A new year is upon us. The glitter and excitement of Christmas has already faded as we embark again on our paths, unaltered, yet somehow different with the passing of the last days of the final month of the year.
Do we really expect that 2018 is going to be different and, if we do, what is going to make it so?
Many people claim not to have a plan, and for them that might be working. But I’d bet they still have goals whether they spend much time thinking and talking about them or not. One thing is for certain, success doesn’t usually happen by accident. We can’t count on the lottery to bail us out of our current situations. If you aren’t where you want to be in life and you’re still saying “whatever happens, happens” perhaps you should give your future more consideration.
Where do you want to be in a year when 2018 comes to a close? Would you like to have better relationships, more job security, acquired new skills? Is your goal finance-related? What is it and how will you get started?
Set goals and stick to them
It’s important to set concrete goals and check in on your progress periodically. Remember that acronym SMART that I’ve mentioned before? Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
Simply vowing to lose 20 pounds in the new year doesn’t give you something to work towards. However, committing to workout three times a week with a buddy and have a monthly weigh-in is a good start. Visiting a nutritionist to set up meal plans is an extra effort that will help you stay committed and allow you to see progress.
It’s the same with your money. If your goal is paying off one major debt, what is your specific approach? If you need to find an extra $200 per month, do you intend to work more hours or reduce spending? How will this be achieved? Where will you find the time for extra hours of work? How can you prevent this costing you in childcare, eating out, and more transportation? Sit down with your statements and determine whether what you hope for is actually attainable.
Or could you do more than you expected? Until you have crunched the numbers, all you’re doing is wishing.
Have a family meeting
No matter what your goals are for 2018, you’ll be more successful and less frustrated if the whole family is in on the plan. If you have a new eating and exercise regimen, make the family a part of it as much as possible through walking together, planning meals and snacks and agreeing not to bring junk food into the house.
Likewise for your financial goals. Outline your new expectations for family members young and old. Discuss what extra-curricular activities are costing and explain the sacrifices that are already being made. Do this without guilt or blame. Having each family member in an activity that they enjoy is healthy and good for morale. If these are areas that must be cut, consider ways that the activity can be pursued for free or at a lower cost.
Remember to give
It’s interesting to note that lower income families tend to give to charity a higher percentage of their income. Perhaps the reason for this is that, as lower income earners, they are closer to the source of need and feel a stronger desire to be of help. While this generosity is commendable, financial experts agree that if you have large amounts of consumer or student debt, you should not be donating large sums of money to charity.
If you yourself do not have an emergency fund or any savings, you should consider giving your time instead of money. Donate used clothing and household items that you no longer want, help out in your community with enthusiasm and zeal, but don’t use credit to support the causes you care about.
Instead, use the causes near and dear to your heart as another motivation to get out of debt so you can support them when the time is right. Walk dogs, deliver flyers, help at the soup kitchen.
Hold off on buying things you don’t need and pay on your debt instead. For now, attack your debt with determination and research where you will make contributions when you reach a stable financial footing from which you can begin to donate money again.
There’s an old saying that if you take care of the pennies the dollars will take care of themselves. It’s still true. If you track your spending, even for a week, you’ll see where the money is leaking. Give it a try in 2018 and get serious about achieving your personal financial goals this year.