Whenever I try to set resolutions for the coming year, I realize I can’t for the life of me remember what I resolved to do this year. In general, this doesn’t bode well for my resolutions success. In fact, if I’ve been setting resolutions for 20 years (give or take), I’m probably 0 for 20. Yet instead of concluding that New Year’s resolutions just aren’t my strong suit, my Pavlovian response to the month of December is to once again set myself up with failure-doomed resolutions. (For the record, this year, I am going to try to never touch my phone when I am driving.)
Regardless of my resolution shortcomings, I have had considerably more luck meeting my financial goals. I set shorter-term goals, and focus on one at a time, which I’ve found effective. A few years ago, I quit my full-time job and set the goal of making my full-time income writing and editing within three months, which was a success. The same year, I decided I was going to max out my retirement contributions — also a success. This year, I decided I wanted to raise my rates and bring in more money. I gave myself a three-month time frame, and it took all three months, but ultimately was a success.
The point is simple: Instead of trying to attempt all 6 things on this list for the next 6 months, pick one (or two) resolution/goal/whatever you need to call it to actually follow through, and try it for a specific amount of time. (Clearly, three months is a personal favorite, but you’ll likely want to adjust your timeline based on the chosen goal.) Here are 6 actually-attainable resolutions to consider for 2017:
1. Buy less coffee. And instead of setting the goal of "cutting down" or "buying less," make it quantifiable. If you currently buy five cups of drip coffee a week, cut yourself down to one a week as a treat. If your coffee is $2.50, you've gone from spending $12.50 a week to only spending $2.50 a week. (For the month, if you bought one coffee a week instead of five, you'd spend $10 on coffee as opposed to $50.)
2. Walk more. If you spend a lot on cabs, Ubers, Lyfts, or gas, the solution might be to cut the short driving trips out of your life. Of course, if you have a 10-mile commute to work, you might not want to substitute that with a walk. However, if you're in the habit of driving the mile to a friend's house, or to your favorite bakery, this could be where you forego the car/cab trip and talk a walk instead.
3. Up your savings game by $100-$300 a month (depending on your salary). Doing a trial period of this for three months is ideal, because it will force you to see what your budget would be like if you were short $100-$300. Ideally, you'll realize that when you automate the payment, you don't miss that money at all. If all goes well, you can keep your higher savings rate all year.
4. Shop less, but buy better quality goods. Again, this needs to be quantifiable. For an allotted amount of time, try cutting fast fashion brands and boredom shopping completely out of your life. With the money you save from not buying a new work outfit here and there, you might find that you're able to afford a better-quality, more lasting piece of clothing.
5. Reduce the amount of drinks you buy out. Personally, I have a two-drink maximum whenever I'm out at the bar, because the markup on alcohol is astronomical. Winter is the perfect time for a three-month test run, because you're already less motivated to go out.
6. Make a plan to pay off your credit card debt. The plan, of course, will depend on the amount you bring in compared to the amount of debt you have. What will help the most is setting a specific time frame; if you can push yourself to pay off your credit card debt in four months, for example, that will give you the amount you need to pay toward it every month.