5 Financial Habits To Start In 2011

By Linsey Knerl | December 20, 2010 AAA

Making changes in a New Year is an old topic that is reborn every January. While some tips still hold water, there are many inspiring and positive strategies toward seeing your finances in a new way - just in time for the New Year. These habits are not only possible to implement at any income bracket, but they also make sense. (For more, see Financial New Year's Resolutions You Can Keep.)

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Know Your Worth

All the coupon-clipping and frugal living tips in the world won't save you a significant amount of money, if you're unaware of what your time is valued at. Even homemakers and students have an hourly worth that could make some extreme savings recommendations a waste of time and effort. To better understand if making your own laundry soap or sewing a pair of jeans is a good investment, calculate how long it takes, along with your true hourly wage. (For more, see What's Your Net Worth Telling You?)


Budget in your Credit Card Purchases
Many consumers love their credit cards and use it responsibly enough to make almost every purchase with the swipe of plastic. Even if you pay your cards off every month, however, it can be easy to lose track of purchases and be unaware of just how much you are spending in each budget category. By committing to the practice of placing each and every credit card transaction into the proper budget category (clothes, dining out, entertainment, etc.) you not only guarantee that you'll have the funds to pay it off after 30 days, but you'll also get a grip on which budget categories are the biggest barriers to retirement savings, vacation funds or paying your mortgage off early.

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Delay Gratification

A killer sale (and the resulting impulsive purchase) isn't just hazardous to your financial health, it can wreak havoc on your storage spaces, as well. Before you drop dollars on that must-have seasonal look for 40% off, spend a day to think on it. By making the habit of giving a 24-hour cooling-off period to all non-essential buys, you give yourself time to shake off the rush of the deal, and avoid buyer's remorse down the road. Since many "one-day only sales" don't offer significant savings over weekly promotions, you'll rarely miss out on that ideal price by waiting a bit longer.

Beg, Borrow and Barter

Many of us have too much pride to ask a friend or co-worker for a loan, even if it is to simply borrow a garden tool for the weekend. If you find that you'll only need something for a very short while and will only using it once or even annually, borrowing may be a good way to go. If asking outright (and for free) makes you feel like a mooch, offer to rent the item instead. Use the internet to research rates from rental facilities or break down the cost of a new item into 52 weeks to get a reasonable per weekly rate. If your friend or co-worker won't take cash, offer an exchange of services or dinner.


Document Experiences
People today tend to do too much, spending all kinds of cash on movies, trips and adventures that often get forgotten with the next big experience. In order to truly appreciate where your entertainment and travel money has gone, it may be necessary to document it. Whether you keep a scrapbook, write a blog, or just organize all your photos in a computer file that you can easily access later, it will help to remind you how much you enjoyed that $1,000 weekend getaway or the dinner party that set you back a week's salary. Even if you're frugal with your experiences and rarely feel the need to spend on lavish outings, it's a wonderful exercise in thankfulness that can make the satisfaction from a recent excursion last a little longer. (It will also help to remind children and family members why it's not necessary to take another trip anytime soon.) (For more, see 5 Holiday Gifts That Keep On Giving.)

The Bottom Line
Habits take a while to form, and New Year's resolutions are no exception. Before you become overwhelmed with all the ways to start your new financial calendar on the right foot, pick one you can do today - with little effort - and begin putting it into place right away. If you can successfully implement just one of these ideas into your lifestyle, the positive changes may encourage you to pursue other positive habits.

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