Don’t feel too guilty if you couldn’t resist that last-minute gift-buying binge last week.
It’s time to put 2012 behind and make resolutions that will put you on firm financial footing for the coming year.
Assessing the condition of your financial state at the start of a new year just makes sense, said Mackey McNeill, a certified public accountant and author of “The Intersection of Joy and Money.”
“Some things you can fix over the short term and some the long term,” McNeill said.
“Look at making good decisions rather than depriving yourself, and even turning it into fun.”Here are ways to improve your financial footing in 2013.
Budget. Make this the year you actually make a budget — and stick to it.
“With tools like Quicken and Mint.com it’s easy to track your spending, and once you see it all you’ll realize how much choice you have,” says McNeill. “It helps in seeing what’s important.
“Talk to the family. Kids should be involved in financial planning, said Mark Bruinooge, CEO of Tykoon.com, a money management site for children.
“There’s a lot of, ‘I want’ from the kids. Sit down and have a conversation where everyone contributes and sets goals for the family,” he suggested.
And get the kids involved in saving – for, say, a family vacation.
Return stuff/sell stuff. See all those presents around the tree you don’t want? Return it or sell it on eBay.
While you’re at it, take the junk in your closet to a consignment shop and clear out any gold you don’t use from your jewelry box and sell that, too. It’s found money – and should be put away for a rainy day.
Vow to save. Your mother was right, those pennies add up. Set a savings goal and have the money automatically deducted from you paycheck if you don’t have the discipline to put it in the bank yourself.
“The point is to create a new habit,” said McNeill.
Just don’t set the mark too high, she suggested. But if you have specific goals, such as buying a car or taking a vacation, consider separate savings accounts for each item.
Pay off credit cards. You’ve heard it before, but get rid of those high interest cards first – they are costing you big bucks.Pay them off by sending more than the minimum payment each month. Set a goal of getting down to no more than two cards.
Watch spending. Sales are tempting, but “stop spending on dumb stuff,” said Grant Cardone, business author and star of TV’s “Turnaround King.”
“Be a Scrooge all year long until you are in a position to splurge without worry,” he said.
Prepare to pay more taxes. Fiscal cliff scenario or not, tax changes will mean the average American pays more in 2013.
David Selig of New York tax firm Selig & Associates said you should, at the very least, plan to do with $4,000 less per couple, based on the 2% increase in Social Security withholding.
Plan for next year’s holiday spending. You may find yourself gasping as the holiday season’s credit card bills arrive. Avoid repeating that scenario by starting to plan for next year’s spending spree now. Set aside something each month.
Celebrate your achievements. Set financial goals and when you achieve one, celebrate, said McNeill.
Just paid off a credit card? Pat yourself on the back by having your friends over for dinner.
Create an emergency fund. Since you don’t know what 2013 will bring, it’s a good idea to set aside enough cash to support yourself or your family for at least a month.
“But don’t dip into that account just because it’s your sweetheart’s birthday,” Selig advised.