As the New Year approaches many Canadians will begin planning their resolutions, and many of those resolutions will be financial in nature. Money-based resolutions are the third most popular type, yet only 19% of Canadians keep their resolutions for the entire year.
That’s because setting a goal is one thing, but sticking to it is another story. Setting New Year’s resolutions you’ll stick to is almost an art form, especially when it comes to money.
Fortunately, I’ve had over five years of practice setting aggressive financial goals, and I’m here to share my wisdom with you, to help you set New Year’s financial resolutions, and jump-start your finances. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Set SMART Goals
It’s important that your News Year’s financial resolution is smart. I don’t mean smart as in brainy. I mean smart as in the term coined by Peter Drucker.
Smart resolutions are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. They aren’t just ideas, and they aren’t vague ambitions. They are well thought out with clear benchmarks and key performance indicators.
A good example of a smart goal is one that I set a few years ago:
Pay off $10,000 in student loan debt by the end of the year.
This resolution is specific. I didn’t set a vague resolution like, “finally get a handle on my debt.” I set an actual number that I wanted to achieve: $10,000.
This goal is measurable. It was easy to track the amount of debt I paid off in a year. I simply took note of my debt total on January 1st and tracked how much my balance was decreasing throughout the year.
This resolution was attainable, but it was a stretch for me. To pay off $10,000 of debt in one year, I’d have to pay off $833 per month. I was already paying a minimum of $300 per month towards my debt, which meant I had to come up with an additional $533 each month. That was a lot for me, but it was doable.
My resolution was realistic. The year before, I’d paid off several thousand dollars in debt. I used this amount as my baseline and set a goal to improve upon it. $10,000 was a realistic improvement on last year’s amount.
Finally, this resolution was time-based. I set an amount and the date I wanted to accomplish it by: December 31st.
Clarify Your Why
If you set a challenging financial resolution such as paying off a significant amount of debt, you should consider your intention behind that financial goal.
If you set a debt repayment goal – why are you setting it?
Is it because you want to feel more financially secure?
Do you want more room in your budget to save for your future?
Does your debt cause you stress daily?
Figuring out why you want to achieve your goal will help you stay motivated throughout the year.
Break It Down
If your New Year’s financial resolution is a big one, it’s important to break it down into small, manageable chunks. For example, if you want to pay off a large amount of debt, figure out how much you need to pay off by quarter and by month.
Breaking down your goal will help you stay track, and Ii will also give you a series of small wins and boost your enthusiasm for accomplishing your goal.
Setting and accomplishing financial resolutions is hard. It requires discipline and patience, which are skills that most Canadians just don’t have. That’s why just 19% of Canadians stick to their resolutions for the entire year.
So, if you want to set a financial goal and stick to it, you need to reward yourself. Whether it’s a fancy dinner at a restaurant you’ve been dying to try or an electronic you’ve had your eye on, make sure to give yourself a reward for reaching your goal.
Successfully setting goals is all about positive reinforcement. Start out by setting a realistic goal. When you achieve it, reward yourself and set a new, bigger goal. Eventually, you’ll be setting aggressive, ambitious financial resolutions – and crushing them.
Photo Credit: Andrey Larin