Resolutions (02/11/2016)

January has passed at lightning speed, and we are at the time of year when many have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. Gyms tend to get very busy after the first of the year while purchases of health food and exercise paraphernalia increase dramatically. Financial resolutions are also very popular. As the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, “I want to save more” or “spend less” are common goals. As February rolls around, many can become discouraged if they have not accomplished what they declared they would after the ball drops.

Don’t give up on your financial resolutions. Too often we fail at resolutions because we have set unrealistic goals or have been too general in what we are trying to accomplish. If we can set realistic goals, push the restart button and make our actions automatic, this formula can be successful.

If you are looking to save more money, what will you use it for? Are you looking to go on a trip or put a down payment on a house? Are you saving for college or retirement? Once you have a specific reason for saving, it may become easier to actually do it and to earmark the funds for this purpose.

Do not give up if you have had a bad day, week or month in working toward your resolution. Any day can be considered New Year’s Day for the purpose of starting over. It is okay to fail over and over again if you continue to work at improving. Taking steps away from credit card debt could include just not using any cards for one day or week at a time. Try what you can handle and then add another action. If clearing debt is your goal, pick one item at a time so you can see results.

With little or no manual effort, you can make savings, retirement contributions and bill payments automatic. Most of us would agree that if the payment to your 401(k) or savings account comes right out of your paycheck or checking account, it will have much less of a chance of being intercepted by you and spent on something else. You can set reminders on your calendar, phone or computer if this is helpful. Systematizing allows you to make good choices. As you get use to it, you can slowly increase the amount you put aside without causing yourself distress.

Keep your resolutions simple and real. Give yourself credit for what you accomplish, no matter how small. You may find that forming just one good habit is the cornerstone for continued success in the future.

Lisa A. Dugan

February 11, 2016