After losing weight, quitting smoking and being happier one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions Australians make is to take control of their money. But with some reports showing that up to 80 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them, getting financial goals to stick throughout the year seems to be harder than it looks.
To give yourself the best chance of achieving your money resolutions in 2019 you’ll want to start by setting SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable and timely. Keeping your SMART goals in mind, next you’ll need to craft a more in-depth financial plan that will help your you reach them.
Achieving financial success usually takes a little more than just luck. Here are our top five financial goals to leave yourself better off in 2019.
Prioritise your savings
Saving more money is a large financial goal that can help you accomplish many other things like buying your first home, purchasing a new car or even having additional money to invest. Having a financial savings buffer could even give you the freedom you need to take a career break or achieve your goal of travelling more.
Start by taking a hard look at your budget and figuring out how much you can afford to put away each month. Then, set up an automatic and recurring transfer for that amount into a high-interest savings account. Having it deducted automatically helps remove the guesswork. There are also numerous money-saving apps available, like Pocketbook Personal Finance Expense Tracker and MoneyBrilliant, that sync easily with your accounts to help you get your finances under control. Remember, with a goal like saving more money you need to ensure that it is specific and measurable – how much do you want to save and over what time period?
Earn more money
Who wouldn't want to earn more money in 2019? A side hustle is becoming an increasingly popular way to bank some extra income, particularly among young people. According to one report from GoDaddy, one in 10 Australians are currently running a side business and are making an average of $24,000 a year doing it.
There are many ways to earn more money. Some of the more popular side hustles at the moment can be run completely online, which have the advantage that there is often no formal training involved! Blogging, freelance writing, taking paid surveys and podcasting are all examples of side hustles you can start from the comfort of your own home.
To turn your side hustle into a SMART money goal make sure you are clear about how much money you are looking to earn from it and how exactly you plan to do it. Rather than saying you simply want to earn more money per month, say you would like to earn an extra $500 a month from taking paid surveys. See how the goal suddenly becomes specific and measurable?
Maximise your Super
Millions of Australians have multiple super accounts and are paying unnecessary fees and insurance many times over. Combining super accounts to save on costs and regularly reviewing your investment options can make a meaningful difference to your retirement savings. It’ll also reduce the amount of paperwork you need to keep track of and help you stay on top of how much you have invested at any given time.
If you have more than one Super fund, be thoughtful about how you combine them. Don’t simply choose to put all your money into the fund with the highest balance. The best fund for you might be a new fund altogether, or one where you have the least amount of money allocated. Remember to consider fees and insurance costs and to always compare multiple funds before deciding which one is best for you. Once you are ready to consolidate, visit the ATO section of my.gov.au. Click on Super then Manage then Transfer Super and follow the prompts.
Pay down your debts
If getting out of debt wasn’t your top money goal for 2019, it should be. High levels of debt can have paralysing effects on your finances and is usually the biggest obstacle in the way of you achieving financial independence. The continuous cycle of minimum payments and accrued interest could be limiting the extra income you could use toward saving or travelling, not to mention the negative effects it has on your credit score.
To help manage debt repayment take the SMART approach to setting goals. Be specific about how much debt you want to pay off each money, then check your budget to decide if those numbers are realistic. Take conscious steps each week to put any additional income towards your existing debt. This could be as simple as the money saved from foregoing the afternoon coffee or as big as putting your tax refund or work bonus towards debt repayment. Read up on strategies for paying down debt or seek financial counselling if you are unsure of where to start.
Stop wasting money
One of the best places to start to take control of your money is eliminating bad financial habits and overspending. Adopting a more thoughtful approach to spending, even in the smallest ways, can help you achieve more meaningful financial goals.
How you choose to prioritise your spending is a personal decision, but a good place to start is figuring out exactly where your money is going. If you don’t know where your money is currently being spent it’s going to be hard to change the situation. Start by making a budget or using a money tracking app to help you better understand where your daily dollars are ending up. A good bugetary guide is the 50/20/30 rule: 50% essential spending (rent, transportation, utilities), 20% towards personal finance goals (saving or paying off debt) and 30% is flexible (expenses that can vary from month-to-month, like eating out, groceries, shopping, hobies, entertainment or gas).
Some of the easiest ways to eliminate wasteful spending include: cutting back on magazine or TV subscriptions, not overpaying on bank fees and foreign currency transfers, planning out weekly meals to avoid unnecessary grocery and takeaway spend and getting savy about when and how you book holiday flights and hotel accommodation.