Where has 2015 gone?! It’s been a crazy fast year. It seems the older I get the faster the years seem to fly. I have a little (big) girl who is going to be six already in February and another little girl who just turned three at the end of November.
Every year around this time, whether we want to or not, we seem to kind of take stock of how our lives went the past year. We look back and see what we did well, what goals we achieved, and what needs to be done differently for next year. It’s a time of reflection as we relax (hopefully!) for the holidays.
Then it’s time to look forward to the next year. Usually unsatisfied wth how the past year went, we choose one big goal to attain during the new year (usually it has something to do with weight, thank you very much holidays).
The New Years Resolution.
We make a lofty goal. One that we know will make us incredibly happy when we reach it. Then, we lift our heads and run after the goal with all we are, leaving behind all of our unattained goals from the past year. We’re off!
A few weeks into January we feel great. We’re winning! We’ve started to conceptualize our own business or look for that new job we’ve been talking about. We’ve been doing great on our diet. We’ve started that budget and decided how to pay off our debt. We’re doing it!
Then the middle of February hits. We start to forget about our diets or budgets or plans. We start to forget about our resolution we tried so hard to incorporate into our lives. Maybe it was that dessert your Grandma makes that you just couldn’t resist. Maybe you had an unforeseen expense and your emergency fund has plummeted. Perhaps you’ve hit a dead end in your job hunt. Something has happened to discourage you from continuing your upward journey so you say, “Skip it, maybe next year.”
We’ve all heard of this story before. Most of us live it every year. But what if next year was different? What if next year you could accomplish what you’ve set out to do? Whether you are looking to revamp your financial life or your life in general, here are some ways to help you do that.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Sweating the small stuff is something I used to excel at. Especially with budgeting. I used to try and save every dollar I could. Let me be the first to guarantee you that doing this will make you quit early and make it easy to quit. It doesn’t feel good to have to micro manage everything. As much as I am a proponent of looking at your budget often, sweating the small stuff is going to do any financial new years resolution in.
Instead, look at the big picture. If you’re looking to pay off debt, set your self a plan and stick to it. If your goal is to pay off a $3,000 credit card by the end of 2016, then break up those payments into twelve $250 payments. Sticking to the plan is the hard part. If something happens and you can only do the minimum payment of $40 or $50, then don’t sweat it. The problem with New Years Resolutions is that we quit when something goes wrong. We fall off the wagon, if you will. I want to encourage you to get back on the wagon. Don’t quit because you’ve missed making an extra payment. Look at the big picture by looking at how much you’ve paid off already. If it’s the beginning of March, you’ve paid off around $500 so far (not including any interest)! Keep it up!
If you’re looking to apply this to something like losing weight, quit looking at the scale! Measure inches instead, especially if you are doing weight training. We all know that muscle weighs more than fat. If you are concentrating on the number on the scale, you may get discouraged if you notice the number isn’t really going down, even if your losing fat and gaining muscle. You’ve got this!
Set One or Two Goals to Focus on All Year
And don’t make them in the same category! For instance, don’t try to pay off two credit cards at the same time. This is just like the debt snowball method. You want to focus on paying down one debt while just making the monthly minimum (let’s call them maintenance) payments on the others.
If you want to focus on paying down one of your debts or setting a goal to get your financial life in order and do something like get in shape or go through the mountains of clothes in your closet, then by all means go for it! Setting a goal in two separate areas of life will help your mind prioritize and not get overwhelmed. If you set two goals in the same area, you will be thinking the same thing for both, making burn out more likely.
If you happen to set yourself a goal and you complete it sometime before the end of the year, by all means go on to the next one! Before you do, though, be sure to do the next step.
That’s right. If you complete a goal then please reward yourself. Giving yourself the ole pat on the back is great and much needed to really feel your accomplishment.
In December of next year, if you know you’re going to meet your resolution, then do something for yourself. Let’s use our credit card example above. You set that New Years Resolution to pay off your credit card with a $3,000 balance by the end of next year. You manage your money well so you get it paid off a month or two early. Great job! You need a reward!
Take some of that extra money you were using on your credit card and do something for yourself or your family! Maybe go out to dinner. Buy that new pair of shoes you’ve really wanted for three months but held off on because you were paying down your debt.
Whether you reach your goal early or just make it by the end of the year, you will be on an adrenaline high. As I mentioned, resist the urge to jump right in to the next goal and take time for yourself. You absolutely deserve it!
Another thing that might help is picking your reward before you start your New Years Resolution. This allows you something to look forward to, like dangling the carrot in front of the horse! Just like an incentive at the store makes it easy to buy something, this is your incentive for completing your goal.
Always Be Goal Minded
One last, quick tip is to train your mind to always have a goal. I know I mentioned above to only pick out one or two goals for the year, but I am really referring to large goals normally associated with New Years Resolutions.
Set yourself mini goals a lot. Start small with things that are easily obtained. They can even be a breakdown of your overall goal. For instance, you can set a goal of exercising for 30 minutes three times in a week. If it’s something financial, it can be something like bringing your lunch to work 4 days out of 5 this week instead of spending money for lunch. It’s a small goal, it’s easily attainable, and you will still get the satisfaction from achievement.
So what does this do for you?
This will exercise the part of your brain that you use to commit to and achieve goals. Just like with exercising your muscles, the more you do something the easier it gets. I encourage you to be goal minded year round, and use your new found power to achieve your New Years Resolution.
New Years Resolutions are a huge pain point in everyone’s lives. While I don’t necessarily agree with people who say “New Years Resolutions are never a good idea and you shouldn’t do them,” I completely understand the reasoning. Most people fail at them (me included) so why put yourself through that?
I can guarantee you that the benefits far outweigh the potential downfalls. I encourage to use the tips above to complete your New Years Resolution for next year and beyond, financial or otherwise.
And most importantly…have fun doing it!