If you’re among the estimated eight percent of Americans who kept their New Year’s resolutions last year, congratulations! You can stop reading now.
But if you’re among the other 92 percent who have trouble keeping that overly-broad, year-long goal you thought of while participating in rowdy New Year’s Eve festivities, here’s some advice: Keep it simple. Keep it focused.
Take a cue from Principal Financial Group‘s survey of top resolutions among 1,110 workers, who said their financial priorities were…
- paying off credit card debt (28 percent)
- saving a set amount of money on a monthly basis (24 percent)
- reducing monthly spending (20 percent)
If you’re trying to get out of debt or save money, check out this infographic and get more detailed tips on New Year’s resolutions below.
1. Exercise your mind.
Self-control isn’t limited to Victoria’s Secret models on a diet. And it’s like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it grows. So instead of impulse-buying a pair of jeans the next time you go shopping, make a list of what you need and stick to it, before you go shopping.
It’s important to build muscle slowly, so make sure you do the same with your finances. Trying to quit bad spending habits cold turkey is like trying to resist a cupcake when you’re really hungry.
2. Avoid “spending hangovers.”
These can happen after an extended spending spree, like a vacation or shopping during the winter holidays. You stop tracking your money for a little while and suddenly your credit card statement shows a balance in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The best way to avoid a hangover (well, besides not drinking in the first place) is to plan out your night and what type of drinks you’ll have. Same applies to spending. If you’re easily tempted, leave your credit card at home when you go shopping.
3. Save regularly every month.
Financial experts pretty much all agree that you should pay yourself first, whether it be for an emergency fund or your retirement. Just as you set aside money for your monthly phone bill or utilities bill, you should be setting aside money each month for your own future, too.
4. Kick the habits that cost you most.
5. Don’t pay for stuff you don’t use anymore.
Gym memberships, old magazine or newspaper subscriptions, and monthly streaming services like Spotify or Netflix should be canceled if you don’t use them. Even if you do, consider canceling them anyways. It’ll save you money and help you pay off debt quicker.
6. Vigilantly track spending.
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” applies to money, too. Being too scared to check your bank account activity is the best way to fail your New Years’ resolution. Use an app like Power Wallet or Mint for detailed breakdowns of where your cash is going.
7. Use cash whenever possible.
Study after study shows that people who use credit cards instead of cash spend more money. In one oft-cited study, McDonald’s found that the average bill for people who paid in cash was $4.50, while those who paid with a credit card had an average bill of $7.
8. Don’t rely on credit to fill in the gaps.
Even people who make a six-figure income struggle with being able to budget properly. But if you can set up a budget and stick to it, you won’t need credit cards or payday loans to get you through the end of the month.
9. Give yourself the gift of an emergency fund.
Your vehicle breaks down, you get demoted, your spouse loses their health insurance. Any of these can happen to anyone at any time, so experts recommend saving three to six months’ worth for expenses. That time period increases to six to 12 months in a recession, Bankrate says.
10. If you slip up, don’t give up.
If you’ve ever been on a diet and had a doughnut at the office one day, you probably had an internal debate about whether you should just eat whatever you want to anyways since you already messed up.
It turns out, you shouldn’t. If you fall off your plan, start again as soon as you can, and don’t give up just because you made a mistake.