Tips to help make your financial New Year's Resolution a reality

Molly Cataldo

Special to the Herald Review

As the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, millions of people around the world will make resolutions to improve their lives. A common resolution for many will be to better manage their money in 2013.

Unfortunately, most resolutions are broken shortly after they are made, typically because there is not a plan of action set in place to achieve their resolution.Don’t let that happen to you in the coming year.

If your goal for 2013 is to improve your financial situation, then now is the time to establish a strategy for how best to keep your resolution and start the year off right.

Tips to help you stick to your resolution throughout the year include the following:

● Set goals – Write down specific, attainable short and long-term goals, such as paying off holiday debt or building your nest egg. A good rule of thumb is to have enough in savings to cover six months worth of expenses. Whatever your goals may be, list specific things you will do to help you achieve the goals.

● Develop a budget – If you don’t already have a budget on paper, now is the best time to create one. Tally your monthly expenses and compare that spending to how much money comes in. To make it easier, look at the past month of your check register or print out a detailed report from your online banking account. Be sure to account for expenses that aren’t monthly but still need to be paid such as auto insurance. Once you have a clear picture of your monthly expenses you can set up a budget that will help you achieve your goals.

● Evaluate monthly expenses – Once your budget is developed, look for ways to cut your monthly expenses. It could be as simple as buying generic products, using coupons or reducing monthly fees on your phone or cable.

● Save – No matter how much or how little, put some money into savings every paycheck. To make it easier, your bank can set up an automatic transfer between accounts, so on payday, money is automatically moved from your checking account to savings. You’ll be surprised how little you miss the money and how quickly your savings will grow. Over time, increase the amount you put into savings.

● Work to reduce debt – Talk with a local bank to see if you can consolidate debt or transfer credit card balances to save on interest charges. Set a goal of how much you’d like to reduce your debt in the next year and decide how much you’ll need to pay toward the debt each month to reach your goal.

● Stay educated about finances – Make it a goal to learn all you can about finances. By staying up-to-date with current trends in banking and knowing the opportunities at either your bank or other local banks, you can make your money work smarter for you.

● Build a relationship with a local banker – Many people don’t realize that a bank can do so much more for you than just secure your money. By developing a relationship with a banker, they are able to learn more about your goals and offer ways to help you meet them.

● Always be on the lookout for the best deal – Work with a local bank that has a package of services and products that will help you best meet your specific goals. Make sure you find a bank that has a team that you trust and you know is working in your best interest.

Following these tips will help you be successful in keeping your resolutions. What’s important is that you review your progress regularly to stay on track. Most banks offer online banking, making it an easy task. Plus, you can pay bills online avoiding postage fees and, at some banks, you can even open a new account online.  Remember, getting your finances in shape may take some time, but it’s time well spent. Plus, once you set your goals, it will become quick and easy. Have a Happy New Year!

Molly Cataldo is the branch manager and assistant vice president of Citizens Bank of Evart