In 2017 I attended a mentoring opportunity sponsored by Girls in Tech, a global organization...
Happy New Year! Do you have your New Year’s Resolutions made? I made a resolution a long time ago that I would never again make New Year’s Resolutions. Why? Because they always get broken. Whether you agree with that philosophy or not, one thing you should resolve to do is set your financial priorities for this new year. Why? Because your future self will thank you. Because your wallet will thank you. Because, well, that fuzzy notion of “financial piece of mind” will thank you.
According to Google, a “priority” is “a thing that is regarded as more important than another.” Well, that’s easy. Thanks, Google! Not so fast. In this context, a priority is something that needs some serious thought, especially since we’re talking about money here. What’s most important for your hard-earned dollars to go towards? What items must be prioritized higher than others? Is “everything” a priority (spoiler: no)?
Resolve to Prioritize
Setting financial prioritizes is not as intimidating as it sounds. Seriously. What’s important to you? Is it paying off your credit card balance(s)? Is it saving for college for your children? Is it slowly adding savings to that Hawaii trip fund (must…get…away…from…winter…)? Prioritizing involves sitting down with your budget and seeing what is important to you. Now, don’t get carried away thinking that you’re going to pay off your credit card while sitting in Hawaii checking out colleges for your children. There’s an element of realism to prioritizing. You obviously need to prioritize paying your electrical bill. Your car isn’t going to keep running without fuel (well, not until Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future is invented and it can run on trash). And, well, you do have to eat.
While that New Year’s Eve party had quite the price tag, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of money on food each month. Or maybe you do if your priority is to try new restaurants. Perhaps, though, you don’t have to spend as much. Cutting back on what you love to do is not easy, but it will help put you in a better financial position to spend your money on the things you truly love to do, even if that is eating out. Prioritizing sometimes means cutting back on the things we love to do so that we have money for the things we must do, like pay the power bill. Don’t let your priorities get away from you. Keep them realistic and attainable.
New Year, New Budget!
So what is the best way to prioritize? Start using YNAB, of course! :) Once you start using YNAB (especially since we’re starting a new year now), you can see where your money is going. After a certain amount of time (it differs for everyone), you hit that “A-ha!” moment where you realize just how much you’re spending on what. Don’t know what your prioritizes are? YNAB will be happy to answer that question for you by looking at reports of what you’ve spent over the past month, six months, year, or however long. At times, your priorities might be set for you because of tougher financial times (we’ve all been there), but I challenge you to really look at what’s important for you. Then resolve to set those as higher priorities in your budget.
Understand the Nature of Your Priorities
OK, let’s say you’ve done what the last paragraph said to do. Now what? You’ve set your priorities and know what you want to put your money towards. What’s next? First, you need to know that your priorities can and will change over time. What’s important to you today may not be as important to you tomorrow. Second, be flexible. Once you’ve set your priorities, there’s a good chance that life will get in the way of them. I would really like to go back to Hawaii (can you tell?), but our children’s parochial education is our priority right now. I’d love to watch Rogue One in the theater a couple more dozen times, but I also need to pay the mortgage. Be flexible and be, you guessed it, realistic.
YNAB’s reports will greatly help you determine where you’ve been financially, and where you’re poised to be at for the future. Resolve to be loyal to using YNAB throughout the year and let the budget do its job: keeping you aware of your finances and giving you the freedom of knowing where your money is going. With dedication to your budget, you’ll be able to make wise financial decisions that will help you keep your priorities in line.
So, Happy New Year and Happy Budgeting! I think I’m going to go against my last resolution and actually make a New Year’s Resolution this year: I’m going to resolve to get my priorities straight! Wow, that sounded incredibly cliché. Maybe coming up with a better catch phrase should be a higher priority than it apparently is…