Every new year the fireworks boom overhead, Auld Lang Syne plays in the background and millions of hopeful people make resolutions they have every intention of keeping. But, did you know that less than 10 percent actually reach the goals they declared at the start of the year?
So how do you keep your resolutions, especially when they’re as important as your financial health? The first step is committing to specific, realistic and measurable goals that address all sides of your money equation. The following advice quickly moves you from nice, general goals to specific, quantifiable steps with clear, reasonable deadlines.
Resolution 1: Save more. Find ways to cut costs in your every day life and funnel that money toward savings. First, pay attention to your home expenses. Aim to reduce your utility bill by weather proofing your home, filling your dishwasher completely before running it, washing your clothes in cold water, setting the thermostat 2 degrees lower in the cold months and 2 degrees higher in the warm months. You may be surprised at how much money you can save. Another big way to save – plan your meals around sale items at the grocery store and clip those coupons. If there’s a particularly good sale on something like meat, buy more and freeze it for future meals. And most grocery store chains have loyalty programs and even apps where you can check on in-store savings while you shop.
Resolution 2: Spend less. In order to follow through on this resolution, you need to have a clear picture of your spending patterns for the past year. From there, you can determine the areas where you can cut back. Be careful though and don’t make unrealistic promises – you probably won’t succeed at cutting your spending in half, but you can succeed by identifying your spending weaknesses and making specific commitments to pare back the shopping sprees. For example, if you compulsively buy shoes online, you can resolve to stop surfing certain websites and limit your shoe purchases to one pair per season. Do you buy a $2 coffee every morning on your way to work? Make your own at home and watch that daily saved $2 add up over the year. The same goes for lunch. Eat leftovers for lunch or pack a sandwich instead of spending $7 a day on fast food. In a year, that’ll lead to well over $1,000 in savings.
Also, think about staying home a bit more. When you go out, there are so many more reasons to spend: gas, cabs, subway fares, meals, snacks and incidentals.
Resolution 3: Bump up your income. You won’t make more money by simply promising to do so at the start of the year. Specify this goal with clear steps that will lead to that higher salary. If you love your current job, resolve to negotiate a raise, and remember to come prepared with a strong case for why you are worth it. If there is no room for advancement at your current company, resolve to attend two networking events per month and send out five resumes each month until you find that higher paying job. And finally, invest in yourself. Plan to enroll in classes or training that will push you to the next level of your career and allow you to command a higher salary. If you’re satisfied with your job and are itching for a side gig, explore passive income streams like investing in a rental property.
Remember, it’s up to you to ensure that your New Year’s Resolutions become success stories and not items on a crumpled up list tossed out with the Christmas tree. You can achieve your goals if you make them specific, realistic and measurable. And don’t lose sight of your list. Pin it to your corkboard over your desk or stick it on your refrigerator door so you can check in on your progress on a regular basis. You can do this!
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