The start of a new year can be a meaningful moment to set intentions and goals that will help make the coming year even better than the last. For many people, this involves resolving to make small changes that can add up to major improvements in various aspects of life, including financial health.
Getting rid of debt, increasing savings or financing a major purchase are all worthwhile new year's resolutions. But setting goals is often the simple part — sticking to them can be more of a challenge, especially in turbulent times.
With that in mind, here are three strategies for how to keep your financial resolutions for 2021.
Quantify your financial goals and action items
Setting vague goals will make it difficult to recognize any progress you're making. Plus, this can make simple goals seem overwhelming and out of reach. Instead, translate your overarching desires into tangible and measurable goals. From there, you can determine what actionable steps you'll need to take to tackle those goals.
For example, instead of resolving to "save more money," you could commit to automatically transferring $100 into your savings account each week.
Or, rather than saying you'll "get rid of credit card debt," you could make a more detailed plan. If you have an outstanding balance of $4,200 and you want to pay this off in six months, you could resolve to make monthly payments of $700.
Setting this kind of realistic plan in place will help you stay on track, plus it will be all the more motivating.
Set milestones for long-term financial achievements
Not all financial goals can be taken care of in just a few months or even a few years. Some — like paying off student loans or a mortgage — can take decades of dedicated effort and attention. When you're in it for the long haul, it's important to take the time to recognize the smaller triumphs along the way.
You could create a simple spreadsheet that forecasts how much progress you'll make every month this year, next year and beyond. Pinpoint milestones along the way, like each time you get another $5,000 closer to your overall goal. This way, you can visualize exactly when you might hit these milestones.
When that time comes, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. You could reward yourself with a little treat of some sort, or just take a moment to reflect on how far you've come. This type of incremental positive reinforcement can help you feel like you're on the right path. Additionally, you'll see the value in making slow and steady momentum toward long-term financial changes, which can inspire you to take on even bigger challenges.
Make money management a daily habit
If you want to keep your financial resolutions, you'll need to carve out time in your schedule to attend to your personal finances. Set aside a little time — maybe 20 minutes every other day, or an hour every weekend — to check in with your goals and track your incremental progress.
If you manage your finances jointly with a partner, use that time to get on the same page. Update each other about any recent or upcoming transactions, and celebrate the small wins. If you fell short of savings goals or overspent your discretionary budget, acknowledge the misstep and find ways to break those everyday habits that are holding you back.
Knowing how to make and stick to realistic resolutions for managing your personal finances is not an easy prospect. So, if you're working on setting financial resolutions for 2021, you already have the right mindset. With some dedicated planning and time, you'll be well on your way to financial health and prosperity.