At the start of each year we might take stock of our lives and consider setting a New Year’s Resolution. There seems to be something so emotionally resonant about a fresh start and turning over a new leaf…eating less, exercising more.
But what next? What is less and how much is more? Seems like we should start with a baseline and go from there. How are we eating and really how much exercise are we getting now? We might keep a food journal or maybe use an app to capture our steps. This takes some time, but in the end, gives us a better sense of how much change is needed. Of course, these types of tracking will only really work if we are truthful and do not try and outsmart them (or ourselves). Do I write down that chocolate even though it was small? Do I add a few steps to my app since I did not have my phone on me when I got up and walked to my closet?
Let’s consider a New Year’s Resolution of improving your financial health by spending less and saving more.
Create a baseline of what you are doing now. Using a journal or an app, track everything you are spending. Don’t skip the “chocolate because it’s small!” Learn where your money is going.
Take control of what happens to each of your dollars. Think big picture and long term. My life would be better if I could just _____? What is the goal for your money? We know that if we eat less and exercise more we will lose weight, and we have a goal to lose 10 pounds. Set the same goals for your money.
Dream of what it would be like if you reached a financial goal. Wow, I am excited to not worry about that credit card payment anymore! My stress will be reduced because I have a small saving in case of emergency! This is the motivation. Write this on your mirror, put this in your wallet stay focused on the dream.
Generate a budget. Always start with things that cannot be changed and work from there. If your income cannot be increased then start with that number and begin to subtract. If one expense cannot be reduced start from there. Be honest with yourself. Can you make more money with a second job until you reach your goal? Are you being truthful to yourself about wants -vs- needs.
Create a new pattern. We don’t go to the bakery when we are trying to eat less. Where are the issues in your patterns of spending? Is it using a credit card over cash? Or is it a great sale? Remember to check your budget before you spend.
Once we get working and start to establish a set of financial routines, then the benefits of our New Year’s Resolutions create a positive loop, making us feel better about ourselves and our finances.
-Christine Fabian, Finance Director