Money·4 min read

Why It's So Hard to Keep Financial New Year's Resolutions — and How to Get It Right in 2022

financial new years resolutions
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Dec 29, 2021

Raise your hand if you've ever made a New Year's resolution to save more, stick to a budget, or start investing…and then didn't save more, stick to a budget, or start investing. No judgment. One survey says more than half of people who make New Year’s resolutions don’t follow through. Oh hey, burnout and goals fatigue.

If you're ready to put your hand down and make 2022 your (wallet's) year, it's time to set money goals you can actually keep.

What's the trick to setting financial New Year's resolutions?

Emotional connection. Because when you care about a money goal, you're more likely to do the hard work required to accomplish it. To help people tap into their values, investment advisor Shari Greco Reiches, who's certified in applied behavioral finance, asks a series of questions like: "What achievements are you most proud of? Where are you willing to make the fewest compromises in your life? What legacy would be important for you to leave for your family?"

Your answers to these types of questions could lead to your resolutions. If you're proud of your world-travel experiences, you might resolve to save money from every paycheck for your next vacay. If your kids are a top priority, your resolution could be to set up a new savings account for them, invest in a 529 plan for future college expenses, or draw up a will and estate plan so they're taken care of if the worst happens.

How do I stick to my financial New Year's resolutions?

Forget big, vague resolutions like “spend less” or “save more," and get specific. Like cutting $100 from your monthly takeout budget, saving $200 a month for a new car, or investing enough in your 401(k) to get the full company match.

That doesn't mean shrinking your dreams. Breaking big goals into smaller steps can make them easier to reach. “Come up with an exact process on how to achieve that goal,” Reiches says. Ask yourself: “How are you going to come up with the budget? How are you going to track the budget? How are you going to figure out your success?”

Example: If you want to save an extra $200 a month, review your current spending patterns to figure out where that money will come from. You might need to cancel a subscription, shop in bulk, or negotiate some bills to make more room in your budget.

Oh, and write down your resolution and action plan. Reiches says that can make it easier to stay on track. Winging it is like “going to the grocery store without a list,” she says. Translation: You won't get everything you need, and you'll probably go over budget.

Any other tips for keeping my resolutions?

Eyes on the prize. Reiches tells her clients to “visualize what it's going to feel like when the goal is achieved.” So if you're saving up for a home down payment, picture yourself enjoying your future home. That can make short-term trade-offs feel worth it. And try rewarding yourself along the way. Science says it can motivate you to keep working toward the next milestone.

Remember to check your progress after a few months. If (when) there are setbacks, go easy on yourself. Mistakes and emergencies can throw you off when you least expect it. (Emergency funds, for the win.) They don't have to mean giving up on your resolutions entirely. Adjust your goals when necessary and rework your plans to reach them. Progress, not perfection.

theSkimm

Accomplishing money goals doesn't (usually) happen by accident. If you're setting financial New Year's resolutions for 2022, make sure they align with your values and are specific. When it gets hard to stay on track, remind yourself why you wanted to hit the goal in the first place — and how good you'll feel when you do.


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