What's your New Year's resolution when it comes to your money? The sooner you decide your financial focus for this year, the sooner you can get started on reaching your goals.
Picture: marekuliasz (Shutterstock).
This post originally appeared on LearnVest.
So we want to know: What is your financial resolution? We're talking one smoking money goal that will help get you closer to leading the life you want. For example, we took a look at the top goals our premium LearnVest users are aiming for. Here are the top five near-term aspirations these users have for their money:
1. A Big Vacation: 46% 2. A Job Switch: 28% 3. Going Back to School: 16% 4. Buying a Home: 13% 5. Having a Baby: 10%
Those are big goals, and the money to fund them won't appear magically. In fact, the saving and budgeting required will take as much discipline as logging three extra miles on the treadmill each week. That's why we tapped Stephany Kirkpatrick, LearnVest's director of financial planning and a Certified Financial Planner, for her secrets on setting financial resolutions designed to stick.
Create Eye Candy
Keeping a "vision board" — essentially a collage of photos or words that remind you of your goals — can be a great way to stay motivated. And your board needn't be physical: "You can start a Pinterest page of your vision board, or change your Facebook background photo to reflect your goal," says Kirkpatrick. For example, in January, that photo of the Bali sunset might be pinned from a travel site, but by June, you just might capture it on Instagram yourself.
Make It Bite-Size
The key here is to break big goals into manageable steps. For example, saying, "I want to save an extra $5000 by the end of the year" seems more daunting than "I want to save $2500 by June." Better yet, do the division and start with: "I want to save an extra $416 a month." Then it's a matter of making choices with your money to find more room in your budget. Setting milestones along the way will also make your resolution more manageable, so if you hit your $416 savings goal three months in a row, reward yourself.
"Piggy Bank" the Big Dreams
To pay closer attention to those heftier financial goals like saving for a baby or your dream home, consider opening up a separate savings account specifically for the money you're funelling toward them. "Then link this account to your Money Center so that you can keep track of it more easily," says Kirkpatrick. Seeing that you have $10,000 saved specifically toward a down payment may make you less prone to "borrow" from one savings goal to meet another.
Get a Money Buddy
You already have a gym buddy who forces you to play racquetball when you'd rather go home and order pizza. And you know what? You never regret keeping that gym date. Why not have the same kind of accountability partner for your finances? "Enlist a good friend or family member who will support you in your financial goals, and set up a monthly check-in," Kirkpatrick says. Let them know how you're doing (and vice versa), and give each other words of encouragement — or a friendly reminder that you've gotten off track.
Julia Chang is a Senior Editor at LearnVest. Previously, she worked for the custom content division of Time Inc., where she helped produce award-winning print and online content for financial consumers. Most of her career has been in business and financial journalism, but when she's not thinking or writing about money, she's watching the latest mystery or suspense series in marathon sessions.