New Year’s Traditions to Improve Your Finances

New Year's Traditions to Improve Your Personal Finances

The New Year is nearly upon us. For many of us that means closing out the books and wrapping up our affairs for the fiscal year. If you are like me, then you may be creating New Year’s Resolutions to help you set financial goals for the coming year. However, this holiday is also steeped in rich cultural traditions and superstitions. Many of the customs are thought to bring luck and good fortune. This year, why not give into a little whimsy and observe some of the New Year’s traditions to improve your finances?

New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions to Improve Your Finances

1. Start the New Year with money in your wallet.

If you have made a New Year’s Resolution to save more money next year, this tradition can help get you started on the right foot. According to tradition, you should greet the New Year with cash in your wallet. This signifies that you will receive a steady flow of income over the next 12 months. Some go so far as to see that every wallet in the house has money in it to bring prosperity to the entire household.

Even if you do not give credence to the superstitions, paying for things with cash makes it easier to stick to a budget. It helps you track your spending with each visit to the ATM to withdraw money. Furthermore, it helps you avoid using credit cards and accruing more debt. This tradition sets a great precedent for the year ahead in helping you reach your savings goal.

2. Clear your debts before the New Year.

Although this custom is more closely associated with the Lunar New Year, it is still an excellent example of New Year’s traditions to improve your finances. In many Asian countries, people prioritize paying debts among family and friends. The tradition holds that if debts are not paid before the arrival of the New Year, then the debt will continue for life.

Becoming debt-free is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. However, paying off all your outstanding debts will likely require a longer time line. So, do not let these New Year’s traditions bring additional stress if you are unable to pay off all your debt right away. Simply making debt repayment one of your primary financial goals can help you improve your finances.

3. Eating certain foods will bring you good luck and fortune during the New Year.

Several cultures around the world believe that have traditions and superstitions relating to food. For example, eating particular foods or dishes on New Year’s Eve will bring you good fortune and wealth in the coming year.

One widely known tradition comes from Spain and other Latin America countries. When the clock strikes 12:00, you must eat 12 grapes, one with each stroke of the hour. This is to ensure good luck and prosperity during the year ahead. In many Baltic and Scandinavian countries, pickled herring is the dish of choice. In Greece, they have added excitement to see who will receive additional blessings and find the coin baked into a loaf of bread. During Lunar New Year feasts, it is more important to leave meat on the bone and food on your plate to ensure abundance for the next year. Another tradition that is a little closer to home comes from the American South. They eat collard greens and black eyed peas simply because they resemble money and symbolize good fortune.

While many people consider such practices to be silly or superstitious, there is no harm to indulge during some of the fun and unusual customs to bring you good luck and wealth. And honestly, who couldn’t use a little extra luck?

4. Offer gifts to give blessings of wealth and good fortune.

Many people offer gifts and blessings during important festivals and gatherings. So, it makes sense that the custom also extends to the New Year’s celebrations. For example, the Scottish New Year, known as Hogmanay to the locals, it is the highlight of the holiday season.

In a ritual known as “first footing,” the first visitor to cross the threshold your home after midnight should be a dark-haired man bearing gifts. The gifts usually include symbolic items like coal, salt, shortbread, black bun, or a dram of whisky. They represent essential household items needed to sustain you in addition to bringing luck and prosperity in the New Year.

Although many Scots are still enthusiastic participants in these celebrations, most people view it as an amusing superstition. However, the tradition is a humble reminder of our reliance upon our neighbors. Even during the lean times, we can offer advice and support to those in the community to help each other prosper.

5. Give yourself a fresh start and forget the troubles and concerns of the past year.

We have all made mistakes and poor decisions in the past. This also holds true when it comes to matters of personal finance. However, the Japanese tradition of Bonenkai is held at the end of the year to forget your financial woes. The word Bonenkai literally translates to “forget the year party.” So, why not give yourself a break and a clean slate for the coming year?

Bonenkai parties are usually sponsored by companies for their employees. Coworkers come together to eat, drink, and revel in the opportunities the New Year may bring. As the alcohol flows and inhibitions disappear, people tend to let their guard down and speak more freely. While Japanese are generally more reserved about sharing their opinions, the casual atmosphere enables people to discuss their concerns and try to improve issues.

We could all take a lesson from the New Year’s tradition and learn to let go of the past. It is better to use these mistakes as learning opportunities rather than dwelling on things that cannot be undone. Instead, apply the knowledge you have gained to making better financial decisions in the future.

New Year’s Traditions and Resolutions

New Year’s a good time to reflect upon the past 12 months and set new goals for ourselves. Even if you do not achieve everything you set out to do, making a resolution gives you something to work toward. Observing some of the New Year’s traditions and customs is a fun and festive way to start you on your path to improving your finances.

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New Year’s Resolution: “Trim the Fat”

trim the fatThe new year is a few days away and many of us have already begun conjuring up what 2015 might have in store for us.

New year’s resolutions are constantly being set right now.  After all, you have to give yourself a little time to wrap your head around what “sacrifices” you’ll be making in the upcoming year.

If you haven’t come up with a resolution yet, or you are seeking an additional one to add, I suggest that you give this one a shot… “Trim the Fat”.  No, I am not talking about a weight loss goal for the new year, although that is important if it applies to you.  In order to achieve wealth, you have to have your health!  Instead, I am talking about trimming the fat out of your budget.  This means that for each category of your budget, be it car insurance, eating out, etc., try and see if you can negotiate a lower car insurance rate, or bring your lunch to work a few times a week.  The point is that freeing up a little bit of money in a few categories can easily add up to hundreds of dollars, which you can then use to invest either in yourself, an index fund, or save up for a home purchase.

We all need to make 2015 a year where we not only create a budget, but we also monitor our expenses.  Creating a budget is fairly easy, and I even offer an example budget for all to use under the “Your Monthly Budget” page.  Sticking with the budget is always the hard part.  You might find yourself tracking expenses for the first month or even through February, but then it becomes cumbersome and you forget all about it.  I can’t do much to motivate you to follow through with your budget.  That is one you!  Here are some action items though to get this new year’s resolutions started…

1) Create your own budget (Use the example budget I offer and create your own categories)

2) See what areas you can cut out money (even $25 in 4 categories is an extra $100/month)

3) Monitor and track all of your expenses (copy and paste your budget and then whenever you have an expense in a category, put it in the correct field)

4) DON’T GIVE UP! (This is where you have to show commitment to yourself to follow through with the resolution)

And finally…

Happy New Year to all