How to save more, spend less in the new year

We recently asked members of the Northeastern community to vote on which New Year’s resolutions they’re taking up—and among the top vote getters was “save more, spend less.”

Here, personal finance expert Timothy Gagnon, assistant academic specialist of accounting in the D’Amore McKim School of Business, offers tips to help you achieve this goal.

•    Track your expenses for a week and see where your money goes, then cut back (not out) the unnecessary expenses. Do you need four cups of coffee at Starbucks each day, or would two do?

•    Pay cash—yes, it does exist—for all expenses for a week to see how much you spend. Debit cards and credit cards allow you to spend without thinking because you do not see the balance on an ongoing basis.

•    When making large purchases: Find what you want, then go home for a week and think about it. That way you have a cooling-off period during which to reflect on whether you really need it.

•    Watch impulse purchases; it’s the old adage that you do not do grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You will buy what you do not need and blow the budget. Make a list—or eat first.

•    Do a budget and then track your expenses to it. See how realistic you are about your spending, and then think of how to get a better grasp.

•    Reconcile the checking account and review your debit and credit purchases monthly. Determine if each purchase was necessary or worked toward your goal.
•    Allow yourself some money each week for going wild, but do not exceed that amount. By doing so, you will think before you spend it since you will not have enough for something else later.

•    Start and fund your IRA early. Even use this year’s tax refund to fund next year’s IRA, or take out a little from each paycheck so it is not such a large number in April.

•   Fund your 401(k) at least to the level at which you will get the employer’s maximum contribution, and each time you get a raise, take half of it and put it in your 401(k) to increase your funding.

•    Have money automatically directed to a savings account out of each paycheck so it will not be spent before you save. Also, check your tax withholding in your check and if you are over-withholding, then reduce the withholding and send it to a savings account or your retirement savings.