We’re just under a month away from 2020 and many of us are already in the thick of holiday get-togethers, gift-shopping, and for some, plans to solidify a New Year’s resolution.
The new year often means a renewed commitment to fresh goals and newly minted aspirations. Some may like to lose a few pounds; others might try to give up a pack-a-day habit. For many people, their 2020 resolution will involve their finances.
But for the average person, setting financial goals for the new year is common. Back in 2018, more than half of Americans indicated they wanted to start 2018 by saving money.
While that’s all fine and good, creating a New Year’s resolution isn’t the hard part – it’s sticking to your commitment(s) that trips people up. Roughly 80% of people rescind their new annual goals come February and less than 20% of folks stay true to their resolutions for at least two years, according to a 2017 Business Insider report.
Indeed, there’s no silver bullet to help keep your resolve, but there are steps you can take to make your financial goals for 2020 more manageable.
Here are four tips to help you along the way.
#1 — Go Easy on Yourself
The term alone – “New Year’s resolution” – can sound daunting and insurmountable. But a goal for the new year doesn’t need to be outrageous. Keep it simple, and don’t overload yourself with plans that are self-defeating.
If you want to start saving more money, decide on a feasible amount to transfer to your savings account with each paycheck. Even putting $10-20 away every couple weeks will add up fast. Don’t plan to save so much that it makes paying bills harder.
Maybe you’re trying to eliminate certain purchases. Pick one expense to do away with. This way, it’s easy to track, and, by cutting just one unnecessary cost, you’ll likely see a noticeable difference in your account at the end of the month.
Take it slow. And think about your goals. Can you see yourself keeping up with them in months to come? Years? If the thought alone gives you anxiety, you’re likely putting too much pressure on yourself.
#2 — Track Your Progress
We love seeing progress. Especially when that progress means we’re doing better financially. Whatever goal you set for yourself – saving, starting and contributing to a retirement fund, paying off debt – be sure to track the progress you’re making.
It will be rewarding to see how far you’ve come and act as tangible evidence that your work is paying off. This also reinforces the fact that your goals should be measurable. You need to create specific objectives that are easy to track and understand.
Positive reinforcement might be just what you need to stay on track with your 2020 goals. Pat yourself on the back when you’ve made some headway.
#3 — Know That Slip-ups Aren’t the End of the World
We all slip up, and it’s part of the goal-setting process. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you start to see your financial plans fall through – instead, take stock of why it happened and devise a new strategy.
This reiterates the need to continually monitor your progress. You need to check in with yourself to ensure you’re sticking to your end of the deal. New habits take time to develop. Set aside ten minutes once a week to go over your progress and assess what’s working and what’s not.
Maybe you’ve tried to budget the old-fashioned way, tracking your monthly ledger with pen and paper. If you find this hasn’t worked, look into a savings app. Search out free financial literacy courses or ask others what worked for them.
Mistakes happen. Don’t get down on yourself when they do.
Remember that these goals don’t necessarily need to involve literal dollars and cents. You could aim to do something as little as compiling research on where you want to be in 10, 20 or 30 years.
What types of accounts do you want to open?
Do you want to switch banks?
What does financial stability look like to you?
If you start devising goals now, you’ll be better set to conquer them come January 1. Little steps can pay big dividends. Set reasonable goals and do your best to stick to them.
Don’t let mistakes discourage you and go easy on yourself. Here’s to new beginnings!