12 financial habits for a secure, prosperous New Year

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Some of us will make the usual ones of losing weight, exercising more, spending more time with the family, and the list goes on. Although these are all worthwhile, there is one resolution that is often ignored, but is just as important and satisfying to achieve; that is the goal of becoming financially stable.

It’s understandable why facing your finances is avoided; it can seem difficult, maybe boring and even daunting. Sugendhree Reddy, Head of Personal Banking at Standard Bank says, “We need to create a culture where people remember to include their finances in everything they do. According to experts, the key to behaviour change is to make any goal a habit first, and, most importantly, make it an achievable one.”

By breaking down each resolution into the smallest habit, your chances of succeeding will be much higher than if you let it remain large and intimidating.

Ms Reddy suggests considering the below list of manageable financial resolutions or habits you can use to get your finances on track in 2015:

January

The start of the year is the ideal time to plan a monthly budget – a vital tool in the implementation of major financial change.

When used correctly, a budget shows how much you spend, where you spend it, what you spend it on and, most critically, how and where you can spend less; vital information when you’re trying to save some cash.

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Now that you know exactly how much debt and expenses you have, start seeing how you can manage these effectively to save a little every month. Many people claim that they simply can’t find a spare cent in their budgets to pay off debt. However with the help of the budget that you have created, it will be easier to spot where you can cut down and how to effectively manage your spending.

This is also a good time to check on your credit rating. Make sure you have no black marks on your record in the form of adverse reports or judgements.

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Now that you’ve freed up some cash in your budget, you can pay off your retail debt. Pay off the smallest account first, as small victories will encourage you to continue with your debt-busting habits.

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At this stage, you may not have freed up enough cash to save, but you can begin to educate yourself on the various types of investments.

This is an ideal time to go and see a financial advisor. He or she will help you work out how much you need to save to reach your financial goals.

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If you have existing investments in place, find out how much they are actually worth. Call your broker and ask him or her to send you an updated schedule demonstrating how they have performed.

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Don’t forget about your short-term insurance. Household and car insurance are an important part of a good financial plan. You need to update your cover every year, or as your circumstances change.

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Start saving some money for Christmas now, so you don’t undo all your good work. The sooner you start saving, the more money you will have to spend on friends and relatives. If you open a savings account, you will accumulate a certain amount of interest, ensuring that you’ll be set for holiday gift buying.

If you prefer to buy gifts earlier in the year rather than saving for the Christmas rush, you avoid the inevitable festive season price mark up. This could save you hundreds of rands.

August month

Evaluate the last six months and see how far you have come. You may think that the pace has been slow, but if you look back it will give you the motivation to continue with your plan.

Think about how you felt when you were stressed about your finances and compare it with how you feel now. There’s no going back!

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Now is the time to start planning for the New Year. You need to start putting away for necessities such as school fees, uniforms, insurance and even groceries.

January is known as a ‘lean’ month after all the holiday spending, but if you start saving now, there is no reason why you and your children will have to go without in the New Year, and you won’t have to scrimp during the holiday season either.

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If you are thinking of planning a holiday already, think about the implications. If you have to fund it with credit and know you will be financially strained when the bills roll in, don’t do it.

Stay focused by staying on track as you will be able to pay cash for your holiday the following year. Maybe this is a good time to relax at home with a few good books instead.

NOVEMBER road sign

Christmas bonus time!

If you are fortunate to receive a 13th cheque, don’t splurge on expensive luxuries like electronics, entertainment and restaurant meals unless you can actually afford them. Rather take an honest look at any outstanding debts you may have, and put that money into eliminating them.

If you have any money left over, consider putting that money into your bond if you have one, investing in your retirement fund, or building up a savings plan that will stand you in good stead if financial times ever get tough.

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You made it! A year of saving could mean a lifetime of financial freedom. You may not be totally on track yet, but if you followed the plan you should be a lot better off. Take time to reflect and plan your strategy for the New Year.

If you receive a salary increase, add it to your savings plan. Getting on track financially is achievable, and small determined actions will get you the results you want.

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