It’s half a month into the New Year and if you’re like most people you’re still struggling with your New Year’s resolutions at best, or you have given up on them at worst. Whether your resolutions are about health and fitness, finances, or de-cluttering, chances are you’re going to forget about them before the end for the first quarter. Don’t get mad yet -- I was exactly the same, and I’m sure that these are some of your reasons too:
- Your goals are too vague - if your goal is simply to "save money" then you're setting yourself up to fail. To be successful (and to measure your success), you need a concrete amount and specific period. Remember to make your goals SMART or Simple, Manageable, Achievable, Realistic, and time-limited. Saving $1000 per month sounds better than saving $100, but how realistic is it? If you set your goal too high, you're going to end up feeling like a failure everytime you don't hit your targets. If your target is more reasonable, say $100 per month, you're less likely to give up and you'd feel accomplished every time you hit or even exceed it.
- Your goals are boring - the truth is financial goals aren’t ever exciting, especially when you stick to just “save money”. Work around this by focusing on why you want to achieve your goals. Maybe you’re saving up for a new car or a family holiday because you don’t want to touch your emergency fund. You dream vacation is more likely to motivate you to save than the idea of saving just because you need to.
Now that you know, it’s time to give yourself a chance to finally succeed in those New Year’s resolutions. Remember that they need to be doable, specific, and meaningful to you. Need help making more specific goals? Here a couple of ideas:
Debt is one of those things that just makes people panic. It's probably because from a very young age we've been told that we shouldn't have any and having debt is a bad thing. While this is true, that doesn't mean that being in debt means it's the end of the world. You can pay it off without starving or even afford a bit of leisure from time to time -- and you can start this year.
If your loans are in large sums meant for long term then you shouldn't pressure yourself into paying it in full before the year ends. That's not the point of this. What you should do plan for the best finance decisions for your present needs. Do you need to refinance? Can or should you to negotiate lower interest rates with your loans at the present moment? When you figure out what your next steps will be, as said best by Shia LaBeouf, JUST DO IT. 2016 is the year for planning towards financial freedom. Whether it’s a credit card, car loan, or a home loan, you’re still going to take the same measures to bring it down or eliminate it completely. Loads of budgeting will still be involved, you’ll still need to get more creative with things like entertainment, food, and home repairs. Monitor your expenses and be prepared to adjust them as you go along.
Understand that there's no one solid way to get out of debt. Your needs and expenses change all the time so make sure that you leave wiggle room when planning your budget. It may sound scary right now but once you start with it, you won't even notice that the year's about to end and that you're so much closer to being debt-free.
Create/Add to Your Bonus Savings Account
Financial experts say that you should have a rainy day cushion that amounts to at least three to six months of your living expenses. Make things easier for you by setting up automatic deposits on pay days either with your bank or with an app. Make sure that your part of your salary (at whatever percent you're comfortable with) goes directly to your savings account. You can even cushion that emergency fund by putting away your tax returns.
Your bonus savings account may have a dismal 2.5% to 3.5% interest rate but it's still a lot better than the 0.01% that you'd get with your normal transaction account. If your account has $10,000, that means you'll have an additional $350 by the end of the year. Neat, right?
These are resolutions that you actually need to do this year but if they don't get you excited, go back to why you want to cushion your savings or get out of debt. Imagine having extra money each month after paying off all your debt. Imagine not needing to worry about money during emergencies like illness or accidents. Imagine being able to go on that dream holiday that you've always wanted. Imagine financial freedom. Doesn't that make you want to turn 2016 into your best year of smart financing yet?