What's your New Year's resolution? I bet I could guess. There's a good chance you want to lose weight, get organized or clean up your finances. How do I know? Those were last year's top three resolutions, according to StatisticBrain.com.
Unfortunately, the site also notes that, no matter what your resolution is, there's a good chance you'll fail: Only 8 percent of people who make resolutions are successful in achieving them.
That sounds like a challenge to me. Nothing gets me motivated like someone thinking I won't succeed. So let's make this the year we successfully keep our resolutions. And while I can't help you lose weight or get organized, I can certainly help with the financial piece of the puzzle.
Here are five steps you can take to help stick to your resolution.
Believe in yourself. It sounds a little cheesy to say, but bear with me, because this is important. If you assume you're going to fail, you probably will. "Beliefs and thoughts about money affect your actions in important ways. It's very difficult to keep those resolutions if you are burdened with beliefs that don't serve you," says Ellen Rogin, CFP professional and author of the book "Great With Money: 6 Steps to Lifetime Success & Prosperity." One way to solidify that belief is remembering other goals you've set and achieved, or other accomplishments you've made that you didn't, at the time, think you could. Build up your confidence, in other words.
Be specific. You don't want to save more money or spend less of it. You want to save $5,000 for retirement or cut $100 a month off of your grocery spending. You want to put an extra $200 a month toward your debt. The more concrete you can make your goals, the more likely you are to be able to reach them. Once you have a specific goal in mind, write it down and put it where you'll see it often -- above your computer or on your fridge. Some people even wrap it around their credit cards.
Build in rewards. You don't want to sabotage your efforts, but much like cheat days help you diet -- if you know there's cake on Saturday, you're more likely to eat clean on Tuesday -- a small reward can give you the motivation you need to keep moving when the urge to spend strikes. "Reward yourself for small victories along the way to stay motivated," says Kristi Sullivan, a Denver-based CFP professional. "For example, if your goal is to save $2,000, treat yourself to a movie, facial or drink with a friend for every $500 saved."
Blab to your friends. If you share your goals with friends and family, you're more likely to keep them -- if only for the fact that it's embarrassing to fail in front of others. But it's also helpful to have a support system in place. "Just like with a fitness goal, it's easier to stick with your workout regime when you have a personal trainer or buddy to work out with you," Rogin says. "Consider sharing your goal with a friend and committing to checking in with one another. Or work with a financial adviser to have her help you design a plan, set it up and coach you through the process of staying on track."
Focus. Research shows that we only have so much willpower, so it's much harder, for example, to quit smoking and save money at the same time. Instead, prioritize one, then the other. (I'd put smoking first -- quitting will save you money, both on cigarettes and health care costs.) The bonus is that you'll get a high from accomplishing the first goal, and that will double as motivation for the next.