right foot financially?

Great question! I love the start of a new year, the start over, recalibrate, fresh-start feeling. Imagining your goals, figuring out what you need to reach them and brainstorming ideas to get there are a great start to a new year.

First, imagine a blank piece of paper where you can begin to create what your year is going to look like, and what about the next three years? What do you see? What are the things you want to do? Where are the places you want to go? At the end of the year, what do you want to have made progress on for sure? Let your mind wander. Embrace the freedom a new year brings.

Now, get that piece of paper and start writing down your thoughts, uninhibited by reality or negative thoughts. Put it down, all of it, on paper. Every last thought.

Leave that paper out for a few days. Add to it when you think of more things. This is the start of getting what you want and taking action.

Then, look at what you put down and take out a second piece of paper. Write down all the things that are holding you back from getting what you put down on that first piece of paper. What limitations do you see? Are they real? Is there a way around them? Is there a financial component to getting what you want?

Rank your items. What are the top three you want to make happen this year? What are the top three you want to make happen over the next three years? How much do you need to save or how much do you need to put toward a loan you already have to get it paid off?

Once you have determined what you need to save to make those things happen for you, start to figure out how much you can automatically save each pay period. That way, you can see what might be a realistic timeframe. You can also consider other sources of savings. To get you started, below are a few ideas of where you might find additional dollars to stash away to reach your top three goals, and I’m sure you will think of more.


A few ideas:

  • Put your raise in a savings account (or 401k) or take the raise and increase your loan payment.
  • Did you get a bonus? Put at least half of it in a savings account toward one of the items on your paper. Do not spend your entire bonus on something right away. Put it in an account and wait a while. See what all your possibilities might be.
  • Is getting something on your list worth getting a second job for? Many places are looking for part-time help.
  • Is there something you are spending your money on now that you really don’t care that much about anymore and can change?
  • Think about three regular expenses that may be worth shopping around for, like insurance, car repairs and groceries and see what you can save toward your goals.
  • What are you not using anymore that you can sell?  A friend of mine just sold a piece of exercise equipment that she got used for twice what she paid for it. She wasn’t using it anymore and put it online to sell.

In the new year, focusing on what you want to achieve makes getting your finances in order not only easier, but more fun.  Then, revisit those goals a few times during the year. You’ll be amazed at the progress you’ve made. Enjoy, and happy 2016!

Kim Sponem is CEO/President of Summit Credit Union, a $2.3 billion, member-owned financial cooperative with more than 147,000 members. Kim has a passion for empowering women to improve their financial well-being for a richer life. Ask Kim your money questions at [email protected].

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