As the economy continues its upward swing, now is as good a time as ever to get a handle on your finances. But, of course, adopting good personal finance habits is something you can (and should) do all year around.
Here are 7 of the most effective personal finance habits you can adopt that will lead you to the success you're looking for this year -- and next.
1. Occasionally freeze your credit cards.
Did you know the average American household is carrying more than $5,000 in credit card debt and only 45 percent of U.S. cardholders pay their card balances in full monthly? Credit cards may give you extra financial freedom, but if you aren't careful, you will be racking up insane credit card bills that may be impossible to pay. Put a hold on credit card spending, use your debit card more, and continue to keep record of how much you spend.
2. Wait for 15 minutes.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, uses one powerful method to curb his love for sweets that you can also apply to your spending habits. After Duhigg had a strong cookie craving, he waited 15 minutes to see if this craving would disappear. When you feel a purchasing or spending impulse, try waiting or distracting yourself for 15 minutes to see if you, too, can resist the temptation. You may end up feeling less inclined to be financially irresponsible.
3. Always make a shopping list.
It's a familiar situation -- you step into a store to buy one specific item, but you leave with a bunch of things you originally did not set out to buy. Make it a habit to plan out your purchases ahead of time. According to the NPD Group, 72 percent of grocery shoppers who shop with lists rarely or never make impulse purchases. Strive to be a part of this 72 percent.
4. Open your bills as they arrive.
Avoid procrastination when it comes to opening your bills. It will only do you damage in the long run, and it is very important to be fully aware of what you need to pay and when.
5. Keep up with car maintenance.
Here's a tip you might be surprised to see. Car maintenance issues often burn a hole in your wallet, and some of them are easily preventable. Follow your vehicle's maintenance schedule and don't put off getting something minor fixed, unless you want to see major costs in the future.
6. Set some money aside from every paycheck for your retirement.
Surprisingly, approximately 50 percent of American households have no retirement accounts, and about 40 million households have no retirement savings whatsoever. Be sure to set aside part of your paycheck in a 401(k) or IRA. The sooner you get started, the better.
7. Don't harp on mistakes.
It happens. When we try to create new and better habits for ourselves, we can sometimes slip up. What is crucial during the process of forming good habits is to not let yourself be derailed by mistakes. If you use your credit card or make an unnecessary impulse buy, remember that improvements do take time, and you must be persistent.
Bad financial habits can keep you swimming in debt. But with a proper set of good personal finance habits, you can cut costs, spend in ways that help your bottom line, and learn a sense of control over your money.