17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

The new year usually sparks many of you to want to improve your finances. Now, I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m all for focusing on your financial health. If the New Year sparks that fire within you to get your finances together – then I’m all for it!

Here are 17 ways to improve your finances in 2017. Choose a few of these to focus on in the New Year if you’re new to personal finance. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. But I do want you to make some real change in your life.

improve your finances

Overall financial health

1. Dream a little

This may seem like fluff advice, but I really believe that dreaming/envisioning the ultimate financial state can really get you revved up to actually improve your finances! So take a moment to really imagine what it would be like to live with no more debt. To finally turn in that last payment for your mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc. Imagining this huge weight coming off of your shoulders can help you get started on actually tackling your debt!

2. Know your numbers

To improve your finances, you need to know where you are currently. Make it a point to know and be more mindful of your monthly income and expenses. Your entire personal finance journey is built with these building blocks! Here’s a video I put together on how to get this information if you don’t already have it.

3. Track your net worth

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip of knowing your numbers. Knowing your numbers is one thing, but actually tracking your numbers each and every month is what helps you be more mindful of your situation. The key here is checking in on your finances every single month, whether it’s your net worth or your income/expenses. (I hope to do a post/video on what your net worth is soon).

4. Educate yourself about personal finance

I get it – the world of personal finance can be overwhelming. But running away from it is a surefire way to not get anywhere financially. Make it a point to read a book (I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi) or listen to a podcast (I recommend The Dave Ramsay Show or Stacking Benjamins) about personal finance once a month or so. Believe me – avoiding personal finance will not solve your personal finance problems!

5. Focus on one or two financial goals

When you focus on way too many goals at once, you tend to lose track, get overwhelmed, and fail at most of them. Choose one or two goals to focus on this year. Will you work on increasing your income or decreasing your expenses? Is this the year you get serious about your debt or start saving for emergencies? Pick a goal that will improve your finances and get started! I personally suggest following Dave Ramsey‘s step by step goals if you don’t know where to start.

6. Get in sync with your significant other

This is something Juan and I are still working through. Actually, I think this is something that will just become a constant conversation. As your goals change, your spouse’s may change as well. As you improve your finances, make sure your partner is still on the same page as you. Make an effort to check in with each other each month to make sure you’re working towards both of your goals.

Increase your income

7. Start a side hustle

Your main income is great, but having a side income can really help with your financial goals! Don’t know where to start? Think of things you already love to do – crocheting, working on cars, spending time with pets… chances are someone has already come up with a way to monetize it! Think of how you can monetize one of your hobbies so your side hustle can also be something you enjoy doing!

8. Work towards a promotion

Nine times out of ten, a promotion leads to an increase in income. Make sure you are an absolute stellar employee – make it into work on time, finish your tasks in a timely manner, and make sure all the work you do is done with integrity. Then, when a spot above you has opened up, make it known to your manager that you are interested. Work hard and your work will speak for itself!

9. Work towards and negotiate a raise

Sometimes a promotion just isn’t in the cards. That doesn’t mean you can skip asking for a raise. Make your case as to why you deserve a raise, do your research on the average salaries for job titles closest to yours, and have an honest conversation with your manager. Warning – this only works for great employees, not just any employee. Just because you want to improve your finances doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

10. Sell some stuff

Got a ton of unused clothing, appliances, toys, etc. lying around? Donate the stuff that is already in poor condition and sell the stuff that is still in great quality! eBay is a great place to start, but there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashioned garage sale. The extra cash will come in handy as you improve your finances.

Expense control

11. Give up just one thing

I’m not asking you to give up cable, coffee, soda, AND gift giving all at once (although – more power to you if you want to)! Start small – what’s one expense, big or small, you can go without for all of 2017? For me – I’m going to cut back hard on eating out. Speaking of eating out…

12. Eat out less

It’s no secret that eating out often can do a lot of damage to your waistline. But it also does a ton of damage to your wallet! I’m not saying you should eliminate eating out completely – just cut back! Juan and I are going to stick to eating out only twice a week (this is a huge step back from our normal 5-7 days a week)!

13. Find another commute option

For us 9-5ers, a commute can really make or break the budget. Take a look at what you spend now on your commute (gas, toll, train fare, etc.) and look up other options available to you. Keep in mind the cheapest option may not be the best in terms of time spent, so make sure you take into account all things – not just the price tag.

14. Cut out cable

*gasp* I know, how dare I say these words??? But let’s face it, y’all – cable is expensive! With Netflix and Hulu being at extremely affordable rates, the case for still having cable is starting to dwindle. For us, the hardest part will be finding ways to watch our Golden State Warriors and other sports broadcasting. But other than that, Netflix and Hulu usually does the trick for our TV fix.

Beef up your savings

15. Seriously, get an emergency fund

I don’t care if you’re in deep debt – get yourself a freaking emergency fund! If you don’t have on yet, building one this year will greatly improve your finances. You are not invincible and Murphy loves visiting those who aren’t prepared. Even if it’s just $1,000, it’s a great start and better than nothing.

16. Set up a personal escrow account

You know those annoying expenses that don’t happen every single month and surprise you whenever they do pop up? Setting up a personal escrow account will prepare you for all of those expenses. Pair it with automatic savings and you don’t even have to think about it!

17. Start saving for retirement

I don’t care how young you are – it’s never, ever too early to start saving for retirement! No one ever said, “Man, I really wished I waited longer until I started saving for retirement”. For starters, look and see if your employer offers a free match to your contributions into your company sponsored retirement plan. Basically – your employer will put money into your retirement plan for free as long as you’re also putting in money! Take advantage of that free money!

So there you have it – 17 things you can work on to improve your finances this year! You don’t have to do all of them – in fact, I suggest choosing just one or two of these things. Focus on a few goals at a time and you’ll be well on your way to financial peace.

What are your financial goals for 2017?


14 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2014

Whether you made some New Year’s resolutions or not, I think it’s safe to say that we all can stand to improve our finances this year. Whether you’re an experienced investor or you’re just starting to set up your own budget, there is always something that we can do better. I have brainstormed some ways in which I will be improving my own finances this year and I thought you might benefit from these tactics, as well. Here are 14 ways to improve your finances in 2014. Pick one (or all) and join me on the journey to a better financial picture this year!

1. Check your credit report

We are entitled to a free copy of our credit reports from each credit reporting company every year. I plan on using AnnualCreditReport.com to access my reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – the three major credit reporting companies. You can access your credit reports elsewhere (i.e. FreeCreditReport.com), but these services generally charge a fee after a free trial period.

2. Pay off/stay out of credit card debt

2013 was the year I got rid of my credit card debt and 2014 will be the year that I stay out of it! That doesn’t mean I will stop using my credit cards altogether (see #4).

3. Use cash more

A majority of my budget went to paying off my credit card debt last year. Now that I have some freed up money, I’m going to be withdrawing a set amount every month for my “spending money”. This money will be spent on date nights, occasional shopping, etc. Once that money is gone for the month, that means I’m done spending for the month. It’s as simple as that.

4. Take advantage of credit card rewards

I currently have a Discover credit card which has 5% cash back on rotating categories every quarter. The rewards have worked for me so far, but I’d like to get into credit card rewards churning. This means doing some research on sign up bonuses and different types of rewards cards. I know a ton of people have made some decent money off of this, and I’d like to get my fair share this year.

5. Carpool to work

Unfortunately, I do not live close enough to bike, walk, or take a bus to work. I live about a 40 minute drive away from work, and that’s not including traffic which is practically a given. I used to carpool with my uncle and my cousin to the nearest BART station and ride the train for one stop to get to work, but my uncle is now retired. I’m currently exploring different ways to get to work. Right now, I’m riding with my friend to another BART station that is much farther than what I’m used to, but I like how it’s working out so far. Carpooling saves money on toll, parking, and gas. I don’t get why people still choose to not carpool!

6. Track your net worth

Keeping tabs on my net worth has helped keep me accountable with not only you guys, but also with myself. Knowing that I’ll be writing a quick summary of my month’s financials definitely puts impulse purchases and other monetary decisions in a different perspective. I’m positive that part of the reason why I was successful in paying off my credit card debt last year was because I had to update the balance every single month on my Net Worth updates. Seeing the balance decrease every single month was incredibly satisfying and exhilarating! I’m hoping that continuing to track my Net Worth will help me stay on track with my goals for this year.

7. Make more money on the side

Last year, the BF and I choreographed special events for side income. As much as I would like to keep dancing, we have decided to put our little business on the back burner. To replace this income, I’ll be exploring other avenues to generate side hustle money such as secret shopping, surveys, and maybe even utilizing my blog in some way.

8. Find a better paying job

I owe you guys a full job hunt update. But basically, I’m hoping that my next gig will come with a bigger salary. Having a bigger income this year would greatly help with my short term and long term savings goals.

9. Save for your short term goals

Instead of scrambling at the last minute to buy gifts for family/friends, I’ll be setting aside a few bucks every month in a separate “Gifts” account that I will use whenever a birthday or other special event happens. Saving for gifts gives me the luxury of buying an affordable gift at any time instead of paying a premium for any last minute presents.

I am also contributing a little bit of money each month to a separate “Travel” account which I will use for flights, conference registrations, and hotel fees. Before, whenever I traveled, I would always put all of the expenses on my credit cards and hope that I’ll pay it off “eventually”. Now that I’m CC debt free, I hope to be able to pay for my travels with cash instead of credit, or at least put it on my credit card and then immediately pay it off.

1 Las vegas strip

Going to Las Vegas in April!

10. Exercise daily

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What does exercise have to do with finance?” The answer is that living a healthy lifestyle directly affects your health expenses. The more fit you are, the less prone you are to sickness and injury, thus decreasing the amount of money you would need to remedy those two. I just began a new fitness program that has me exercising about 3x a week (mostly kettlebell work), but on my off days I plan on simply incorporating more walking into my daily routine.

11. Say “No” more often

In an attempt to be a “Yes” kind of gal, I’ve had a very busy social life recently. Unfortunately, my wallet hasn’t been too happy about that. Not only will I say “no” more often to others, but I’ll also say “no” to myself as well. More on this in another post.

12. Utilize rewards programs

I sign up for practically every rewards program possible! For example, the BF and I love to watch movies, so we both subscribe to our local theater’s weekly coupons and we use their smartphone app which also gives us some pretty sweet discounts at their concession stands. I shop at Walgreens all the time, so I’ve signed up for their rewards card which has varying discounts throughout the year. Basically, if you shop somewhere frequently, there most likely is a rewards program for valued customers. Don’t be afraid to sign up for it!

13. Get rid of unwanted items

My closet is pretty much full, but I’ve noticed that I only use a portion of my wardrobe anyways. Sometime this month or next, I will be sorting through the mess that is my closet and selling/donating all of the items that I no longer wear. Not only will this help cushion my bank account, but this will also help me gain some sanity!

14. Save for retirement

Last year, I maxed out my Roth IRA and also contributed to my 401k just enough to receive the full match from my employer. This year, I intend to do the same! I automate this process because it’s a lot harder for me to manually transfer over a lot of money into an account that I don’t plan on accessing for a while. Knowing myself, if I had to transfer all of that money manually, I might not do it after the first few times and I might spend it on something useless instead! Automatically withdrawing that money trains me and convinces me to believe that the money left over afterwards is what I get to play with. This ensures that I never touch my retirement money until I’m actually retired.

So there you have it – 14 ways to improve your finances in 2014! I will be working on these things throughout the year and would love some company on the way 🙂

How will you improve your finances this year?