Of course, it's going to be hard to put money in an emergency fund if you never have money left at the end of the month. That's why this is the year you start living on a budget. Don't know where to start? Take advantage of these financial software tools (many of them free) that can help you build and stick to a tight budget every month. And if keeping under budget is proving elusive, more extreme measures may be warranted. Try out a no-spend month for the rest of January, or consider seeking help if you believe you have a shopping addiction.
Getting on a budget should help you avoid putting big balances on credit cards. But what if you're already up to your ears in debt? Shedding debt is just as important as shedding pounds, especially if it's in the form of high-interest credit card debt. If you're truly swamped in debt it might take more than a year to pay it all down, but at least you can get started. Put together a plan for paying down the highest-interest debt first, and consider consolidating your debts if you think that will help. And if you start to waver, just consider how much easier it will be to save for retirement once you don't have debt weighing you down.
Hey, speaking of planning for retirement: You should really do that. Yes, once you've paid down your debts and gotten your emergency fund in place, it's time to get serious about contributing to your retirement accounts. For starters, look at your current savings and then use this guide to figure out if you're on pace for your target retirement. Then it's time to figure out what you need to do get back on pace -- are you maxing out your 401(k) matching? Are you saving up to the contribution limit for your IRAs? No, you're not going to hit your retirement goal by the end of 2014. But you can get yourself on track for a sound financial future.