Today marks the start of a new year and that means the emergence of those fun little lists called New Years Resolutions. People either love them or hate them. Personally, I love them. I’m a very goal oriented person and my resolutions are used as goals for things I want to achieve in the new year. The opening of a fresh, new, yearly planner is a symbol of a clean slate and all of the possibilities that go along with that. The important thing to do when making your resolutions, or goals, for the new year is to keep them S.M.A.R.T.
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Attainable
- R: Realistic
- T: Timely
A goal to “save 1 million dollars” is probably not a SMART goal because it isn’t realistic, or timely. Unless you win the lottery, it’s a tall order to save 1 million dollars in a years time on a college student’s income. However, there are a lot of items you can add to your resolutions list that ARE realistic and easy to achieve. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
- Review your credit report. Everyone gets a copy of their credit report, every year, for FREE. The only site that truly offers this for free is http://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get copies of your credit report from all three of the major agencies. Get them all at once or stagger them out, getting one agency report every few months. Maybe get one at the start of the year, one in the middle and one towards the end. Staggering them allows you to track improvements or changes in your information.
- Pay down your debt. If the amount of debt you have is overwhelming, start small. Use the Snowball Method! Focus on paying off one card, then put all of that money towards the next card. There are a variety of ways to pay down debt based on your preference but as long as you are making progress, that is all that counts.
- Eliminate wasteful spending. Take a look back at your bank statements or credit card statements for the past year. Where can you cut spending? Maybe you’re paying a lot for cable TV but only watching Netflix. Maybe you’re racking up $20 a week at Starbucks or perhaps you’re paying for several magazine subscriptions you don’t even read. I’m guilty of that last one according to the stack of magazines staring at me from the corner. Find ways to cut out monthly or weekly spending that isn’t necessary and transfer that same amount, each month, into a savings account instead.
- Inventory your spending habits. This is similar to eliminating wasteful spending but we aren’t necessarily eliminating here. Maybe you don’t need the unlimited-everything-cell phone plan that costs $150/month. If you’re only using 1GB of data a month, maybe you can drop to a 1GB (or 2, just to be safe) plan that is cheaper and monitor your usage to avoid going over. If you have a ridiculously high car payment maybe you can look into refinancing to get a lower payment and put the extra money towards savings? See where you can lower your regular, monthly bills as opposed to eliminating and still rack up some savings.
- Make a budget. We love budgeting here and talk about it often. There’s a reason! Budgeting keeps you on track and allows you plan for months where income may be smaller or when unexpected purchases pop up. Once you know where you are at you can identify ways to improve and save. Be committed to being realistic with what you are spending. Itemize your expenses and make savings part of your budget. There are so many incredible free tools out there to help you, and free, fun printables if you want to do it the old fashioned way. A quick Google search for ‘free budget’ will yield a lot of fun results. You can also check out our Resources page here.
- Set goals. Maybe you want to save up for a Spring Break vacation to Mexico. Are you in need of a new car this year and want to have a nice down payment? Write your goals down and put the dollar amount next to them. You can then prioritize them and build saving for those goals right into your budget. You might need to eliminate things like Pizza Friday’s in order to reach these goals but you’ll be happier in the end. Keep a picture of your goal in your wallet or near your computer as a constant reminder of what you’re looking to achieve.
- Commit. This is the hardest one to stick to. It’s easy to write down all of your goals for the year and feel like you’ve got a plan of attack. Committing them over the following 52 weeks is the hard part. Set up regular appointments to check in with yourself and your goals on a weekly or monthly basis. Hold yourself accountable. Put a date in your calendar, and make it reward worthy. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to a fancy latte during your check in meetings with yourself. Whatever you need to do to make yourself stick to committing will work. Your willpower will be all the stronger for it.
Don’t stress if you don’t meet your goals at the end of the year. Any progress is good and beneficial. My goal to read 100 books last year was a total flop. I read 15 though which is more than zero so yay me! Want resolutions are you committing to for 2015? How did your 2014 resolutions fare? Let us know in the comments!