With every New Year comes a sense of hope and change. With that momentum in mind, many of us make New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are easy to make; it’s keeping them past January 15th is the challenge. For those of you focused on financial goals this year — like getting out of debt, sticking to a budget, or just getting your ducks in a row — there are a few things you can do to help ensure your resolution lasts all year long!
Write it down: When you take the time to laser focus your goal, it’s easier to see how you’re tracking. Decide on your success measure, write it down, and put it where you’ll see it daily (set it as screen saver, tape it to your bathroom mirror, or leave it at your desk). Keeping your goals at the top of your mind makes it easier to remember why you’re working hard to achieve them. So, be specific. Instead of saying “I will save more this year” say “I will save $3,000 this year” or “I will pay off my $2,500 credit card.”
Make it easy: If one of your goals is to save a certain amount of money, set up automatic contributions. If you have a 401k at work, sign up to have 2% come out of your paycheck. You can mimic the same idea by opening a savings account or IRA with auto withdrawals.
Dig into your budget: Take an hour or so to review your last few credit and debit card statements. Segment the categories like utilities, clothing, beauty, dining out, groceries, and entertainment to learn where your money goes. Then start prioritizing. If you discover that you spend $4/day on coffee, that’s $100/month. If coffee is the highlight of your day, then cut out something else. If you only order because your coworkers do, then get a water three days a week and save $50/ month. It is not as painful as it sounds!
Pay down bad debt: If you have credit card debt with high interest rates, then try to focus on reducing or eliminating a card or two. Take stock of what debt you have and at what interest rates. Pick the card with the highest interest rate and start paying extra, above the minimum — as you reduce the principle, the interest gets smaller and you pay more off each month.
Have a partner: Try to find a friend with similar goals and hold each other accountable! Many people are afraid to admit their insecurities about their financial habits, but it doesn’t have to be a negative conversation. Working with a partner can make it fun and easier to stay on track!
New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap because so many struggle to stick to them, but with careful planning, clear goals, and, yeah, some real work and dedication, you really can make some positive changes to your financial situation in 2016. It’s not as difficult as you might think!
(Image via Shutterstock.)