The other day, I was at the dog park when I befriended the owner of one of the other dogs running around. When I asked him what he does for a living, he told me he’s a software engineer, but that he’d been bartending part-time for the past few weekends to make some extra cash. When I saluted him for simultaneously working two jobs, he said that though it’s been hard, it’s been worth it, because he was finally recently able to pay off his student debt! His accomplished smile warmed my heart. It was a Christmas miracle.
My millennial doggy friend isn’t the only one who recently made a promise to himself to pay off his debt. According to a survey conducted by Fidelity Investments, about one-third of Americans intend on making some sort of money resolution for the New Year. And of those people, roughly 29 percent plan to get rid of their debt. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d guess most of those Americans who need to pay off their debt are millennials, too.
So whether you're trying to pay off debt in the new year or save money elsewhere, here are some ideas to get you started on your money-related resolutions:
- Get a temporary part-time job to pay off any outstanding debt. Take a cue from my friend and find something you can pick up on the weekends to dig yourself out of your debt hole. While the short-term ramifications of working long hours may be tiring, the long-term financial freedom of no longer being weighed down by your student loans will make the grueling well worth it.
My suggestions? Bartending is fun and you can pick up shifts as you please. The same goes for waitressing, retail jobs, nannying and working on remote freelance projects.
2. Be as specific and realistic as possible. Whether it’s money goals or weight-loss goals, the truth is, a lot of people make resolutions for the New Year that they simply don’t keep. If you set out saying to yourself, “I’m going to pay off all my debt this year,” chances are you aren’t going to. However, if you say to yourself, “I’ll pay off one-third of my debt this year,” you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
Setting realistic goals is crucial because if your goals aren’t realistic, they’ll seem unattainable and insurmountable, and you won’t want to work towards them at all.
Create some numbers for yourself and begin working toward those smaller goals. Google Sheets and money tracking apps like Mint are your friend. Besides, how do you expect to achieve your money goals when you aren’t crystal-clear about them in the first place?
3. Cut spending by evaluating your biggest expense and trying to work on that. This year, I know my biggest expense has been rent. I know that if I want to work on spending less money in 2019, I need to start with my rent, so I’ll be focusing my efforts in the next few months on possibly finding a roommate, or moving elsewhere.
Usually, there’s some leeway when it comes to our biggest expenses. If yours is rent, try what I’m trying. If it’s food, cut down on eating out and look into meal prep and cooking more at home. When it comes to money, we’ve got to get creative, and perspective is everything here; for example, don’t think of finding a roommate as an inconvenient living situation, but rather, a rewarding and convenient financial situation.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know, I know: Money is one of those things some people just don’t like to talk or think about. I don’t check my bank account until it’s absolutely necessary to (am I the only one that lives in denial, or…?) People are funny about money.
If you’re completely in the dark about your finances, consider hiring a financial planner. This is especially a good idea if you’re a small business owner, or are going through a big life transition, like changing jobs or careers, or moving from one state or city to another.
“A good financial planner is literally a doctor (plus therapist!) for your money: an independent third party who can provide you the latest and greatest advice, act as a sounding board for big decisions and, most importantly, help guide your family to making better-informed decisions and potentially even resolve a dispute.”
5. Plan ahead as much as you can. Ladies, being smart with money is all about being smart with planning, whether it’s planning to pack a sandwich in advance rather than splurging on that $15 sammy, or spacing out buying your holiday gifts throughout the year rather than buying them all at once a week before Christmas.
Plan ahead by creating a PowerPoint to take into your next meeting with your boss to ask for that bonus or raise, subscribing to your favorite meal prepper on Instagram, and picking out on Sunday which nights of the week you’re going to go out so you have an idea of how much money you’ll be spending, when and where.
Yes, being a money maven takes some effort, but you’ll pat yourself on the back in the new year when you feel confident you’re making the best financial decisions for yourself.