25 Bite-Sized Money Resolutions to Make 2015 Your Biggest Year Yet

By Carrie Kirby. Last updated 30 December 2014. 3 comments

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It's that time of year — when everyone's telling you that your New Year's resolutions can help you lose 50 pounds by beach season, revolutionize your career, and save enough to buy a Mercedes with cash by December. But despite our best intentions, almost none of us is going to become a brand-new person the moment 2015 dawns.

However, we will have a little fresh start momentum on our side, so why not pick a handful of bite-sized financial resolutions from this party mix? If you pull them off by the end of January, you can always come back for seconds.

1. Don't Pay Any Late Fees

If you are prone to paying bills late, set up auto payments on all accounts, for at least the minimum payment due.

2. Read Your Credit Card Bill Every Month

You may be surprised at how many things you find — recurring billing for services you no longer use, missed refunds, overcharges, or, if you're unlucky, outright credit card fraud. At the very least, it's an opportunity to think about your spending for the past month and adjust your plans for future spending.

3. Start an Emergency Fund

If you don't have an emergency fund, now is the time to start one. Set up a new savings account and auto transfer a regular amount from every paycheck. Even if it's only $10 a month, you'll be on your way to more peace of mind and a lower chance of running up credit card debt when emergencies happen.

4. Participate in Your Company's Retirement Plan

Especially if your company offers matching dollars, this is a one-time chore that will pay off for the rest of your life.

5. Negotiate With a Credit Card Company

When you see an annual fee hit your bill, or if you slip up and incur a late fee (or even if you just want a lower interest rate), pick up the phone and call your credit card customer service line. If you've held the card for a few years, and ask nicely, you may be surprised how easy it is to get your way.

6. Find a Credit Card With Better Perks

If you use credit responsibly, you might as well be getting something in exchange for all the fees you're earning for the company. Use a credit card comparison engine to find the best cash-back, miles, or other benefit offers for you.

7. Cut Back on One Spending Category

When you read that credit card bill, take notice of any categories where your spending is large, and ask yourself if you could cut back on it. Restaurant lunches are low-hanging fruit for many people.

8. Start Using Coupons

You don't have to go all extreme couponing to benefit. You can start by browsing the coupon database at Hot Coupon World to find coupons for the items you regularly buy.

9. Sign Up for a Budgeting Website

My financial planner recommended Mint.com, which pulls in info from your bank accounts and credit cards, so you only need look at the dashboard to see where your money went.

10. Find One Service Provider With Better Rates

Maybe you can switch cable or Internet providers, or try a different lawn care service, or start bringing your cat to a vet that doesn't have a fancy waiting room. Whatever it is, if it's a service you use more than once a year, the savings will add up once you switch.

11. Check Your Bank Account for Fees

You might notice a big one like an overdraft fee, but you might also miss smaller fees that banks sneak in. Some accounts start tacking on monthly fees if your balance falls below a certain threshold or if you have too many transactions per month. Take five minutes to review the last several months' statements online to make sure you're not getting nickel and dimed — and if you are, call your bank to see if there's a way to avoid future fees.

12. Stop Using Out-Of-Network ATMs

It may only be $2 or $3 here and there, but when you think about it, paying $2 to access $50 is forfeiting 4% of your money! Try to plan ahead for your cash needs, but if you find yourself without cash and far from your own bank, hit up a grocery store or drugstore and make a small purchase with your debit card, and then ask for cash back.

13. Stop Doing One Thing That's Not Worth the Time

Whether it's painting your own house or an extra evening job at a low pay rate, do a little cost/benefit analysis and figure out how much time you've been spending on that activity. Then ask yourself how much you enjoy or hate it. You may realize that you could be doing something else with that time that would save or earn more — or that it's better to set aside that time for a more rewarding non-financial activity.

14. Schedule Budget Meetings With Your Partner for the Rest of the Year

Pick up that stiff new 2015 calendar, and before it gets crowded with other appointments, ink in monthly, bimonthly, or semi-annual "money dates," where you sit down without distractions to review your bank account balance, bills, financial goals, and spending habits. Having a time set aside to discuss money issues can prevent a lot of fights. If it sounds too boring, schedule a real date right after the money appointment so you have something to look forward to once you get your ducks in a row.

15. Audit Your Electricity Use

For less than $20, you can pick up an electricity monitor to find out which of your appliances or devices is a power hog. Based on that info, you can change your habits or replace outdated appliances for extra savings.

16. Try Buying One Thing Second-Hand

If you have never considered Craigslist, garage sales, eBay, or thrift stores, give it a whirl this year. Great first second-hand purchases include: a Halloween costume, a pair of ice skates, a bread machine, or a bicycle. Why? All of these tend to be used once or infrequently before their owners don't want them any more.

17. Try a Price Comparison Engine

Next time you need to make a substantial purchase, research prices first on PriceGrabber, Pricewatch or another resource before buying.

18. Sign Up for a Rebate Site

Ebates or Mr. Rebates will not only get you cash back on online purchases, but they often provide coupon codes as well.

19. Cooperate With Friends Instead of Paying for Something

Whether it's trading child or pet care instead of paying a sitter, exchanging airport drop-offs to save cab fare, or borrowing and lending items that only get used occasionally, you can save a lot with a little help from your friends. You may have to offer first to get the ball rolling, but make it clear when you babysit or drive that you wouldn't mind getting the same favor in return.

20. Always Check the Daily Deal Sites Before You Go Out

Going to a museum, restaurant, or to the roller derby? Just a quick search of Groupon and LivingSocial might save you 50% of the cost.

21. Drive Less

Even with lower gas prices, you still have to pay for parking, tolls, and wear and tear on your vehicle every time you opt to drive somewhere. With ride-sharing services, public transit, and bike sharing programs, it pays to ask whether there is a cheaper way to get to your destination — and it will probably be friendlier to the planet as well.

22. Consider a Low-Cost Cell Phone Plan

If you want a high-end phone, a two-year contract at a high monthly rate is probably in the cards. But if you can live with a midrange smartphone — which by the way will use many of the same apps and texts and calls people just like an iPhone — consider paying cash up front and signing up for a low-cost provider such as Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, or Boost.

23. Set Up Quarterly Tax Payments

If you owed last year, your future self will thank you if you set that up right now.

24. Give Mindfully

Don't just throw your charity money into the pot of whoever happens to be in front of the grocery store. Use GuideStar or Charity Navigator to evaluate potential charities.

25. Make an Appointment With a Financial Advisor

No matter how old you are, a check-up with an advisor can help you make decisions that could have a big impact on your entire life. Fee-only planners charge by the hour and do not receive commissions for any investments they recommend.

Have you succeeded in implementing any small financial resolutions? Tell us about it in comments!

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Guest's picture
Guest

Rule #1: Pay yourself FIRST.

Rule #2: Don't let greedy salesmen/brokers/agents take any of your money in fees, commissions, loads, etc. Do the paperwork yourself with a discount broker - Fidelity, Vanguard, TD Ameritrade, etc., then invest in no-load mutual funds with no front loads, no back loads, and certainly NO 12b1 FEES whatsoever. It will make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time you retire!

Rule #3: Don’t waste money on stupid stuff you don’t need. Don’t get $100/month smart phone. I pay $20/month with tMobile. Don’t get $100/month auto insurance. I pay $24/month with Insurance Panda. Don’t spend $50/month on your gym. I spend $15/month at Planet Fitness. All these expenses add up and end up cutting into your savings.

Rule #4 Save at least 10% of your gross income. Join your 401k at work, set up IRAs on your own.

Role #5: Again - Pay attention to your savings. As they grow you will feel empowered

Guest's picture
Laura Tähtinen

I read your blog at first time and it is very useful. Because I am a student so I need every tips how to save money. I like that tips "Start an emergency fund" and I am pretty sure that I will start that :). Also the tip number 12 was funny idea and very usable. I think that if people try those things they will seem, how easy is to save money.

Your blog was nice and I will read that in future.

-Laura-

Guest's picture

Great list. I didnt think about negotiating with credit card companies before, but considering the rates I am paying that is going to make a big difference. Thanks for the advice!

Guest's picture
Guest

Good list! For #22 you might also mention Ting - you bring or buy a phone and then just pay for the minutes/data/messages you actually use each month. I've been averaging about $16 a month so not too bad.