50 personal finance resolutions for 2021

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Managing Editor & Certified Financial Planner™

Hanna Horvath, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and former managing editor at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in NBC News, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Best Company, and HerMoney.

Published December 19, 2019 | 11 min read

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Featured Image 50 personal finance resolutions for 2021

Updated Jan. 1, 2021: We’re almost done with 2020, so it’s time to make resolutions for the next year (and decade). When building your list of financial goals for 2021, it’s important to look back on all the money things you did or didn’t do last year.

If you don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Here are 50 personal finance resolutions for 2021, and beyond.

1. Get free financial advice

Money tips don’t have to cost you. Check out this free weekly newsletter — it includes money tips, money news and money moves sent right to your inbox.

2. Read more about money

Brush up on your money knowledge with a good book. Check out these recommendations if you’re not sure where to start.

3. Start using financial apps

Having trouble keeping a budget, tracking your bills or setting money aside for a rainy day? Consider downloading a financial app on your phone. Many link to your bank accounts and get a holistic view of your finances. You’ll always know what you’re spending, what you’re saving and how you’re stacking up against your goals. Here’s a breakdown of the best free budgeting apps.

4. Ditch the cash

Paper is out, and plastic is in: Credit cards and mobile wallets are not only more popular than cash, they often offer rewards and make it easier to track your spending. Ditching cash also means a thinner wallet and less receipts (which is better for the environment!). Learn how to go digital with your money.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Some personal finance experts encourage cutting back on small purchases, like your morning coffee, to reach a money goal. The reality? Larger financial decisions, like buying a house or car, will more drastically move the needle in your financial life. If you struggle with debt or saving for retirement, consider focusing on the bigger picture. But, it’s also important to …

6. … use it or lose it

Review your monthly expenses. Are you paying for subscriptions you aren’t utilizing? This year cancel the ones that aren’t getting used, like that pricey gym membership.

7. Scale back on streaming

Streaming was supposed to allow you to cut the cable cord, but with so many options, it might be time to cut some streaming options. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO...do you really need all of them? Probably not.

8. Take advantage open enrollment

Your employer’s open enrollment period is an opportunity to change or update your existing employee benefits. Use this time to assess how your lifestyle may have changed over the past year. You might find that you need to increase your life insurance death benefit or disability insurance coverage, switch to a new health care plan or open a health savings account.

9. Consider buying private life insurance

Workplace coverage is typically not enough and won’t stick with you if you change jobs. You can use this free Pricing Widget to get an idea of how much you’ll pay for your very own life insurance coverage.

10. Re-shop your auto insurance

Re-shopping your auto insurance every year can help you save money, as rates constantly fluctuate. Shopping around with different insurance carriers will make sure you have the best rates possible.

11. The same goes for homeowners insurance

Learn about the best homeowners insurance companies here.

12. Make your health a priority

If you have health insurance, a yearly physical is covered, but urgent care visits may not be. Be sure to keep up with your regular checkups and raise any health concerns as soon as they come up, instead of waiting until there’s an issue.

13. Max out your HSA contributions

Health savings accounts are valuable. They can be used to pay for a number of medical expenses, there are numerous tax advantages and the balance in your account can be carried over from year to year. Consider making the $3,500 maximum annual contribution to your HSA if you’re under 55 (or $4,500 if you’re over 55).

14. Avoid holiday debt …

The holidays aren’t cheap: There are presents to buy, dinners to prepare, travel plans to book … the list goes on. Using a budgeting spreadsheet specifically for the holidays (like this one) is the easiest way to stay on top of spending and out of the red.

15. … or any kind of debt, for that matter

This includes credit card debt and personal loans. Here are nine ways to pay off your debt in 30 days.

16. Save 20% of each paycheck

If you’re mostly debt-free, start diverting 20% of your income from each paycheck into a rainy day fund or towards a money goal, like …

17. … a down payment on a home

Do you have a stable job and plan on staying put for the long haul? Start saving for a down payment on a home. Mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve been in years, and although housing prices skyrocketed since 2010, rent has gone up even higher.

18. Improve your credit score

It may be time to get your credit back in shape for in 2020. Start by paying off your balances, but also look for any mistakes that may have appeared on your credit report.

19. Read the fine print

Do you know what’s in your credit card agreement? Most don’t read these lengthy documents, but they do contain important information, like how much interest you’re paying and the penalty for missing a payment. Here’s a guide to understanding one.

20. Request a credit limit increase

If you’re in good standing with your credit card, it may be time to request a credit limit increase. Having a higher limit can boost your credit score as long as you don’t increase your spending or start carrying a higher balance. Some banks don’t pull your credit report when considering your request, and so there’s also no risk of hurting your score by asking for more than you actually need.

21. Maximize your credit card rewards

While spending money with a credit card, you might as well be getting something in return. Credit card rewards can help you do that. Learn how to maximize them here.

22. Check your credit reports

You can get your credit reports for free from the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — via AnnualCreditReport.com.

23. Score a sign-up bonus

If your credit is good and your spending habits are in check, consider upgrading to a more lucrative rewards credit card. Many issuers offer sign-up bonuses to new cardholders who spend a certain amount of money in a set period of time. These bonuses are often worthwhile if that spending threshold aligns with your current habits.

24. Set yourself up for (career) success

Whether you’re trying to climb the ladder, improve a skill set or ask for a raise, set some career goals for the new year. Retired? Your goal could be to give back.

25. Expand your professional network

Even if you’re happy in your current role, you never know when you could be job hunting again. For that reason, it’s important to have a robust professional network, and the best way to build one up is by regularly hosting informational interviews with those in your field.

26. Negotiate your next job offer

If you hope to change positions in 2020, make sure you go into negotiations with a plan. Read up on these tips and tricks before you sign the dotted line.

27. Make the most of your 2021 conferences

Not all of us take advantage of the great professional opportunities at conferences. Step one to making the most of a conference: learning the best ways to network.

28. Get your money tasks done right

Try the Easy Money Bootcamp, a four-part email bootcamp to help you get your most important money resolutions done in the first few weeks of January. Sign up here.

29. Give your 401(k) a boost

Even increasing your contribution up a percentage point can save you big in the long run, thanks to compounding interest. At the very least, try and match up to what your employer offers.

30. Roll over your 401(k)

When you leave your job, you’re no longer allowed to contribute to your current 401(k). Consider a 401(k) rollover — you can continue to add money to your account and you’ll likely have a broader selection of investments.

31. Try an independent retirement account

The annual 401(k) contribution limit is $19,500 in 2020. If you want to save even more money for retirement, consider a Roth IRA, which has a contribution limit of $6,000. Roth IRA contributions are made with post-tax money, but, unlike a 401(k), you won’t be taxed when you withdraw from the account in retirement.

32. Create supplemental income

Finding a new side hustle is as easy as downloading a new app. If you’re looking to boost your income quicky, try driving, delivering or walking dogs on the side. Rather stay home? There are plenty of opportunities for remote work, too.

33. Start investing today

Investing can earn you significantly more than what you get from a savings account, thanks to higher returns. Investing is necessary if you want to have enough saved for retirement, and you can also use it to save for big money moves, like the down payment on a new home. Investing is also easier than ever. Start with just $1 on some of this year’s best investing apps.

34. Take advantage of your company’s options

As part of your job, you may be offered some stock options for employees. The terms may be confusing at first, so take time to understand the key terms and time limits available.

35. Move your money to an online bank

Online banks offer similar services to traditional brick-and-mortar banks, but they often have better interest rates on their savings accounts. Just don’t forget to switch your automatic payments to the new account.

36. Open a high-yield savings account

Earn (a little more) interest on your emergency savings by opening an account with an online bank that pays a higher interest rate than a traditional savings account. Learn about high-yield savings accounts.

37. Check your investment fees

This year, a handful of brokers introduced no-fee trading. If you haven’t gotten on the train yet, now’s the time to check the fine print and make sure you’re not getting dinged.

38. Understand how interest rate changes affect your money

When the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, consumers and borrowers get a boost in the form of a lower credit card APR and lower rates on mortgages and other loans. Consider using a period of low interest rates as an opportunity to refinance your mortgage or consolidate your debt.

39. Learn to code

Want to pick up a new skill this year? You won’t find one much more valuable than coding. If you’re worried about not having enough time, freeCodeCamp is self-paced and, as the name implies, costs nothing.

40. Learn to cook

If you’re not already cooking for yourself, make it a goal for the coming year. Not only does making home cooked meals save you money over eating out or getting delivery, cooking is also a great skill to have. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Best of all? You can learn to cook for free by watching cooking videos online or reading detailed recipes.

41. Stop paying for airport food

You pay as much as 15% higher than what you’d pay for the same food outside the airport. Bring your own. Leave room for tupperware in your luggage and bring an empty bottle of water to fill.

42. Go environmentally-friendly with your commute

If you drive to work, consider taking public transit instead. A train ride or bus pass is typically less expensive than paying for gas and tolls. If public transit isn’t an option, consider carpooling with a coworker. That way you split the driving expenses and lessen your carbon footprint.

43. Quit that online shopping habit

It’s easy to spend with no end in sight when all it takes is the click of a button. Buying things in person will limit how much you’re buying and curbs impulse purchases.

44. Monetize your old stuff

If you’re purging your home of clutter in 2020, consider selling your possessions before tossing anything. There’s a chance you could make money off those old clothes, books or furniture.

45. Avoid lifestyle creep

If you’ve received a holiday bonus, a big tax refund or a pay raise at work, be mindful of lifestyle creep, which can quickly eat up your extra income. The best way to prevent that from happening? Make sure you pay yourself first by tackling any debt and automating your savings.

46. Exercise your civic duty

While we just had a presidential election, it’s also important to exercise your right to vote in local elections. Policy changes — from taxes to zoning to the state of our health care system — at every level can impact your wallet.

47. Donate to charity

Pledge to give back more in the new decade. Not sure where to donate? RIP Medical Debt is helping forgive millions of dollars in medical debt.

48. Get a password manager

If you have the same password for multiple financial sites, it’s time for a change. A password manager will create a strong password for every site, without requiring you to remember them all yourself. There are free password managers, and some specifically designed to help your whole family stay safe online.

49. Buy things that make life a little easier

If deep cleaning your apartment comes at great psychological cost, it isn’t so bad to spend some money on a cleaning lady — just budget accordingly. Saving and spending wisely isn’t about abandoning every expense, but rather, figuring out what expenses are worth it for you.

50. Prepare for the future

An estate plan lays out who gets what when you pass away, and how you want people to handle your things if you can’t do so yourself. The topic of death can be frightening, but you will feel more at ease knowing your loved ones and possessions are taken care of. The best place to start is by writing a will.

Image: Lambert