Make Your Financial Resolutions Stick

We’ve arrived at the part of the year in which most of us have seen our New Year’s resolutions peter out altogether—our best intentions for improved health, diet, fitness, and time management largely forgotten. This is true of many financial resolutions, as well. On January 1, many of us had lofty ambitions of saving more and budgeting better; now, those ambitions may not seem as viable, or even as important.

But they are important—and they’re worth preserving. Even if you’ve thrown in the towel or had imperfect progress on your financial resolutions, there is still ample time in which to try again, and perhaps to try more methodically—doing everything in your power to make those resolutions stick.

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

One way to do this is to spend some time reflecting on your own past—recent and distant. What financial goals have you set for yourself before, and how well were you able to maintain them? Why do you think your goals petered out? Have you learned anything about your financial strengths and weaknesses?

If you’ve ever tried something that seemed to work, maybe it’s worth building on; if previous strategies have failed, maybe this is the year to consider a new direction.

Based on your reflections, set some goals for your future—and try to make them as specific as possible. Trying to save 10 percent of each paycheck may be too nebulous; instead, make a goal of saving x amount of dollars for your family vacation this year, and x amount of dollars to put into your retirement savings accounts. Speaking with your financial planner can help you determine what these specific figures might look like. Set goals for yourself that are challenging, but attainable.

Make a List

In addition to these broad financial goals, you might also create a financial to-do list for yourself—some small steps you can take toward meeting your larger goals. Meet with your financial planner this year to review your portfolio. Sit down to go over the details of your employer’s retirement benefits. Read up on estate planning. Take an afternoon to track your spending habits and fine-tune your budget. The list of possibilities is endless.

Also make a list—an actual, physical list—of the things you won’t do this year. Don’t make big financial decisions without consulting with your advisor. Don’t put off retirement savings. Don’t dip into your retirement fund. Don’t do unnecessary home improvements if you can’t actually afford them.

Place both lists somewhere you’ll see them, and cross off the items you complete throughout the year.

All of this organization may be just what you need to actually stick to your guns for the remainder of 2015—following through on the important financial goals you’ve set for yourself.