2018 New Year's Resolutions: Money, Attainable Goals, and Creating Habits
As the holiday season and 2017 draws to a close, it is always a good time of the year to reflect on the good things, the things you achieved, and whether or not you kept to your New Year's Resolution for the past year. I actually did not make a resolution for 2017, but I usually do identify one thing I want to focus on to improve my life overall. We all know the normal resolutions of losing weight and exercising more, but why not look at other aspects of your life to target?
After reflecting back on my year, I decided the one thing I really want to focus on for the upcoming year is to improve my financial situation. I am very blessed with great things, such as a stable job/career with solid income, a home, and good credit, but I believe there are many ways I can improve in this area and want to improve in order to have more security (especially in the event of an emergency), have less debt and interest I owe to banks, and continue to focus on ways to use money to improve my life.
In order to improve my financial stability this year, these are the three things I am focusing on for the year:
1) Tracking my spending: One thing I am pretty good with is having a budget and planning my purchases on a bi-weekly basis. Although I plan my purchases, I'll admit, I'm a shopper (I'm sure you can tell from my page!) and love to spend money, so I often overspend, thinking I have more money available than I do or end up having an emergency pop up that I'm unprepared for. As a I result, I often lose track of what I'm spending or what my available money looks like leading to poor shopping and spending choices.
2) Paying down Debt: Because I love to shop, have a car, and own a home, I obviously have debt and payments that I need to make. This year, my focus is paying down credit card debt I have to free up those payments so I am able to better focus on making a dent in other bank loans I may have in the future.
3) Saving: I have always tried to save a little bit of money with each paycheck, but let's face it--saving is hard! With bills, living daily life, trying to enjoy daily life, and emergencies, all these things interfere with one's ability to save. This year, I have a set goal in mind of what I would like to have in my saving account by the end of the year.
As you are reading, you are probably thinking that like most people, I will not keep my resolution or will forget about it through the year. Yes, keeping and meeting a resolution is hard. We are all human, so we may mess up or a get a little off track. The key is leaving room for error and having the mindset to get back on track when we mess up or life hands us obstacles. Here are a few ways that I plan to stay focused on my goals that I already use in my daily life, whether it be work or personal tasks, that may come in handy to you when making resolutions:
1) SMART GOALS: Many of you probably have heard about SMART goals, whether it is in passing or if it is part of your daily life in your work. Maybe you are even smirking a little when you read this. Jokes and laughing aside, setting SMART goals for your New Year's Resolution will actually allow you to become more successful by setting a targeted focus in which you can measure success and will allow you to consistently focus on changing your habits to meet the goal.
Specific: When making your resolution, be specific about what exactly you want to do. As you can see in my goals, I have identified three specific things I want to target, which is tracking my spending, paying down debt, and saving money. Whatever you want to change, make it specific. I was watching TV this morning, and someone said they wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. Yes, that's a great goal, but what does this mean for you? Is it improving eating habits? Fitness? Or is it learning to cope with anxiety or stress? If you don't have a clear focus, you will likely not stick to your resolution, will encounter challenges when making it a habit, and will have difficulty feeling success.
Measurable: This is often the biggest mistake I see when people make New Year's Resolutions. The resolutions are NOT measurable. Although this may seem corny to some, it is important to have something to measure progress and have something to work toward. For example, my resolution is to track my spending daily by logging into my accounts, pay down debt on specific credit cards, and have a specific amount of money saved by the end of 2018. With this, I have something to strive for and measure my success. If I can measure success, that means I see change, which in turn will reinforce my habit. On the same TV segment, people were sharing they want to exercise more. Again, a great goal--but how do you measure it? If you indicate that you want to exercise 2-3 times per week, then you have a set, measurable goal in mind.
Attainable: Make sure the measurable goals you are setting are attainable. Often, especially when we are feeling good about our goal, we set super high goals. When the goals are too high and we cannot meet them, we do not feel success and fall off the Resolution bandwagon. For me, I know I have high long-term goals but cannot reach them within one calendar year. As a result, I set goals that I know are do-able based on past experience and what I know about my financial situation. Yes, they will help me improve my financial situation in the long-run but are things I can absolutely do NOW to work toward the long-term goal. Another common example is when people say they want to exercise daily or lose a certain amount of weight. These are measurable, but are they realistic or attainable? If you never exercise, does going from zero to full speed ahead make sense? Do you work long hours and have kids to spend time with in the evening? If these are your scenarios, you may want to consider decreasing your goal to exercising 2-3 times a week or even 1-2 times a week. Yes, that may not be where you want to be in the long-run, but it's a step in the right direction and definitely an improvement from where you were! Again, if you feel success, you receive positive reinforcement, which leads to repeating the target behavior (i.e., a habit).
Relevant: This is likely the easiest part for any New Year's Resolution. Your goal must be relevant. If it is an area that you see as something you need to improve, then it must be relevant to your daily life. My only caution in this area is to ensure that it fits in with your current lifestyle, career goals, or family life.
Timely: As you create your goal, set a timeline for which you want to meet it. For me, my goal is to consistently track spending daily across the year and pay down debt and save by this time in 2018. For some of you, it may make more sense to create benchmarks throughout the year rather than one long-term goal. For example, if you are that exercising person, maybe you will want to track your progress of exercising 1-2 times a week for the months of January through March and slowly increase that time across the year (e.g., exercising 2-3 times per week for April and May). It can also be a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly goal of increasing progress across the year to reach that long-term goal by December 2018.
2) Organization and Accountability: Although we need to stay organized for work and home life, organization is equally as important when keeping New Year's Resolutions. In addition, organization can lead to accountability in meeting your goals. For my organization, I plan to utilize spreadsheets, my checkbook ledger (there's even an app for that!), and technology (i.e., websites, smartphone apps) to track my financial progress and goals. Maybe these are organizational tools you can use for your goals. Some organizational tools or ideas that also lead to increased accountability you may want to use for your resolution include:
--Use of the "Notes" feature on your Smartphone: I often use the "notes" on my iPhone to write my to do lists, goals, ideas, and track progress.
--To-Do lists of the tasks you need to accomplish consistently to meet your goals. These can be posted on a chalkboard/message board in the home, posted by/on your computer, on your smartphone, or at your work desk.
--Write down your SMART Goal for your Resolution. Just as you posted your To Do list, you can post this in a place you can easily see it or in your smartphone notes.
--Post your SMART goals or an encouraging image for your goals as a wallpaper on your Smartphone, iPad/tablet, or computer
--Spreadsheets can assist in managing your finances or organize house/personal projects. If you want to get really nerdy, you can even create graphs of your progress toward your goals.
--Smartphone apps may help you track progress on your goals. There are hundreds of them, from managing your eating and exercising habits to linking directly in to your financial accounts. Often, these Smartphone apps give notifications or you can set up notifications as reminders to keep you on track and help make your behavior change a HABIT.
--Use a calendar or planner. In the past, I used a planner book but have transitioned over to the calendar on my phone. Use whatever works for you. I access the calendar for all aspects of my life and have recurring calendar notifications for certain tasks as a reminder. Map out your activities and goal progress/timelines using these resources. Most people are visual learners, and just like many of these suggestions, the calendar is a good visual to map out your organizational plan and keep you accountable.
--If you aren't using your phone calendar with notifications, set recurring alarms on your phone as a reminder to check in on your resolution for the day, week, or month.
--Find an accountability partner. This can be anything from an app to a friend, spouse, significant other, parent, or sibling. It could be a new friend at the gym that you work out with or someone who has the same resolution as you do. My one tip for those of you who have fitness goals--please join a gym where there are classes or trainers you can access. I often find that people who make fitness goals and go the gym on their own and do their own workout do not find success. First of all, who likes working out that much to create your own workout? When there is not something (a scheduled class) or someone (a trainer or teacher) to make you accountable, then you will not be successful. Plus, if you are not skilled in working out, you will not see results unless you have someone to help you. I have been working out for YEARS and do my own workout once a week along with a class and a training session. I know enough now about working out, and it is a habit, so I can go on my own. However, even after all these years, I will tell you my own work out session is the one I am most likely to skip or not perform at my fullest potential.
My post on this blog is part of my accountability. I know have to stick with it and will likely share my journey or tips and tricks along the way.
Here are a few articles that I found that will be helpful to me and may be helpful to you in targeting your financial security and New Year's Resolutions:
Keep in mind, these are just ideas, tips, and tricks to help you along the way. The biggest thing to keeping a goal is your mindset. If you want to achieve it and work at it, you will. Some of us may just need a little help and assistance with these tips and tricks along the way.
Here's to a prosperous and successful 2018!
You can purchase my Red Tunic Sweater I have on in these photos here.