Make your budget resolution a reality

- Between food, fun, presents, and travel, you may be feeling the post-holiday wallet crunch.

If you made a resolution to wrangle your budget in 2018, there are some surprisingly simple ways to make your bank account look better.

In 2017, less than half of Americans budgeted and closely tracked their spending, according to the latest consumer financial literacy survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

So your budget resolution No. 1 should be to actually make a budget.

Sit down and break it down. Track your expenses and your goals for the long and short-term.

During this process, prepare for problems. Set money aside in an emergency fund so if something happens, your budget isn’t busted.

The second resolution item is to bust bad debt.

Prioritize paying down high-interest debt like credit cards and student loans.

To do that, start saving. Financial advisors say to pay yourself first.           

“Take it out of your paycheck before it comes home,” suggests Financial Adviser Robert Harwood of Harwood Financial Group. “Do the automatic contribution to 401ks [and] 403bs.”

This will help you take advantage of tax breaks. Retirement plans and college savings plans allow money to grow, tax-deferred.

“That little amount you’re saving is going to compound over time and inside a retirement plan it’s growing, tax-deferred. There's no tax on that when you take the money out [which is] really advantageous for you to put a little money in and watch it grow over time,” Harwood explained.

Lastly, don't forget to factor in fun. We all want to be responsible when it comes to saving and investing and cutting back on unnecessary expenses, but if you cut out everything fun, you might lose the drive to save at all.

The bottom line: Don't make a resolution that’s unrealistic and always keep your goals in mind.

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