January marks the beginning of a new year and, as such, is a natural time for reflections.  What went well last year?  What didn’t?

The New Year is a great time for reflections and fresh starts in regards to finances, too.  When setting financial goals, try picking one area and set a small, measurable goal.   If your problem is overspending, pick one budget category and focus on that for one to two months.

Our family dines out — A LOT.  This used to drive me crazy, as it just seems like wasted money.  We are a busy family, though, and don’t always have the time or energy to cook.  We enjoy good food, and with two teenage boys, my family consumes an enormous amount of food.  Eating cereal for dinner just doesn’t work for us.  When we go to a restaurant, we sit together around one table and are focused on conversation with each other.  No devices, no distractions.  It is some of the best quality family time we have together.

Instead of trying to stop eating out, our family chose to watch what we spend a little more closely.  For a few months, we put cash in an envelope each pay period.  When the money was gone, we stopped eating out.  We became more conscious of our spending; we found ourselves going to less expensive restaurants, ordered one drink instead of two, and even tried using coupons!  We also cut down on the morning breakfast burrito runs and started taking snacks to our kids’ activities.  We still eat but have stopped the waste.

What we don’t do is take a lot of big trips.  We don’t live in a fancy house, either.

The key is to figure out what is important to you and focus on that.  You can do and/or have some things, but not everything.  If your family loves to travel, make that a priority.  If you enjoy having a beautiful home, what will you give up to make that happen?  Nice cars?  Designer clothes?   Spend your money in areas that are important to you and reflect your values.  Cut back in areas that really don’t matter.  If you do, you will be able to make progress without feeling deprived.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!