Written by Spotloan

It’s always right around this time of year that we start wondering: how do you stick to your New Year’s financial resolutions? We set them with good intentions, ringing in the new year with a heightened sense of ambition and hope, but our motivation almost inevitably begins to wane as the cold months drag on. In fact, 80% of individuals who set New Year’s resolutions abandon them by February. So, how do we stick to our New Year’s financial resolutions and find ourselves in the 20% instead of the 80%? Thankfully, we’ve identified a few tried-and-true ways to stay committed to our goals. 

4 Tricks to Help You Stick to Your New Year's Financial Resolutions

1. Start Small and Be Specific with Your New Year's Resolutions

If you’re already struggling to stick to your New Year’s financial resolutions, they might just need some reworking. Making them more specific could help you maintain focus. And hitting small victories along the way rather than pining for bigger milestones could help keep you motivated. For example, if one of your goals this year was to pay down your student loans, break this resolution into smaller pieces.

Have a specific number written down that you want to reach each month or even each week. Big goals and milestones are important, but when they feel too far away and you go too long without a win, it’s easy to feel discouraged and lose motivation. Breaking them up into small, specific steps like in the example above will give you something to celebrate, and that will help keep your momentum where it needs to be.

2. Use Visual Tools to Stay Motivated and Keep Your New Year's Resolutions on Track

By nature, human beings rely heavily on visual cues. As such, it makes sense that many experts in mood, motivation, and discipline recommend using visual tools. Visual tools come in many different forms. Here are a few examples:

  • Putting together vision boards - paper or virtual on websites like Pinterest 
  • Writing out your resolution milestones on a whiteboard and putting it somewhere you’ll see it every day 
  • Keeping a checklist of resolution milestones in the memos on your phone so you have access to it everywhere you go 
  • Creating a colorful goal map or chart to track your progress 
  • Keeping a typed or written copy of your budget close by so you’re not tempted to overspend - this will also help you stick to the budget that you have set

In the same way that positive visuals can help us stay motivated, other visuals can throw us off track. If you’re someone who struggles with online shopping, make sure your debit or credit card isn’t sitting on the desk next to your laptop just begging to be used. With your cards out of sight and out of mind, you’ll be less likely to use them to buy things you don’t need.

3. Follow the 30-Day Rule to Help You Determine Wants vs. Needs

First things first, what is the 30-day rule? This is a relatively new concept in the personal finance world, so there are a lot of people who aren’t familiar with it yet. But there are also plenty of people that have used this rule to strengthen their financial discipline and save money. The 30-day rule is a great way to evaluate and rethink non-essential purchases. If you feel the urge to buy something non-essential, leave the store or close your browser tab. 

If you’re still thinking about it 30 days later, go back and buy it. Most of the time, the 30-day rule will give you a chance to decide that you didn’t want that item all that much anyway. We often look to make non-essential purchases when we’re bored, stressed, or hungry, so waiting instead of making impulse purchases gives us the chance to take our mood out of the equation and decide if we really want that item or we want to find a better use for that money instead. Understanding our wants vs. our needs is key to proper budgeting too.

4. Brush Off the Bad Days and Celebrate the Chance to Start Fresh in the New Year 

The question shouldn’t be, “how can I be strict with money?” The better question is: how can I be better with money? Sticking to New Year’s resolutions, financial and otherwise, is challenging. If you slip up or make a mistake, don’t punish yourself by quitting on your goals. One bad day doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it only means that it’s time to try again. Good habits are hard to build and easy to break. But over time, it will get easier and become more automatic. Perfection isn’t the goal, steady improvement is.