When others are creating New Year’s resolutions, we’re creating New Year’s plans. By creating a list of the major expenses that we expect to have in the coming year, we can adjust our budget accordingly.
The first consideration is the emergency cash reserve. You must ensure that you have a minimum of three months of living expenses saved. If you are not already there, this should be your number one item on the plan.
Secondly, you should be setting aside 15% of your income for retirement. Begin by fully funding your IRA ($5,000 for each wage-earner/spouse in 2009), then contribute as much as you can in the Thrift Savings Plan. These moves shelter as much of your income from future or current taxes, and allow your money to grow tax free or deferred.
Third, list any major purchases you have to make in the upcoming year. Will you be buying a house, a car, paying school bills, or taking a major vacation next year? Set your savings goal now and then work that into your budget.
Finally, update your monthly budget to reflect your military pay increase for the new year, your required savings identified above, and then any changes to your regular living allowances. You’ll then be able to further adjust your plan to ensure that it’s realistic and attainable.
Good luck and best of health in the New Year!