Keeping New Year’s Resolutions: Strategies for Smarter Money Management
The New Year is often a time for making — and attempting to keep — New Year’s resolutions, as people are determined to make drastic changes in their life: losing weight, joining a gym, getting a new job, going back to school, learning new skills or making improvements in their personal finances.
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But what happens all too often is that people get overly excited about making big changes too quickly, and then lose momentum. Everyone has seen people show up energetically at the gym on January 2, only to end up back on the couch by February 1.
If you want to make a big change in your life, it needs to be part of a permanent shift in the way you allocate your time and energy — and improving your personal finances is no different.
If you want to get smarter about keeping New Year’s resolutions for your money management this year, here are four tips for making it happen:
1. Start small.
Don’t try to do too much too soon, or try to do everything at once. Focus on one aspect of your financial life at a time, whether that is setting a budget or paying off credit card debt or saving for an emergency fund. If you focus your goals on just a few key areas, you’ll be better at keeping your New Year’s resolutions.
2. Set methodical, repeatable, short-term goals.
Give yourself a specific goal to aim for each week or each month. Try to make a bit of progress with every paycheck; you don’t have to pay off all of your debt at once, but, if you have a plan, you’ll be better able to succeed. Again, don’t try to do too much too soon — don’t get burned out. Give yourself a chance to build momentum over time.
3. Find a support group or accountability partner.
According to the American Psychological Association, people tend to be more successful at keeping New Year’s resolutions when they have a supportive group, coach, mentor or partner to talk to about their goals.
Having some social support can help you stay on track for your financial goals. Spending money is often a social occasion (going to the mall, going to restaurants, etc.), so use that same spirit of fun and sociability to help you save money, budget smarter or pay off debt.
Get a group of friends together for coffee each week to discuss your progress at paying off debt or reaching your financial goals. When you have other people rooting for you, it makes it more likely that you’ll succeed.
4. Make lasting lifestyle changes.
Paying off debt, saving money, improving your credit or making other long-term improvements in your personal finances is like losing weight — making sudden, drastic changes and completely depriving yourself of something you enjoy (whether food or spending) often will not succeed in the long run.
You need to make these changes into a lasting part of your overall lifestyle. Make sure that your resolutions are sustainable and comfortable — ideally, you should feel empowered and inspired by your financial changes, not deprived.
Keeping your New Year’s resolutions is an exercise in self-discipline and long-term thinking: It’s a matter of giving up what you want “right now” (some expensive new purchase) for what you truly want “most”: long-term financial security.
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