2021 New Year’s Resolution: Five Proven Habits That Make It Easy to Manage Your Money
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Nothing makes your personal finances easier than having solid data you’ve maintained all year long. With digital records, you can look up just about anything. Your tax deductible business expenses. How much you spent on groceries, month by month. Even the name of the jeweler who fixed your grandmother’s necklace.
If you’ve been meaning to get organized and take control of your finances, the new year is a perfect time to start, but New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. The best way to make them stick is to keep them simple. To help you get a strong start in 2021, here are 5 easy ways to make managing your personal finances a habit.
1. Check your transactions every day.
Start by adding this quick, simple habit into a routine you already have. Do you read the news every morning over coffee? Or browse social media after dinner? Take a moment before you start those activities to browse through the last 24 hours of your financial transactions.
- Download your new transactions into Quicken
- Check the category for each one and update it if necessary
- Add any notes you might need later
Technically, you can track your transactions in any system, even on paper, but keeping your financial records digitally helps you look things up later and generate any reports you might need. Cloud-based spreadsheets are a good start, but you still have to add all your transactions manually. They’re also hard to use on mobile devices, and they aren’t set up well for keeping track of things like business receipts, photos of damage for a purchase that arrived broken, transactions that are split among different categories, and so on.
Quicken makes all of those things easy. Loan payments are automatically split between interest and principal. A memo field lets you add a note about that check to remind you what it was for. You can even add a photo of a receipt to any transaction in case you want to return something later, or in case you need to prove a business expense.
Plus, with its web and mobile companion apps, Quicken lets you do it all on your phone, so you can keep your finances up to date in just a few minutes each day.
2. Check your spending each month.
If you keep up with your financial records every day, your insight into those finances gets a lot more powerful. By using categories, for example, you can generate a report each month for your spending, showing you where your money is going and making it a lot easier to find places to cut back without giving up the things you care about.
Quicken makes that extremely convenient with a Spending tab in the Mac and Windows versions as well as a Spending graph in mobile and web—all of them one-click operations. By making Quicken a daily habit, you can see your spending in seconds, making you far more likely to take that next step when you’re ready.
It also makes reconciling your accounts a matter of moments, whether you do it monthly or even every day. You can reconcile each account to its online balance as often as you like, so keeping up with your bank records has never been easier.
3. Check your net worth once each quarter
Before you take the next step, remember that you don’t need to check your net worth every quarter. If you’re just starting to build your financial habits, reviewing your transactions every day is a great start. Don’t worry about anything else until you’re ready.
However, if you’ve built those daily transactions into your routine and you’re ready for some longer term planning, your net worth is one of the best ways to take control of your long-term finances.
Your net worth is simple: it adds up all your assets (cash balances, the value of your home, investments, etc.) and subtracts out your debts (credit card balances, mortgage, and the like). Quicken makes that calculation for you and keeps up with it automatically, every day.
Many people have a negative net worth, but what matters more is how that net worth is changing over time. Are you adding value or moving farther into debt? Quicken provides a one-click net worth report, making it easy to check in. If you don’t like your current trend, you can change it by making different choices. You can even consult a financial planner for help.
As your net worth grows, you might even start appreciating that number over your coffee every morning before you dive into your daily transactions!
4. Generate tax reports quarterly or annually
If you keep up with those daily transactions throughout the year, generating tax reports—or any other reports you might need—is extremely easy. Do you want to know how much you paid for car repairs over the last 6 months? Or how much your home business made over the last quarter?
Quicken has dozens of financial reports built in, along with the ability to create custom reports for anything else you might need, all with just a few clicks. You can even generate those tax reports and email them to your accountant without even leaving Quicken.
5. Plan for the year ahead
If you have any larger-than-usual expenses coming up this year, planning ahead and saving up for them is a great way to avoid credit cards and interest fees. Think about setting aside funds every month for next year’s holiday season and property taxes, or save up toward something special, like a vacation or a wedding. It’s also a good idea to build an emergency fund if you don’t already have one.
Once you choose your goals and plan your savings contributions, it’s easy to connect a savings account to Quicken. Most savings accounts let you set up automatic contributions from your primary bank account, and Quicken will track those contributions for you, making your new savings habit 100% automatic. Keeping a New Year’s resolution has never been easier.
For more ideas...
There’s so much more Quicken can do once you’ve made a habit of keeping up with your daily transactions. You can create an annual budget, monitor your investments, make sure you’re maximizing your retirement contributions, set up separate tracking for a child or an aging parent … the possibilities are virtually endless.
For more ideas, as well as some help bringing your Quicken data up to date as you move into the new year, be sure to read our post on wrapping up the year!