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Sticking to financial resolutions

By Paula Pant ·
Friday, December 20, 2013
Posted: 11 am ET

Do you know what the top New Year's resolutions were in 2013?

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, losing weight -- always a classic -- topped the New Year's resolution list, followed by getting organized. Saving more money and spending less took third place.

If 2014 is similar to 2013, many of you will pledge similar resolutions. New Year's resolutions often are mocked for being broken by Jan. 2. If you want to stick to your resolution to save money, follow these helpful tips:

Set a specific goal

Make your goal as specific as possible, so that you know whether or not you are on track. A pledge to "save money" is a general goal. By contrast, a vow to "save $100 from each paycheck" is more specific.

Better yet, specify why you are saving. "Save" is an ambiguous term, so make your goal more targeted. A great resolution might be: "Save $200 from each paycheck for my 401(k), $100 from each paycheck for my emergency fund, and $50 from each paycheck as an extra payment on my mortgage."

Structuring your resolution with this level of exacting detail will help you stay on track.

Measure your progress

Post your goal somewhere visible. Write out your goal and tape it to your bathroom mirror, computer monitor or refrigerator.

Once a month, evaluate your progress. Did you put aside the promised amount? Why or why not?  If some obstacle came between you and your savings, brainstorm ways to work around that roadblock.

Perhaps you saved $100 in your emergency fund, but two weeks later, you had to raid the fund to pay for groceries. How can you avoid that? Is there some other aspect of the budget you can cut, like the cable bill or cell phone plan? Can you get a second job on the weekends?

Reward yourself

Give yourself a free reward (the operative word is "free") every month that you stay on track.

For example, if you save $350 from each paycheck for specific goals, reward yourself by spending a night watching your favorite movies, taking a long walk in the park or soaking in the tub.

You don't have to buy yourself a reward -- just take a deep breath and enjoy the peace of mind.

Paula Pant is a journalist-turned-blogger who helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say, "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.

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