For many of us, early January is exciting—a time of dreaming, planning, list making, note taking. We’re thinking about the upcoming year and what we want to get out of it. We’re past the holiday frenzy of activity and spending, and ready to buckle down into better financial habits. Our goals sound something like one of these:
- Work toward buying a home.
- Create an emergency fund.
- No-eating-out January.
- Nail down a budget.
- Save for trip.
- Increase my savings.
- Buy-nothing 2019.
- Consolidate student loans.
But then, BOOM. An unexpected expense or an exciting opportunity comes up. Mid-January hits. We lose our shiny-new-year motivation and slip quietly back into old habits. Our significant other, friends or loved ones aren’t on board. Work has picked back up, and it’s just easier at the end of the day to grab the takeout or destress by online shopping.
We hear you, and believe me, you are NOT alone. So now what?
We need a Resolution Reboot.
First, let’s make a list of our resolutions—all of them—even the ones we planned to pursue but not put on the official list. If your list is longer than five items, chances are, you’re spreading yourself too thin to make meaningful gains in all areas. Prioritize your absolute top goals, and spend your time and energy there. No, really. Write them down. I’ll wait.
Have your new and improved list? Good.
Serious goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. So instead of having a loose idea of saving a bunch toward a down payment, a SMART goal would look something like this:
“In 2019 I want to work toward buying a home (specific!) saving at least $5,000 toward the down payment (measurable and relevant!). I can do this by saving $400 per month, which is possible if I keep my food and entertainment budget at or under $350 (realistic—don’t set the budget so low you can’t stick to it). I will begin by committing to this savings rate for January and re-evaluate in March (time-bound).”
OK, now we’re getting somewhere.
The last secret ingredient for hitting your goals? Let’s make the plan right now for the next slip-up. Then, instead of losing motivation and giving up, you have steps to get back on the right path. The steps may look something like this:
- Identify the trigger for unplanned spending (for me this is usually something like a splurge on a pedicure to get some alone time).
- Forgive yourself. Nobody is perfect. Dust yourself off and begin anew.
- Find a fix for the next time this situation comes up, or find a more financially sound substitute (buy a nail polish and a pumice stone and practice self care the DIY way).
So we’ve narrowed our goals our highest priorities, nailed down exactly how we will get after them, and made a plan for when we get off track. We can do this.
Want even more motivation? Join us in the HerMoney private Facebook group. Let us know your goals so we can work toward them together!