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How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions and Make Them Stick

By Julie Jaggernath

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Maybe the start of a new year is when you decide to get more exercise, work less, pay down debt, eat better, lose weight, or quit smoking. (If you don’t smoke, insert your vice of choice.)

January is a time to think about what you want to accomplish or improve in the coming year, and which good intentions are left over from last year. The trick with resolutions is finding ways to stick to them, to make good on your intentions after the January fanfare fades.

Set Goals and Plan Ahead How to Achieve Them

Financial goals are popular resolutions that, much like weight loss, can have lasting, positive consequences. However, just like with a weight loss goal, there are steps you can take to not only get ready to work on your goal, but to tend to it along the way.

Here are tips to help you stay motivated and on track with your financial goals in 2017:

Change Resolutions to Choices and Solutions

Think of your “New Year’s resolution” as a “life-style choice.” Rather than only resolving to pay off your debts, decide to live within your means – permanently. Resolutions have a much shorter shelf-life than habits and decisions. To be successful, financial resolutions need to stick, to give us time to make them a way of life.

Set Realistic Goals, Make them SMART

Ensure that you set realistic goals for yourself. Being successful becomes its own motivation, so set yourself up for success with SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive.

SMART goal-setting means identifying a specific goal, deciding how much from each pay cheque needs to be set aside towards that goal, choosing a goal that fits the overall household budget and financial priorities you have, and setting a timeline in which you will achieve the goal.

Determine What Other Steps You Need to Take to Be Successful

Then determine what other steps you need to take to be successful. This might mean opening another bank account, researching an alternate route to work to avoid a tempting coffee shop or buying reusable lunch containers. If you’re missing the right “tools,” it’s much harder to get the job done.

Replace Habits, Don’t Try to Eliminate Them

Understand that habits need to be replaced by new behaviours. If you have a habit of going out for lunch, that habit can’t just go away. It needs to be replaced by making your lunch. Plan your meals so that you have left-overs that can become your lunch. Buy groceries to make your lunch. Schedule time to make your lunch at home. Decide what you need to do to break a habit, and then do it.

Something Simple Isn’t Always Easy to Do

Recognize that “easy” and “simple” are not the same. In fact, something simple might not be easy at all. Not convinced? Consider weight loss. To lose weight, you simply need to expend more energy than you consume. You can do this by consuming fewer calories or getting more exercise. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Not quite. In fact, many people find it extremely difficult to do something as “simple” as shedding weight.

The same can be said for money management. To build up your savings account, all you need to do is spend less than you earn and put what you don’t spend into your savings account…. If it really were that “simple,” as they say, everyone would be doing it.

Break Your Goal Down Into Smaller, Achievable Tasks

Decide what you must do each week to reach your goal. If you want to save $1,000 by November to attend a friend’s wedding in Hawaii, this actually means that you must save $53 from each pay cheque between February 1 and October 31. To come up with $53 every two weeks, you need to either earn more or spend less (assuming you’re paid bi-weekly for 9 months, with one month having 3 pays).

Help Yourself Stay Focused On Your Goal

To remind yourself about your goal, associate it with something you do every day, like brushing your teeth. Hang a picture on your mirror, change the wallpaper on your phone or laptop, set a task reminder in your calendar, put a sticker on your debit or credit card.

Focusing on a goal and reminding yourself why you want to make choices that get you closer to achieving your goal will help you stay on track and be successful!

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