It’s the start of a new year, a new decade even. For a lot of us it means setting new intentions or revisiting goals that may have been forgotten. It also means having to fight for a treadmill at the gym (at least for the next month or so). As you think about the year ahead, what resolutions or intentions are you setting in your financial life?
Here are a few tips on the best way to create and stick to a resolution, according to science:
The more specific the better.
Saying you will save more is too vague to be able to gauge your success. Most likely you’ll lose track of your progress and abandon this resolution at some point in the year. Try creating goals with specific metrics you can track, like “I will increase my contribution to my 401(k) from 5% of salary to 8%.” Or if you’re saving for a specific goal, like a down payment, determine a specific amount to set aside per month.
Set yourself up for success.
Ask yourself how likely you are to meet the resolution you set. If the percentage is below 75%, consider making the goal more achievable. If you want to pay off all your debt by the end of the year, you may get discouraged if an emergency expense comes up and you aren’t able to meet your goal despite your best effort. Instead, try setting an amount to put towards your student, car, or home loan that you feel confident you can maintain throughout the year.
Knowledge is power.
Many people draw a blank when asked how much they spend each month. Trying to budget without knowing what current spending looks like is a bit like trying to lose weight without actually tracking your weight. Reviewing your spending each month and understanding where your money is going will make you a more conscientious consumer. There are many great free online budgeting solutions that you can start using now.
Associations are powerful. We avoid things we don’t want to do and, in the process, those tasks can start to pile up and feel more burdensome to even start. Take some of the doom and gloom out of working on your finances by making the process more enjoyable. Have a special treat or drink while you budget. Play some of your favorite music while you review your retirement account. Tackling your finances in smaller, more frequent chunks of time will also make the process more palatable.
Ask for help.
Sometimes we get stuck, and that’s okay. If you have a financial advisor, leverage them as a resource to get guidance when needed. Often, we just need a little nudge in the right direction to get back on track.