Five New Year's resolutions to get your finances in fighting shape

A new year is about new beginnings.

It's about looking forward and setting ourselves up for a better us.

Yes, it's time to dust off your vision board, dig up your goals list and step over the remnants of last year's resolutions.

Finance is a common topic for New Year's resolutions, and rightfully so.

Resolutions are about forward planning, and when it comes to money there is nothing more powerful than planning.

But what is a good resolution to aim for in 2018? Here's some ideas to get you started.

Build a budget

Knowing how much you're spending is the first step to building your wealth. Don't forget to include the discretionary spending in your budget. Don't just add in the big bills such as rates or electricity, include those breakfast on Saturdays, clothes shopping, the gift for kids or grandkids. If you have weekly drinks with work colleagues, then include it. Get a good idea of what you spend both in big costs and discretionary spending so you know how to manage your cash flow on a monthly basis.

Decrease your debts

If you've got credit card debt or personal loans, these should be your priority. Stop making just the minimum repayments and start a plan to pay these off. If you don't have much excess after your budget, start small. Pay just a little more than the minimum each repayment period. If you can make it work, up the amount to pay it off faster. Either way, getting rid of these high interest loans can save you thousands in the long term.

Start saving

Once you know how much you're spending, you can put your excess pay straight into savings. Reserve this money solely for savings and don't touch it except in emergencies. You can start putting this to work by investing it into more growth-style investments such as shares. Shares don't require much starting capital and you can even invest through a managed fund to reduce your personal effort. The most important thing to remember with investments is that the earlier you start, generally the better off you'll be.

Be savvy with your superannuation

Superannuation is a fantastic savings tool and deserves its own mention. Not only can you get tax benefits via salary sacrificing, there are plenty of other incentives such as the Government Co-Contribution and Low Income Super Contribution, which can greatly boost the amount you'll receive come retirement. Consolidating your super into one fund is another step that will generally save on administration fees and add up in the long run but do all your checks before rolling as you may have insurance attached to your fund.

Increase your income

The more you earn, the more you can save. If you really want to get ahead, educate yourself to take advantage of new opportunities. Bettering yourself can lead to new job opportunities inside and outside of your existing work. Taking a second job is another way to increase your earning. Thanks to the gig economy, there's plenty of online platforms allowing you to provide simple services direct to customers at your own pace.

Make 2018 a great year for your finances. Even if you only try one or two of the above resolutions, you'll still be setting yourself up for a better future.

As with all resolutions though, the key is to stick to them.

Don't go too hard out of the gate, stay the course and you'll be able to look back at this point and see the difference you've made.

Olivia Maragna is the co-founder of Aspire Retire Financial Services and is a respected and independent financial expert. Olivia's advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.

You can follow Olivia on Facebook or Twitter at https://twitter.com/oliviamaragna

This story Five New Year's resolutions to get your finances in fighting shape first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.