You’ve written them down. You’ve taped them to the mirror. You’ve even made a New Year’s resolution to keep your New Year’s resolutions.
Working toward your goals seems much easier when you’re blowing noisemakers and watching the ball drop than it does weeks later, once post-holiday life has returned to normal. That’s why just one in 10 people succeed at keeping their resolutions. Want to be in the 10 percent this year? Here’s a tip: It’s all about choosing the right goals.
The way you frame your New Year’s resolutions can have a big impact on how motivated you are to keep them. The most common mistakes include setting goals that are too vague, too ambitious or too much of a chore. You’ll have an easier time sticking to your resolutions if you:
- Make them specific. “Saving more” and “paying down debt” are both worthy goals, but they make weak resolutions. Technically, you could work on them for a day and check them off your list as a job well done. If you want to save money, aim for a specific dollar amount. If you want to reduce your debt, pick the smallest one and aim to pay it off.
- Keep them reasonable. A resolution that’s too overwhelming is just as likely to discourage you as one that’s too vague. If you’re working toward a larger goal, like saving for a down payment on a home, break it into smaller chunks and tackle just a portion of it this year. Instead of thinking, “I want to save $2000,” tell yourself “I want to save $200 a month this year.” The closer you get to the finish line, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going, which is why smaller resolutions are easier to keep.
- Minimize the impact on your lifestyle. How often have you made a resolution to drastically alter your lifestyle — think eating, drinking, exercising — only to revert to old habits within a few days? Major lifestyle reboots are much harder to maintain than incremental changes over time.
With these guidelines in mind, here are three resolutions you can totally keep:
1. Save an extra 5 percent of your income
Want to save more money this year? Challenge yourself to carve an extra 5 percent out of your budget. It’s not as hard as you might think. Shop around to see if you can get a better deal on car insurance. Layer up and turn down the thermostat. Reconsider your digital subscriptions and cancel any that aren’t giving you your money’s worth.
2. Pay more than the minimum on your credit card balance
If getting out of debt is your goal, pick your smallest credit card balance and commit to making a bigger monthly payment. For example, on a $2,000 credit card balance with a 14 percent APR, paying $100 each month toward your balance instead of paying only minimum monthly payments of around $44 could saves hundreds in interest and shaves years off your repayment period. If $100 feels like too much, pick a smaller amount — you’ll still benefit.
3. Start a new financial habit
Want to get more proactive about managing your money? Pick a new financial habit and focus on embedding it into your lifestyle over the next year — it will keep working for you long after 2019 is over. For example, you could commit to:
- Tracking your spending each month.
- Reviewing your monthly bill statements for overcharges.
- Making automatic deposits into your savings account each paycheck.
- Following a budget.
It takes time to start a new habit, so you’ll need to keep your momentum going at least through February. After that, it gets easier. Pick a resolution you can reasonably stick to, make a 60-day plan, and go ahead and kick off the new year with a boost of confidence.