GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In a new year and starting to think about your taxes, you may have resolved to get your finances in order. It can be daunting, with a lot of outside factors presenting a challenge.

But Justin Hahn, the financial well-being program manager for Lake Trust Credit Union, said it’s about setting goals and laying out a plan to reach them.

“I think budgets often get a bad rap. Most people think about them in a negative way. It’s something that restricts them,” he said. “So one of the best pieces of advice that I can give to folks is really try to flip the script. Try to think about a budget as a positive tool that really enables you to reach your financial goals.”

Keeping a budget, he said, can help reduce impulse buying, helping people consider what’s really important and develop good money habits.

“Start by writing down your goals, what’s important to you. Maybe it’s building an emergency savings, maybe a down payment towards a house or a vacation, or maybe paying down your debt,” he said. “Capture all your monthly expenses. It may be eye-opening. I know it always is for me. Every time I sit down and take a look back, I think it catches me off guard how much I spend on restaurants. I don’t think I spend that much until I really see it all added up.”

He said one you know your goals and see your budget, you may decide to try to come up with a way to make extra money — but that shouldn’t be your main focus.

“Most financial experts really try to focus on reducing expenses, and that’s because these are changes that we can implement, implement quickly, and really have more control over,” he said. “Once you’ve had an opportunity to kind of sit down and see where you’re spending your money, you want to identify areas where you can really start to cut back. So are there opportunities to maybe cut back on entertainment apps? At $10 to $15 on average, they really add up and a lot of people have several of them, so you may be able to take a look and see, are there some of these that I could reduce or maybe pause for a little while to try and realign where my money’s going.”

Hahn also recommended shopping for insurance.

“This is something that a lot of folks don’t do as consistently as they should. Really every year or two, you should be taking a look at your insurance and shopping around to see if you can get better rates. You really can save hundreds of dollars and it can make a big difference on your overall bottom line,” he said.

There are a lot of smaller changes you can make that can add up to a large impact.

“Even doing little things like comparing prices, trying to shop things when they’re on sale, buying secondhand, maybe starting to pack your lunch,” he listed. “When you’re looking at a budget and trying to change your financial behaviors, it’s great when you can take those little steps because they’re a little bit easier to approach and they truly do add up over time.”