Are you among the estimated 74% of Americans who made a New Year’s resolution to learn something new, make a lifestyle change or set a personal goal to better themselves in 2021? This year’s top categories focus on money, health, career, self-improvement and family.
We’re five months into the year. How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Do you even remember what they were?
If your answer is #fail, you’re not alone. Less than 10 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic.
But, don’t despair. It’s not too late to get your financial resolutions back on track. These five tips can help.
1. Adjust Your Goals
One-in-four Americans lists spending less money as a top goal for the New Year.
That’s a tall order! Instead of selecting such an ambiguous goal, focus on something more specific that you can realistically achieve. Small, incremental goals have a much greater chance of success.
For example, create a realistic budget. Bankrate suggests tracking every single penny you spend for one month. You’ll learn exactly where your paycheck is going and where you’re overspending.
Another specific way to achieve your financial goal is to increase your 401(k) contribution. Upping it by as little as 1 percentage point can produce enormous returns later in life.
2. Create a supportive environment.
If certain aspects of your life are hindering your progress, change them. “Little tweaks to your environment can make a big difference in your ability to stick to your resolution,” explains Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
“If you want to exercise more, keep a packed gym bag by your bed. If you want to lose weight, keep the foods you tend to overeat out of the house.” Want to wake up earlier? Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get up to turn it off.
Did you resolve to spend less in 2021? Then, don’t keep cash in your wallet. Buy a coffee maker to brew your morning latte at home instead of buying it from the trendy java shop. Cancel your online shopping membership to make those late night impulse buys harder to do.
3. Stick to one thing.
Taking on too much is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Multiple goals can be overwhelming. Instead, think baby steps. Pick one goal, focus all your energies on it, master it, and then move on to the next goal.
That’s the strategy behind the snowball method to pay off debt, an approach made popular by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey. Instead of setting an ambitious goal to become debt-free in 2021, start small. Focus on paying off your smallest debt balance first while making minimum payments on all your other debts. Once that balance is paid off, take the funds you previously allocated to your smallest debt and put them toward the next-smallest debt balance. Essentially, your building – or “snowballing” – toward repaying the next balance, repeating the process until all of your debt is repaid.
4. Track your Progress.
Once you have a realistic goal and a specific plan to achieve it, tracking your progress can be a huge motivator to succeed. Sports psychologist Dr. Stephen Graef recommends having a visual picture of your progress. “If, on your calendar, you’ve marked off five days in a row where you’ve met your goals, that’s going to really increase the likelihood that you don’t want to break that streak on the sixth day.”
If your New Year’s resolution is to pay off credit card debt, make a chart to record your monthly balance after each statement. Seeing that balance get smaller month after month is a good motivator when you get the urge to splurge on something that’s not in your budget.
5. Get Support from Family and Friends.
A solid support system can help you stay motivated and accountable. Share your resolutions with family members and close friends, and ask them to help you achieve your goals.
If you’re trying to budget for a home mortgage down payment, dining out and entertainment can be big budget busters. Suggest eating at home more often and divert the money spent at restaurants toward your goal of homeownership. Instead of movies, concerts and theme parks, chose more free activities like hiking, bike rides and game nights.
Even better, find a friend or family member who shares your financial resolutions and buddy-up to motivate each other.
When you think about it, January 1 is just another day on the calendar. Today is just as good as any other to reset your New Year’s resolutions. For more ways to get back on track and achieve your financial goals, check out our New Year’s Financial Resolutions Calendar and 5 easy and fun ways to spend less.