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Rowling & Associates Blog

Budgeting 101: How to Start Saving Money for the New Year

by Paxton Dolan

One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions out there is to spend less and save more. As we make our way through this holiday season and into 2019, let’s look at some ways to achieve this goal by budgeting for that holiday spending and getting a plan in place to start saving.

Who doesn’t love buying gifts for family and friends?

Holiday shopping can be really fun. When the stores are decorated, and the carols are playing, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season and forget to track your money. So how can you avoid the problem of overspending? Here are a few tips to keep in mind this holiday season.

Set a spending limit.

It’s a lot easier to keep your spending to a comfortable level when you have a maximum limit in place before you even set foot in the store. I come from a large family, and one of the things we do at the start of the holiday season is all sit down together and come up with what we feel is a reasonable amount to spend per person on a gift – usually somewhere between $25-$50. Sure, the potential to overspend is still there, but it still helps to have a place to start.

Don’t shop until you know what you want.

Here’s a fact about most people, including myself: we impulse buy. We walk through a store, see something we like, and we buy it almost without even thinking. This is often exaggerated in the months of November and December. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve bought my siblings miscellaneous holiday-themed gifts I just happened to see on the shelves at Target, when I only went there in the first place to pick up some milk.

One strategy that helps combat the urge to impulse buy is to only shop when you have something specific to buy. Again, I’ll use my own family as an example. Around this time of year, we bring out small boxes from our garage. We fill them with little notes of gift ideas, and when we’re ready to shop for someone, we pull the note out of their box and head to the store. Over time I’ve definitely found that shopping with a specific goal in mind has helped me not to spend money needlessly.

If you budget well in December, you can start the new year off on a good note when it comes to saving.

Keeping a watchful eye on your spending over the holidays means you’ve probably already saved yourself some money, and you’re starting the new year in a pretty good place. To keep that trend going, here are some things to keep in mind with regards to saving money.

First, it’s important to make saving a priority. Here at R&A, we recommend saving 15-20% of your total income. One way to do this quickly and easily is to set a certain amount of money to automatically deposit into your savings account at every pay period. This way, you’re almost forcing yourself to save – you don’t even see the money, so there’s no chance to spend it.

Second, the end of one year and the start of another is always a good time to evaluate your spending habits. How many times did you eat out when you had food at home? How many times did you pay to see a movie in theaters instead of watching one for free from the comfort of your couch? How many cups of Starbucks coffee did you buy, instead of taking a few minutes to brew your own?

I’m not saying you need to cut everything out of your life in order to save money. However, if your spending in one of these categories is higher than you’re comfortable with, and you see ways you can cut back and save some extra money, it certainly can’t hurt.

Saving can be a difficult goal to tackle long-term; a financial plan is a tool that can help to keep your saving on track.

The tips listed above are certainly helpful when it comes to starting to save. However, when the only one keeping you accountable to saving is you, that can be a hard trend to maintain. A financial plan can be very helpful when it comes to deciding your savings.

Part of the purpose of a financial plan is to help you identify and work to meet your financial goals. So, if you are hoping to save money in 2019 for a long-term goal, such as buying property or planning for retirement, a financial plan can assist you in developing the budget and savings strategy that will help you to achieve that goal. If saving money is on your list of resolutions for this New Year, consider reaching out to a financial planner and getting that plan in place!