It’s here. We are now well and truly embedded in 2011- the kids are back at school, we’re all back at work and the second month looks likely to speed by as quickly as the first. So what does that mean for your finances? And where are all your well-meant resolutions sitting now?
If you’ve found yourself a little off-track, here are some ideas to get you back on the straight and narrow.
Reassess Your Finances
Chances are Christmas and the school holidays didn’t work out as cheaply as you were hoping. Hey, it happens. It’s nothing to beat yourself up about. You had a budget, you worked hard to stick to it and life got in the way. Instead of wallowing, maybe it’s time to sit down and reassess what that means for the year ahead. Bring out all your bills from the period, and total them. Work out where your money went.
There’s no point sticking with a budget if it’s based on optimistic pre-Christmas figures that have no bearing on reality.
Get Real About Debt Repayment
Now that you know where you stand financially, it’s time to assess what you can realistically do about your debt in the coming months. If getting debt-free, or closer to it, was your New Years’ Resolution, here’s your chance to make it happen. February is one of those months that doesn’t allow much space for la-la-land. It’s crunch time. You know now how much money you’re going to make, and how much you have to spend.
Work out how much you can set aside from those figures for debt repayment, and set up an automatic deduction from your bank account the day after you get paid. If it happens every week, without you having to do anything about it, it’ll just be another thing to acclimatise to.
Rethink Your Financial Resolutions
Sometimes we make resolutions based on our guilty post-Christmas slide. Weight, over-spending, drinking too much. While it’s great to get on top of all those things, now is a good time to stop and think about what you really want to achieve, away from the high pitch of emotions that is the silly season.
Do you really want a new car, or would you prefer to pay off the old one? Whatever your goal is, it’s important to check back with it from time to time to ensure that you are on-track. Beyond anything, repeated assessment of your goals will illuminate your progress and keep you motivated.
Don’t Bunny Hop About Debt
The most important thing at this point is to get a steady progress with your debt-free goals, or debt repayment aims. Don’t pay off a huge chunk, live miserably for a month, spend all your money and then pay off another huge chunk in a couple of months time. Pay off a little each week, budget a little stricter each week and set it aside for debt. Find motivators that aren’t guilty- remember the positive reasons for the steps you are taking.
The freedom from debt, being able to have a little more money for your interests, being able to sleep easier at night. For me, it’s about owning my own decisions and having a little more control of my life, for the long-term, not bunny-hopping from crisis to crisis without any idea how I’m going to cope with whatever is around the corner. This is the month where real life hits again, and it’s yours to own.