Without a doubt, almost all of us could be better at managing our money.  And with the holiday season just past, many of us are starting to feel the weight of our holiday debt.  You might have made a resolution this year to clean up your finances and be more responsible, but are feeling clueless about how to actually get it done.  Here are four tips that can help you make changes in your spending habits in 2017, so this year, you keep your New Year’s resolution.

Use SMART Goals

SMART is a methodology anyone can use to achieve almost any goal.  The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Oriented.  When setting a SMART goal, make small, easily reached short-term goals that have tangible results.  Instead of making the broad goal to save more money in 2017, try making a smaller goal.  For example, set a date to go open a savings account.  After you’ve done that, make it a priority to change your direct deposit so some of your paycheck gets deposited automatically, and so on.  BY breaking down your lofty goals into more manageable pieces, you make it much more likely that you’ll meet your objective.

Automate

Automate as much of your finances as you can, especially if you’re an impulse spender.  Automatic bill payments and deposits ensure that your payments are made on time and savings are always deposited.  This can be especially helpful if you are the kind of person who often forgets to pay bills on time.  Automatic payments also help hold you accountable for your spending because they are made on time whether you have the funds in your account or not.  This will curb your impulse spending, as you will know exactly how much you need in your account to avoid an overdraft at any given time.

Get Real

To really get ahold of your finances this year, it may be time to take a long, hard look at your spending habits and lifestyle.  Are you living paycheck to paycheck, or have nice things but massive amounts of debt too?  Reality check time.  You are living above your means, and you need to examine your spending with a fine-tooth comb. Making real and lasting financial changes may be an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience, but it’s in your own best interest.  2017 can be the year you take back control of your financial destiny, but you have to face facts.

Make a Budget and Track Everything

Once you know how you are spending money, are saving money, and have automated everything you can, it’s time to make a realistic budget you’ll actually stick to.  Remember that budgeting is an ongoing process and that you’ll probably backslide and slip up, so use SMART goals to help you stay on track.  Also, consider tracking all your spending in a computer program, spreadsheet, or app so you know exactly where all your spending occurs.  Review all your recurring outgoings, like unused gym memberships or online movie subscriptions, like Netflix that you may have forgotten about. Many offer features like upcoming due date notifications and warnings about overspending, making your New Year’s resolution a sure success in 2017.

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