I love the feeling of a fresh year! It’s a great time to set some goals and make some changes. And I always always set financial goals.
The first year of our marriage, our total income was less than $14,000. We were broke. broke. broke. We ate because of food stamps and lived in the tiniest, cheapest apartment we could find. Ahh, young love 🙂
Just over one year later, Austin had stable work and we were buying our first house! I had saved every penny I could so that we had a small emergency fund. It was a cheap foreclosure and with our low income, we qualified to get help from the county to make it livable. We worked the deals so that we could paint and eventually do a cheap kitchen renovation.
Fast-forward a few years and we were frustrated. While we were grateful for our home, neither of us had marketable skills and we kept working jobs that paid little more than minimum wage.
Eventually, Austin got a union job that paid well. We lived on my small income and saved all of his so that he could finish his college degree and get better paying work that he loved to do. We saved and paid cash for college!
Now we both work jobs that we enjoy and make much more than that first $14,000 per year. But we ended up with debt. Another financial goal was set and we recently finished paying off $19,000 in 10 months to become debt free!
From that first year of our marriage, I could have never imaged that we would be able to accomplish all that we have accomplished. And it’s all because of the goals that we set, especially the financial ones!
So if you’re looking to make some changes in your life, where do you start? What are some smart things to do in 2019 to improve your financial situation? Let’s look at some great options!
5 Ways to Improve Your Financial Situation in 2019
1. Dream Bigger
When we set the goal to pay off our debt this year, it was an impossible goal. With our income as it stood in January, there was no way to make it work. But that extra-big dream guided us all year. My income rose, my husband got a promotion, we looked for more ways to be frugal, and suddenly there we were paying it all off within 10 months.
The whole experience taught me to dream bigger, to set bigger goals.
When you want something badly enough, you look for more ways to make it happen. When you want it so bad that you can taste it, you stay motivated when it’s frustrating.
- Write down your goals and dreams with money. Don’t filter them through what you think is possible. Dream big!
This is the year that you write down your budget! How can you expect to achieve important things with your money when you don’t know how where you money is going?
- Write down your monthly income and monthly bills.
- Track your spending. Either on paper or in an app, write down every time you spend money.
- Commit. No ones budget is perfect the first time. You’ll have to make adjustments and figure out the method that works best for you. Commit to working on it each month.
If you want some help getting started, check out these posts:
- The Fastest Way to Create Your First Budget
- How to Live on $2500 Per Month (Our Actual Budget)
- 19 Expenses to Cut From Your Budget When Things Are Tight
One of the very best things you can do to start getting a handle on your finances is track your spending! You can download and print my free spending tracker printable and take action today!
3. Pay Down Debt
Your money “power” is in your income and you don’t have much power if a huge chunk of your income is going to debt payments.
Think of how rich you would feel if you didn’t have to make any debt payments next month. You’d get to keep most of your income to do what you want with. Can you even imagine? That thought motivated me in a huge way this year, because we were making more than we ever had, but weren’t getting to enjoy it because most of the new income was going to debt.
- Write down all of your debts except your mortgage: Student loans, credit cards, car, medical, etc.
- Start paying all of your extra money (even if it’s just $5) on whichever debt has the smallest balance.
- Set some debt payoff goals. Are there a few debts you could pay off by the end of the year if you focused?
Get some extra encouragement and motivation with these posts:
- How We Paid Off $18,832 of Debt in 10 Months
- How to Have Fun While You’re Paying Off Debt
- When to Save and When to Pay Off Debt
And read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book. It’s super helpful and motivating!
You can achieve some awesome financial goals if you work at being more frugal and don’t spend every dollar that comes your way! You might think a vacation is out of your reach, but if you laid off on the takeout for dinner 3x per week, you’d have plenty within a few months.
- Choose some frugal habits to start working on: bring a lunch to work, turn your thermostat down a smidge in the winter, invite friends over instead of going out, etc.
- Start saving for Christmas! That’s right, even if you’re reading this in January, start saving for Christmas. Just $20 per month with give you $240 to spend in December, which means you can have a debt-free Christmas.
- Save an Emergency Fund. You don’t know what or when, but you do know that crazy stuff can happen. And it’s generally expensive. Set a savings goal and build your emergency fund. Start with $1,000 and go from there.
- Save for something fun! Do you want to go on a special trip, own a gorgeous handbag, or splurge on a fancy date night? Figure out how much it will cost and then break that amount down into a monthly or weekly savings goal.
Check out these post about saving more and living frugally:
And of course a great way to improve your financial situation is to save more for retirement. It’s easy to give priority to “today Christine” but “retirement Christine” doesn’t want to be broke.
- Use Acorns! I LOVE this app that rounds up all of your purchases to the next dollar and invests your spare change in an IRA for retirement. It’s an easy and painless way to save.
- Increase your 401(k) contributions by 1%. Honestly, you probably won’t even notice an extra 1%. See if you have the option for your savings rate to automatically increase each year by 1%. We do this so that we don’t have to think about it.
- Open a Roth IRA. If you do not have access to a 401(k), do not let that be an excuse not to save for retirement! I am self-employed and have a Roth IRA that gets money automatically added each month. “Retirement Christine” will be thrilled I did this 🙂
5. Earn More
Don’t ignore this one! If the power is in your income, what can you do to increase your income?
- Figure out what you need to do to get a promotion. It could be as simple as applying for other jobs that would pay you more and asking your current employer to match it.
- Get educated! And no, I don’t necessarily mean go back to college. There are all kinds of inexpensive ways to learn new skills online these days. We have had great success taking Udemy courses. I also invest in blogging courses for myself regularly.
- Work from home: either in your spare time or turn it into your full time job!
- Proofread. I trained as a proofreader and have hired them before, so I know this is a great way to work from home! Sit in on this free intro course to see if it might be your thing.
- Sell on Amazon. This free course will teach you everything you need to know to get started!
- Blog. I love what I do and think that anyone who is curious about blogging should give it a try! You can read this post about the only three blogging courses I recommend.
As I look back over the past 8+ years, I am amazed at how different our lives look. So much of that is due to the financial goals that we have worked towards.
If you want to improve your financial situation this year, it is absolutely possible! Choose a few areas from this list to focus your energy on and make it happen. Once you accomplish those first goals, set another and another. Eventually you’ll look up and realize that life looks much different than it used because you decided improve your finances.