Each year you choose a New Year’s resolution…whether it’s to lose weight, declutter your house, eat healthier, or exercise more. So many people fall off their resolutions because something gets in the way or they get discouraged due to lack of progress. Here are helpful tips to help you actually stick to your resolution this year.
CHOOSE ONE RESOLUTION
The best way to keep your resolution is pretty simple: only choose one. If you have too many goals, it is too easy to get spread thin and tasks to stay on track will seem overwhelming.
KEEP IT SIMPLE AND CLEAR
Don’t choose a complicated goal; instead keep it simple. For instance, we’re going to choose paying down debt as our goal for this post. So the goal would be: “Pay off my credit cards.”
CHOOSE CLEAR, ACTIONABLE STEPS TO TAKE
Without actionable steps, you will never reach your goal. Think about meaningful, concrete actions that will help you pay off debt. For instance: create a budget and stick to it, reduce spending, stop charging, cut up credit cards, pay with cash only, save for more expensive items you need, pay more than the minimum payment due, and save for emergencies.
PRIORITIZE YOUR STEPS
Prioritize the actions you came up with. In this case, the first step would be to STOP CHARGING and if necessary, cut up cards if you think you may be tempted to continue to charge. Next, create a realistic budget and determine where you can cut spending.
If you don’t stick to your budget and reduce spending, then you won’t be able to pay more toward your cards. And that is what will help you pay down debt faster so it’s a crucial action to take. Next, when you do spend, have a plan and pay with cash / money you have set aside for what you need. Finally, without emergency savings you are in danger of falling back into the debt trap. Therefore, it’s important to include savings in your budget.
You are more likely to fail if you are unrealistic with your plan. For example, you say you’re going to cut out every unnecessary expense or that you’re never going to the coffee shop or dining out.
But if those are habits you have maintained for years, it’s unrealistic to think you’re just going to stop them cold turkey. Instead, set limits and just reduce those trips to start with.
Instead of 3 days a week, switch buying coffee or take-out to once a week. Then, if you’re able, cut back to once every other week if you can. It all adds up!
DON’T GIVE UP
One of my favorite phrases is “life happens.” And it couldn’t be more true for the average person. We will all have to deal with an injury or illness, broken appliance, emergency vet trip, broken down car, or even a government shutdown at some point. So even if something like this comes up, do your best to get back on track.
REPLACE BAD HABITS WITH GOOD ONES
Perhaps you are a retail therapy kind of person or as mentioned above, you and your family dine out quite a bit. It’s so much easier to replace a habit than to just stop doing something. Instead of dining out, make dining in fun: plan a meal in and cook together as a family. Taco Tuesday, anyone?? Make it a weekly thing. Figure out what you can do to still have fun together while saving money at the same time. Food themes, game, and movie nights are always fun. When I get together with my family all we need are a few decks of cards and some snacks and we always have a blast. 🙂
TELL YOUR LOVED ONES
Tell the people closest to you what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s much easier to stick to good habits and reach your goal if you have support.
DON’T FORGET TO CELEBRATE VICTORIES – EVEN SMALL ONES!
When you reach a goal or even accomplish part of a goal, be sure to celebrate. Whether it’s sticking to a budget or avoiding charging purchases for a few months, you need to pat yourself on the back and maybe even treat yourself a little. But the key is a little. Don’t go overboard and make sure it doesn’t create a slippery slope back into back habits. Take the family out for ice cream or go out to a movie; don’t purchase a trip to Mexico or a new TV. Keep it small and simple…and of course cheap because you’re trying to become debt-free after all!
YOU CAN DO IT
With a little motivation and planning, you CAN achieve your goal. If you have started taking action or haven’t even picked a resolution yet, that’s okay. Now is as good a time as any to start. Because you can’t get anywhere without starting. You got this!!
If you would like help creating a realistic budget or options for paying down debt the fastest, LSS Financial Counseling can help. Call us at 888.577.2227 for or GET STARTED ONLINE with your free and confidential appointment.
Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.