Lose weight … get in shape … get motivated … volunteer more … get out of debt. It is the common refrain heard every January as we make New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, most people’s resolutions fail before the calendar turns to the month of February. How can you avoid this when making financial New Year’s resolutions?
Set SMART Financial New Year’s Resolutions
Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound) goals may be the answer. You may have already seen SMART goals mentioned in the workplace (and recently there has been legitimate criticism of their effectiveness in the corporate world for being too easily obtained). But considering the failure rate of resolutions, SMART goals might be the best option to begin your New Year’s journey.
If you are struggling with debt, especially coming out of the holidays, here is a breakdown and examples of SMART goals that can help with your financial New Year’s resolutions:
Everyone wants to get out of debt, but it is that vagueness which can serve to trip up your commitment to the goal. Focus on a specific aspect of your debt. For instance, commit to creating and sticking to your new budget.
Use a simple spreadsheet to track your expenses. At first, stick to broad, simple categories, such as Rent, Food, Fuel, Insurance, Entertainment, and Incidentals.
By starting in small steps, it is easier to build good habits. Keep the initial phase simple so you can build confidence in your ability to work within a budget.
Budgeting is a crucial foundation for maintaining your financial health. Learning to live within your means can be nothing but positive for your life.
Focus on a short-term time frame. You can set a budget for a period from one paycheque to your next at a minimum. A monthly budget would be better, since many expenses (e.g. subscriptions) are on a monthly cycle.
More Potential Goals
If budgeting seems too overwhelming, set a smaller, more obtainable goal. With the new year starting, are you getting a pay increase soon? Is your insurance reducing their premiums? Either will cause a small increase in your take-home pay.
With the discovery of extra income, it is easy to use it as discretionary (fun) spending. However, if you are trying to get in front of your debt problem, then it would be best to use that found money for debt reduction. If you can commit to taking half and putting it into savings, and the other half into an extra payment on a high interest credit card, you’ll reduce your debt and accumulate savings at the same time. But do not forget, you are still living under the same income constraints as the previous year.
Make SMART financial New Year’s resolutions, take them one step at a time, and keep them all year long. Watch for more tips on savings, debt management, and budgeting in our future articles. If you need help with debt relief, book your free consultation now.