Move over losing weight. This year, I am planning to become financially fit. So, what's stopping you?`

Last year left a heap of financial lessons for me to learn from – stop spending unnecessarily, save more, invest wisely, etc. But this year is going to be different. Yes, you and I say that at the beginning of every year, but I have already taken a few financial steps to ensure that I become financially fit this year. Have you?

1. I started paying off my debt
It may seem quite hassle-free to use credit cards – just one swipe and your shopping is done. However, this joy soon turns into dread when you see your credit card bill. Not long ago, I realised that I end up paying more interest on my debt than what I earn from my investments. So, I decided to take my debt situation under control.

I made a list of all my debts in descending order of the amount of interest I pay – high to low. As soon as one debt was repaid, I moved to the next on the list. Sure, there were times when making ends meet was tough, but I stuck to my debt repayment plan and it has worked really well. I feel more relaxed now that I can focus on my investments.  

2. I started shopping smart
It’s always been difficult to resist buying clothes and accessories that are so attractively displayed in the glass windows of stores. I've often sworn to control myself and not spend money on unnecessary things. But if you're even a little like me, you probably realise this pledge rarely works. So, this time I decided to do something different – shop smart.

I've now started researching and comparing before making a purchase, whether it is clothes, gadgets or even groceries. If I find a beautiful outfit in a mall, I look for the same piece or a similar one at a cheaper price in a local store. My savings on shopping have allowed me to gradually budget my money.

3. I started creating budgets and sticking to them 
I know, it’s easier said than done. But if I can do it, so can you.

The first mistake I usually made while creating budgets was setting unrealistic limits – which I knew would be difficult to stick to. This time, I not only created a realistic budget but also left a little room for miscellaneous expenses that are hard to account for. Shopping smart made it easier to stick to this budget. Moreover, today, you and I have tons of apps that can help us track our expenses, pay bills, create budgets, share our budgets with our family and friends.  

Of course, there have been a few times when I went overboard, but more often than not I manage to stay within my budget.  


4. I started an emergency fund 
Last year, I found myself in an unforeseen circumstance where I was in immediate need of cash. As they say, experiences are great teachers. So, I learnt my lesson and started putting money away every month in an emergency fund.

I began with small amounts, that I gradually increased when my expenses allowed. Now, I am planning on parking part of my emergency fund in a fixed deposit, savings account, gold, or mutual fund. So, while I keep adding to this fund, it will keep earning for me.

5. I started a retirement plan for myself
Like most women out there, I didn’t pay much attention or prioritise my retirement plan. But after talking to a few family members and friends, I understood the importance of saving for retirement right now. I realised that if I wanted to enjoy my current lifestyle even after retiring, I would need to plan well in advance to be able to afford it.

Senior Citizens’ Savings Scheme, Post Office Monthly Income Scheme, mutual funds etc. are some options that I've researched. I've just finished some formalities for the same, and will soon make my first investment towards my retirement plan.  


So, as you can see, my new year started off on a financially healthy note. In fact, I have already started to reap the benefits. If you haven’t taken these financial steps yet, remember that we're still only at the beginning of the new year. You can turn your financial situation around by making changes right from today, and have a financially happy year!