Four financial New Year's resolutions - and how to keep them

RoAnna Chenault, December 28, 2017
It’s that time of year again, when we all resolve to make a fresh start in the new year. Check out this list of financial resolutions that would be difficult for most of us to keep, and read on to see how we can help you turn resolutions into solid strategies for better financial health in 2018.
Make resolutions specific
The reason most of us don’t keep resolutions is that they’re vague and unattainable in the first place, making them very easy to break. Set specific and measurable goals and you’ll be well on your way to improving your personal bottom line.
Weak resolution: Pay down debt
Better resolution: Contribute $150 a month toward debt
Set a goal to pay a specific amount per month, or a specific amount over the course of the year. Make sure your resolution includes a dollar amount and an end date. Many financial experts recommend paying down the smallest debt first, then working on the next smallest, and so on. As you pay off each debt, you'll have a feeling of accomplishment that will encourage you to keep going. Conduct an honest assessment of your financial situation before you start, and set an attainable goal that fits your financial picture.
Weak resolution: Save more money
Better resolution: Save $100 per month
“Save more money” is always one of the most popular financial resolutions every year. We all know it’s important to save money, but the reality is that it’s difficult to save without a definite plan. First, decide how much to save each month, such as 1% of your take-home pay. Then contribute that amount to your savings account before you pay any bills. By doing this, you’re putting money away before you have a chance to spend it, and you’ll be on your way to developing a lifelong habit of saving.
Weak resolution: Reduce spending
Better resolution: Cut $50 off the grocery bill
It’s admirable to resolve to spend less, but you need to determine a specific dollar amount (are you detecting a pattern here?) and decide where you’re going to cut your spending. Take a look at what you spent on everything in 2017, and try to pinpoint specific categories where you can cut. Put that money into your savings account.
Weak resolution: Stick to a budget
Better resolution: Use digital tools to set a budget and track spending
These days, it’s easier than ever to make a budget and stick to it with the help of smartphone apps such as Mint and You Need a Budget. These digital tools can streamline and automate your budgeting process, and help you track  your spending, identify where you’re wasting money, and alert you when you’re overspending. Plus, using these tools will help you develop good habits that can lead to a lifetime of smart money management.
If you’re able to keep even one of these financial resolutions until the end of 2018, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made tangible progress toward long term financial well-being. Give yourself a pat on the back!
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