Here are 12 costly bad habits to break in 2019.
Retirement might seem too far off to start considering, but the longer you wait to start saving and investing, the more you'll miss out on compound interest.
Enrolling in your employer's 401(k) plan — a tax-advantaged retirement savings account that allows you to build wealth over time — is one of the simplest ways to invest. It's also smart to consider alternate retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA or a health savings account.
As for how much to save, experts generally agree that, in order to retire comfortably, you'll want to work your way up to setting aside 10 to 15 percent of your pre-tax income. That said, everyone's situation is unique. To help you figure out the right amount for you, consult a retirement calculator — or, maybe, listen to Suze Orman.
Once you set up a retirement savings account, try to keep your hands off of it.
Most traditional IRA withdrawals made before age 59 1/2 incur taxes and a penalty, so you could be setting yourself up to pay fees. Plus, you could be putting your financial future at risk by preventing your retirement savings from growing over time.
The same rule applies to your emergency fund: Don't touch it unless you're facing a true disaster.
To create a mental and logistical barrier between you and this money, move it into a separate account, such as a high-interest savings account or a money-market account, which both offer higher interest rates than a traditional savings account.
Most credit cards only require you to make a minimum payment each month, which is typically a fixed amount, often $20 to $25, or a percentage of your balance, usually 1 to 3 percent. Paying the minimum is tempting, especially if your budget is tight. But the less you pay now, the more you'll pay later.
Carrying a credit card balance not only means you'll be in debt longer, but it also means you can rack up massive amounts of interest, thanks to often exorbitant interest rates.
In 2019, get in the habit of making payments in full if it's at all possible. The easiest way to do that? Arrange to transfer the amount you owe from your checking account to your credit card company every month.
If you're spending as much as, or more than, you're earning, you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, which can easily spiral into credit card debt. That lifestyle makes it nearly impossible to build up significant savings.
The solution: Try to live below your means — not at or beyond them.
Time is on your side when it comes to investing, thanks to the power of compound interest. And contrary to popular belief, you don't need to be a personal finance expert or even earn a massive paycheck to get started.
There are apps that aim to make investing simple and accessible, such as Acorns, which lets you invest your "spare change," and you can look into automated investing services known as robo-advisors. Many experts, including Warren Buffett and Tony Robbins, recommend investing in index funds, which allow you to own a small piece of many different companies.
The key takeaway: Don't wait. Even if you can't invest a ton of money, establish the habit of setting aside at least a little bit each month. Whenever you get a pay bump or bonus, reevaluate how much money you can realistically set aside.
Money won't just appear. If you want to save more, you have to have a clear goal and then set a specific plan in order to achieve it.
Finally, set up a recurring automatic transfer from your bank account to your savings account to ensure you'll stay consistent with your savings.
If you withdraw money from an out-of-network ATM, you'll be slapped with two separate charges: one from the ATM owner and one from your own bank. The total cost of using an out-of-network machine is at a record high: $4.68, on average.
A simple 2019 resolution: If your bank's logo isn't on the ATM, don't use it.
If you use one of the traditional, bigger banks, there should be ATM options in your area. Simply look up the locations online and put in the extra effort to get to one of your bank's ATMs. If there aren't any convenient ATM options in your city or town, you may want to consider opening a checking account with amore accessible bank.
How many "free trials" have you signed up for and forgotten to cancel? Are you getting your money's worth from the gym you signed up for last year? What about that domain name you bought a few years ago?
Depending on what you pay for — meal subscription boxes, magazines, video or music streaming services, iCloud storage or styling services like Stitch Fix or Birchbox — cancelling just one monthly subscription could save you hundreds of dollars a year. If you eliminate multiple memberships, or a big one like the gym, you could save thousands.
Start by figuring out exactly what you pay for. Ask yourself which subscriptions and memberships you can eliminate, and then cancel what you don't use or need.
Whether it's requesting an Uber more often than you mean to, stopping by the bodega around the corner every morning or picking up a soda each time you find yourself waiting in a checkout line, it's all too easy to spend mindlessly.
It's good to be optimistic, but you also have to be responsible and plan for the worst. Just one accident can wipe out your savings.
If not, consider adding that to your 2019 to-do list.
All debt is not created equal. An effective strategy is to rank your obligations in order of interest rate, from highest to lowest. Then, prioritize the debt with the highest interest rate, while still paying the minimum on all of them, in order to pay less over the long run.
There is an alternate option, too: Rank your debt in order of size and start with the smallest. It's a strategy that personal finance expert Dave Ramsey calls the "snowball method." The idea is that each time you pay off one form of debt, you build momentum, which helps you tackle the next biggest, and so on.
No matter the approach you choose, commit to getting out of the red this year if that could be possible for you.
As much as you may want to ignore financial red flags, you're better off dealing with any issues right away.
Check your bank account and credit score, no matter how low you fear the number may be. Don't leave your debt for tomorrow. And take advantage of work perks and benefits, which could save you thousands of dollars a year.
You don't need to have all this perfect right away. But ridding yourself of even a few bad habits now will pay dividends for the rest of your life.
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