The start of a new year… Whether you finished 2016 on a high note or a low note, think of 2017 as a fresh start to tackle some things that you didn’t get around to in 2016. My article today reviews 6 personal finance tips to start off 2017.

Many people set resolutions for the new year, but very few people achieve what they set out to complete. Don’t be one of those people.

Set goals for different difficulty levels that you want to achieve. Ensure you set easy goals that you can knock out early in the year to build momentum toward achieving the loftier, more difficult goals that will take all of 2017 to complete.

6 personal finance tips to kick off 2017:

1. Create or fine-tune your budget.

Do you have a budget? If not, start collecting receipts or using a software tool like Mint.com.

Why?

Because you need to start tracking all of your expenses. Here is one of the first articles I wrote that reviews the steps I took to get my finances under control.

2. Set time aside each week to review your finances.

After you create your budget, you need to check in on your budget to see how you are doing. This article discusses the importance of allocating time each month (or even each week) to budgeting.

3. Do you have an emergency fund?

If you do not, you should start one today. There is no need to build a huge 3-6 month emergency fund if you are still getting out of debt. Save up at least $1,000 if you can as a buffer for those unexpected events. Once you have control of your debt, then look to build a nice 3-6 month emergency fund. I keep 6 months of expenses saved. Some people recommend 3-6 months of your monthly income. Either way, just save!

4. Where do your checking and savings reside?

Look into an online bank to get at least a 1% return on your money. Most big banks only provide a .01% return on your money. I went from making $22 each month to $220 a month – read this article to find out how you can make more of a return on your money using an online bank.

5. Develop a plan to get out of debt.

There are many good articles different bloggers have written that discuss different ways to get out of debt. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Financial Panther’s article, The Only Secret to Paying off Debt is to be a Weirdo, discusses why you need to get weird to start paying off debt.

Scott Alan Turner has a plethora of articles that discuss getting out of debt. Here are two that I like. The first one is 3 New Ways to Pay off Student Loan Debt. The second article is What is the Fastest Way to Pay off Debt?

Millennial Moneyman has a great article, 5 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Moving Back Home, that reviews how he paid off $40k in student debt as a band teacher. There are many other good articles on M$M’s site that are targeted at how to pay off debt and I recommend you check out his site to learn more.

Finally, a shameless plug for myself. Check out my Start Here page if you want to see what I recommend. This is more specific to student loan debt.

6. Increase your retirement savings contributions.

Most people discuss increasing your savings rate 1% each year. When you work on your budget, make a stretch goal to see how you would need to adjust your budget to be able to max out your retirement accounts. I know this is a lofty goal, but you will be happy with saving more now so that you can retire earlier!

A quick rule of thumb that I like to follow:
1) Contribute to your 401(k) to get your company match.
2) If you have a high-deductible-health plan (HDHP), max out your health savings account (HSA).
3) Max out your IRA or Roth IRA.
4) Go back and max out your 401(k).

If you are 30 years-old and execute this plan, you will have $380k when you are 40, $1,000,000 at age 50, and $2,000,000 at 60, assuming a 5% return and a $0 starting balance in each account.

Not too shabby!

What personal finance tips would you recommend heading into 2017?