smart spending

Don't make grandiose New Year's resolutions

Every year in January, Brixey creates a “dream board” for that year's resolutions, and she suggests you try it as incentive to stay on task.

If you want to reduce debt so you can pay cash for a vacation, then you might want to put pictures of your dream vacation spot on the board. If remodeling your kitchen without going into debt is a top priority, place a picture of your ideal kitchen on your dream board. And remember to put the board someplace where you'll see it.

Clark says resolutions are often set whimsically. So revisiting what you've resolved to do after 30 to 45 days can help you determine if it's necessary to reset your goals to ones you can actually accomplish.

Obstacles also may come up along the way. You may encounter unexpected vacation costs or high summer camp expenses, making it difficult to add $100 to your savings during those months.

"The path to success is never smooth," psychologist Rego says.

It's OK to ask for help. Connect with people who will support you or have expertise in what you want to do. If you know someone who has achieved a substantial financial goal, tap them for advice. Find out if friends or family members have reduced their credit card debt or paid cash for a kitchen remodel. Ask what steps they took to accomplish their goal and follow their lead. You also could pay for expertise from a financial adviser, coach or other consultant.

Recognize that setbacks are normal

Clark, the Little Rock financial planner, says that changing the way you handle your finances or any other part of your life might not be a pleasant process, or you likely would have done it already.

Be patient. People want results immediately, but changes take time. You need to be patient to meet your goal while in the process of change.

One strategy is to review changes you've already made. Think about a time when you made a difficult change. What resources did you use? What personal strengths did you draw on to make change happen? How can you use your strengths and resources to help you achieve your current resolution?

And visualize what the change will mean.

"Sit down and imagine what life would be like if you didn't have $10,000 in credit card debt. If you had an extra $1,000 a month, how would you divide it up?" Clark asks. "Keep those goals in front of you and push through the pain. That will help you realize that you're not making your life miserable for no reason."

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