smart spending

9 ways to keep your New Year's resolutions

new years resolution
Highlights
  • Make your resolution something you want, not what other people want.
  • Create a realistic action plan to fulfill your New Year's resolution.
  • Have someone hold you accountable for sticking to your New Year's goals.

If your New Year's resolutions from last year have gone unresolved, you're not alone. Now a new year offers another opportunity to achieve your goals, and these nine tips should help you keep to your New Year's resolutions.

1. Make it something you really want. Don't make it a resolution that you "should" want or what other people tell you to want. It has to fit with your own values.

"Put some thought into it," says Richard O'Connor, author of "Happy at Last: The Thinking Person's Guide to Finding Joy." And avoid knee-jerk New Year's resolutions, he says. "I encourage people not to make cheap resolutions, but to save it for something meaningful."

2. Limit your list to a number you can handle. "It's probably best to make two or three resolutions that you intend to keep," says O'Connor. That way, you're focusing your efforts on the goals you truly want.

3. Be specific. "To be effective, resolutions and goals need to be pretty specific," says O'Connor. Jettison the amorphous "exercise more," in favor of "I'm working out at the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 p.m."

4. Automate. Automating financial goals can maximize your odds for success without you having to do anything, says Keith Ernst, director of research for the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, N.C.

If your goal is to save $3,000 this year, calculate the amount out of each check, then arrange to have it automatically deposited into your savings account each time you get paid, says Ernst.

5. Make a plan. Rather than stating one daunting goal, create a series of smaller steps to reach it.

"Have an action plan," O'Connor says. "Figure out exactly what you want to do."

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If you need immediate rewards, here's a suggestion. "Ask yourself: What are the short-term goodies?" says Susan Wilson, co-author of "Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals."

For example, if you want to exercise regularly and love spending time with your friends, getting the group together to walk regularly could give you a short-term payoff and help you meet the long-term goal, she says.

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