Four personal finance resolutions you can stick to

For most of us, resolving to change our finances is easier said than done. Yet, according to a survey from NerdWallet, 83 percent of Americans set a financial resolution for the New Year.

This year, make a plan you can really stick to in order to spend less, save more and pay down debt. Here are a few straightforward money management goals to get started achieving a better financial future in 2018.

  1. Track your expenses. Make a pact with yourself to take a look at all your monthly expenditures. Is most of your money going toward necessary bills and other expenses, like housing, food, and transportation? You might be surprised at how much you’re spending each month on takeout and frivolous items, which can add up quickly.
  1. Create a budget. Now that you know how much you earn versus how much you have to spend on necessities, make yourself a monthly budget. Set aside a portion of your leftover paycheck to go toward fun things like dinner or a movie, but be sure to set a cap on spending for non-necessary items so you have money to put toward savings and paying down debt.
  1. Make a plan to pay down debt. Set yourself a monthly savings goal that will go strictly toward paying down existing debt. That could be a percentage of your income to set aside, or a flat amount each month; choose what works best for you. You can always increase this amount over time, but if it’s easier to start small, do that. What’s most important is getting in the habit of setting these funds aside to put toward credit card or other debt amounts each month.
  1. Establish an emergency fund. If you haven’t already, create an emergency fund, an account with funds to cover short-term emergencies like an unexpected car or home repair or medical bill. Many people find it difficult to decide whether to pay down debt or establish an emergency fund. However, creating an emergency fund is critical, even if you only put a small amount toward your fund each month. Having emergency funds available when you really need them will prevent you from dipping into your savings or pulling out your credit card, and will help keep your monthly expenses and budget intact.

Start small on each of these resolutions. Put a small percentage into savings or emergency funds and make a commitment to paying down just a little extra debt each month. That way, it won’t seem so overwhelming and you can increase contributions as you get used to setting funds aside. Remember, you’re creating a long-term financial plan for yourself!