As 2019 approaches, you’re likely thinking about the New Year’s resolutions you’d like to tackle when it comes to your finances. Perhaps you want to start saving more money or make a dent in your student loans. Or, maybe you want to build a budget that finally works.
Creating financial resolutions is one thing — sticking with them is another. Statistics show that only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions before falling back into their familiar cycle.
To help you be among those who stick to their resolutions, check out these 5 ways to achieve success with your financial goals.
Make your goal(s) sensible and specific
It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew and set a bar that’s too high to reach. For example, a resolution to pay off $30,000 of debt in one year sure is ambitious, but if you only earn $40,000 a year, living on the small remainder is a tough goal to live up to.
Make realistic resolutions, first and foremost. Start small and work your way up.
“Small changes have huge impacts, and if you keep with them, can pay huge dividends over the long haul,” says Mike D’Andrea, a chartered financial consultant.
“It is very difficult to cram our way to financial success. It takes time, so to help make the time work for you, shorten or shrink your goals to make them attainable and build momentum. Let small success work for you,” says D’Andrea.
Another pro tip: When you identify specific goals, take steps to keep yourself on target.
“Write them down and keep them front and center. The more you see your goal, the more you’ll be reminded to make smart money decisions,” says Brad Ruttenberg, a certified financial planner and co-creator of The Money Twins.
The bottom line: Go easy on yourself. If you’re pressuring yourself to hit that savings or debt dollar amount by the end of the year, create a shorter timeline of three or six months. Then, when that time comes around, see where you are with your funds and go from there.
Find an accountability partner
There’s strength in numbers and the best support system can come from partnering up with someone who is also trying to keep a financial resolution. Similar to having a workout partner at the gym, using the buddy system is a remarkably effective way to reach your goals.
“With a partner or group, you can share your financial resolutions with each other, what the plan of action is, and then keep each other accountable as the weeks, months and year moves on,” says Ferguson.
Share your victories, notes D’Andrea. “Let someone important to you know what you are trying to do and keep them updated to your progress. Encouragement goes a long way and it can be a great source of accountability,” he says.
Automate your finances
Even a simple promise to save more money in the new year can be a challenge if you’re not regularly socking cash away.
If saving money is your ultimate goal, start by arranging automatic deposits to your checking or savings account. This way, you can dictate how much money you’d like transferred to your account each time you’re paid, without the need to remind yourself to make those deposits manually.
“To take your automatic saving to the next level, set up multiple accounts for each big savings goal, such as separate savings accounts for your emergency savings, your next vacation, and that fancy new phone you’ve been eyeing,” says credit strategist Brittney Mayer.
Turn your resolutions into good habits
Old habits may die hard, but turning your financial resolutions into new habits helps integrate them into your daily routine without having to obsess about them.
Much like goal setting, aim to develop habits that are easy to manage, no matter how small they may be. For instance, brewing coffee at home each morning can help replace that daily Starbucks habit. And this can also save you money.
“Do the same thing every day,” says author and financial expert Andrea Woroch, who uses the example of saving money as a resolution.
“One way to make your money-saving routine a habit is through repetition. Whether that means making your next day’s lunch as soon as you get home from work (to save on dining out) or checking for coupons before making a purchase online. Doing this every time gets you in the habit so you don’t forget to do it,” says Woroch.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate those little victories when you’ve stayed on track three to six months into your one-year financial resolution. Perhaps reward yourself by splurging on a double venti latte, going out to eat or buying something for yourself. This lessens the burden of sticking to your resolution and motivates you to keep reaching for that goal.
“A small reward can be a great investment in future progress,” says D’Andrea.
If you’re afraid that spending too much money might cause you to fall off the resolution wagon, seek out fun, cost-effective ways to incentivize yourself.
“You might try to find less expensive alternatives to activities you enjoy. For example, if you love to paint, see if you can volunteer some hours in exchange for studio time or supplies. Be creative and you can make it fun,” says D’Andrea.
Resolutions for your resolutions
These 5 tips are technically resolutions. And, sticking with them will help you realize your financial money goals for the new year.
But remember: Creating resolutions may mean recognizing that you need to make changes to your spending and saving habits. Just keep in mind that once you make the right decisions to improve your financial situation, you’ll set yourself on a new course that will lead to positive changes in your life.