2016 has been a year of ups and down for many people, with too many notable deaths and tragic incidents around the world, but for me personally it’s been a pretty great year. As you guys know I started a new job in late 2015, so I was able to get settled in with that all year, and I really couldn’t be happier with my decision to make a change. We also went on a fantastic trip to Barcelona which bumped itself up to one of my favourite cities I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been consistently (more or less) been blogging for a little over a year at this point. Looking back on the year that’s past always make me think of what’s to come, and that means it’s time to set some goals for 2017. I’m keeping my list short, sweet and not too specific this year to give myself some flexibility as the year plays out and make sure I’m not failing right off the bat. I like to think of New Year’s resolutions as more of a broad outline for your year and save the more detailed goals for your monthly planner.
For this year I would like to:
1. Get healthier (along with 90% of you I’m sure) – The last few months I’ve been seriously slacking in my gym attendance, and there has been way too much eating out in this household. Here’s to clean(er) eating and regular gym dates to shed a few pounds and feel happier with myself.
2. Road trip! – We’ve been talking for years about packing up the car and going on a road trip, and I’d love to see this summer be the one for that. At this point, we don’t have any travel plans set in stone so it would be nice to save up some vacation days and hit the road. We’re lucky in Edmonton to be near the Rockies so our route would certainly include a few days in the mountains and then maybe on to Vancouver Island. It wouldn’t be the most frugal of vacations (I’m not a camper), but it would be fun to explore by car, something I haven’t done since I was a kid.
3. Blog productivity – I really enjoy having a little place on the internet to write and share my thoughts, but I’d like to push this a bit more in 2017 and make the blog more productive. I’m keeping my expectations low, but I’d like to earn at least a few bucks and get a little more traffic. This also includes becoming a more avid reader (and commenter) of blogs that I love. One of my main goals is to get ahead on writing posts. At this point, I write when I can and try to post something at least once a week. Going forward I would like to build up a small library of future posts, so I’m not forced to write when I really don’t feel it and have a more consistent schedule. Work in progress guys 😉
So that’s where I’m sitting with my New Year’s resolutions, but I’d also like to share a few financial resolutions that you might want to add to your list if you’re looking to get your finances in order.
1. Debt Repayment Schedule
If you’ve got any sort of debt (minus your mortgage, small fish first), let’s make 2017 the year you get that in order. The first thing you need to do is choose a strategy for paying off your debt and start putting it into action. Check out this post and figure out if you’d prefer to go the debt avalanche or debt snowball route.
2. Automate your Savings
This is perhaps the #1 thing you can do to make the most noticeable difference to your savings rate and start to build your net worth. What I mean by this is set up all your payments to run automatically, as soon as your pay cheque comes in each week, month, whenever. By making the process automated, you won’t have to remember where, when and how much to move into each specific savings account and you won’t miss the extra money because you never really had a chance to spend it in the first place. You can do this with your RRSP contributions, TFSA deposits, emergency fund top-ups, or just your slush fund.
3. Make a Budget
Having a workable budget is one of the most important tools you can have in your personal finance arsenal and what better time to set your budget than the start of a new year. If you’re already a budgeting pro, this is an excellent opportunity to take a detailed look at your current outline and see where you can make any tweaks to make it function even better. Maybe you got a raise last year and need to allocate those new funds, or maybe it’s your new year’s goal to spend less money eating out and redirect those funds to savings. If you’re new to this then start simple, look at all the money coming in and the money going out. Then break down the money going out into needs vs. wants and see where there are excesses (or where you can create excesses) and set those amounts into savings (see #2). Give yourself a few months to live with and make adjustments to your budget so that you can stick to it all year. Saving is great (and a necessary evil), but I don’t want you to cut back too much and not be able to enjoy life now…everything in moderation.
4. Take Advantage of Workplace Benefits
Make 100% sure that you are making use of any group RRSP’s, pension plans, health benefits, etc. that are provided to you by your employer. Nothing is more frustrating than finding out someone has been passing up free money just for not reading their benefits guide or asking their boss about available programs. Even if you are taking advantage, it can be worth asking if anything has changed, or maybe you can get bumped up to a higher matching limit if you’ve been working for the same company for awhile. I would love to see it become to norm for companies to make you ‘opt-out’ of benefits instead of having to ‘opt-in.’ You should also find out if there are any corporate discount programs available to you. Lots of companies work out discounts for their employees for things like cell phone plans, gym memberships, hotels, etc.
5. Start Investing
Maybe you’ve been saving money, have your debts paid and a healthy emergency fund but you haven’t stepped into the world of investing yet. Time for a change and really get your money to work for you. It’s easier than ever to get access to the market and the earlier you start, the better because compound interest will really have your back in the long term. You don’t even have to know much about investing to get started, even if you put your money into a moderate risk mutual fund you’ll get some of the market upside without having to do much research or track performance. Alternatively, you could take on more risk and put a portion of your money straight into the stock market and invest in companies you think have a positive outlook. Whether you choose to find an advisor or go the robo-advisor route, there’s no time like 2017 to get started;)
Where do you guys sit on resolutions, are they must-haves or do you skip the task? And what about your finances, anything you are working towards in 2017? Share your progress in the comments below, and best wishes for the upcoming year!