Envision taking a trek across the desert. Surely you would plan for an excursion like this. You wouldn’t simply forge ahead without pre-determining the things you needed to take: sunblock, compass, water, miner’s light, and appropriate clothing for varying weather temperatures – hot at noon and cold at night. Your determination to preplan ensures the journey will be enjoyable and you will survive to tell about it.
I see New Year’s Resolutions in the same way. You may envision where you want to go financially but you don’t take the appropriate time to plan the journey to ensure your New Year’s Resolutions survive. The typical promises to pay down debt or save more money do not stand a chance without a definite action plan. Let’s see if the following five strategies can make a difference in approaching your New Year’s Resolutions with gusto.
1. Create a Vision Board. Having a vision board gives meaning and life to “seeing is believing”. If you want to save $1,000 or $10,000, scribble this balance on a copy of your bank statement. If you want to see your loan paid off, do the same. Cross out the present balance and write a BIG FAT ZERO under the outstanding balance column. Clip pictures of your dream Disney World vacation, a new car, or a newly-renovated kitchen. You may add quotes, draw, or write about the things you want in your life. In essence you are writing your goals, dreams and aspirations in new creative ways on a poster board. At a quick glance you can see the things you want and add them to memory. This is the first step to a successful financial plan. When you do this, you establish a target. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Ensure you aim at the things you want.
2. Track your spending. I know you are going to hate this strategy until it eventually becomes a habit. Many methods allow you to track your spending. With the use of phone apps, software programs, on-line banking, or spreadsheets, you can see where you spend your money. The fact is your discretionary spending, not fixed expenses, kills your best intentions of following through with your New Year’s Resolutions. You find yourself led into temptations by marketers leading you astray from your goals and dreams. Don’t be deceived into giving into temporary pleasures. You must make the decision to resist temptation and press towards your goals. Each passing week, you will vow to do a better job to manage your money.
3. Set-up automatic transfers to saving accounts. Getting into the rhythm of savings could be as easy as determining how much you want saved by a specific date. The math part is easy. The total is divided by the number of pay periods to determine how much to save from each pay cheque. The difficult part is actually doing it. Trusting yourself to make the transfer might not be the best choice. You could come up with a million reasons why this can’t happen on any given payday. Setting up automatic transfers to a savings account which you can’t see or touch is the ideal solution. Some people can handle seeing their savings grow; others cannot because they are tempted by images of what their money could buy them. Knowing your limitations will help you determine the best approach to save and to build appropriate safeguards.
4. Draw a line in the sand, “No more debt!” Paying down debt will happen “logically” as long as you do not borrow any more money than you already owe. Term loans and mortgages have set payments and specific timelines to ensure your balance will eventually be nil. Revolving loans (Line of Credit) and credit cards are a different kind of beast which require more discipline on your part to be paid in full. Simply paying the interest or the minimum payment won’t reduce the balance within a reasonable time. The plan should be to apply any excess cash to the revolving credit debt. By tracking your spending, you will know where the spending cuts can occur to create the excess cash.
5. Create a balance of enjoying life, savings and paying down debt. I love the children’s song, The wheels on the bus go round and round. There’s something magical in the words found in the first verse. This may sound crazy but the song appears to speak about real life. Take a moment and imagine your life as a bus travelling around the town. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to cruise around town with a flat tire. The aspects of your financial life, day-to-day expenses, savings, taxes, and debt, are like wheels. For example, if you put all your focus on paying down debt, you would not have any savings needed for car repairs, veterinary bills, or replacing much-need appliances. This leads to borrowing more money and increasing your debt. Your savings happens to be your flat tire. Developing strategies in proportion to your income, keeps your wheels in good driving condition to manage a well-balanced life.
The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution
A healthy financial plan involves more than “paying down debt” and “saving more money”. You mustn’t forget about the other important items like: reviewing your insurance to protect yourself and your family; ensuring your Will, Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive are up-to-date to reflect your wishes; and establishing an emergency savings. When you click here and include these items to your existing New Year’s Resolutions, and take action as necessary, you will fulfill the ultimate resolution. Studies have shown that Canadians with financial plans are saving more, living well, and experience higher levels of overall contentment in their lives. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate achievement and success to fulfill your New Year’s Resolutions?