According to U.S News, around 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. So if you’re rounding out this summer season with your 2018 money goals nothing but a distant memory, you’re not alone.
The good news is, you still have plenty of time to join the roughly 8% of people who will achieve their resolutions by the end of the year!
Here’s your guide for hitting the refresh button on your New Year’s resolutions this Fall, so you can get back on track financially and have some money wins to celebrate this coming New Year’s!
Start by Getting SPECIFIC
Setting a resolution to save more money or to start investing or to pay down debt is awesome. But it isn’t necessarily effective. We need to give our goals more specificity if we want to experience tangible outcomes.
For example, instead of saying you want to build an emergency savings fund, give yourself an actual monetary target. For example, you might say you want to save $2,000 by the end of the year. You can then divide that number by 4, the number of months left in the year, to get an exact amount, $500, that you need to tease out of your budget each month in order to achieve your goal.
Once you have a concrete number in mind, you can review your spending and determine exactly which expenses can be reduced or eliminated to achieve your monthly savings goal. Or maybe you can negotiate a raise this quarter that will help you dedicate additional funds towards your savings. This kind of specificity helps ground your big picture resolutions in specific behavioral changes, resulting in clear, tangible outcomes.
The more specific you get about where you’re headed, the more effective action you can take to get there.
Focus on BIG Financial Wins – Why Not?
When it comes to tackling major financial changes, it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of money – comparison shopping, coupon clipping, etc.
While these daily savings strategies can certainly help save a few dollars here and there, it’s important that we don’t spend all of our time and energy chasing these small savings while sacrificing the opportunity to make financial changes with greater impact.
For example, improving your credit score to qualify for better financing deals can save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan like your mortgage. Or renting out a spare bedroom to cut your housing cost in half can free up hundreds of dollars in your budget each and every month. These big financial wins can improve your financial life in a way that getting 30% off a pair of new shoes is unlikely to match.
So while you can and should be mindful of your day-to-day cash flow, and implement strategies to optimize it, be sure you’re not getting so bogged down in this money minutia that you miss out on the bigger picture financial wins that can drive greater progress toward achieving your financial goals.
Don’t Rely on Willpower, Rely on SYSTEMS
It’s not enough to set financial goals and get specific with them, you also have to put systems in place that commit your day to day financial behaviors to your money goals.
For example, if you want to save that extra $2,000 this year to fund your emergency savings account, you need to rely on more than your willpower to make it happen. Automate a $500 deposit into savings at the start of each month to make sure you’re actually following through. Or have a portion of every paycheck rerouted to your emergency savings as soon as it hits your checking account each week. When you don’t see that money sitting in your checking account, you’re less likely to think of it as money you have available to spend.
Systems like this ensure that resolutions don’t become an afterthought, sacrificed in favor of everything else that happens to be top of mind in the moment.
Keep Your WHY Top of Mind
In addition to getting specific with your savings numbers, it’s also important to get specific with what you’re saving FOR. For instance, saving an extra $500 each month may sound like a major sacrifice, but if you know those savings are in service of protecting your loved ones in case of an emergency or affording your dream vacation, you’ll probably be more motivated to follow through, increasing your chances of actually achieving your savings goals.
To keep your ‘why’ top of mind and make daily spending decisions that align with your big picture goals and priorities, create tangible reminders of what your ‘why’ looks like and strategically place them around your life. For example, an image of your dream home as your desktop background as you’re saving up for a down payment, or a picture of your children wrapped around your credit cards as you work to build their emergency cash reserves. Whatever resonates with you and motivates you to save, make it visual and put that reminder someplace where you have to check-in with it regularly.
With these 4 strategies in place, you’ll be well on your way to major wins toward your 2018 money goals before the New Year!