So 2015 is now properly on its head, and most of us will undoubtedly spend some time reflecting on the good, the bad, the ugly and the fantastic of the past year. Though many will also attempt new year’s resolutions of some kind, others find that resolutions are a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure.

Keep your financial new year’s resolutions practical

The trick with resolutions, however, is to keep it practical, realistic and set proper goals. So we’ve rounded up some financial new year’s resolutions to help you along your road to financial freedom in 2016.

Make small changes

The reason most resolutions fail is that we tend to become rather philosophical and poetic about the whole affair. It’s important to remember, though, that your mind simply cannot compute abstract goals. Saying you want to ‘get rid of debt’ or ‘reach financial freedom’ in the next year will get you absolutely nowhere. Instead, break your greater goal down into chunks, with daily, weekly and monthly targets.

Settle debt incrementally

Target at least one account every four months which you would like to settle in full and then close it. Most credit providers are quite approachable when it comes to making payment arrangements and will accommodate you if you’re forthright with them – and your settlement balance may also be lower if you choose a shorter term. Unless you are in arrears, payment arrangements will also not reflect negatively at the credit bureau. Discuss your debt with them and, if necessary, you may even consider some debt consolidation – make sure, however, that you use a reputable financial services provider, else you may end up paying off your debt at a higher interest rate and over a longer term. If you stick to your four-month goal you could have settled three accounts by this time next year.

The trick of buying bulk

Buying bulk could save you a lot, but only if you do it right. From 2016, resolve to make a list of things you really need and use throughout the year (this could include cleaning materials, stationery, pet food or toiletries). Scout around for the best prices and purchase these products in bulk. Make sure to create a space in your house where you can stow these bulk products else you may actually end up losing them. Also take care to continue using the same amounts of these products as you would had you not bought in bulk. People often end up being wasteful with their supplies if they know that there’s more where it came from.

Inaccessible is good

If you do want to keep a credit card, be sure to cut up your card and cancel your online banking for at least one of these accounts. In doing so, you will maintain a good credit rating for this ‘unused’ account (provided it is paid off, or you make frequent payments), and you’ll also have an emergency cash supply in case you need it in the future. Alternatively, stow your money in a 32-day account or investment which offer higher yields and are less accessible than your normal savings or cheque accounts.

Spread your risk

Not putting your eggs in one basket is really a good thing when it comes to finance. Unfortunately, financial markets can be quite volatile and individuals with all their money in one place often suffer as a result of mismanagement or economic recession (as was clear with the African Bank saga). Invest some of your money offshore and keep some of your accounts with different providers to safeguard your funds for the future.

Transfer your pension to your new home

Of course, your pension is usually the one thing you really don’t want to touch, but if you’ve emigrated from South Africa, transferring your pension or provident fund offshore makes a lot of sense. Not only will you be earning interest in a foreign (and probably stronger) currency, but you could also benefit from pension incentives of your new country which could see you rewarded with a nice bonus on the current value of your pension.

Consider financial emigration

Financial emigration sounds quite scary to most people. They hear about blocked bank accounts and run for the hills, because it does sound quite daunting. But financial emigration could hold significant value for you as South African expat. It will allow you to move money out of the country much easier and also allows you to transfer the proceeds of your retirement annuities abroad. In addition to these benefits, financial emigration is the best route for South Africans abroad who stand to gain funds as beneficiaries of South African inheritance or trusts.

Pay upfront

Creditors will often offer a discount for upfront payments. You can get significant discounts on things like medical procedures, building projects and educational fees if you pay in advance and save thousands of rands this way. In the short term you may wonder whether you can afford this, but if you treat all your payments this way, the habit can yield significant long-term benefits to you.

Bartering is back

Bartering has been making a comeback of late. There have been stories in the news about hairdressers exchanging cuts for car services and gardeners offering their services for food. In fact, although the world is greatly focused on monetary exchange, bartering simply makes sense – irrespective of where you live or how much money you earn. People may look at you strangely when you suggest service-for-service exchange, but once the idea catches on, you may find that you inadvertently empower yourself and your community this way as well.

Invest in your health

Of course, a list of resolutions cannot be complete without some mention of wellness. And if you look at it from a financial perspective it simply makes sense. Expenses as a result of bad health or lifestyle choices can cost in the thousands. In fact, health professionals all agree that preventative care is far better than diagnostic medical care.

A healthy lifestyle has been shown to significantly improve or prevent respiratory infections, digestive ailments, cancer, heart disease, mental health disorders, reproductive disorders and diabetes. Remember, in addition to a proper diet and exercise, a healthy lifestyle includes taking care of your emotional wellbeing and stress. Be sure to schedule some downtime for yourself throughout the year to see to it that 2016 is both emotionally and physically rewarding. Join a gym or fitness programme, plant a garden so you can eat fresh veg every day and try to keep a positive attitude – it’s the best way to kick off your new year!

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