How to Make This Year a Financial Success

by Pamela Meger, CIRP, LIT
January 25, 2024

A guide to improving your financial health and well-being.

Many people start the new year with the goal of improving their financial situation, but often struggle to stick to their plans or achieve their desired results. If you are one of them, don't worry. You are not alone, and there are some simple and effective steps you can take to make this year a financial success.

In this document, we will share some tips and advice on how to manage your money better, save more, spend less. We will also help you set realistic and achievable financial goals and track your progress along the way. By following these suggestions, you will be able to improve your financial health and well-being and enjoy the benefits of a more prosperous and secure future.

Tip 1: Create a budget and stick to it

One of the most important steps to making this year a financial success is to create a budget and stick to it. A budget is a plan that shows how much money you earn, how much you spend, and how much you save or invest each month. It helps you to control your cash flow, avoid overspending, and allocate your resources wisely.

To create a budget, you need to do the following:

  • Track your income and expenses for at least a month and categorize them into fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are the ones that stay the same every month, such as rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance, and debt payments. Variable costs are the ones that change depending on your lifestyle and choices, such as food, clothing, entertainment, and hobbies.
  • Subtract your total expenses from your total income and see if you have a surplus or a deficit. A surplus means you have more money than you spend, and a deficit means you spend more money than you earn. Ideally, you want to have a surplus, or at least break even.
  • Set your financial goals and prioritize them according to your needs and wants. Your goals can be short-term, medium-term, or long-term, depending on how soon you want to achieve them. For example, a short-term goal could be saving for a vacation, a medium-term goal could be paying off a credit card debt, and a long-term goal could be saving for retirement.
  • Allocate your surplus money to your financial goals and adjust your spending accordingly. If you have a deficit, you need to find ways to increase your income or reduce your expenses, or both. You can also use some of the tips below to help you save more and spend less.
  • Review your budget regularly, and update it as your income, expenses, and goals change. You can use a spreadsheet, an app, or a paper notebook to keep track of your budget. The key is to be consistent and honest with yourself, and to follow your plan as much as possible.

Tip 2: Save more and spend less

Another key step to making this year a financial success is to save more and spend less. Saving more means putting aside a portion of your income for your future needs and goals and spending less means cutting down on unnecessary or excessive expenses that do not add value to your life. By doing so, you will be able to build your wealth, reduce your debt, and achieve your financial goals faster.

To save more and spend less, you need to do the following:

  • Build an emergency fund. This is a savings account that you use only for unexpected or urgent expenses, such as medical bills, car repairs, or job loss. Having an emergency fund can help you avoid using your credit cards or taking out loans when you face a financial crisis. Ideally, you want to have at least three to six months' worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. Honestly any amount can be helpful. This may take time to build up. I advise having any GST credits or tax refunds deposited directly into your savings account versus your day-to-day account. These can add up quickly.
  • Reduce your fixed costs. These are the expenses that you have to pay every month, regardless of your income or lifestyle. While some of them are essential, such as rent or mortgage, others can be reduced or eliminated, such as cable, subscriptions, or memberships. You can also negotiate with some of your service providers, such as phone, internet, or insurance, to get a lower rate or a better deal.
  • Limit your variable costs. These are the expenses that you have more control over, and that depend on your choices and preferences. While some of them are necessary, such as food or clothing, others can be avoided or reduced, such as eating out, shopping, etc. You can also use coupons, discounts, or cashback programs to save money on your purchases.

Making this year a financial success is not impossible but will require dedication, discipline, and patience. Everyone’s definition of financial success will likely be different. How the person beside you budgets or achieves their financial goals will likely also be different. It is important to remember that your financial goals and success are defined by you. Remember to enjoy the process and the results.

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