If you’ve ever found New Year’s resolutions pointless, anxiety-inducing or impossible to keep, maybe you just needed a little help.
Following are several worthy and attainable financial goals for the new year, and a bunch of tools to help you get there. You don’t have to be overly ambitious and conquer them all — just try what works for you.
1. Put your savings to work
If you feel like your savings account is netting you nothing in interest — and that’s the case for most, according to the national average rate of just 0.30% — it might be time to look elsewhere.
Many online banks can do much better. CIT Bank High Yield Savings Account, for example, currently pays triple the national average interest rate on savings. Open an account with just $100 and deposit at least $100 per month to keep that rate, with no account opening or maintenance fees to worry about.
2. Pay down debt
Perhaps your goals for 2023 include eliminating your outstanding debt.
Let’s start with credit card debt. If you have run up large credit card balances and are paying interest on them, that is a very expensive way to go. Tackle this high interest rate debt first.
One option, depending on your circumstances, is to apply for a credit card that charges 0% interest on balance transfers for a period of time — typically between six and 18 months.
Occasionally, you can get a balance transfer card that does not charge a fee for the transfer. More typical, however, is a 3% or 5% fee on the balance moved over from the higher-interest card. So, if you transfer a $6,000 balance, the fee would be $180 at 3% or $300 at 5%.
A 0% interest credit card gives you breathing room, but it’s critical that you can pay off the balance before the grace period ends. After that, the interest rate will soar.
If a balance transfer card is not a good fit for you, consider other ways to replace expensive debt. For instance, if you are a homeowner outright or with some mortgage debt, then you likely qualify for a loan based on how much equity you have in your home.
Learn about this and other options in this post: “How to Get the Best Loan for Your Needs.”
If you’ve got more debt than you know how to handle, check out the Money Talks News Solutions Center. Our partners at Debt.com can help you come up with a plan to tackle student loans or credit card debt, and you can get a free evaluation from a certified credit counselor.
3. Improve your credit
For many reasons — including your access to mortgages and the best credit card terms — you want your credit score to be as high as possible.
To work on this worthy goal, resolve to monitor your credit routinely with your free annual reports and scores and by using websites like Credit Sesame.
If you have decent credit but are working to pay off debt, check out Tally, an app that identifies the smartest way to pay down your debts. It offers lines of credit to help you get ahead of higher interest rates and simplify your payments.
4. Lower your monthly bills
You snooze, you lose. But there are plenty of alarms to keep you from sleeping through rate hikes on pesky recurring expenses.
All you have to do is hand them the bills; they make the phone calls. They can also quickly find unwanted subscriptions, cancel them and get you refunds. And if they can’t save you money, that’s a loss of their time and effort, not yours.
Those companies will negotiate all kinds of things, from TV and internet service to pest control and satellite radio. But there are other companies that specialize in just one or two things, too.
If you want to slash your car insurance bill, for example, try an insurance comparison tool like The Zebra.
5. Invest — big or small
If you’re ready to earn more on your savings but not ready for a big commitment, resolve to take baby steps into the investing world with micro-investing app Acorns. The app will round your credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the “change” in a diversified portfolio developed with help from a Nobel Prize-winning economist. It costs $3 per month.
With the emergence of internet and mobile phone apps, investing in the stock market has become ever more affordable and available to those of us with ordinary amounts of money. Another option is financial services company Robinhoodwhich is giving traditional investing firms a run for their money by offering individuals an easy way to trade stocks, ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and options — charging no commission fees — starting with as little as a $1 investment.
If you’re not ready for a stock portfolio, you can get a 5% return by investing in Worthy bondswhich the company uses to lend money to small businesses.
Interested in real estate? Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are one way to get in on these profits from an asset class that has traditionally been the province of the super-wealthy. Fundrise Starter Portfolio allows you to get started with just $10 by providing a way for you to buy into real-estate portfolios. Skip the legwork and get an opportunity once only available to big investors.
If you’re leery of property investments right now, here’s another way to diversify your investments: Masterworks, which allows you to invest in fine art by famous artists. It’s a way to get part ownership in blue-chip artwork that has a track record of appreciating steadily in an investment landscape that is less volatile than the stock market.
6. Set up a spending plan that you won’t abandon
Step one: Stop thinking of it as a budget, which conjures up images of doing with less. Have you ever heard anyone make a resolution to “suffer more”? Taking control of your spending doesn’t have to mean painfully scrimping.
Instead, the goal should be to lay out a voluntary plan for all your financial resources: a spending plan. One of the tools we like to recommend at Money Talks News is the app YNAB (You Need A Budget). Despite having “budget” in the name, the app is a painless tool that guides you through assigning every dollar a job and makes it easy to fine-tune things as life happens.
The app has a 34-day free trial and costs $8.25 a month afterwards, with a money-back guarantee. The company says users save an average of $600 in their first two months and $6,000 over a year.
7. Ditch cable and get the shows you actually want
How many cable channels do you have, and how many of them do you watch? If you’re ready to drop your cable or satellite TV company in favor of cheaper streaming services, you have more options than ever.
There are so many options, from Apple TV+ and Disney+ to old standbys like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. But don’t think dropping cable means giving up live TV.
8. Save on all your shopping and dining
If you’re resolved not to leave money on the table, cash-back portal Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is one ticket to smart shopping. Sign up for a free account, and you can start earning cash rebates from more than 3,500 retail stores and restaurants.
Another cash-back service to check out is the app Ibottawhich works with thousands of major retailers, restaurants, convenience stores and pharmacy chains.
9. Lose weight and make money doing it
Certainly one of the most popular resolutions every year is the vow to get in shape, which has nothing to do with money. Or does it?
A program called HealthyWage essentially lets you bet on yourself to succeed at weight loss.
You set a weight loss goal and a timetable to achieve it, then put up a monthly bet. If you achieve your goal, you end up making more than you put in. You can also join team challenges for the chance to win more and gain some accountability partners.
10. Earn extra money in your downtime
You can convert boredom into cash — or at least gift cards — by taking paid surveys. One place to do that is Swagbuckswhich rewards you for watching videos, shopping online, playing games and taking surveys.
While you’re not going to make a killing, you might as well get paid while your brain is in low gear, right? InboxDollars works in a similar way, if you have time for more than one.
11. Take on a side gig
Need serious pocket money? Go for a full-fledged side hustle. Clean out and fix up your spare bedroom, then rent it out on a site like VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).
Or maybe you have an RV that you don’t use for most of the year. Instead of letting it stand idle, you can use it to generate money by renting it out to vacationers through the website RV Share. As with the home sharing services, RV Share allows people seeking a vehicle to connect with people who have one to rent out, while also providing a mechanism for payments and paperwork.
For loads more ideas on making extra money, check out “107 Easy Ways to Make Extra Cash.”
12. Seek reliable financial advice
If you’re not sure exactly what to do with your money in 2023 and beyond, here’s a free and trustworthy way to figure it out: Wealth ramp. It’s a matchmaking service between investors and vetted independent financial advisers.
After answering a few questions, it’ll find somebody in your area who fits your preferences, and they’re guaranteed to be a fiduciary — a pro who’s legally required to work in your best interests, not a salesperson in it for a quick buck at your expense.