It’s Time for a New Years Resolution Check-In

By Dallas Sargent

We’re well into the 3rd month of the year, where everything is filtered in bright colors and everywhere you look, you’re reminded of the day of love and spring is blooming. It’s easy to get caught up and lose track of you (I know you’d rather do the spring cleaning than review your budget spreadsheet).

Have you checked in with yourself lately? We are, after all, over 20% done with this year, which is roughly a third of the percentage of people who have given up on their New Year’s resolutions after the first month (about 58% of people give up on their resolutions by February).

This information may be a little scary at first, but the thing is, it’s easy to lose track of the resolutions you may have started before, and it never hurts to do a little check-in just to reorient yourself and stay vigilant about what was – and should remain – important to you. Here are a few finance-related resolutions, and how to get back on track if you strayed.

Save and Budget – It’s Not Too Late!

Listen, you don’t need a new year to give you an excuse to start breaking your bad habits and figuring out what is (and will be) important to you. But it is a convenient time to wipe the metaphorical slate clean and start again. If you had planned to save $100 per month for a trip at the beginning of next year, and you missed your goal for January, it’s okay. Use the next month, or a key date (like the first day of spring, or a payday) to “begin again.” If you budget again and plan the trip again, adjust what you need to do to make up for that past month.

It sounds like a fairly simple solution, but sometimes when you are forced to go through the steps of budging for the same trip with less time, you will see firsthand the loss of one month can have on the amount you now need to save – not to mention how time consuming putting a budget together can be. Maybe have a penalty plan in place, too, in case you continue to miss your goals, if you need something concrete to remind you that you haven’t been 100% responsible to yourself.

Or maybe you aren’t saving for a trip and you’re tracking to get your rainy day fund back on track. If you aren’t totally conditioned in the art of saving money, maybe you got a little ambitious. When we fail to reach a short-term goal along the way to a larger one, it’s often easier to give up. “Well,” we might say, “I gave it a shot, and that’s more than some people can say.” What we sometimes don’t consider is the fact that we can edit and try again. You are responsible for holding yourself accountable (or finding an “accountability buddy”), so who cares if you need to lower your ambitions and try again? Keep in mind that only about 8% of people fulfill their resolutions.

Smalls steps first. Big steps when you get more comfortable.

Allocating Money to Other Areas

Maybe you decided to add more money to your savings by making coffee at home (or, at the very least, treating yourself one day a week instead of five). Maybe you decided to put that money toward a healthier lifestyle – getting healthier food to make at home, opting for a gym membership, or some variant thereof. Whatever the case, this is a resolution that is notoriously easy to slip on because it’s easier to talk yourself into another 20 minutes of sleep than it is to talk yourself out of stopping for coffee on the way to work. This is only one example, but the idea that convenient things tend to be more expensive than planned-for things is pretty universal.

Your decision put that saved money into a healthier lifestyle is an admirable resolution. If you’re going to spend the money, there are far worse ways to do it than self-improvement. But remember that with a resolution like this, if you slip up, you may wind up paying double what you would be paying if you made no resolution at all. Keep yourself in check.

Healthier Living

It’s no secret that physical health and mental health work in tandem with financial health. They’re all related. If you are physically active, the endorphins your body releases can offset the restlessness that results in buying things. Finding joy in going for a walk can save you money and allow your head to clear. The more active you are, the less you are likely to spend on healthcare. If your resolution is health-related, try to find those joyful and secondary reasons for doing it, too, otherwise it’s just another form of work, and that’s a recipe for joining the 58% who give up after a month.

There Will Always Be Sales

We are only a few months past the holidays, and there are still sales going. Don’t be tempted to purchase something on a whim because you’re afraid it will go away. Rest assured that they aren’t going anywhere. Advertising’s job is to get you to put down your defenses and give in because if you wait too long, you’ll never get another chance. You will have another chance.

Improve Your Knowledge of Money

Sometimes the reason we don’t follow through on our resolutions is because maybe we don’t know enough about them and taking the time to learn it can seem like an uphill battle. Maybe you aren’t even aware that there are alternative ways to save money. Maybe the trick to hitting some of your finance-related goals is to find easier ways to accomplish them. For these reasons, it’s worth enrolling in free classes to build your knowledge.

Remember, following through on your resolution, even if it has only a slight resemblance to the original, is huge. You’ve done something only a small fraction of the population can seem to pull off. And don’t get discouraged if, a few months in, you’re finding it hard to stay true to what you enthusiastically set out to do. Stay strong, resist temptation, be active, and keep your latte addiction in check, and you’ll set yourself up for success.