On January 18th of this year, I finally decided I was ready to make some New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never really done the resolution thing in the past, and so I wasn’t compelled to do it come December 31 or January 1. But I recognize that goals are good — and so I came up with some. If you’re already frustrated with your original resolutions, or are still looking to make some, read on.
Resolution or a Goal?
Unlike some people, I don’t really see resolutions and goals as being the same thing. To me, a goal is what you want to achieve, while a resolution is how you plan to do it. After all, you can resolve to get out of credit card debt — but if you don’t stop using credit cards and increase your payments, it probably won’t happen. Instead, your goal should be to reduce credit card debt by X dollars. Matching resolutions could be to stop using credit cards and increase your payments by 20% (or $100/month, or whatever you can afford).
Photo by lululemon athletica via Flickr
Make Resolutions to Meet your Goals
You should set both resolutions and goals that are attainable without being too easy — you want to stretch yourself to really see results. At the same time, overreaching often leads to failure, so be realistic. You will know you were successful at meeting your resolutions if you reach your goal. Make sure both are quantifiable so that you can truly measure success — “lose weight” is not a quantifiable goal, while “lose 10 lbs is.” “Decrease my student loan balance” is not. “Make more money” is not quantifiable, but “bring in $250 per month” is. Here are some examples of measurable goals and related resolutions:
Goal: Contribute additional $250/month to savings or debt payments
- Decrease coffee purchases from 5x/week to 2x/week
- Sell at least $25 worth of items on Craigslist or Ebay each month
- Divert $50 each month from restaurant spending to student loan payments
- Contribute $10/week to Roth IRA
- Bring lunch at least 4 days/wk
Goal: Lose 10 lbs
- Drink 64 oz of water each day
- Drink no soda
- Attend 2 exercise classes each week
- Run at least 3 miles on the treadmill at least 3 times per week
Stick to your Resolutions – Just for Today
Some people give up on their resolutions easily while others choose not to make resolutions at all. This is usually because they are overwhelmed by the thought of keeping the resolution week in and week out for the rest of the year. I found this Dear Abby post recently that has been helping me accomplish my resolutions. It’s based on the Al-Anon credo, and centers around telling yourself that you can accomplish anything, if “just for today.”
So just for today, cook dinner at home. Contribute $10 to savings, or send $20 towards your smallest or highest-interest debt. Just for today, decide to succeed and stick to your resolutions. A string of one-day successes turns into a week, then a month, then a year — but taken one by one, each day is manageable.
If you have already given up on your resolutions, or never got around to creating any, consider coming up with a new list now. Tell us in the comments what you plan to do — if only just for today!
Jill grew up in Texas, graduated from college in 2007 and is currently working in the DC metro area. Jill recently completed a 9-month certificate program in financial planning and will take the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam in November. After that she hopes to become a full-time financial planner. You can also find her as a staff writer at My Dollar Plan.