So you’re pumped and ready to get your finances in order. That might mean you’re hoping to hit some major goals—like paying off debt, saving for a big purchase, or getting your retirement investments in a good spot. It could also mean you’re just tired of how much inflation’s got things feeling tighter than a pair of baby shoes on Sasquatch.
Either way, if you aren’t where you want to be with your finances right now—something’s got to change. And this list of 12 things to do differently with your money in 2024 can help.
1. Get on a budget.
It all begins with a budget—a plan for your money. Budgeting can get a bad rap because people think it takes away your freedom. But budgeting is seriously so empowering. And that’s because when you budget, you are telling your money where to go so you can stop wondering where it went.
If you haven’t been doing this in the past, make a budget. Pronto. It’s the first step to taking control and being intentional with your money.
2. Budget for inflation.
When people budget, they say they feel like they got a raise. And with inflation, that “raise” is something we could all use, right?
Also, budgeting is how you create margin with your money. Because when you plan out where your money’s going, you’ll easily see the spots to cut or trim back. And if you decide you need to get a side hustle to help balance the rising costs, budgeting is how you’ll make sure that extra income gets used for what you need—instead of accidentally getting spent on checkout-line candy bars or one-click impulse buys.
Yes, inflation is tough. But you (and your budget) are tougher! So, adjust that budget for inflation, and you can stand up to those rising costs.
3. Don’t wait on student loan forgiveness.
If 2023 taught us anything, it’s that you can’t count on the government to forgive your student loans. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, make forgiveness your job!
Student loans are a heavy weight to carry. They’ll slow you down from truly moving on with your life. Plus, you signed a paper saying this was a debt you’d pay off. Be done with it. Make this the year you pay off your student loans once and for all!
4. Pay off your debt!
While you’re at it—pay off all your debt! Debt keeps you stuck in the past and robs you of so many opportunities, right now and in the future.
Don’t know where to start? Use the debt snowball method to knock those payments out of your life. One. By. One. You’ll start with the smallest and work your way to the largest: building momentum and motivation with each stamp of “paid in full.”
Listen: The freedom that comes from being debt-free is like nothing else. Is it weird? Yeah. Is it worth it? Heck yeah.
5. Beware of buy now, pay later.
These buy now, pay later (BNPL) scams are everywhere. Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm—the list of companies pushing these digital installment payment plans keeps growing. And they all have one goal in common: jumping on the trend to entice people to buy stuff they can’t afford with “easy payments.” It may sound like just the thing to help you deal with inflation. But it’s really just a trap that keeps you stuck in debt. Nope. Gross. Nope.
Listen to these stats from a Ramsey Solutions study:
- A majority (60%) of buy now, pay later users had trouble managing their payments.
- Two-thirds admitted they were still paying for an item they bought with a BNPL service even after they no longer owned the item.
Again we say: Nope. Gross. Nope. When it comes to BNPL scams, stay far, far away.
6. Pay attention to your online spending habits.
Here’s another important thing to do differently with your money: Pay attention to your online spending habits.
Budget every dollar, every month. Get started with EveryDollar!
Most (two-thirds) of impulse shopping happens in our beds, online, on our smartphones.1 The ability to buy quickly and have it at your door pronto is like having a genie in a bottle . . . who drains your bank account with every click of that “buy now” button.
How can you keep yourself in check here? Try one (or all) of these:
- Delete shopping apps from your phone.
- Think about a purchase overnight before buying.
- Clear your cookies on your browser so you get fewer targeted ads.
- Check in with your budgeting accountability partner.
We aren’t against online shopping. It can save you time and money when you do it well! But it’s so easy to not do it well. So, pull out the budget, review your online spending habits, and make it as difficult as possible for you to overspend online.
P.S. We all know that reviewing and changing your budget is way easier with a budgeting app. And we happen to have one called EveryDollar. And it’s free.
7. Make sure your emergency fund is fully funded.
This one depends on what Baby Step you’re on. What’s that? The 7 Baby Steps are the proven, guided path to save money, pay off debt, and build wealth. And getting your emergency fund set up is part of that path!
If you’ve got debt, you need just $1,000 in savings as a starter emergency fund (Baby Step 1). Then attack that debt with the debt snowball method we mentioned earlier. (That’s Baby Step 2.) Then build up a fully funded emergency fund (aka Baby Step 3).
How much money should you save up? Three to six months of expenses. Why is an emergency fund important? This safety net in life gives you a ton of peace and comfort knowing you’ve got cash in the bank to pay for the emergencies that are bound to happen.
So, if you’re ready to finish up Baby Step 3, get at it! And if you had to dip into your emergency fund last year, rebuild it!
8. Don’t stop investing.
Speaking of Baby Steps, saving for retirement is what comes after you’ve built up that fully funded emergency fund. If you’re there right now, don’t stop investing just because the market is down. Retirement investing is a long game. It’s a lot like a roller coaster—and you know what happens when people jump off a roller coaster in the middle of the ride? They. Get. Hurt.
Ride the ups and the downs. Keep investing.
9. Don’t sit on the sidelines if you’re ready to buy a home.
If you’re ready to buy a home, buy a home—don’t wait on rates or prices to drop. But how do you know if you’re ready?
- You’re debt-free with a fully funded emergency fund.
- You’ve got a proper down payment. Ideally, you should put down 20% or more to avoid PMI. But if you’re a first-time home buyer, 5–10% is okay too.
- You qualify for a 15-year fixed-rate conventional loan (no VA or FHA loans).
- You can stick to spending 25% or less of your monthly income on house payments (including mortgage, HOA, taxes, insurance and PMI).
- You can pay the closing costs and moving expenses without stealing from your down payment.
- You plan to stay there more than a year or two.
10. If you’re married, get a joint checking account.
When you get married, the two become one. And that includes your finances! This means living with an ours attitude, not dividing income and bills and payments. All that division with your money can create division in your marriage. But when you work as a team—you’ll win faster financially.
Communicate. Combine dreams. Go toward the same main goals. Together!
If you’ve been dragging your feet to combine your checking accounts—this is the time to do it.
11. Have a bigger why for your money.
What’s your why for doing things differently with your money this year? If you haven’t thought of that yet, think it through now. Write it down. Do you want to budget so that you can take control and have confidence with your money? Do you want to be debt-free so that the weight of your monthly payments doesn’t keep you up at night anymore?
One ultimate, big-picture why of managing your money well is to build wealth so that you can be outrageously generous. And it’s so important, we have a whole lesson on it in Financial Peace University (our course on how to walk those Baby Steps: aka save for emergencies, pay off debt fast, spend wisely, and build lasting wealth).
Right now, that moment might seem so far away it isn’t even imaginable. But take a second to imagine it! The bills might be stacked high right now. Inflation might have you feeling like a tightrope walker with 50-ton weights on your ankles.
But you will survive. And you will thrive. Write down a why for now—and dream big about your why for the future as well.
12. Have hope for your money.
Speaking of thriving, take heart. Have hope. The past few years have been hard. If you’re discouraged right now, you aren’t alone. But you also aren’t stuck.
It is so easy to get discouraged when you feel like your money isn’t getting you as far as it used to, or like you aren’t reaching your goals as quickly as you planned.
One characteristic we see all the time in the people who win with their money? They believe they can. So hear this: You can!
Work through these 12 things to do differently with your money, and you can make a true difference with your finances—and your future.
Want More Money Tips—And Tons of Hope?
Learn how to walk the Baby Steps, spend wisely, buy a home that’s a blessing (not a burden), and more in Financial Peace University (FPU). Plus, there’s a solid dose of hope in every lesson.Start FPU