Normally, fitness centers are packed every January with new members, and all of a sudden everyone wants to get their finances in order and stick to a budget — just two of the popular New Year’s resolutions that are often forgotten in the first quarter of the year.
By mid-year, most of us have lost traction when it comes to those amazing goals we set at New Year’s. Personally, I got tired of setting the same goals year after year. Something always happened that threw me off track.
My Struggle to Meet My Goals
It’s not like I was setting unrealistic goals, either. My main resolutions were always to live a healthier lifestyle (meaning fix up my diet and find the energy to stick to a regular exercise routine) and to improve my financial situation so that I didn’t feel broke all the time.
As a personal finance blogger, I know that sounds weird that I still felt broke most months. I was into the habit of throwing more money toward my debt each month to the point that I left myself with very little to live on, making it difficult to enjoy the present.
Back when I was working a traditional job, I remember there were some pay periods when I’d only have $30 to $50 to last me the entire two weeks after I’d paid up all my bills. Not fun.
I’ve written often about my failed experiments with fad diets and lifestyle changes. This year, however, I looked back on the goals that I set last December. They were similar to previous years’ resolutions, but things have turned out much better.
What changed? Well…
Figuring Out How to Stick to New Year's Resolutions
I realized there was nothing wrong with the goals I was setting. They were initially practical and easy to prioritize. My main issue was how I navigated through the following 12 months.
So this year, I focused on my grit, which made all the difference. Grit is something you need to have in order to reach your goals. It’s a part of your spirit.
Those with grit literally don’t see failure as an option.
It pushes you forward constantly and turns tragedies into success stories. Motivation and dedication are two qualities you need to succeed. Think of grit as a combination of two of these traits, only amplified.
My grit helped me continue to make extra payments on my debt when my weaker side wanted to blow the money on something fun, like a pair of new boots. My grit also helps me crawl out of bed at 4:45 a.m. most weekdays so that I can hit the gym and honor the exercise schedule that I laid out for myself.
Basically, my grit helped me accomplish my resolutions this year, and it can help you too.
Tips to Accomplish Your Financial Goals
If you’re interested in setting financial goals for the new year, there are a few steps you should take to accomplish them.
To help you get on track, we spoke with Brian Carney, a certified financial planner, accredited investment fiduciary, and the co-founder of the RiversEdge Advisors financial planning firm. Here are the top three tips he offered to help you along your way to improving your finances:
1. Create or Modify Your Budget.
“The pandemic has changed the cash flow of many households across the world,” Carney says. “Having a clear budget written down on paper is the foundation of any financial plan. Most people have only a mental budget which leads to many errors when creating an accurate financial plan. A simple spreadsheet will go a long way to getting on track with finances in 2021.”
2. Determine Your Risk Tolerance.
“The volatility of the stock market in 2020 had many people questioning their appetite for investment risk,” says Carney. “This is the perfect time of year for an investor to reflect on how they handled this year’s market volatility and decide whether they need to alter their investment strategy.”
“Taking the time to develop a personal investment policy statement will help an investor clearly define their overall philosophy and strategy with their investments,” Carney adds. “This is essential to help an investor stay on track with their stated plan and avoid making extremely emotional decisions during times of volatility.”
3. Create an Emergency Fund
Finally, Carney says that “One thing the pandemic has taught us is the need to have a solid emergency reserve fund. Traditionally it has been recommended to have 3 to 6 months’ of expenses set aside in a savings account for emergency reserve purposes.”
“A common resolution is to reduce credit card debt,” Carney adds. “Establishing the proper emergency fund can help reduce the need to rely on a credit card in the event of a major financial event.”
Harnessing the Power of Grit
If you look up the word grit, you’ll see that the Intercultural Development Research Association refers to it as a non-cognitive trait. In other words, it’s a soft skill that comes to some people more naturally than others. On the bright side, you can develop grit, but it must be on your own terms.
How? With these three essential qualities:
- A set time frame
If you’re setting goals just for show and there’s no real drive or purpose behind them, you’ll fail every time. When you’re 100 percent ready and willing to do something and make a change, you’ll do it. Nothing on this Earth can stop you from reaching your goal.
You’ll need a set time frame. Don’t wait until 12:01 a.m. on January 1. Otherwise, all you are likely to achieve is watching that shiny ball drop in Times Square on TV.
Why wait until the first day of the new year to do what you know is right for you right now?
To really achieve your financial goals, don’t wait on them. They won’t fall into your lap like crumbs from the dinner table. It will take time, grit, and drive to achieve what you want for yourself. Set clear and measurable benchmarks, and strive to achieve them within the time allotted.
Believe that you can set yourself up for success as you work toward those goals. If you fall into the trap of thinking that you won’t succeed, you’ll find that you have created a self-fulfilling prophecy and you really won’t. Put your mind to it and believe that you can do it, and you will.
If you’re currently making any resolutions, remember that to truly achieve those results, you must channel your inner grit to overcome the excuses you make for yourself and the small challenges that will tempt you to quit.
If you can find the drive, belief, and set time frame needed to keep your New Year's Resolutions, you can easily develop the grit you’ll need to tackle them, and true grit won’t let you quit.