The New Year is upon us, and with it comes the annual ritual of promising to make positive changes in our lives. Whether it is planning to spend more time with family, lose weight, fall in love, or live a happier and healthier life, we all start the year with the best intentions. When it comes to finances, more than 57 percent of those who made New Year’s resolutions set some sort of goal with money, such as paying off debt, saving for the future, or reducing spending habits. So, how did we do last year?
Well, according to a survey from the University of Scranton’s Journal on Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of respondents said they made resolutions of some kind, but only eight percent reported success in achieving their goals.
So, what makes achieving our goals so hard? For some, it may be that the goals were unmeasurable, like “being happy” or “falling in love.” For others, it may be that they did not have a plan to achieve the goals, or they lacked the discipline to follow through because their plans were unrealistic, such as eating only carrots until July. But, what if you set smaller, more achievable goals that can build up to a major success over time? Giving yourself small, frequent victories helps build momentum that will make the larger goals easier to attain. Here are three small goals that will help you take control of your finances this year. They may sound like common sense, but trust me; they can make a world of difference when you stick to them.
#1 Budget: Write it down. Live it out.Just like a carpenter does not start building a house without first developing a detailed blueprint, we also need to develop a plan for how our money will be spent before we receive our check on payday. Start by listing your income for each pay period at the top of a piece of paper. Then, list all of your bills in order of priority (food, housing expenses, transportation expenses, and then other bills and debt payments). As you write down the cost for each bill, subtract it from your income at the top of the page (For example: Income ($1,200) – Rent ($600) = $600 remaining). Continue this process until you reach a $0 balance at the end of the pay period. If bills still need to be paid, place them at the top of the column for the next pay period and repeat the process. If bills remain after all of your money is spent, you will have discovered places where you will need to adjust your spending. The key is not to spend more than you make.
#2 Emergency Fund: Rainy days will come. Have an umbrella.Setting aside an emergency fund can relieve a lot of the stress that comes during a crisis. If the car breaks down, many of us end up with not just a transportation crisis, but a financial one as we try to figure out how we will pay to fix the car. As you begin putting your budget on paper, make sure to include a line for emergency savings. Even if it is a small amount, put something away each pay period and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Pizza delivery is not an emergency.
#3 Be Patient: Stay focused.Too often, we get discouraged after one workout at the gym because we don’t see results in the mirror that same day, or even that week. Then we look at the muscular bodybuilder and think he must have cheated or was born that way. The truth is, he discovered the same secret that the eight percent of us mentioned above discovered: true growth comes over time through small changes. Don’t look at someone else’s retirement plan or lifestyle and be jealous. Instead realize you both started in the same place. They may be further down the road than you, but you will get there too if you don’t give up.
Make your resolution this year to be an “eight percenter.” Set a goal, develop a plan to achieve it, then stick to it. You can do it.
Advertising Coordinator at Texas Bank and Trust
Serving as the advertising coordinator for Texas Bank and Trust, Aaron May describes his true passion as helping individuals take control of their finances. His personal journey to financial freedom gives him a unique, yet relatable, perspective on budgeting, debt management, and saving for emergencies, the future, and beyond.