If you’re looking for money smart New Year's Resolutions that will get you started off on the right track, read on for our top ten recommendations.
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The New Year is a perfect time to start over on a fresh slate with your finances. If you’re looking for money smart New Year’s Resolutions that will get you started off on the right track, read on for our top ten recommendations.

1. Create an Emergency Fund

Anyone who wants to be independent needs an emergency fund. You don’t want to rely on mom and dad forever, do you? We didn’t think so.

It’s okay to start off small and work your way up. A good starting point might be $250 or $500, depending on your usual monthly expenses. Save a bit each week and watch it add up.

2. Get a Side Hustle Going

Don’t like cutting expenses? Aren’t good at doing the whole “champagne tastes on a beer budget” thing? Then get started with a side hustle next year so you can earn more outside of your day job.

Figure out what unique skills you can offer, and pitch your services to online and local companies. Almost anyone can be a freelancer these days; you’d be surprised for what people will pay.

3. Track Your Spending

Not many people enjoy budgeting, but even if you don’t do that, you should at least track your spending. Knowing where your money is going is powerful, and it can also be the wake up call you need to begin saving more and spending less.

4. Work Toward a Raise

Has it been a while since you asked for a raise? Are you getting paid what you deserve? Figure out a way to work toward a raise, whether that means learning new skills to become more valuable to your team, or applying for a higher-paying job elsewhere.

5. Define Your Values

Gaining clarity on your values makes it easy to avoid spending on things that don’t matter to you. Make a list of the things that bring you lasting happiness and focus your spending there.

6. Enter the World of Investing

It’s time to stop being afraid of the stock market. If you have a 401(k) through your employer, that’s the easiest way to start saving for retirement and become familiar with investing. If not, you can easily open an IRA with a little research.

If you have a 401(k), find out if your employer offers matching contributions, as that’s free money for you.

7. Kiss Debt Goodbye

“I totally love being in debt!” said no one, ever. Make a debt repayment plan and work toward kicking those loans or credit card debt to the curb. The clock is ticking and interest is accruing. There’s no reason to let your debt grow.

8. Stick to Good Spending Habits

Do your best to identify your spending weaknesses, and then do your best to avoid them. This might mean avoiding the mall for a while or blocking access to certain sites where you can’t resist spending.

9. Improve Your Credit Score

Do you know what your credit score is? Before working on this resolution, do yourself a favor and find out what your score is and what your credit report looks like.

You can receive a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com, and you might be able to find your score on your credit card account if your creditor offers that perk. Otherwise, sign up for a free account at Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, or Quizzle for a close estimate of your FICO score. (Just ignore the product recommendations.)

10. Keep More Money in Your Wallet

Your overall goal should be keeping more money in your wallet. By developing better spending habits, creating an emergency fund, tracking your spending, paying off your debt, and earning more, you should be able to accomplish this goal.

These are all pieces of the personal finance puzzle that fit together to help sharpen your money management skills. Now go and resolve to make 2016 the year you solve the puzzle!

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Posted 12.30.2015 - 04:58 pm EST