If you’re like most Americans, you probably resolved back in January to save more money or take other steps to improve your finances this year. By now, those New Year’s resolutions may seem like a distant memory. But it’s not too late to get back on track if you’ve let them slide.
Ask yourself these five questions to see where you’re excelling—and where you need to up your game over the next six months.
1. Are you using a budget?
If you’ve been falling short of your saving goals, it’s a good time to revisit your budget—or create one in the first place. Doing so can help you see areas where you can cut back to funnel more money toward your goals.
If sticking to strict limits in every spending category is throwing you, try a flexible allowance. Subtract “committed expenses”—like rent, utilities, debt payments—from your take-home pay, says Certified Financial Planner Kristen Euretig. Subtract the amount you want to put toward debt, savings or investing. Then divide the remainder by the number of weeks in the month to see how much you can spend weekly on everything else. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
2. Are you crushing your savings goals?
By June, you should be halfway to your savings goal. If you’re short, take a minute to reevaluate whether the goal was realistic. “Consistently missing your goals because you’re overreaching can eventually make you give up altogether,” says Certified Financial Planner Gary Silverman.
Then adjust the savings target—or recommit to your original one—divide it by six and set up a monthly automatic transfer to savings in that amount. Making it automatic removes the temptation to spend it. (You can also free up extra funds by cutting out classic money-wasters, like bank fees and unused subscriptions and negotiating monthly bills down.)
3. Have you boosted your income?
If one of your resolutions was to make more money, it’s not too late to pick up a side gig. (Check out these 25 ideas for inspiration.)
And now’s the time to lay the groundwork for a raise at work, too—before next year’s budget is set. “Be sure to focus the conversation on what you bring to the company and how much more you plan to bring as opposed to what you need financially,” says Euretig. “Make the conversation about the value you add.”
4. Are you hitting the mark on your taxes?
Did you wind up owing money last year or getting back a substantial refund? Take the time now to adjust your withholdings so you’re contributing the right amount from each paycheck. If you usually owe, this can keep you from panicking in April; if you usually get a refund, you can put the money to better use than simply loaning it to the government for free.
5. Have your investments veered off track?
Your investment goals shift over time: Long-term goals become mid-term; mid-term goals are suddenly just a few years out. Make sure that your investments are still properly allocated and diversified, and your risk level matches up with your time horizon.
Once you’ve marked this off your list, rest easy—and ignore any short-term market fluctuations. “Tinkering too much can lead to lower investment gains,” Euretig says.
May 16, 2017