Guest post by Tana Gildea, principal and financial planner at Homrich Berg
How are those New Year’s resolutions holding up? For many, we are at the time when the excitement and possibility of a shiny new year have faded into the chaotic normalcy of work, schedules, chores, and tasks. Feels a lot like last year.
Rather than feeling guilty or ashamed that those resolutions have succumbed to the demands of daily life, let’s try a different approach – change your perspective and integrate some great habits over time.
Change is hard because of the demands of daily life. Recognize that it’s not you, it’s the human condition. Guilt and shame are not the emotions that propel us to greatness! Get curious about what happened and why, and then learn something from the experience. Start experimenting with different approaches to see what helps and what falls flat. Keep tweaking your way toward improving rather than giving up when you aren’t perfect.
We are busy and can’t always stay focused on the long-term so in the cool moments of planning and “resolving,” automate debt payments and savings.
- Many 401k plans have a feature to automatically increase your contribution by 1% annually – fantastic! Sign up! If you are already maxing out your contributions, how about automatically shifting 1% over to the Roth option?
- Set up auto transfers to savings every paycheck – especially if you get a raise – get that increase to savings right away.
- Set up your credit card to autopay prior to the due date. Can’t pay it off in full? Automate a specific dollar amount that will help you reduce the balance.
- Set up alerts weekly about the balance on credit cards to make sure you are staying within plan. Toss guilt to the side and focus on actions you can take today to get on track when things slip.
Recognize that it is nearly impossible for our brains to track how often we spend small amounts and cut it off before it shows up on the credit card.
- Take control by using cash for “fun” spending.
- Set your planned amount and then use only cash for the week – game it to try to have some left over every week.
You are not alone. We tend to think we are the only ones struggling with overspending or too high credit cards or savings that dwindles as quickly as it increases. It’s life; it’s technology; it’s marketing genius; it’s a harried life; it’s the convenience; it’s being tired and overwhelmed. All of those aspects of modern life make it easy to spend and hard to save. Recognize those challenges and partner up with your friends to come up with solutions.
- For the social butterflies, challenge each person in the group to come up with free activities – this will be fun, interesting, and lead to new experiences – and good stories for those dud events!
- For the busy parents on the run, create a meal club where each person cooks one meal a week, in large quantity, and shares with everybody else.
- For the travelers, challenge yourself to maximize points, rewards, and travel deals to reduce travel spending.
Changing our perspective from success or failure to one of curiosity and information-gathering can help sustain us when the “wondrous gift” of a new year becomes another day in the life. Pick one small thing and put it into action, and you’ll find that over time, you can turn those resolutions into habits that last all year long.
Tana Gildea, CFP®, CPA, CCFS is a principal and financial planner with Homrich Berg where she is always on a mission to help others avoid some of the money mistakes she made in her 20’s and 30’s by providing basic financial information and a focused approach to managing money and financial matters. A published author, Tana has shared a wealth of financial advice for young people and other financial novices in her award-winning book, The Graduate’s Guide to Money. You can read more about her and her firm here, or email her at Gildea@homrichberg.com.