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How to Stick to Your 2021 Financial Resolutions

Jan 15, 2021

A selection of budget preparation materials are laid on a table.

It’s a new year! And if you’re like most people, you’ve given some thought to the “new you” and the New Year’s resolutions you'd like to take on. A popular one: setting financial goals

Maybe now more than ever, you've recognized the need to create some resolutions as they relate to your finances. Perhaps you want to pay off some debt, save up for something big, invest more in your 401(k) or just make better financial decisions in general.

But as you’ve no doubt learned in the past, coming up with resolutions and good intentions is one thing sticking to them over the long haul is another. We’ve been there, done that! And now we have some really helpful tips to share that will help you avoid falling back into your familiar cycle and be among those who actually stick to their resolutions.

Here are just a few ways you can actually achieve success with your financial goals in 2021!

Make Your Resolutions SMART

It’s harder to feel empowered to keep up with any resolution financial or otherwise if you feel like your plan to meet it isn’t working or it all just seems too overwhelming. So, ask yourself if the goals you've set for yourself are SMART:

Specific Setting clear, simple steps and understanding the ultimate goal

Measurable Planning and tracking progress to stay motivated

Attainable Making plans that are easy to reach and achieve

Realistic Creating a plan based on tangible results

Time-bound Scheduling specific target dates and deadlines to help stay on task

Approaching your larger goals by starting small gives you the opportunity to really break them down and put them within reach. While it's great that you might want to set the bar high, make sure you aren't setting it too high; remember, you can always work your way up as you go.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Replace a rather vague (although well-intended) resolution like, “get your finances in order,” with “Save $10,000 by December 31.” Then break down that amount by how much you would need to save each week or month of the year to get there.

  • Schedule a date/time on your calendar (e.g., monthly) to check your progress, examine what’s worked and what hasn’t, and plan next steps/adjustments.

  • Write it down. Keep a log or use a web-based budget/financial management tool to create your goals and track your spending.

  • Knowledge is power! Know what your real current financial situation is so you have a true starting point. It’s just as important as determining your specific end goal.

Turn Repetition into Habit

It’s been said that a habit starts to really stick when you repeat an action for at least 21 days. A doable goal, right? Sticking to your resolutions will take commitment and focus, but once you've integrated them into your daily routine without obsessing about them, they won't even feel like resolutions. They’ll simply become a habit.

Additionally, envision your New Year's resolutions as good (or better) habits you’re creating and building. Even more than making a physical plan, positive thinking and a belief in yourself go a long way toward getting to your end game.

Go Ahead Tell Someone

Let’s face it: It would be a lot easier to throw in the towel if no one knew about your plans. Accountability can be a real motivator in sticking with the goals you set for yourself. So find someone a family member, friend, partner and get them involved. Have them work with you, check on your progress regularly, provide moral support and be one of your cheerleaders along the way.

Joining an accountability group on social media is another way to meet, support and get advice from others who are on a similar journey. While members of these groups are not usually as close to you as friends or family, they may be able to better empathize with you, be willing to celebrate the little “wins” and provide encouragement if you need a little boost.

Recognize and Celebrate Your Progress

You're working hard. You’re sticking to it. So celebrate your progress along the way! For example: If you created a one-year resolution, give yourself kudos for every month you stick to it. Small moments of celebration can add up to big investments toward your continued progress. Not only do they help you recognize your accomplishments (no matter how small), but each win can boost your confidence in your ability to crush your next goal.

And even though your goals are financially based, there are lots of ways you can reward yourself inexpensively. (You don’t want to undo all your hard work, after all.) Enjoy a stay-at-home movie night. Buy that audiobook you’ve wanted. Get some bath salts and a mud mask for a spa night. Find a way to celebrate with your accountability partner. Make a list of treats, so you can look forward to enjoying them once you reach each milestone.

Think Outside the Box

Chances are that you set resolutions for yourself because you’d like to improve in that particular area. To do that, sometimes you have to consider trying something new or outside of your comfort zone. A new approach or way of doing things could be what helps propel you forward and makes staying on track that much easier.

For example, if you’ve found yourself in debt because you use credit to pay for the things you want, consider alternatives to financing like Acima, where you can shop for what you need all without credit*. With our lease-to-own solutions*, you can still shop at your favorite stores and just make affordable lease renewal payments that fit in your budget. So you don’t have to worry about creating more debt for yourself and derailing your hard work.

Patience + Persistence + Progress = Financial Success

Sticking to the resolutions you've outlined for yourself is tough work, but these ideas are sure to make them stick and worth it. Even if you get thrown off course (you’ll have ups and downs all along the way), don't scrap the hard work and effort you've put in. The goal is to be better, not perfect so give yourself some grace, roll up your sleeves and try out these tips. You got this!