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financial freedom

It is time to put the nose to the grindstone at work. The next few months are the perfect time to reset your wallet and focus on the long-term financial goals that you want ahead.

I believe the best personal finance tips are the ones that are habit forming.  Saving a few dollars a day because I brown-bagged my lunch is a lot easier than skipping out on a weekend’s worth of activities. In that vein of thinking, today’s advice will focus on better spending habits. Tomorrow’s post will highlight general ideas on growing side-businesses, why it is important to stay in school and saving for retirement.

In honor of this new leaf, here are some personal finance habits to set you up for success this season, and into the future.

“The biggest piece of advice is that old adage of ‘save early and save often.’ We all know we are supposed to do it, it’s like drinking water and yet it is so hard for people to do,” says Abby McCloskey, an economist who previously was the program director of economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on financial institutions and social mobility. “I find it is easier to do if I have a general rule of budgeting to follow. If you set aside $100, $200 a month and get into a routine of doing it, that, with compound interest will turn into something beyond what it actually is.”

Personal finance blogger LaTisha Styles takes it one step further and recommends setting up a monthly automatic transfer from your checking account into your savings.

It makes savings automatic and turns it into a habit,” says LaTisha, whose site Young Finances has many saving tips. She suggests starting off with a 10% transfer and then trying to increase it to 20%. The millennial slowly worked her way up until she was saving 50% of each paycheck every month.

 This all sounds great but if you are living paycheck to paycheck, putting aside savings every month may seem like a stretch. Don’t be discouraged. Take a look at where your dollars are going, and chances are you can save some moolah.

“One of the most important things we ever did was start tracking our spending and income. I know so many people who make plenty of money and pay the bills and everything is fine but they really don’t know how much they are paying for different categories like eating out, groceries, utilities, hobbies,” says Holly Johnson, the frugal blogger behind Club Thrifty.  When she and her husband began tracking their spending, they were shocked to find out that they were spending over $1,000 a month on groceries for themselves and their baby.

Tracking your spending does not necessarily require a notebook and pen. Apps like Mint, Level Money or CashTrails can make it easier.