Saving money ranks high among Americans' top financial resolutions going into 2019. If you want to end the year wealthier than you were when you began it, here are four essential moves to make over the next 12 months.
1. Automate your savings
It's hard to spend money you forget you have or don't get access to. If you really want to get richer this year, eliminate the urge to overspend by automating your savings. You can do so in a number of ways. If you don't have a fully loaded emergency fund, arrange for a portion of each paycheck you receive to land directly in a savings account. If you're good on emergency cash, sign up for your employer's 401(k). This way, you'll have money deducted automatically from each paycheck for retirement savings purposes. And if you don't have a 401(k), find an IRA that allows for automatic savings -- there are some out there that do. Either way, the key is to send your money into savings before you get a chance to use it.
2. Lower your taxes
The less money you lose to the IRS this year, the more you'll get to keep for yourself. And one of the most effective means of lowering your taxes is to contribute as much as possible to either an IRA or a 401(k). For the former, you can contribute up to $6,000 this year if you're under 50 or $7,000 if you're 50 or older. For the latter, you can contribute up to $19,000 this year if you're under 50 or $25,000 if you're 50 and over.
Of course, there is a host of tax deductions you can aim to capitalize on, like medical expenses and charitable contributions, to name a couple. But to claim those deductions, you'll need to itemize on your tax return, and that might not make sense now that the standard deduction is fairly generous. The beauty of retirement plan contributions is that you don't need to itemize to reap the tax benefits involved. Plus, in funding either an IRA or a 401(k), you're doing your part to save for the future.
3. Follow a budget
If you want your bank account balance to be higher in December than it is at present, you'll probably need to cut back on spending. But unless you really know where your money goes month after month, that could be a challenge. That's why budgeting is a crucial part of growing your personal wealth, so if you're not in the habit of doing it, make it part of your financial routine this year.
To create a budget, simply list your recurring monthly expenses, factor in one-time expenses that pop up throughout the year (like professional license renewals), and compare your total spending to your total earnings. From there, you'll see which expenses offer wiggle room so you can make cuts and which are far less flexible (like your rent, car payment, or student loans -- though you could always look at downsizing, getting rid of your vehicle, or refinancing your college debt to lower your payments).
4. Get a side hustle
If it seems like every other person you know has a side hustle these days, you're not crazy. An estimated 44 million Americans hold down a second job on top of a primary one, and if you're willing to make the effort, a side gig is a great way to drum up extra cash. Best of all, your side hustle doesn't have to feel like work. Rather, it can be something you enjoy doing in your spare time, whether it's caring for animals, taking photographs, or dabbling in web design.
Closing out 2019 with a higher level of savings is a respectable goal, and an attainable one at that. Follow these tips, and with any luck, you'll have something to be proud of by the time the current year comes to a close.