Last update: 27/12/2022

Save more, prioritize spending, pay off debt, earn more money... There are a variety of financial resolutions you can make to start off the new year. They all have one common goal: to help you improve your financial health.

At the beginning of the year, you may set personal goals such as trying to exercise more, eat healthier or learn a new language. In the same way, a common resolution is to improve personal savings. To achieve these goals, you can set different targets to look after and improve your finances or save money to buy a car, travel, retire etc.

Defining financial goals is a good exercise to take control of your savings. They help to adequately manage available resources and meet your objectives in an organised manner. They adapt to your actual possibilities and needs. Having such goals are also useful to be prepared for unforeseen expenses or uncertain economic situations, which could affect your financial stability.

While for many  the New Year is used to set or renew your resolutions, the truth is that any time is good to set financial objectives. Personal finance is key to achieve your objectives and guarantees both your wellbeing and that of your loved ones. Below, you will find five goals that are vital to achieve better financial health.

Saving is key

To save more money is the first step to be in a good financial shape. It allows you to handle unforeseen situations that may arise (such as appliances breaking down) more comfortably, and sets you up for your current and future economic situation. Saving can be made difficult by macroeconomic causes such as high inflation, where a generalised increase in costs limits people's spending power. It is in these situations, or others produced by unforeseen circumstances, that it really helps to have a financial back-up through good money management. 

Despite the fact that saving is one of the most important goals, it is also often one of the most difficult to achieve. This is due in part to financial biases: those decisions that our brain makes automatically which pushes us to spend and seek immediate rewards, before thinking about the future consequences.

There are small changes you can make to your daily habits that can help you save. For example, set aside specific amounts for leisure activities in order to avoid spending too much; create a budget that identifies cash inflows (income) and outflows (expenses); cancel any unnecessary subscriptions; write a list when you go grocery shopping and do not deviate from it; or implement responsible consumption habits in your household. In regard to this point, these actions can include turning off the lights when you're not at home or when it's sunny outside, purchasing energy-efficient appliances or refurbishing them, as well as keeping appliances off when they're not being used. All of these are good practices to help your wallet, your personal  savings and overall wellbeing (when faced with situations such as an energy crisis) and the environment.

Decrease or pay off debt

There are assets that you often acquire through financing, such as a mortgage contract or taking out a loan to purchase a car. However, there are other situations in which financing is used to obtain products or services that are not necessary. Sometimes, financing the purchase of the most recent smartphone model or a holiday becomes a financial burden in the future, which is in part due to not having set a budget. Whatever the reason may be, when it comes to adequately managing debt, the important thing is to take into account your payment capacity. To be prepared for a potential adverse situation, such as a decrease in income, an unforeseen expense or an increase in the interest rate associated with these products is also a wise move.

To achieve the goal of reducing debt, the first step is to not take on more financial commitments and to avoid resorting to loans or credit cards as you regain control of your finances. The next step is to plan your debt payments based on your individual capacity. To do this there are alternatives, such as starting with smaller amounts or those that have the highest interest rates. 

Lastly, before resorting to external financing, it is recommended you ask yourself if the product or service you want to buy is absolutely necessary or if you could do it at another time. This also serves to execute the purchase when you have more money or when circumstances are more favourable, such as when the cost of financing is  lower due to lower interest rates.

Avoid minor expenses

There are a variety foes of frugality such as money spent daily without even realising. You might think that the don’t affect your finances given how small the amounts may be. This includes, among other things, expendable or unnecessary purchases, like buying a coffee on the way to work every morning, eating out every day or subscriptions to services or products you hardly ever use. As these amounts are so small, they can go unnoticed. Nevertheless, they add up and become a significant portion of your monthly spending.

In order to keep all of these ‘minor’ purchases under control, the first step is to be aware and recognise them, So, the next time you're about to make such a purchase, it will be easier to decide whether you really need it or not. Another good idea is to make a list in order to differentiate between your needs/priorities and your wants/desires. You can use it, for example, when you go to the supermarket so you don't spend too much, or at times when there's the temptation to buy something unnecessary.

Earn extra income

Improving your financial health does not mean everything has to involve cutting back or not spending. It's also possible to set goals that involve generating extra income. In doing so, it’s easier to seek out ways to balance spending and encourage saving. 

One possibility is to try out ideas based on collaborative economy platforms. There are a variety of apps that allow users to sell clothes, accessories, home appliances and other items you no longer use that could bring in some extra cash. These also promote more sustainable consumption and are good for the environment as they give a second life to the items sold.

Investing is another way to try to make additional income. Shares in various companies, investment funds, bonds or deposits, among other products, may also prove to be profitable. In this sense, a high-interest scenario is not always a bad thing: it can be advantageous if, instead of resorting to loans, you are the one allowing your savings to generate a return, regardless of the amount. These high interest rates will be beneficial to you if, for example, you have a savings account, as the bank will give you more money for your capital.

The most important thing to do before investing in anything at all is to make sure you are well informed. The right choice depends on factors such as your investor profile, the risk you're willing to take and macroeconomic expectations.

Plan before you spend

Last but not least, part of improving your financial health is about planning. Just as it's not recommended to spend for spending's sake, you shouldn't do the same with saving. You should concentrate on doing so in an organised and goal-oriented way. Having a good understanding of income and expenses is a great starting point to get on top of your personal finances.

To plan successfully, you will need to be realistic about your objectives. Setting goals that are difficult to achieve can be counterproductive. In addition, these sorts of goals are likely to leave you demotivated, frustrated and wanting to give up. We recommend that you review your goals every so often in order to see if you're going in the right direction or need to take alternative actions.

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