Well, we’re two days from Christmas, and aside from frenetic last minute gift buying and excitement over the quality time you’re about to experience with your in-laws, perhaps you’ve had a moment to reflect on your year…and it hasn’t been all that you were hoping for when the ball dropped last December. I, for one, had high hopes of running a half marathon. I even put my plans on twitter for some accountability. Nope, didn’t happen. In fact, I think I’m farther than where I started. Maybe you can identify?
So as 2020 approaches, here are a few practical tips for you (and me) to start the New Year out right. These are related to financial goals, but the concepts apply in any area where you’re looking to make tangible progress:
- Start with the ending. Most folks talk about needing a budget, but very few people take any joy from budgeting…and we tend to avoid things we don’t like. So instead of starting with how you can cut your expenses to save more (which feels negative), begin with what you’re excited about achieving this year. You want to have an emergency fund for the first time, feel the freedom of paying off debt, or maybe take the family on a vacation. Start with the goal, it shifts the entire conversation from avoidance to active engagement.
- Let technology help. Half the reason we don’t like budgeting is the time and energy required to follow through and see where our money is going by tracking our spending. The first budget template someone handed me when I graduated from college had a line item for toothpaste…the guy literally tracked his monthly burn rate for Crest. No sane person would enjoy that (apologies to the CPA’s out there). Thankfully technology has stepped into the gap here. You don’t have to create a detailed excel spreadsheet that you manually update every week, free resources that track your spending with minimal effort on your part are now offered by many banks and websites like mint.com. And again (back to point one) tracking where your money goes can move from annoying to exciting when you have a clear goal in mind, because it’s encouraging to see the progress you’re making.
- Gain momentum fast. Many of us will receive extra dollars from Christmas bonuses and tax refunds in the next few weeks. Be intentional with this money! If your goal for the year is to build an emergency fund for the first time, don’t just drop these funds in your checking account…we all know that’s where extra money goes to die. Open a savings account at a separate bank and put the funds there, so they’re protected from day to day expenses. You’re far more likely to follow through on your goals for the year if you see clear movement right out of the gate.
So be encouraged, friend! 2019 may not have been your year…but there’s nothing stopping you from making real progress in 2020. Envision what you want to accomplish, utilize technology to track your progress, and be intentional about gaining traction as quickly as possible. I look forward to hearing your success stories over egg nog next December.
Get more tips from Chris at Dynamic Money and make sure you sign up for his daily financial newsletter.