The two most common New Year’s Resolutions have to do with weight loss and monetary gain (or paying down debt). It makes sense – these are two facets of life that cause the most stress when they’re going badly, and can make you feel incredible when they’re going well.
What’s interesting about both of these resolutions are that they function similarly when you’re going to change them. Both benefit from a quarterly system, both benefit from small goals that snowball and both work best when there’s solid planning as a foundation.
While weight loss is nice, we’re going to focus on how to make your financial goals stick. A little planning goes a long way with a financial goal, and the consistent application of checking your progress and adjusting will make sure your New Year’s Resolution becomes a long-term success.
Outline your three biggest goals for the year
If you want to buy a car, write that down. Credit card that you hate looming over your head? Write that down. Basically whatever you want to do, write that down. From among these goals, choose three that are reasonable to achieve and then pick one that to be your biggest resolution.
It’s not to say that you can’t have more than one resolution, or move onto the other two once you’ve accomplished the first, but having too many resolutions at first can ruin your chances of success. Keep the other two goals hanging around, though, because it’s fully doable to complete one and move to the next, just don’t focus on them.
Once you have your goal, break it down
A quarter system will help you organize your efforts to complete your financial goal, and monitor your progress. By breaking down your goal into quarters, you can see what you need to accomplish in Jan, Feb and March, and then again in the other three periods. This will allow you to adjust if you need to, like bringing in more cash or figuring out if you need to add another payment each period.
Celebrate your wins
As you succeed down your path to your resolution, make sure you make it a big deal. If you have a $1,000 credit card to pay down and you’ve paid off $200, that’s a big deal. Celebrate that in a non-spendy way and keep your goal in mind while you move forward to paying it down completely.
One of our biggest tools to success should be clear at this point; being hyper-aware of your goals and manipulating your actions to improve success. A mid-year check will help you determine how your efforts are succeeding so far and what you need to change. Look back at the first 2 quarters and see how much your efforts are paying off, and don’t feel bad about scrapping your goal and starting over if you’re not gaining any ground.
Don’t get discouraged
New Year’s Resolutions are generally things that you’ve never done before, or never had success with in the past. If you truly want this year to be different, you need to stay on top of your goals, and work on them every day. Even if things aren’t going exactly as you want, you can always change how you’re behaving to figure out the best way to attack your goal. The quarter system and mid-year checkup will help you keep your goals in sight, and show you what’s working and what needs to be changed.
Financial goals, unlike weight loss goals, are often just a matter of math. If you’re making a certain amount of money and you need $200 more, you just need to find an additional income stream. Likewise if you’re spending $100 on groceries per week but $200 eating out, fix your spending.
Small changes, when consistent, observed and documented, turn into huge windfalls. Start your new year off right with proper, attainable goals and be in the percentage of people who see success with their New Year’s resolution.