When TIME magazine admits 2018 has felt like ten years instead of 365 days, you know it’s been a doozy of a year. Financially speaking, perhaps something unfortunate happened in 2018, like a messy breakup with your live-in partner, or your car broke down. Perhaps those incidents could’ve been a lot better if you’d had your financial act together.
If you want to be better with money in 2019, consider gifting yourself something truly special for your financial well-being this holiday season. (As an added bonus, 90% of the financial gifts on the list below are completely free to implement, so you can “indulge” without the guilt and give yourself something incredible!)
Bad Money Habit – Inability to stick to a budget
Best Financial Gift to Give Yourself – A budgeting app and/or money tracker
Chronically unable to stick to a budget? Consider signing up for a budgeting app to help track where your money is going and ensure your spending is aligned with both your savings goals and what you can afford. Options like Mint keep all of your budgeting information in one place, plus it’s easily accessible via the mobile app so you can make budgeting and spending decisions on-the-go.
Bad Money Habit – Overspending
Best Financial Gift to Give Yourself – A shopping ban or “no spend challenge”
Overeat during the holidays? You go on a diet. Overspend during the holidays? Consider a month-long shopping ban or a “no spend challenge.” The premise is you forbid yourself from shopping for the first quarter of 2019, or you try to get as many “no spend days” in a row as you can. Really, you’re only allowed to spend money on necessities like bills, groceries, and gas.
Not only is this great for saving money, but it’s also a reset for your spending habits. You’ll not only consume more mindfully but clearly see the division between “needs” and “wants.”
Bad Money Habit – Not saving enough
Best Financial Gift to Give Yourself – A second savings account
If you’re worried about not saving enough, it may be time to consider where you’re keeping your savings. Is this money in a separate bank account you can’t easily access? It’s best to have a savings account at a separate institution than where you do your primary banking. This way, you won’t be tempted to touch it when you want UberEats or an unexpected bill arrives.
Then “Pay yourself first” in the new year by automating savings contributions into this new account. Not only will you not “feel” the loss of this money (because it won’t be in your primary checking account), but you’ll be able to see these savings grow.
Also, many banks offer cash back offers to new account holders. Keep this cash bonus in that savings account and you’re already well on your way to saving up your first $1000.
Bad Money Habit – You don’t know your credit score (or those other important “money numbers”)
Best Financial Gift to Give Yourself – A money audit
In addition to your credit score, there are a handful of “money numbers” to know. Numbers such as debt-to-income ratio, your savings and retirement contribution rates, and the total amount of your monthly bills (those must-pay expenses), are really important to your overall financial health. The Turbo app keeps your credit score information right alongside those other important financial numbers, so you have a place to keep the essentials.
If you find yourself financially “in the dark” gift yourself an evening at home alone. Set aside four hours, open a bottle of wine, and get intimate with your finances. Not only is this completely free (less the bottle of wine, of course), but this money audit is one of the most important financial steps you can take for a fiscally strong new year.
Bad Money Habit – Not saving for retirement
Best Financial Gift to Give Yourself – a 401k or IRA contribution
If you aren’t saving for retirement, or at least, not putting away as much as you know you should be, the best gift to give yourself before the end of the year is a retirement savings contribution.
If you haven’t already, investigate any retirement savings options offered by your employer. Or, if there aren’t any, consider opening a Roth or Individual IRA on your own. You have until the end of December to make any 401k contributions and until April 2019 to contribute to your IRA for the previous year.
While this financial gift definitely costs money, the power of compound interest means this money will be worth a lot more in retirement – while providing serious peace of mind.