2019 is underway – hopefully you had a wonderful time celebrating in your own memorable way. A new year brings many exciting possibilities, but we must also remember to maintain focus on our own goals and desires. This holds true for your more traditional resolutions, as well as your finances. Take a moment to reflect on 2018 and think about what you want to achieve for 2019.
Building Blocks to Success
We all hear about the common resolutions – stick to a diet, work out more, save more money. These are all great aspirations and we should be working toward these goals! There is a problem here though – they are vague. I’ve found that the best way for me to keep my goals in sight and reach them is to make them specific and actionable. Check out the table below to see how I change these resolutions to suite my own preferences.
|Stick to a diet||Lose 15 pounds, meal prep 1x per week|
|Work out more||Strength training 3x per week|
|Save more money||Max out IRA contributions, save $5,000 for moving expenses|
These simple changes make these resolutions much more actionable. Making them specific forces me to think how I am going to reach these goals. The simple act of thinking on it more puts it in my mind and is that extra push I’ll use to keep me moving toward these goals this year.
I thought this was a “finance” blog?
You might be asking yourself “Isn’t this a finance blog? Why are we talking about meal prepping and lifting weights?” The major point for this post is really to get you – the reader – to take stock in what matters most to them. Find what you are passionate about and reach for it. Make sure the goal is realistic, has an action you can take, and write it down. Force yourself to look at the goal every day. If it works for you, make a journal and track what you are doing to push for it.
This brings us to the finance-related goal of mine. As I’ve written about a few times before, You Need a Budget is going to be my go-to when it comes to meeting my “Save more money” goal. I’ve been using YNAB since 2015 and it has been a huge boon to reaching my goals. Part of my new year’s resolution is already complete actually. With the beauty of setting up separate categories within YNAB, I’ve been able to stash away money to prepare for funding my IRA fully tomorrow once the markets open for the year.
That just leaves the moving goal. Create a budget – and sticking to it – are the most important steps in getting money saved with a goal in mind. If you don’t know what money is coming in and what’s going out, how will you be able to tell when you’ve reached the goal?
Reaching your own goals
No matter what software you use – or if you just use simple pen and paper – the first step is to track the money entering and leaving your accounts. Regardless of what you use to pay your bills – checking account, credit card, cash, etc – make a record somewhere of this. Do this for a month and see where your money is going. This will be tough at first but trust me, once you know where money is going, it’ll be that much easier to figure out a proper budget.
At the end of your month of tracking expenses, start working on the budget you want to keep. It’s going to be tough looking these numbers – the first time I did this, I realized I was spending WAY too much money on fast food delivery. This can be as simple as limiting fast food purchases to $50 a month or skipping out on that morning Starbucks run once or twice a week. Whatever you do, do not try stopping that spending cold turkey. Doing this will most likely result in relapsing back to old habits.
Once you’ve got your budget figured out – be it a full line-by-line breakdown or just a simple goal for a type of purchase – continue tracking! You’ve already tracked your purchases for a month, so this should be getting close to a habit by now. As you figure out more spending trends, a more appropriate budget laying out all essential or required expenses, all sources of income, all savings goals, and all nice-to-have’s can come into a clearer picture. This is where you can start trimming out excessive spending and reallocate those newly-discovered funds to other sources – like that vacation you want to take!
You have the power! Err, willpower that is!
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to reach your goals. It takes dedication, effort, and a presence of mind to know that short-term satisfaction may need to take a backseat to long-term goals. I don’t recommend getting rid of all sources of enjoyment – get that Starbucks drink every once in awhile, enjoy your video games. The key here is moderation. These little treats will make sure you keep the willpower to push toward your goals through this year and into the future.
How are you planning to make the most of the new year? Feel free to leave your comments below on your goals and aspirations! If you’ve got any tips to share on what has worked or hasn’t worked for reaching these goals, feel free to leave a comment with that too.