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How to Stick to Financial New Year's Resolutions

How to Stick to Financial New Year's Resolutions

The year is drawing to a close, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions. If pledging to improve your finances is on your list of goals, you’re not alone.

A desire to “improve finances” was the second most popular New Year’s resolution last year, trailing only behind weight loss goals, according to John Norcross, author and psychology professor at the University of Scranton. However, Norcross noted less than half of resolution makers are still going strong to achieve their goals at the six-month mark.

Want to make sure you stick with your financial resolutions? Try these six tips to maintain your resolutions all year long:

1)    Create realistic goals: It’s easy to become discouraged and veer off track when you set goals you’re truly unlikely to attain. While a resolution may sound great in theory, if it’s something that’s unrealistically out of reach, it’s best to scale it back a bit. For example, if you currently aren’t saving for retirement, making it your goal to contribute 2-3% percent of each paycheck to your 401(k) is manageable. However, trying to save 10% from the start could be daunting, causing you to give up after a few paychecks.

2)    Schedule automatic withdrawals: Schedule automatic withdrawals: Don’t give yourself the option to skip saving money each month. Setting up automatic withdrawals allows you to save without even thinking about it. Your savings account will automatically receive a deposit each paycheck, without giving you the opportunity to spend the money elsewhere. BCU’s Rainy Day Savings™ account is a great tool to help you in this regard.

3)    Practice the buddy system: Enlist a friend to join your vow to be more financially responsible in 2014, then discuss how you’ll support one another. Agree to call one another if you’re tempted to go off track, so you can talk each other out of making a bad decision. You’re sure to think twice about making frequent impulse purchases if you know someone is there to hold you accountable.

4)    Set time limits: It’s easy to set a general goal of paying down debt or saving more money, but you might just put it off until next December if you don’t set a time limit. Resolve to achieve a certain percentage of your goal in 3-6 months, so you’ll have an incentive to get started right away.

5)    Use online tools: Make it easy to create a budget and stick to a financial plan by managing your money online. Sites like Mint.com, Geezeo, and Pocketsmith make it easy for you to view all your accounts at once, set financial goals and track your spending.

6)    Reward yourself: While a goal of improving your finances is undeniably rewarding, adding a little incentive for yourself when you meet certain goals can serve as a necessary motivation to stick to your financial resolutions. For example, after successfully accomplishing your goals each month, reward yourself with a small amount of money that you can spend any way you please (don’t forget to factor this amount into your budget!)

Resolving to improve your finances is a great way to get the year off to a great start, but resolutions are only ideas until you act on them. Set realistic New Year’s resolutions that are tied to actions and benchmarks, so you won’t find yourself aiming for the same targets in the next new year.

Sara Collins, NerdWallet

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