By Julie Jaggernath
Resolutions are one way me implement changes in our lives. Financial resolutions are always a good idea and there’s nothing like a fresh start at the beginning of the year. But it takes time to get ready to make budgeting, money management, debt repayment, and savings changes to our spending habits. It is better to be ready to turn over a new leaf successfully, than to force changes upon yourself because of a specific date or event.
There Are 4 Steps to Implementing Changes or Resolutions
There are four steps we need to go through in order to implement changes or resolutions and create new habits successfully. We are all creatures of habit. Some habits are good; others are worth changing. Many habits have simply become the way we do things – we hardly recognize them as habits, and this makes them even harder to change.
To make changes happen we need to:
- Identify what it is that we want to change.
- Think about why we want to change it. (This helps us stay focused and motivated.)
- Determine what we need to do to set the stage so that we can make the change happen. (This is the critical step.)
- Follow through with the actions it takes to make the change happen.
You don’t want to make too many changes to your lifestyle and daily routine all at once, or bow to pressure and hype. Set yourself up to be successful by starting new ways to manage your money when you think that the next 2 - 3 weeks will be normal in terms or your schedule. Waiting a few weeks between deciding what you want to do and then doing it means that you’ll have had time to get ready to follow through with the changes you want to make.
The Key to Turning Resolutions Into Reality
Thinking about what we’d like to have or do differently needs to be accompanied by the actions to make it happen. This third step, the one that sets the stage, is absolutely critical to the process. That is how we turn our hopes, dreams, and resolutions into reality.
If you think about that for a minute, you’ll notice that the doing comes well after the thinking. By way of example, think about a resolution for getting more exercise. If you wake up on the day you plan to make the change and expect to be ready to exercise, your resolution is doomed to fail if you didn’t take steps before-hand to set the stage for success.
How to Set the Stage for Successful Lifestyle Changes
When we make resolutions, we want to create potentially lasting change in our lives. To give yourself the greatest chance at success, setting the stage is crucial because we need certain things in place to be able to follow through with the changes we want to make.
Thinking back to our exercise example, some of the changes we need to make in preparation include: blocking time in our schedule to engage in a fitness activity, checking local park guides for the best trails to walk/bike/run, buying a fitness pass or signing up for a class, roping a friend into our plans to keep us accountable, and ensuring we have the right gear to participate (e.g. clothing, footwear, safety equipment). Getting our ducks in a row takes preparation.
Ready, Set, Change! Why Does Setting the Stage Matter?
Change means replacing one behaviour with another. Setting the stage means deciding ahead of time what it is that you need to do differently to make the change happen, rather than doing nothing or sticking with what you always do. Neither will help you reach your goal because failing to plan, is planning to fail.
Back to our resolution to get more exercise: it might mean going for a walk with a friend, rather than sitting in a café. It doesn’t mean wanting to get together with a friend and doing nothing about it. It means replacing what you did before (sitting in a café) with a new behaviour (going for a walk) that is in line with your goals.
The Biggest Change You Need to Make for Financial Resolutions to Stick
Your budget determines if you’ll be able to follow through and make financial changes stick. No budget? No problem. Pull one together as part of setting the stage because you need to have a budget so that you know what your plan is for your money.
Once you have a budget outline, start tracking your spending to see where your money really goes. Once you’ve identified your spending habits, that’s when you can think about setting the stage for change.
To set the stage for a financial resolution, start preparing yourself to make small changes, working your way towards making bigger ones. For example, there are any number of ways a household can save $70 each week, but start by finding ways to save $25 - $40. The idea isn’t to ban spending money on something you enjoy; it’s about balancing what you need to do with what you want to do. Finding that balance takes time.
What Works for a Friend Might Not Work for You
Everyone has a personal money management style, and no two are exactly alike. Even couples in long-term, committed relationships have different ways of managing money. A friend could share with you what worked for them; they can give you suggestions about what you might want to try; they can explain what others have done and how they’ve been successful.
However, when it comes right down to it, it is up to you to make choices in line with what is important to you, and changes that you can follow through with in the long run. That turns resolutions into results.
Have Patience & Set Meaningful Goals, Avoid Rushing Your Changes
One of the biggest reasons resolutions fail is that we don’t plan to start changing early enough. It takes time to change. We need to wrap our head around why we want to change a habit, and it needs to be a deeply personal reason if we expect to follow through and turn our resolution into a permanent lifestyle change.
We can’t spend less on a budget category because our partner or parents told us to. We need to commit to making the change because we want to, because our new goal is that meaningful to us. Once you’ve gotten to this point you are ready to find ways to make your goal a reality.
When is the Right Time to Turn Resolutions Into Results?
Making resolutions shouldn’t be about creating a wish list. It should be about setting SMART goals - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive goals so that you know how you’re doing in relation to where you want to end up. The way you set the stage and prepare yourself for success matters, and the date you choose to make your changes should be when the time is right for you. There are 365 first days in a year – pick the date that’s best for you!