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Getting more exercise, going to bed earlier and cutting back on junk food are all admirable New Year’s resolutions but, as we embark on 2019, you should also take a long hard look at your finances.

“Taking control of your finances is key to ensuring you have a happy and prosperous new year”, says Taryn Schmidt, Chief Marketing Officer at Wonga, a South African short-term loans provider. “Therefore it’s important to make some financial goals that will help you shrug off any bad spending habits.”

Wonga recommends six achievable New Year’s resolutions to help you turn your finances around in 2019.

Financial Goal #1: Build an emergency fund

The first step towards stabilising your finances is to build an emergency fund that will keep you away from your credit cards and out of debt should your income be compromised, or you require quick access to capital. A fully-fledged emergency fund should be sufficient to sustain you and your family for at least three months in the event that you cannot work. So, the sooner you get one started, the better.

Financial Goal #2: Pay off all your short-term debts

Debt, especially short-term debt like credit cards and short-term loans all have their place when ‘life happens’ however they can mount up, so prioritise paying them off as soon as you can and then focus on saving.

Financial Goal #3: Develop a monthly budget habit

The most effective way to achieve financial goals #1 and #2 is to create a strict monthly budget. You must be strict and account for every cent that you spend. Remember, don’t allow your spending habits to determine your budget. Rather, your budget should determine your spending habits.

Financial Goal #4: Reduce your expenses

Writing down a detailed list of every transaction you make in one month is a great way to put things into perspective: it helps you realise just how many automatic deductions go off your account, which of them are redundant, and how frivolous much of your spending is. Could you get cheaper phone packages for your teenagers? Do you have to eat out three times a week? Most people could save upwards of R1 000 simply by cutting back on frivolous spending.

Financial Goal #5: Automate your saving and investing

An excellent way to formalise your commitment to saving is to set up an automatic transfer into your savings account on payday. This way, you prioritise saving and if you forget to make the transfer yourself, you won’t find yourself tempted to spend the money.

Financial Goal #6: Create a 5-year plan

Short-term goals are incredibly important for developing healthy spending and saving habits. However, you also need to focus on the long term game, especially if you’d like to own property, buy a car or just increase your financial freedom. Sit down with your significant other and create a 5-year plan for yourself and your family, which your smaller monthly goals and medium annual goals should feed into.