Next to losing weight, improving finances is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions out there. But how often do we see people fall off the gym wagon after only two months in? The same thing can easily happen with sticking to a budget. Here are a few tips for setting a financial goal, making a plan, and sticking to it.
Get serious. The first step to achieving any goal is to make a solid commitment. Take a piece of scrap paper, or a sticky note, and write down what you’d like to accomplish and why you’d like to accomplish them. Studies have shown that this will make you 42% more likely to succeed.
Get real. Now that you’ve narrowed down your goals, give them a reality check. Are they reasonable and achievable? Using a weight loss example: you might say you want to lose 50 pounds in 30 days. With extreme measures, this might be achievable, but not exactly reasonable (or healthy). The same can be said about attempting to pay off two years of student debt in 6 months. Try taking baby steps. Focus on one goal at a time, like paying off a specific loan. This will keep your plan simple and less likely to fall off track.
Get feedback. Accountability is huge when it comes to resolutions. It helps you keep tabs on your progress, your successes, and your opportunities to improve. Technology has made this surprisingly easy to do. Apps like Qapital, Mint, and Stash are great for setting goals, tracking finances, investing, and setting aside savings automatically. Another way to receive feedback is using the buddy system. Team up with a friend or family member who is also trying to accomplish a resolution, financial or otherwise. This way, you’ll have mutual support while holding each other accountable.
Get past temptation. When keeping to a budget, avoiding bad spending habits is pretty much a given. Ask yourself, “Where am I tempted to spend extra money?” By acknowledging your spending triggers, you’ll be more likely to avoid them. If retail is your vice, avoid malls and shopping centers when possible. Prevent impulse buying online by uninstalling shopping apps or deactivate quick-pay options with e-retailers.
Get yourself a reward. Being financially stable is already a great incentive, but rewarding yourself every month or every other month can be just as motivating in the short-term. Just be sure to factor it into your budget.
At the end of the day, keeping a New Year’s resolution can be difficult, so making the effort to change in the first place is terrific. And with the right motivation, plans, and support, you can hopefully turn that “what if” into a “what now?” Good luck and have a thrifty new year!