Even if you don’t do resolutions per se, I think most of us still have areas of improvement that we want to work on for 2008. The problem is that is it so easy to keep putting off taking action to reach our goals. Given that I think little steps are the best way to solve big problems, here is a little action checklist that may be handy (complete with handy checkboxes if you want to print it out). How about at least one per day?
Reduce or Remove A Monthly Expenditure
- Objective: Got a gym membership but haven’t gone in months? Yard man coming too often? Got some Netflix DVDs that have been sitting on your desk for weeks? Cable bill too high?
- Action Required: Pinpoint a monthly expense that you don’t need anymore (or as often), and make the phone call to cancel. Stop putting it off.
Raise Your 401k/403b Contribution by 1%
- Objective: Raising your 401k contribution rate by just 1% is one of the easiest ways to improve your savings rate. Assuming you make $50,000 gross annually, a 1% increase would only reduce your take-home pay by about $30 a month, while increasing your future nest eggs by tens of thousands of dollars.
- Action Required: Log into your HR website today and make the change.
Lower Your Interest Rate on Credit Card Debt
- Objective: If you’re paying any sort of interest on credit card debt, it’s worth a call to see if they’ll lower it. Interest rates have been dropping again, and the banks are as competitive as ever for your money.
- Action Required: Call up your highest rate credit issuer, and ask for a lower rate. Quote a few of the better offers you’ve been getting in the mail. If you have good credit and are serious about paying it off, it may be best to switch to a card with a 0% intro rate on balance transfers for 12 months.
Start an Automatic Transfer To Online Savings Account
- Objective: If you’re not saving as much as you’d like manually, try using psychology to your advantage and make it automatic instead. You can always move the money back later if it doesn’t work out.
- Action Required: If you don’t have an high-yield savings account paying at least 4% interest, pick one and open it right away. Then log in and schedule an automatic and recurring transfer into it of $100 or whatever every month. Use multiple accounts for different goals.
Set A Short-Term Goal
- Objective: Forget “save for retirement’ or other vague goals. Setting specific, attainable short-term goals really helps keep me on track. One of my goals is to cook dinner at home one more day each week.
- Action Required: Think about what would make you feel really good to have accomplished 1-3 months from now, write it down, and tell your significant other or close friend about it. Set a specific end date.
My short-term attainable goal for this week: By Sunday 1/6, I will have at least re-allocated my investment portfolio to the proper stock/bond ratio and US/International ratios that I explored previously. It should only take part of an evening, as I’ve already chosen them.