Each New Year offers hope for a new start. We often set resolutions that quickly fade with the stresses of life. But with just a few tips and a little support, you can make 2015 the year you move forward toward financial security, making your dreams become reality.

  1. Set aside time to talk
    The first step to finding common ground with your finances is to take time to talk about money. Don’t wait for overspending, overdrafts or a financial crisis. Define your values and goals together and clarify the difference between needs and wants.

    It’s also important to teach children about the value of money and how to use it responsibly. Partners like Jump$tart Coalition and National Endowment for Education (NEFE) are making this easier. Programs such as Money As You Grow and Smart About Money  offer tips to incorporate financial literacy into everyday conversation as early as age 2.

  2. Create a budget.
    With established values you are ready to create your budget. There are some great tools out there to get you started. You can explore options such as Mint or YNAB, but even an excel document will work. Choose something that is user-friendly and works for you. Set a time each month to check in and evaluate your goals and your progress. Make adjustments or improvements based on your unique situation.

  3. Focus on small steps that have big returns.
    Many people in debt feel trapped and overwhelmed, but remember that even small steps can have a dramatic effect on financial stability.

  4. Pay off credit card debt.
    Just paying a small amount above the minimum payment each month can have a fairly dramatic affect. As little as $15 to $25 more could help you pay off a credit card debt 5 to 10 years sooner. Also, credit card companies are required to include information about accelerating your payoff on your monthly statement, so take a look.

  5. Utilize a flexible spending account.
    Check with your employer. Most companies allow you to take money out of your paycheck pre-tax to pay for expenditures such as dependent care and health care. But make sure you only take out what you need — if you don’t spend it you lose it!

  6. Save for retirement.
    Thanks to compound interest, your money grows exponentially over time. A small contribution now can mean larger returns later. An easy first step? If your company offers a 401(k), at the very minimum you should contribute the amount that they will match – if not, you are essentially turning down free money.

  7. Prepare for the “what ifs.”
    Make 2015 the year you finally check off those “to-do’s” that seem so insignificant now, but can affect you drastically later. Build an emergency fund, set up a life insurance policy, create a living will and open a 529 plan to begin saving for your child’s education.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When it comes to financial advice, many Americans feel lost in the middle. They are not living in poverty, but they also do not have a large amount of wealth to invest. An AFC (Accredited Financial Counselor) provides unbiased financial guidance to help you manage your finances, develop a budget, eliminate debt and maintain positive financial behaviors.