It’s that wonderful (yet dreaded) time of year again. It is the end of the current year and the promise of a new and brighter one. It is a time to reflect on our accomplishments and commiserate (a little) on our shortfalls. It is a time to give ourselves praise as well as give ourselves a little bit of a shake. It is a time when many of us will create some resolutions in an effort to spark a change. And one of the most common resolution is about how to save more money and/or spend less.
But change is hard. According to statistics, only 46% of people stick to the resolutions that they make. That is less than half of us!! So, how can we make these beautiful, hopeful, wondrous financial resolutions for the year to come and actually keep them? It is a question that many have asked and few have answered. But here we have some simple ways to help you make (and keep) New Year’s resolutions that will help you save more money and spend less.
(While this blog is geared towards resolutions about personal finances and money, the principles can be applied to any resolutions such as dieting, getting healthy, reading more, spending more time with family, etc…)
The first step to keeping a resolution is to be truthful with yourself. In other words, get real. This would mean writing down ALL of your debts, your habit spending (even the bad habits!), your monthly expenses, etc… How can you reduce spending if you don’t know what you spend? How can you pay down debt if you don’t even know what your debts are? The same holds true for dieting: how can you start a diet if you don’t know what you weigh? How can you improve your eating habits if you don’t even know what you have been eating?
Sitting down and writing down everything you spend and everything you owe might seem bleak but you will be surprised how quickly things can start improving once you start focusing on the right habits.
What comes after getting real? Why, getting S.M.A.R.T. of course! Setting S.M.A.R.T. resolutions is one key to keeping them. In essence, S.M.A.R.T. goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. So how can we turn our New Year’s Resolutions into S.M.A.R.T. resolutions? By following a few simple guidelines:
• Specific: Be as specific as possible when “naming” your resolution. Something broad such as “be better with finances” or “be smarter with money” isn’t very specific. A more specific way to name your resolution would be “save money monthly in a savings account” or “pay down debt”.
• Measurable: It is hard to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done if you don’t know when to celebrate an accomplishment! Give yourself an actual goal that you can track and measure. When losing weight, people usually have a trackable goal such as “I want to lose 10 pounds”. In the case of finances, it is a little harder, but still doable. Perhaps “I want to pay off my credit card debt” would work for you. Or perhaps “I want to have $50 saved in my savings account at the end of each month.”
• Attainable: This is such an important part of S.M.A.R.T. goals. So often we end up falling off the resolution wagon because we set ourselves up for an unattainable goal. “Pay off all debt” might not be realistic. Going from $0 dollars saved monthly to $1,000 saved monthly seems like a tight reach! Make it something that you know you can accomplish and stick to.
• Relevant: Considering this blog is all about finances and money, I think we already achieved the part about staying relevant!
• Trackable: This is about giving yourself a time frame in which to track your goal. In the case of finances, a good suggestion would be to go in small increments. Example: “Save $25 per paycheck in my savings account” or “pay $100 per month extra to my credit card debt”. If you choose to long of a time frame (example a year), you risk waiting until the last minute and not having enough time to see your goal through.
To learn more about how to effectively use the S.M.A.R.T. goals method, you can check out our blog: Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Personal Finance.
Hiccups will happen! Be patient with yourself! Don’t let your hiccups equal failure. So often, we allow one small set back to force us to simply give up. You are allowed to mess up now and then. Just like in dieting, it is ok to have a “cheat day”. Look at your financial slip ups just like you would look at a “cheat day”. You would view them in just one day out of 365, just a drop in a very large bucket.
We live in an age of debit cards, credit cards, and now with Ubers and Paypal accounts all over the place, we often don’t even know what money is going where! It is no wonder that we easily lose track. But, if you followed Step 1 in this blog closely, you should now have a written down budget that is to be used as a starting point. Start by choosing a simple goal (example: pay off credit card, or save $25 in my savings account this paycheck) and write it down. Write it and then leave it somewhere where you will see it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The key to changing habits is repetition. Make sure that your goals are in your face and visible. It is much easier to track them when you are looking at them in black and white!
Get open and honest and vocal about your financial resolutions to others. Talk about your goals openly, to your friends and family. There are several added benefits to talking about your New Year’s resolutions out loud:
• It makes it more real to you. Speaking the words out loud are almost like a contract with yourself. You hear them and you are now accountable to your own words. Now you know that this goal is a real one and you will reach for it.
• Others might also have the same goal. As mentioned earlier, improving finances is one of the most common resolutions. You would be surprised how many people will voice the “Hey! Me too” response when they learn of your resolution. And this adds the “helping hand” component. Perhaps your friend also wants to stop going out and spending so often but didn’t know how to tell you. Or perhaps you could share money saving techniques that work for each of you. (Here are a few links to some good ones from the iCASH blog: Common Money Wasters, How to Save on Groceries and Still Make Awesome Meals, and How to Have a Great Vacation for Cheap.)
Whatever your 2019 goals are, or whatever different types of resolutions you wish to make for the coming year, this is a good starting point for learning to change habits. Always remember: Practice makes permanent.
No matter what kind of New Year’s Resolution you choose, iCASH.ca is always here to help out with any financial stresses that may come your way.
From all of us here at iCASH.ca, we wish you a happy, healthy, and financially wonderful 2019.