New Year's Day is the traditional time for setting resolutions. Farmington Hills-based GreenPath Debt Solutions trainer Megan Bridgett offers up some simple and attainable ways to get financial goals in line in the first 60 days of the New Year. She recommends using the "extra" leap year day of February 29 as a financial jumping off point for the remainder of 2012.
January 1-31: On January 1, come up with a projected budget of your monthly expenses, breaking them into different categories: Groceries, clothing, entertainment, dining out, utilities, household bills, debts, etc." Then, for the month of January, hold on to every receipt," said Bridgett. GreenPath has a downloadable, interactive, budget worksheet and various calculators through GreenPath University to help you set an attainable budget and goals. Visit www.greenpath.com/university/welcome.htm for more information.
Each week, go through the receipts and place them into the different categories that you have identified. At the end of the month, tally up the totals, and compare what you have spent to what you had projected. "People tend to spend 10 to 20 percent over what they anticipated on projected spending," said Bridgett. This will help you to identify areas to adjust or cut back.
January 1-14: The first two weeks of January, when you are still excited about your New Year's resolution, coordinate a family meeting.
"It is important to keep all members of the family involved in the decision making process," said Bridgett. For instance, children can help save the family money by simply turning off lights when they leave the room. They can also monitor cell phone usage and charges.
January 14-28: The second two weeks of the month, brainstorm to create short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals could occur within the next three to six months, and long-term could be within the next few years.
Try to keep them SMART:
-- Specific - Be as specific as possible. For instance, if your goal is to "save money," try to make it specific by saying "I want to save money in order to buy a new car."
-- Measurable - Another tip is to make the goal measurable. One way to do this is to identify an amount that you would like to get to. "I want to save $5,000 to buy a new car."
-- Attainable - If goals are not attainable, you might become discouraged and give up.
-- Realistic - Make sure you are being realistic. For instance, if you had a goal of "Never eat lunch out while at work," this might not be realistic or possible. But if I changed it to "Eat out at lunch no more than once per week," you are far more likely to stick with it.
-- Timely - Think of a time frame and a deadline for the goal to be accomplished. This will help you to stay focused and motivated. "I want to save $5,000 by November to buy a new car."
February 1-28: Start making some cutbacks. "Think of areas that you feel you can cut back on, and identify how much you can cut back by," said Bridgett. "Be sure to stay realistic with this and do not cut out everything. Gradually make these changes to keep yourself motivated and excited."
Keep tracking your expenses. Use a notebook and compare at the end of the month. Any money that was saved possibly put in a family bank account. Each month, have another family meeting and celebrate your successes by doing something fun together as a family. This celebration does not have to be expensive. It could be renting a video and having "Movie Night."
February 29: Use the "extra" day in the 2012 Leap Year to review and adjust your budget and expenses, looking toward big 2012 financial milestones like vacations, back-to-school shopping, paying for college and more.
"If you are able to get through the first 60 days of attaining your goals and tracking your progress, you will find yourself saving, budgeting and tracking your way to financial success throughout the rest of the year," said Bridgett.
For more information, visit www.greenpath.com.
GreenPath Debt Solutions is a nationwide, non-profit financial organization that assists consumers with credit card debt, housing debt and bankruptcy concerns. Their customized services and attainable solutions have been helping people achieve their financial goals since 1961.