I’ve never done well with New Year’s resolutions. In fact, very few people do. Statistically, 92% of people ultimately fail at their resolutions (according to statisticbrain.com). In my mind, the reason most people fail with their resolutions is because they fail to plan for them properly. I’ve been guilty of the same failures in the past, but there have been a few things I’ve actually been successful with.
Today I thought I would share some of the things I did that helped me be successful with my financial goals in the past. I’m sure they will help you be successful with your finances too.
Plan for Success with your Money
This year, instead of making a resolution with your finances, why not do something different and set some goals with an action plan to reach the goals? Actions speak louder than words, and resolutions are exactly that: just words. Goals and plans are what actually facilitate action. I’ve NEVER achieved a resolution. I have, however, reached goals that I set and made a plan to achieve.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
I’m a big fan of the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid). There’s no need to overdo it. Personal finance can be simple or complicated. The choice is up to us – the only reason it’s so confusing and difficult is because we make it that way.
Setting and reaching goals are the same way. Making your goals overly complicated often serves to make you give up sooner. You want goals that are easy to see, identify with, and attack. If you make it too hard to tell if you’re successful, it’ll be too difficult to keep up the momentum toward that goal.
Make your Goals Specific
Avoid being too vague with your goals. Don’t just say you want to “improve your finances”, or “make more money” or “reduce debt”. Those are all worthy resolutions, but not very helpful unless you make them more specific. Setting a goal to pay off your home equity loan or eliminate your credit card debt gets you dialed in a little better so you know where to focus your efforts.
Make your Goals Realistic
In order to have any chance for success, you need to make your goals actually attainable. When your financial goals are unrealistic, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Pick a personal finance goal that you can reach in the next 3 months, then one you can reach in the following 3 to 6 months.
Measurable & Time Bound Goals
Make your goals measurable. As mentioned before, simply saying you want to get out of debt won’t get you very far. You need to know where you’re starting from and where you need to go. How much debt do you intend to eliminate? How many cards do you want to pay off? Next, associate the goal with a timeline. Making the goal time-bound helps you plan out the actions needed to reach them. When do you want to reach your goal by?
Again, keep it realistic so you have a real chance to be successful. Don’t shoot for the stars and hope to hit the moon. Aim for the moon, plan to hit it, and then hit it.
Add Action to Your Goals
Which brings us to the next step. Develop a list of action items that will get you to your goal. Having the goal is one thing, but it’s a completely different thing to actually do something to attain the goals. Focus on the behaviors. What things can you do on a daily or weekly basis to make progress toward your goals? Maybe it’s working some extra hours each week or reviewing your expenses so you can make sure you’re on track. Whatever it is, be specific and simple.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Find an accountability partner to keep you honest with your plan. Without some sort of accountability, you’re not likely to follow through. Make it more painful to not follow the plan than it is to do the right thing. When making smarter choices with your money is easier or more fun than making poor choices, you’ll find yourself improving your personal financial situation much more naturally and freely.
Making goals instead of resolutions won’t guarantee your success, but it will definitely make your success much more likely. Give it an honest shot, but only if you’re committed to doing it right!
Have you made resolutions that you’ve actually achieved? What helped you be successful? Or are you like most people who consistently fail to turn resolution into reality? What do you think is the major factor that holds you back from success?