At the Boxing Day sales last week, shops and carparks were packed and cashiers were run off their feet. Families everywhere seemed to be loaded up with bags of shopping - and the Herald even reported that people could have saved more than $1000 by taking advantage of the discounts.

But if you are one of the many people who overindulged at the sales and are starting the year with a bit less in your pocket, it's not too late to sort your finances.

Pay off debt: The first thing you'll need to do is find out the interest rates that are being charged on all your debts. Rank them in order so you pay off the most expensive first, while maintaining minimum payments on the rest. For example, if you have old credit card debt that is being charged 20 per cent interest, put all your available money into paying that off, then switch to cheaper debt such as a car loan. Paying interest on debt is wasted money - if you have $1000 on a credit card and pay it off at $50 a month, you'll pay $198 in interest before it's gone.

If you increase that to $100 a month, you'll only pay $92 in interest.


Start saving: Once you've got your debts under control, start saving so that you do not need to borrow next time you want to go shopping. You'll be surprised how quickly even a small amount of savings adds up. Just $50 a week can add up to more than $8000 in three years, depending on where you invest the money.

Reward yourself: One of the biggest problems with making money resolutions is that it can seem like a lot of hard work, and so much sacrifice. I think it's really important to reward yourself regularly, so that you don't go mad. When you've paid off half your credit card balance, treat yourself to a night out with your partner, or when you've reached a savings goal, buy something for yourself.

This should help keep you on track.
Upskill: It's easier to deal with money when you have a bit more of it. Are there ways that you could make yourself more employable, or likely to command a better salary? Look out for opportunities to take extra courses this year that could translate into a bigger pay cheque.

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander has said many times that although he's had properties increase in price and other investments, his best financial decision has been to work hard and get a good education.

Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.