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As we near the end of this year and the beginning of 2019, many of us start to think about new year’s resolutions. We think about what we could improve upon and focus our time and ambition on those goals. For 2019, let’s actually follow through on some of these goals and start making some serious progress!
Why We Hate New Year’s Resolutions
Some of us love New Year’s resolutions because we are optimistic people and like to think of “what could be.” Others of us hate them because we see them as pointless due to the fact that most people lose their drive and forget all about their resolutions after the first couple of months.
According to Time Magazine¹ these are the 10 commonly broken New Year’s resolutions:
- Lose Weight and Get Fit
- Quit Smoking
- Learn Something New
- Eat Healthier and Diet
- Get Out of Debt and Save Money
- Spend More Time with Family
- Travel to New Places
- Be Less Stressed
- Drink Less
Do you see a common theme with these resolutions? They are all so broad and generic, there is no way to really measure progress towards them or a real measure to say you have met your goal. In order to make a New Year’s resolution that we can actually accomplish, we need to make it specific and measurable.
Instead of “Lose weight and get fit,” what if we changed it to, “lose 20 pounds by April?” This gives us a clear goal to aim for and a way to measure our progress.
From the list, you can see that #5 is my personal favorite. “Get out of debt and save money” is an equally terrible goal. What does that even mean? What debt are we talking about and how much of it? Does this include your house? What about saving money, how much do you want to save?
What if we changed that resolution to, “pay off my Visa card by May.” Now we have an attainable goal that we can actually measure and see our progress! As we make our resolutions or goals for next year, let’s get specific. Let’s get intentional. I am going to focus on financial resolutions for the remainder of this post but all of these tips are universal and can be used for any resolution.
Financial New Year’s Resolutions
Here are some specific New Year’s resolutions that may be perfect for you for 2019.
- Create a budget to see how much money comes in each month and how much goes out.
- List all your debts in a spreadsheet so you know your total amount of debt.
- Save up $2,000 in an emergency savings by March (or earlier)!
- Pay off your Visa card by June.
- Pay an extra $5,000 towards your vehicle loan principal (the loan you shouldn’t have) In case you forgot: 5 Reasons Car Loans Are A Bad Idea.
- Start putting 18% of your income into retirement (or pick a lower number and work up to 18%).
- Boost your emergency savings up to 3 months of living expenses by November.
How To Follow Through On Your Goals
Now that you have a couple goals from above, or your own that you have come up with, let’s figure out how you actually accomplish those goals next year. The first thing to do is to clear a day on your calendar in January to go over your goal or goals. Pick one of your days off and put down “New Years Resolution Commitment” on that calendar day. Dedicate an hour or so to start working on this goal.
When the day comes, sit down and plan out exactly how you want to accomplish your realistic, reasonable, and measurable goal. If you are going to do a budget, sit down and do the whole thing. It may take a couple of hours, but each month will get easier.
Before you high five yourself and move on with your day, put a block of time at the beginning of each month for the rest of the year to go over your budget for the next month. Doing a budget is a monthly exercise, it is not a set it and forget it activity.
These monthly reminders will ensure you have enough time to complete your budget and remove the excuses from your vocabulary.
Do you want to pay off your Visa card by June? Sit down in January with your budget and figure out how much extra you can squeeze from it. Commit to putting that much more towards your card each month. To guarantee you pay it off in time, pay the extra towards your bill at the beginning of the month to force yourself to stay on budget!
If retirement is your goal, this should be an easy change that you can automate. After reviewing your budget, look over your numbers and come up with a percentage of income that you can afford to put towards your retirement plan. Then put a reminder at the beginning of each month for the remainder of the year to go over your budget and numbers.
Can you survive if you bump your retirement up from 10% to 11% next month? Push yourself, you can accomplish more than you think!
Actively Measure Your Progress
As you sit down each month to go over your goals, whether it be a weigh in to see how much you have lost, or a look at your credit card bill, mark down your progress no matter how little or big it may be. Celebrate your successes and refuse to go back to the old way you did things. Today is not yesterday, so live today like you want to live tomorrow.
I don’t care if you lost one pound or saved $10 bucks, progress is progress and you have to start somewhere. In your celebrations, try to stay away from eating a whole pizza yourself or buying a big screen TV as a reward – or you will be right back where you started.
Set milestones or objects to visually track your progress to keep you motivated. My wife and I have a jar with marbles that sits on our counter. Each marble represents $1,000 left to pay off our mortgage. Each time we pay off $1,000, a marble comes out of the jar. It’s a great visual representation of our debt and it keeps us motivated. Find something that works for you and actually do it.
It’s time to stop talking about our hopes and dreams and actually do something to achieve them. I love this quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.”
If you want something different for your financial life, you can’t continue living the same way while expecting different results. This reminds me of another quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
It’s time to take control of your life and start moving toward your hopes and dreams. It starts today, and I will be here to help you!
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In closing, remember to set specific, reasonable, and measurable goals. Measure your progress and remember to reward yourself when you reach small milestones – you earned it!