At the turn of every New Year, the internet is filled with lists of resolutions—ones that will help you get in shape, or improve your mood, or strengthen your relationships. Our favorite lists offer resolutions to help you get (or keep) your savings on track. The start of the year is a great time to set financial resolutions, and numerous websites offered great lists of financial goals for 2018. But much harder than setting the goals is actually keeping them. The former only takes a moment, the latter takes dedication and commitment, day after day, week after week. Commitment to resolutions tends to fade a few weeks into the year—people stop going to the gym, stop eating healthy, and, unfortunately, stop saving like they promised they would. Here’s our advice on not just the financial resolutions you should make, but how to keep them.
Keep track of your progress.
Many goals are unquantifiable, making it hard to know whether your efforts are worthwhile. That can prove to be an obstacle, but luckily, financial goals are easy to keep track of. Seeing the dollars rise in your account is a motivation to keep going. Downloading an app that tracks your savings can make this simple and will do all the calculations for you. Many banks and retirement plans offer them. Check out WISER’s blog post, “Save or spend? How apps can help you stay on track,” for a review of what’s available.
If a goal is proving too difficult, reassess it, rather than dropping it all together.
There is no shortage of recommendations for how much you should be saving. This financial new year’s resolutions list, for example, suggests that people save 15% of their gross incomes. If you make $60,000 a year that would be a savings goal of $750 per month. The percentage you should aim to save depends on a number of variables including your age and financial stability, but many people may find these goals hard to meet. WISER’s Seven Life-Defining Financial Decisions booklet offers advice on how to set the right goal for yourself. If you can’t save 15%, don’t get discouraged. Instead of keeping the number too high and continuously failing to meet it, try readjusting your goal until you reach a level that is doable and appropriate. This will likely stop you from throwing away the goal completely.
Work on one goal per month, rather than all of them at once.
Many use the start of a year as a time to set goals, but why not the start of the month? Rather than loading yourself up with ten new financial tasks all at once, try adding in one new goal per month, so that by the time the month is over and it’s time to add a new goal, the first has already become a habit. January is a great time to create a budget or review the one you have, and the start of each new month would offer a chance to reassess that budget and your spending and savings habits. WISER’s Budget worksheet is a great resource to help get you thinking about your monthly income and expenses. In February, make a commitment to prioritize your debts—meaning analyzing all the debt you have, and figuring out what is the priority to pay off, based off which has the highest interest rate. Continuing setting a new financial goal each month and watch your financial confidence grow!
Ask for help.
Finally, remember that although many see finances as something that is private, talking to family and friends about your goals can be extremely helpful. Finding a buddy who is also trying to save, or who can offer advice, will make it much more likely that you reach your goals.