Wishy washy New Year's resolutions get you nowhere when it comes to your money. You'd like to spend less, no doubt.
Our caveman brains haven't evolved to handle our money. You won't get anywhere until you tame the six inches of grey stuff between your ears. It's way more valuable than the folding stuff.
Resolutions fail. So set yourself some written goals. Here are 10 ideas from Herald on Sunday money expert Diana Clement to get you started:
1. Get your head read
Yep, examine your relationship with money.
A huge amount of what we spend is unnecessary and sometimes even sabotages our future.
The people who get most offended by such a statement are usually the most deluded ones.
Yes we need and also sometimes deserve certain things.
But buying fewer goods can make our lives happier. Less spending means less stuff to dust, for one.
If you're paying interest on those unnecessary purchases you're racking up a whole lot of unnecessary stress.
2. Stop telling yourself porkies
We all wilfully delude ourselves with all manner of financial porkies that we then try to justify.
The classic porkie is the family food bill.
We throw all sorts of non-food nice-to-have items such as ALCOHOL in our trolleys and lump it in with "groceries" in our minds.
There's nothing wrong with the nice-to-haves.
But just don't email me and claim it's impossible to live without spending $250 or $400 or whatever at the supermarket.
I look in other people's trolleys and I see what you buy.
I do it myself, what's more.
The supermarket isn't the only source of financial porkies.
Some common wilful delusions include: "I'll start saving after ..." "I don't earn enough money to save", "I don't need to save, NZ Super will support me", "I'm going to win the lottery", "I can't have a social life if I budget", "it's okay to spend a bonus instead of paying off debt", "everyone's in debt, aren't they?"
Liar, liar pants on fire.
3.Don't confirm your biases
Neuroeconomists have found that we're a whole lot less rational than previously thought.
We have many biases that lead us to make illogical decisions. We then expend energy trying to rationalise the unacceptable.
The confirmation bias is one of the most common heuristic biases studied by scientists.
How it works is that we think X,Y or Z would be a good move for our finances.
Then we line up convenient "facts" to back it up.
Then we argue black and blue that it's a logical decision.
It's best instead to assume that each and every one of your financial decisions is flawed and analyse conflicting opinions.
4.Suck up a budget
Budgeting rates right up there with having your teeth drilled.
Yet budgets don't have to involve a complex spreadsheet. Start by calling it a "spending plan".
Check if your bank has a budgeting app then go in and categorise your past three months' spending under headings such as "groceries" and "petrol".
Don't forget to add pro rata amounts for annual costs such as insurance and school stationery/uniforms.
Once you have worked out how much you spend in each category, divide them by three for a monthly total and "bingo" you have your starting budget.
From there all you need to do is analyse your real spend each month.
One or more of your original spending totals will no doubt be shocking to you.
That's the one to work on.
Try gaming your own budget to gradually reduce unnecessary spending.
Take your budget to the dining table for open family discussions and make sure you build in some "me money" or "his and hers" money so that you have some pleasures to look forward to.
Otherwise you are setting yourself up to fail.
5.Go on a diet
That is: a money diet.
Set yourself a calorie (spending) limit and track it in a diet app (budget).
Going on a real diet can help as well.
Cutting out booze and sticking to basic foods and vegetables instead of fancy packaged food will save money and make you feel better physically.
If you don't know what to do with chickpeas, which are really good for you, or in-season asparagus, then search them on Bite.co.nz.
What's more, fags make you poor. Call Quitline. People can and do give up smoking and all manner of other nasty habits. Cutting out a packet of fags a day will add thousands of dollars back into your annual budget.
6.Kick the debt habit
Debt is dumb as the folks at sorted.org.nz say.
At least, consumer debt is and that includes the kitchen, car and credit card debts consolidated onto the mortgage .
If repaying your debt is daunting, then think about the Chinese proverb: "a terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth".
Replace your credit cards with debit cards.
Debt doesn't have to be the norm and not everyone "carries a balance".
7.Be a card tart
Card tarting involves switching your credit card debt to a new provider every six months or so to get zero or low interest.
If you keep your eye on the ball and your credit on the move, you can pay it off without handing over too much of your hard-earned money as interest.
Card tarting gives you breathing space, but only really works if you stop shopping.
New spending incurs interest and this often catches Kiwis out.
While you're in the mode, shop around for your internet, mobile phone, electricity, insurance and other utilities.
You can save heaps by doing this annually.
8.Crank up your KiwiSaver
If you're not in KiwiSaver, join. If you're in, review.
Excuses such as "I don't trust the Government with my money" rank alongside theories such as "Elvis is alive", "the moon landings were faked" and "the Holocaust didn't happen".
And if you think you can't afford it, give up smoking, cut down the booze, and eat fewer takeaway meals.
Frankly, there isn't a Kiwi alive who doesn't flush money down the toilet.
I cringe at the people, like an intelligent friend of mine who after eight years hadn't enrolled her children, who missed out on $1000 and investment growth each.
If you're in KiwiSaver already, think about the fund you're in and make sure you get the Big Five Hundy.
The annual $521 tax credit on KiwiSaver invested in a growth fund will add up to $50,000 over 40 years.
That's free money, folks.
Growth funds may have speed wobbles, but over a decade or more the overall growth is much higher than balanced or conservative funds.
If you don't need the money in the near future for your first home or retirement and can stomach a few ups and downs then take the plunge into growth.
9.Get paid what you're worth
Wages and salary are by far most people's greatest wealth.
Whether you're employed or self-employed, it's too easy to earn far less than you're worth.
Ask for a pay rise or go job hunting.
Google the words: "how to get a pay rise" and you'll find articles packed full of good ideas.
There are ways to boost your existing role by getting additional training or simply reinventing yourself as someone set to climb to the next career level.
While you're at it, make sure your income is insured with income protection insurance to cover your outgoings if you fall ill.
10.Keep good records
Self-employed people in particular and those with rental properties often pay more than they need to in tax and get hit with unnecessary fines and interest from the IRD.
Good record keeping makes it easier to do your annual returns as well.
Buy an expander wallet for paper work, schedule time once a month to catch up with financial matters and if necessary learn how to use spreadsheets or personal finance software such as pocketsmith.com or whostolemymoney.com.
Useful apps include Wally and YNAB.
Easier ways and means
We're all mortal and even personal finance journalists misuse their money from time to time. You'll have more chance of success if you:
• Try and make one main resolution that you stick to
• Get a buddy - your other half or a friend - to do it with you
• Set deadlines
• Break your resolutions into bite-size chunks such as saving $1000 before Easter, not $5000 for the year
• Give yourself fixed rewards and work towards them. "When I've paid this bill off I will celebrate by (fill in your own modest pleasure)."
• Write notes in your diary to review your progress from time to time
• Use an electronic To Do list or good old fashioned paper one
• Programme your brain with mantras such as "do I really need this?" and "am I telling myself the truth?"