People that know me know that I hate New Year’s resolutions. If you ask me, they are a fraud. I would rather save my piety for Lent, because 40 days of penance as opposed to 365 seems far more do-able to me. However, I am the exception and not the rule. I know that many people take resolutions quite seriously. And, as I looked back upon my sins of the past, I realized that I made 12 money changes (over time) that made a giant financial impact on my life, and they can do the same for you. So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to the 12 resolutions you need to make with your money in 2012.
2. Shop online – You save time, money and gas. Shop using the E-bates portal and connect with websites like Drugstore.com to earn 8 percent cash back on your purchases, get valuable online coupons, free shipping and more. I do this each and every month without fail for my toiletries, shampoo, conditioner –all of the things I don’t need to see, touch or feel-- and I save a bundle in the process. In fact, using E-bates for back to school supply shopping, holiday shopping, home appliance shopping and just about everything else, I earned $1,000 cash back in 2011. And guess, what, it’s FREE.
3. Maximize your cash back – With the inception of the Frank-Dodd act, most banks eliminated cash back debit card services last year. However, I use both a Perkstreet card and a PayPal cash back MasterCard and still get my rebates. Each time I swipe my card or pay for something online I earn 1 to 2 percent cash back. So can you. Pay as many bills as you can with a cash back debit card and maximize your rewards this year.
4. Use bill pay services – If you cannot seem to get your bills together, Try a service like Manilla.com to keep you organized and on the straight and narrow. Late fees account for the bulk of fees that lenders and merchants collect in revenue each year. Make sure you don’t fall victim to that. Manilla is a completely free service–as if I would give you something that wasn’t.
5. Invest – If you have not started investing yet, it’s time. Open up that IRA, that Roth account or that 401K you’ve been putting off. Time waits for no man –or woman. Have pre-tax or payday allocations in place, keeping your cash out of sight and out of mind. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it.
6. Hold yourself accountable to paying yourself – You have to hold yourself accountable to save. Create a budget that is 20 percent less than your take home pay each month. Live on that, and have that 20 percent allocation automatically deducted from your bank account or paycheck each payday. Put 10 percent in savings, 5 percent in mutual funds or CD’s and direct another 15 percent to your investments.
7. Check in everyday – Check in with your bank account(s) each day. Most banks offer emails or text alerts to help you. Sign up, take advantage and take control of your cash flow.
8. Use coupons – There are a plethora of places to print online manufacturer coupons and I do it religiously. Plan your meals around your coupons, not visa versa. I do this and I save an average of $20 to $30 each grocery store trip. That extra $20 or $30? That is my mad money. Learn to reward yourself for savings everywhere you can and you will find yourself motivated to save even more!
Hint: E-bates also has rad, FREE printable grocery coupons.
9. Shop your insurance rates every six months – Never get comfortable or complacent with your insurance rates. Shop around for car, home, renters and even medical insurance every time you are up for a renewal. Overpaying for insurance premiums makes no sense when the coverage is the same.
10. Change or whittle down at least two services this year – I whittled (way down) my cell phone bill last year. For five phones in my house (2 iPhones), I was paying $250 a month for unlimited texting, data and 1,400 minutes. I realized that I don’t “need” to talk on the phone, so I kept the unlimited texting, data and changed my plan to 500 minutes, with rollover. This dropped my bill by $100 a month ($1,200 a year). With AT&T’s rollover, I am sitting pretty at 15,000 minutes, more than I will ever use, in my lifetime.
I also whittled down my cable bill. I dropped the premium channels, and went with Netflix streaming, saving $50 a month --not too shabby. Look at your budget and make some cutbacks that make sense for you. Then, do it again.
11. Go green – If you are a homeowner, make a commitment to go green in your home this year. I went with solar screens. The initial investment of $1,000 for these UV blocking screens saves me an average of 20 percent off my power bill AND protects my furniture and carpeting from sun bleaching. I also have a radiant barrier in my attic, which keeps my attic 20 degrees cooler and saves me a bundle on heating and cooling costs. My power bill in south Texas in the dead heat of summer (when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk) is $140 at most.
12. Start multiple streams of income – I believe in multiple streams of income, and it has proven to be a lifesaver time and again. Start a business, start a blog, sell something and change your life. Don’t rely on the 9 to 5 grind. The rat race rarely pays off in dividends.
Start your money resolutions today, and fare better in 2012 than you ever have before!