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Real Life On A Budget

5 Ways to Make a Fresh Start With Your Money

January is all about fresh starts.

That’s why it’s so hard to find an open treadmill at the gym this time of year. That’s why everyone seems to be talking about the new diet they want to try in 2015. Everything is fresh and new in January.

But there’s one area where a lot of people miss an opportunity for a fresh start: their money. Year after year, many of us make the same old mistakes—credit cards, car payments, too much mortgage. Nothing changes.

So why not make 2015 the year you change your money habits? Here are several ways you can make a fresh start:

1. Budget.

Stay with me here. I know—it’s the dreaded B-word. But a budget is really not that bad, I promise. Making a budget that works for you might take a few tries, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have no trouble putting one together each month. Spend every dollar on paper, on purpose, before the month begins.

Give every dollar a name. Basically, when you’re planning for the month ahead, you should be able to subtract your expenses (outgo) from your income to equal zero. When you’re done writing the budget, you shouldn’t have anything left over. (Don’t be afraid of budgeting! I have advice to help you get started.)

2. Dump debt.

This is where you need to get crazy. Make a debt snowball, listing your debts from smallest to largest, and attack that small debt with a vengeance. Sell stuff you don’t need. Pick a date in the future when you want to be completely out of debt, and go for it! (The debt snowball works! Here’s why.)

3. Sacrifice something.

If you’re struggling with money, it’s time to prioritize. Something’s got to go. Is it the eating-out habit? The monthly purchase of another $500 purse? The leased car? The house you can’t afford? You get the picture. If you’re going to get serious about cleaning up a financial mess, you’ve got to make some cuts somewhere.  (I know that making sacrifices can be really difficult, but it will be worth it when you’re debt-free and winning with money!)

4. Talk with someone.

If you’re married, you need to get your spouse on board. Be tactful. Don’t just tell them you’re making changes without their input. Both of you should sit down and make a plan to take control of your money. This is a team effort.

If you’re single, find a friend or accountability partner you can trust. This should be someone who will be honest with you and let you know when you’re making a mistake.

5. Don’t forget to have fun.

Yes, you can still have fun with money. Just budget for it! Make sure you set aside a little money each month to just spend! Use it to go on a date, buy a new piece of clothing, or dance the night away. But whatever you choose to do with your pocket money, make sure it doesn’t blow up your budget. You need a mental breather every now and then, but don’t let it get you off track.

If you’re serious about making a fresh start with your money, these tips should help. This time next year, you could be in an entirely different situation.

Make this the year you make a plan and take control of your money!

What are your money goals for 2015? Share them in the comments!

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  • Siyo

    Im great at writing my budget but I’ve been slacking on following it. My goal is to follow my budget, pay off my medical bills by April and have my fully funded emergency fund of $10,000 by Dec 31, 2014. I was debt free once I can do it again.

    • Michelle Rohr

      That is a great goal, Siyo. You can do it.

      • Siyo

        Thanks Michelle 🙂

  • Ginny.

    I’ve always been a saver and kept any debt under control, so the Ramsey/ Cruze plan was easy for me, except for one thing. The budget! Although it took a few mos. to get it right, it sure makes you think more about where your $ goes-how do u really want to spend it. Good news for me is that my retirement funds are looking better every month. Yeah.

  • anabel

    Paying off the last of my student loans, $814. I’m really close! I had $47k and a car loan $10 in 2010. Then saving up for an emergency fund and an trip. I haven’t traveled in a long time. I’m excited for financial freedom!

  • glory

    What about the principle of paying yourself first? No matter how much money you make or how much debt you have, one should really figure out a plan/strategy/dollar amount to tuck away before all the funds go away.

  • Geraldine McNamara

    what is the best way to get rid of a car if you are upside down on payments? I am 67 and on extremely tight budget. If I can eventually pay cash for a car and not have these payments, I’d be money ahead.