Your financial New Year’s resolutions may have already been made, but that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about what you want to achieve in 2018 and beyond. Are you thinking about buying a home soon? A car? Are you planning on giving your living room a makeover just in time for the Super Bowl?
If you have expensive items on your list for this year, don’t panic – budgeting and savings tools can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with making these bigger purchases.
We know big goals can often carry big price tags, so whether you’re planning to buy a home or treat yourself to a much-needed vacation, here is some advice on how to approach those big-ticket buys.
Plan, plan, plan: Your resolutions may have already been set, but looking at your financial goals each year should become more of a monthly (or weekly) habit than a resolution. If you’re looking to book a big vacation this year, plan it months ahead, so you can track flights and hotel rates and get the best deal possible before prices jump.
The same goes for any big expenses – if you can give yourself enough time to prepare (sometimes even years if it’s a house or a car), the burden and stress won’t feel as heavy. Decide now what your goals are and what you want to budget each month, then start stashing away that amount from each paycheck. Putting it in a separate account that you don’t touch often can help you resist the temptation to dip into your savings throughout the year.
Sleuth the sales: When purchasing expensive items, it’s important to look around for the best deal. There’s almost always a way to avoid paying full price, especially when it comes to booking a resort stay, or buying furniture and home appliances. Markups are typically high, and you shouldn’t pay full price. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but you’ll want to do your due diligence and research what else is out there before you purchase.
It also goes a long way to study the best times to buy certain products, such as mattress sales on Memorial Day and furniture deals in July, and always check for a coupon. If you don’t see a price you like, try negotiating or wait for something better to come along.
Get creative with savings: While one big savings account is important, if you really want to focus on saving for a house or car, start a savings account specifically for that purchase. It can help to separate your savings, so you can have a clear picture of where you stand.
Another way to stick to your savings is to automate them. Plan to have the money you want to save automatically deducted from your paycheck or checking account each month.
Use credit for good: Use your credit card responsibly, not only to build your credit, but to earn rewards on purchases. This isn’t the best strategy for everyone, especially for those already in debt. But if you’re able to pay off credit cards in full each month, using rewards cards can be a great way to save for a vacation or get cash back. With travel rewards credit cards, you can earn miles or points to redeem for the vacation you’ve been dying to book, and other cards can be redeemed for points toward gift cards to help purchase a new computer for the family, or a washer or dryer. Keep in mind that you don’t want to open too many cards at once, and you need to make sure to use them responsibly for this strategy to work in your favor.
Making big purchases is possible. Check in with your goals and be realistic with your timing. Setting a reasonable deadline is important, so you feel like these major purchases are within reach. Big-ticket buys can be scary to tackle, but with some planning, dedication and research, these purchases can be all the fun you hoped for and more.