This was a year like no other.
Like many others, we’re looking forward to leaving this year behind and having a fresh start. And there is no better time than the New Year to start making changes in your life and create new financial habits.
If you want to change your financial picture, you need to begin by setting realistic financial goals. Whether you’re hoping to increase your retirement savings, set enough money aside for a down payment on a house, or grow your annual income, there's no better time to start than in a new year.
Regardless of your goals, the first step to a healthier financial future is to plan to help make your resolutions stick. Keep on reading to learn how you can make lasting changes and take control of your finances in the New Year and beyond.
How to Save More This Year
If saving more money is one of your goals, one of the most important skills you’ll have to master is patience—that and budgeting. It will take time to grow your accounts as you work towards specific savings goals.
Remember that there is no secret trick to saving money fast. It all comes down to making small changes that have a big impact on your overall savings. Put these six savings tips to work so you can get on the path to financial stability:
1. Track Your Spending and Budget for Your Savings
One of the best ways to grow your savings is to track your spending carefully. By actively monitoring all of your income and expenditures, you’ll be able to see where your money is going and avoid any impulse purchases.
A budget will also offer a valuable perspective on where you spend your money and how you could put it to better use. It will help you spot areas where you’re spending more than you realize and can also be set up to allow for the occasional indulgence as well as unforeseen emergencies. You can draft your budget from scratch using an online monthly budget calculator to quickly understand and evaluate your spending habits.
If your budget shows that there should be money left over, but you're spending it before you can save it, there's a method that can improve your habits. Budget your savings, and work that into your automatic transfers. You can also work backward by reviewing your salary and subtract all your expenses from it. If there’s anything left, the difference should go directly into your savings account.
2. Scale Back Your Expenses
To carve out more savings quickly, consider giving up or cutting back on one monthly expense and put that money in the bank. This could be a small ticket item that adds up quickly—think your daily $6 coffee or that $10 subscription you don’t use. It could also be a more expensive luxury such as a weekly massage or ordering $45 worth of takeout instead of cooking at home.
Then, park that extra money directly into your savings account to increase your savings rate. If you cut back or remove the expense altogether, you’ll find the savings do add up. Plus, chances are, you won’t even miss spending that money, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference it can make to your savings long-term.
Overall, it would be best if you strived to stop buying things thoughtlessly, as all your spending should be bringing you closer to your goals. If it’s not necessary (such as food, shelter, and transportation), cut it from your budget. Do your best to be a mindful consumer—not a mindless one.
3. Set-Up Automatic Transfers
One of the best (and most convenient) paths toward wealth accumulation is to set up automatic savings. This will have you saving money without even thinking about it—assuming you have a budget in place and know both your expenses and savings goals. Plus, when money is moving from checking to savings account automatically each payday, there’ll be less temptation to spend it. All you’ll have to do is sit back and watch your savings balance grow over time.
When setting up automatic transfers to your savings account, be sure to review your budget and choose an amount you can commit to regularly. Then, put your savings on autopilot. We recommend selecting a savings account that offers a combination of the best interest rates and the fewest fees so you can maximize your savings growth.
4. Spend Money Intentionally
Before making any over $50 that isn’t a necessity, try imposing a 24-hour grace period. Instead of buying an item on impulse, go home, and sleep on it. If you still want that item a day later and make sense in your budget, go ahead and purchase it.
Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t want the item as much as you thought you did, and you’ve just avoided experiencing buyer’s remorse. Another straightforward way to decide on a purchase is to determine how many hours of work will take you to afford it.
For example, if you earn $18 an hour, and you want to buy a $108 pair of pants, you should think about whether those pants are worth six hours of your time.
Thinking about the time that you exchange for your money can keep your spending in perspective.
5. Say Goodbye to Your Credit Card and Go Cash Only
If you’re finding that you’re constantly tempted to overspend using credit, you should consider temporarily switching to a cash-only budget. While not always very convenient, this method is a great way to prevent yourself from overspending.
You'll learn how to consciously consider your purchasing choices and stay on track with your savings goals. It's crucial to know how much you’re actually spending—as opposed to tapping a card and forgetting about the purchase almost immediately.
A simple way to implement this is to use the envelope system. At the beginning of each month (you could do this bi-weekly, too), stash your budgeted amount of cash into envelopes individually labeled for each spending category. When you've run out of cash for a specific envelope, you've spent your budgeted amount in that category for the remainder of the time you’ve allotted.
Again, the goal is simple: to become a mindful consumer instead of a mindless one.
6. Build Up an Emergency Fund
One of the most significant savings goals you should consider is building up an emergency fund. It’s nearly impossible to predict what life has in store for you. Whether it's an unforeseen illness, job loss, unexpected home or auto repairs, a financial emergency can occur suddenly and significantly impact your financial health and stability. If you start an emergency fund, you won’t have to worry if you’re prepared to handle them.
Historically, it’s recommended to have an emergency fund covering three to six months of living expenses. However, at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is yours. Ask yourself how much you’d need to have tucked away to feel secure, and then work towards saving that amount.
How to Invest More This Year
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a Wolf of Wall Street to start investing and growing your money. It’s absolutely okay to be a beginner. You’ll quickly learn that even if you only have a few dollars to spare, your money will grow with the power of compound interest.
As we’ve discussed above, the key to building wealth is developing good habits. Once you’ve grown your savings and have some money to play with, you can begin your investing journey. Investing comes in many different forms, and with so many other options, investing is simpler and more straightforward than ever before. Soon you’ll learn how addictive growing your money can be.
Here are four ways to invest more in 2021:
1. Have a Robo-advisor Invest for You
Put, robo-advisors are automated investment portfolio managers. They’re software platforms that can help users manage their investments without the need to self-manage their portfolio or consult a financial advisor. Robo-advisors are a low-fee alternative to traditional financial advisors. They may be structured as a fixed monthly fee as low as $1 or a percentage of assets, roughly ranging from 0.15% to 0.50%.
A new customer signing up for a robo-advisor will begin by providing basic information about their investment goals through a series of questions online. These questions will touch on investment timelines, risk tolerance, and how much you have in savings. The robo-advisor will then run those answers through an algorithm to provide a specific approach and portfolio of investments that meet your goals.
Once your funds are invested, the robo-advisor will make ongoing decisions about investing your money and rebalance your portfolio accordingly to ensure that it remains on track with your goals.
Choosing which robo-advisor is right for you depends on your investment goals if you want access to a financial advisor, and what your current portfolio looks like. If you’re considering using a robo-advisor, here are a few we recommend:
- M1 Finance
Robo-advisors are best for investors who want to set and forget their investment portfolios but still get active portfolio management. If you don’t know much about investing or don’t want to spend too much time on it, a robo-advisor is perfect for your needs.
However, some experienced investors could find value in a robo-advisor as well. The low-fee structure and automated features could be ideal for long-term goals and retirement investing accounts.
2. Invest in the Stock Market
Investing in the stock market is a popular path to making money work harder, and thanks to the power of the internet, you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars to get your feet wet. You can start by setting aside a few dollars you would normally spend on a daily coffee and invest the monthly total in stocks.
There is an increasing number of investment apps—such as Stash or Robinhood—that allows you to familiarize yourself with investing before making a larger commitment.
However, always keep in mind that if you choose to invest in stocks to grow your wealth, know that there is no guarantee of how your stocks will perform. You must diversify your investments by including stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits (CDs), and other money market accounts.
This will protect you from the constant instability of the financial markets.
3. Consider Real Estate
While there are considerably endless ways to invest your money, research shows that real estate is the best long-term investment option. Consider investing in real estate if you have considerable savings lying around and want to put your money to work. There are various ways to make money when investing in real estate, but the most popular methods include real estate appreciation and a cash flow income property.
Real estate appreciation occurs when a property increases in value due to a change in the real estate market. However, it's a tricky method because the market is somewhat unpredictable, making it riskier than investing for cash flow income.
On the other hand, a cash flow income investment focuses on buying a real estate property to earn revenue. Income properties could be residential, such as single-family homes, apartment buildings, etc. They could be commercial properties. As an owner, you would make money through holding and renting the property while it appreciates, then selling it for profit at a later date.
It’s important to remember that investing in real estate holds a lower risk than the stock market, as the housing market isn’t subject to as much of the same volatility as the stock market. You won’t have the same earning potential, but you can count on a steady include and steady cash flow most of the time.
4. Enrol in Your Employer’s Retirement Plan
Most employers offer matching contributions for their employees for any investment into a 401(k). That’s free money that can set you up for financial stability and success!
It would be best if you aimed to contribute 10-15% of your salary now to set yourself up for a secure financial future. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can start with even just 1%. You likely won’t even miss a contribution that small, and you can gradually begin to increase it so it fits into your budget.
Be sure to calculate your retirement and set your goals accordingly accurately. Using various tools, such as a free online retirement calculator, you’ll have confidence in your ability to retire comfortably.
How to Earn More
Whether you’re trying to pay off your debt, save more for retirement, or increase your monthly income, there are various side hustles and opportunities that you can earn more money aside from your primary revenue.
Here are ten ways you can make some extra money this year:
1. Drive for Uber or Lyft
Consider joining either Uber or Lyft (or both) to earn more money by driving passengers around. Just be sure that you don’t forget to factor in both gas and maintenance costs. You’ll also need an eligible car that’s in good condition and agree to a background check and a review of your driving history.
2. Make Deliveries for Various Services
Now more than ever before, folks are having everything delivered directly to their home. Take advantage of the growing delivery trend and sign up for a service such as InstaCart, Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash—you get the drift.
In most cases, you get paid per delivery and even have the opportunity to earn tips. Plus, a car isn’t always required. Some of these services will allow you to use a bike, scooter, or even your own two feet to make deliveries. However, a background check is almost always part of the deal.
3. Pick Up Freelance Work Online
Have a skill that you’d like to flex?
Whether it’s programming, writing, marketing, design, data entry, or even being a virtual assistant, there are plenty of opportunities to earn extra income through freelancing. Websites such as Elevate, Patreon, Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer are a great place to get started.
No matter what kind of freelance work you do, remember to know your worth and keep track of the going rate for the service you provide. This way, you’ll know if you’re charging too much or too little.
4. Generate Profit With Affiliate Marketing
If you have the right traffic source for what you’re selling, affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online.
Affiliate marketing is when you (the affiliate) recommend a product or service to your followers through your website, blog, or email list. If your followers decide to purchase that product or service using your affiliate link, you will get paid a commission for the sale.
Essentially, affiliate marketing is classic advertising, just in a less intrusive form.
5. Sell Your Merch Online
Have a hobby you’d like to turn into extra income? From woodworking to jewelry-making, embroidery to pottery, there are opportunities to make money selling your unique items.
The best route for this venture is to sell your goods on Etsy, the go-to site for artisans selling home goods, arts, crafts, vintage items, and everything in between. Etsy boasts almost 48 million users and grossed $5 billion in merchandise sales in 2019. And this was before the push to support local vendors instead of big-box stores.
Keep in mind that there are other factors to consider before you dive in. Do your research and make sure your goods will actually sell and for what cost.
Don’t forget to research the competition as well and factor in Etsy’s fees.
6. Put that Extra Space in Your Home to Use
If you have an extra space in your home, including, but not limited to, closets, basements, spare bathrooms, living rooms, garages, and parking spaces, you can rent it out with Stache.
All you have to do with their service is to list your space for free, set your price and details, and coordinate a booking. Then, you can sit back, relax, and earn that extra income.
7. Sign Up to Be a Mystery Shopper
It’s common practice as a business to know how you’re performing from a customer’s perspective. Why not sign up to be their eyes and ears?
Apply online through various sites such as IntelliShop, Market Force, BestMark, and Sinclair Customer Metrics. Always remember to be aware of scams and do your research accordingly before moving forward.
8. Become a Private Tutor
Turn your skills in math, science, a foreign language, or any other form of expertise into a lucrative side gig by becoming a private tutor (either online or in-person).
To get started, see what types of tutors are needed on Craigslist. Alternatively, you can create a profile on sites such as Tutor or Care. What you charge will depend on various factors, such as your experience, expertise, and what’s in demand.
9. Complete Tasks for Other People
If you don’t mind putting together Ikea furniture, picking up dry cleaning, or getting prescriptions filled, TaskRabbit is a great way to earn some extra cash. This website can connect you with people in your area who need help with various tasks, such as moving, cleaning, handyman services, and more. Please note that some tasks have been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be eligible, you must be 18 or older, have a checking account and credit card, a smartphone, and pass all background and ID checks. You’ll have to provide basic information about yourself, upload a profile photo, set up direct deposit, and state your level of experience for specific tasks.
Note: If TaskRabbit approves your application, you’ll then be charged a non-refundable $25 registration fee and attend an orientation before you can begin.
10. Test Websites and Apps
Through sites such as UserTesting, you have the opportunity to get paid for your thoughts on how well—or not so well—an individual website or app worked.
You’ll need to be 18 or older and pass a short test to be accepted. You’ll also need to have a computer, internet connection, and a microphone. Additionally, any mobile app testers will need an Android or IOS device.
Once you’ve passed the requirements, you’ll then be paid $10 for each 20-minute test—which involves a recording and answering four follow-up questions. You could also earn up to $120 if you choose to participate in a video conversation after your test.
Start This Year on the Right Foot
Regardless of your financial resolutions, it’s always a smart idea to create a financial plan. By having clear, concise financial goals for the year, you’ll be able to measure your progress and achieve financial success.
Kristian is an experienced marketing leader who has helped multiple fintech startups scale their marketing over the past few years. He is currently the Director of Marketing at Future Vault an online digital vault where advisors and their clients can securely share documents and communicate.