New Year's Resolutions are tricky beasts. You need to set a realistic goal you can stick to, but you need something that's really going to make a difference to your life and your finances in 2017. Fortunately, you don't need to agonise over your financial resolutions, because the experts have identified the ten top resolutions that could mean 2017 becomes the year you master your money.
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1. Dedicate time each month to your finances
Dominic Baliszewski, Director of Consumer Strategy at Momentum says: "Set aside a small amount of time each month to make one change to your money for the better. In just 30 minutes you could switch a utility a supplier, set yourself a budget or balance transfer a credit card. The savings that can be made from adding these up over the course of a year are huge!"
2. Make a budget and stick to it
Emma Huntington, Managing Director of Zurich FutureYou, recommends: "Most of us have a vague budget in mind, but it can be hard to stay completely on top of daily outgoings as small expenses start to add up. The start of the year is the perfect opportunity to create a budget sheet to calculate your monthly outgoings and track your spending. Having this simple overview will help you monitor where you can make cutbacks and how much more you can save."
Baliszewski suggests: "Use your phone or a calendar to prompt you to pay bills on time. Forgetting to pay could result in you paying more in charges. Worst of all, missing a payment could put a mark on your credit record, which is likely to impact you later down the line. Switching from paper bills to direct debit where possible will mean you don't miss payments and will also often get you an extra discount."
4. Plan ahead for bigger expenses
Jamie Smith-Thompson, managing director of pensions advice specialist Portafina, says: "Some expenses in life are unexpected, but there are others that we know are coming. Christmas happens at the same time every single year, as do birthdays, anniversaries and even renewal dates for car tax and insurance. With a full 12 months' notice on these, why do we wait until the last minute and then panic about the expenditure?
"To break the cycle, spread the cost over the year. Decide how much everything may cost you across the year, and divide that number by 12 to see how much you need to set aside each month. This way you will always have the money ready, removing one of the main temptations to spend on a credit card. It's far better to set aside £50 a month for everything, than have to raid the savings for several hundreds of pounds when times are tight!"
5. Do a direct debit check-up
Huntington asks: "Do you monitor your account and direct debit outgoings? If not, you're not alone. Millions wrongly let money drip from their bank accounts for things they don't really want, such as unused gym membership. Make sure you're keeping track and cancel subscriptions or membership you no longer want or use."
6. Pay in cash and save the change
Huntington says: "Like most, watching your cash grow will encourage you to save even more. Try paying for items in cash and save your change - you'd be surprised at how much you can save over the year when it's building up right in front of you. If you wanted to go one step further, set yourself a weekly challenge. Start by withdrawing £20-£30 on a Monday morning and ensure it lasts the full working week. Having this as a goal will encourage you to spend a little less, and you'll have more money at the end of the month to put aside for the long-term."
7. Put money away straight after you have been paid
Smith-Thompson highlights: "Many people try and save at the end of the month, hoping there is enough left after bills and spending. The problem is there usually isn't money left – when we consider it available, it will be spent! To overcome this, pay yourself first.
"You can put the money into an easy-access account so you can use some of it if absolutely necessary, until you adjust to having less to spend. To really make the most of savings you will want to get the highest interest rate possible and not lose the growth to tax, so high interest accounts and ISAs should be considered."
8. Join your company pension scheme
Patrick Connolly, a Certified Financial Planner at Chase de Vere, says: "If you have access to a company pension scheme then you should probably join it. Find out what pension benefits your employer offers and also how much they will invest on your behalf. Look to see if you can increase how much you pay into your pension and also whether, if you do, your employer will increase what they pay in for you."
9. Pay off your mortgage
Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief at money.co.uk reveals: "My aim is to pay off my mortgage in five years, so I'm going to be pouring every spare penny into my Offset account." Given the fact that interest rates are at historic lows, this is a great opportunity to overpay as much as possible in order to reduce the debt - which can slice thousands of pounds off the cost of our mortgage over its lifetime. It's also worth reviewing your deal to make sure it is competitive, and whether you have the freedom to switch without significant penalties.
10. Make a will
James Antoniou, Head of Wills, for Co-op Legal Services comments: "There's currently a worrying gap in end of life planning in the UK, potentially leaving millions of relatives and families facing additional stress and confusion whilst grieving for the loss of a loved one.
"In order to ensure that people's wishes are clear about who they want to benefit from their estate, this should be the year that they take the right advice and put an effective will in place."