If you're hoping 2018 is the year you (finally!) get your money on point, it’s smart to look back on last year’s successes and failures, while focusing on new, doable goals. That means foregoing, say, a quest to find the next cryptocurrency or better time the stock market. Instead, try focusing on some tried and true financial rules. Call them cliche, if you want, but they're certainly effective. Here are 8 timeless financial tips to follow in the new year.
1. Live below your means
If you’re struggling with bills or debt, chances are, there’s a disconnect between how much you earn and how much you spend. Drafting a new budget — we've got a good template here — can resolve that disconnect, but here's a big trick if you're trying to build wealth: Aim to live below your means, not simply within them. That might mean sacrificing a few luxuries or downgrading to, say, a different cable subscription, but it's a surefire way to maintain long-term financial health.
2. A penny saved is a penny earned
In 2017, it was all about the side hustle. Everyone was driving for Uber, teaching kids English online with VIPKID or delivering groceries with Instacart. But more money can’t solve your financial problems if you don’t put those dollars to work. And if you’re working more and more, but still in debt or barely paying the bills, something's gone awry. In lieu of looking for more income, think about spending less and saving more. We know, easier said than done — which brings us to our next adage.
3. Pay yourself first
It’s easy to work all month, gather your paychecks and pay the bills only to realize there’s nothing left to save. That’s why many financial experts suggest “paying yourself first,” a method of budgeting where saving is essentially your primary expense. We've got a full explainer on how paying yourself first works, but it's pretty much exactly how it sounds. You budget a set amount of your paycheck that'll go into a savings account each month and deposit those funds before paying for your other wants and needs. Viola! — savings problem solved.
4. Be fearful when others are greedy & greedy when others are fearful
This advice comes from investment oracle (of Omaha) Warren Buffet — and it's particularly worth following in 2018. In a world where speculation can drive the price of Bitcoin up from a few hundred bucks to nearly $19,000 in a matter of months, it’s smart to know a bubble when you see one – and to strive to do things differently.
In Buffet’s world, you wouldn’t buy Bitcoin at the top, but at the bottom when most investors are spooked and ready to cut their losses. Of course, this advice doesn’t just apply to Bitcoin. It applies to real estate, the stock market and anything else we invest in, but you catch the drift.
5. Avoid credit card debt like the plague
With the average credit card carrying an annual percentage rate over 15%, 2018 is a great year to break the cycle. Consider taking advantage of 0% APR balance-transfer offers — they're pretty popular this time of year — to eradicate high-interest credit card debt. Then curb any impulses to run balances back up again.
6. Buy less home than you can afford
In a world where housing prices seem to rise at an endless pace, it’s hard to buck trends and borrow less than you can afford. But it's more important than ever if you want to keep your financial house in order. By spending less on housing than the bank will lend you, you’re freeing up cash to save and invest.
7. Don’t keep your eggs in one basket
When it comes to investing, your best bet is diversifying your portfolio as much as you can. Make sure you have an appropriate balance of stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments. And if you want to take the easy way out, invest in low-cost index funds that diversify on your behalf.
8. Be prepared
Your future depends on the financial decisions you make today, so think beyond your basic checking and savings account. Be sure to build a proper emergency fund, bank money for retirement in a 401(k) or IRA, think about a college savings plan for the kids and cover your family for a worst-case scenario with life insurance.
Image: Aleksander Nakic