It’s 2013! We’ve survived the end of the Mayan calendar, we’re past the worst of the Fiscal Cliff, and we’ve all gone back to work after some time off. That means it’s time to take charge of your finances once and for all. Make some new resolutions this year with your money and you’ll be able to see it grow and enjoy living comfortably on the income you have.
1. Adjust For Taxes
There is still some uncertainty about taxes and the future of some tax rates at the time of writing, but one thing is for sure – your taxes are going to change with the new guidelines created through all of the Fiscal Cliff stuff that is going on. At the very least, the payroll tax holiday we’ve been enjoying for years is going away. That means that anyone with a paycheck is going to be paying 2 percent more in taxes.
This is going to happen automatically, so there is nothing that you need to do in order to be compliant if you work for a company who automatically deducts your taxes, but you may need to adjust your withholding to avoid overpaying or underpaying through those automatic deductions.
2. Save More for Emergencies
In the worst of the economic mire that we’re steadily climbing away from, people were saving more. There was a consistent rate of savings and credit card balances were being paid down. Lately, however, that saving rate is decreasing again, which is not a good thing. Every family should have three to six months of minimal income saved up in case of unemployment or emergency.
Granted, if you used your fund already during a period of unemployment, you’ll need to save it back up again, but if you’ve slowed your personal or family saving to take advantage of low interest rates, great deals over the holidays or adventures you’ve put off for years, start saving again. It’s always better to have too much in savings than too little.
3. Start a College Fund
If you have children, you should already have a specific college fund available for each child. There is a tax benefit to starting a 529 or Coverdell savings account, and some allow you exemptions from both state and federal income taxes. There are limitations to the accounts, however, so research your options carefully and then start investing. Just sending $100 per month to a college account for each child will make a huge difference in tuition payments and other college expenses down the road.
4. Eat In, Not Out
If you’re looking to trim up your household budget at the same time you’re trimming up your waistline, make a small change to your meals. Eat in, not out. Even if you bring home takeout, you’re much more likely to save the leftovers for the next day and to avoid ordering the extra things that a long restaurant meal might encourage. After all, you won’t be paying $8 per glass of wine when you’re at home – that alone might be a way to kick start your savings while you eat your carry-out steak and potatoes.
5. Start a Coin Jar
Where is your spare change? If you don’t know, you’re missing a great opportunity to save. Grab a big jar and label it something for a family goal. Perhaps your family really wants a weekend trip to the beach or a new game system. Then, as everyone comes into the house each day after work or school, simply drop your change into the jar.
This saves the washing machine the extra wear and tear, keeps change from getting lost in the sofa and helps to save toward reasonably small goals. When it’s time to cash out your change, usually when the jar is full, there are handy change counters in most grocery stores these days that let you tally up your profits quickly and easily. The more members of your household contributing to the goal, the faster you’ll get there – and this is an excellent lesson in saving money for delayed gratification as well.
6. Purge Your Home for Value
If one of your resolutions was to clean out your house and get organized, you’re in luck. You can profit nicely from your efforts. Clean out your closets, clear out cabinets, and make a pile of clothing, jewelry and household items you don’t want anymore. Then, take your gigantic pile and start to profit from it. The deeper you clean and purge, the more gratified you’ll feel in your organized home and the more potential cash you’ll make.
Furniture and electronics tend to sell well on online classified websites like Craigslist while special items will sell easily usually on auction sites like eBay. The piles of clothing you have can be resold in a consignment shop or simply arrange the items in boxes or on tables according to price and set them out in a massive yard sale. In just a few hours of work, using all of the items you’ve cleaned out and would have thrown away, you can easily make hundreds of dollars toward something fun or extra to enjoy.