Today I’m delighted to shared with you a guest post from my blogging buddy John Talbot. Known in the online personal finance community as “Money Nerd”, John helps people get out of debt with his writings on moneynerd.co.uk. After chatting with John earlier this month, he has agreed to put together this post on financial goals for the new year so here’s what he suggests to ensure your targets are do-able…
Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions each year. Of course, there’s nothing to stop us making resolutions at any time during the year, especially if we want to start saving or to get out of debt, but when midnight comes on New Year’s Eve it feels like a new start and we’re fired with enthusiasm for the year to come.
Quite often, our new year’s resolutions are financial. We might have decided that during the forthcoming year we’re going to save more money or we might have decided to cut our debts down to size. Financial New Year’s Resolutions have become more popular over the past decade because the financial crash of 2008 has meant that money’s been tight so we’ve all had to pay a lot more attention to our finances.
But despite our good intentions, many of us will go on to break our New Year’s Resolutions. There are a number of reasons that we break them, so let’s analyse why that happens so we can increase the likelihood that we’ll stick to our New Year’s Resolutions in 2020.
Simply saying, “I’ll save more money in 2020!” isn’t likely to work because it’s not specific. If you don’t set yourself a specific target you won’t know when you’ve hit that target. And without a target it’s easy to cheat, because as long as you’ve saved a little bit of money you can pretend that you’ve done well.
It’s even better if that target is something tangible rather than just being an amount of money that you’d like to have in your bank account. Maybe you want a new car. Perhaps you’re got a dream holiday that you’ve always wanted to take. What about a deposit so you can buy your own home?
Whatever it is that you’re saving for, you’re more likely to continue saving if you’re saving for something specific rather than just saving for the sake of saving. Even though you’ll have to make a few sacrifices to achieve your goal, you’ll know that there’s something you want waiting for you at the end and as such it’ll feel that it’s worth making those sacrifices.
Avoid making vague New Year’s Resolutions!
LACK OF PLANNING
Once you’ve decided how much you’re going to be saving and what you’re saving that money for, you need to work out how you’re going to get there. You need an action plan.
So if you’ve decided that you want to save £1,000 in 2020, you might decide that means you’ll be saving £20 per week. By creating that action plan, you will know what you need to do to achieve your goal and you will feel that you are making progress each time you add £20 to your savings.
Don’t try to convince yourself that it’s not a problem if you skip a particular week or month on the basis that you will save double the amount next time. If you don’t follow your action plan it’ll be game over.
LOSS OF MORALE
In addition to your main target, it can help to have smaller “milestone” targets so you can reward yourself along the way. Your main goal will look like it’s far away in the distance, particularly at the start of your journey. That can be demoralising and if your morale falls, you’re more likely to give up on your resolution.
Let’s say that you’re saving £20 each week towards a £1,000 target. If you promise yourself a small treat each time you’ve reached the next £100 you’re more likely to keep going because the next target is always well within your reach.
If you know you aren’t going to hit your target it’s a lot easier to give up than it is if you can see that you’re making decent progress. You need to make sure that the target that you set is achievable. Sit down and work out how much money you have coming in each month. Once you’ve done that, work out how much money you’re spending each month.
From there, you can calculate how much money you can afford to save, but it would be a mistake to set the target at that level. If you do, you’ll have no spare money to treat yourself from time to time, have nights out with your friends and so on.
Instead, set your target at a level that is relatively easy to stick to. Remember that there’s nothing to stop you saving more than your target amount if you find you have a bit more money left over when you get to the end of the month.
When you’re working out how much you’re spending each month, though, use that process as an opportunity to review whether you need to be spending that money. You might realise that you’re paying for a TV package that you rarely use, for instance, and cancelling or downgrading that could mean that you can save more money each month than you thought you could.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS
If you’re trying to save £1,000 to go on holiday, tell your friends that you’re trying to save £1,000 to go on holiday. Most people don’t like failure, but they dislike public failure even more. If you’ve told your friends that you’re saving towards a holiday they’ll ask you how you’re getting on from time to time. That’ll motivate you to keep going.
If your new year’s resolution for 2020 is to save some money, set yourself a specific target.
- Ideally, know what you’re going to use that money for.
- Make sure that target is realistic.
- Work out how you’re going to achieve that goal.
- Use that process as a review of your outgoings to see if you can identify a way of saving even more money.
- As well as your overall target, set yourself “milestone” targets so that you can reward yourself along the way to motivate yourself.
- And above all else, remember that when you’ve hit your target there is a reward at the end of it!
Author bio: John Talbot, known in the online personal finance community as “Money Nerd” helps people get out of debt with his writings on moneynerd.co.uk.