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4 New Year's Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Don't make resolutions without an action plan. The secret to success is right in your hands.” - J. Allen Shaw

“Why do New Years Resolutions fail? Mainly, because they are only a statement, or what we wish for in the coming year. There are usually no action plans, no deadlines, no backup plans. Sometimes they are unrealistic resolutions, with no other thought or plans beside the statement.” - Catherine Pulsifer

“I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. I think if you want to change something, change it today and don't wait until the New Year.” - Georgina Bloomberg

 

New Year's Resolutions

How many new year’s resolutions do we actually keep? I mean, really let’s be honest with each other. I know that for me it’s usually been like probably… zero ultimately.

When it comes to keeping new year’s resolutions like fitness, weight loss, saving money or paying off debt, it’s always helpful to have some external sources of inspiration, encouragement and accountability, if we’re serious about our resolutions and committed to turning them into real lifestyle habits. Otherwise, our resolutions just fall into the trash bin of our personal histories.

I want for this year to be different for you and I want to show you how.

So, my purpose for this piece of content: to help you set up and ultimately to successfully turn these 4 financially-oriented new year's resolutions into lifelong financial habits that will continue to serve you well.

Here are the 4 in brief:

  1. Commit to earning/finding/saving/cutting (expenses) $1k in 30 days.
  2. Organize your financial life by making a centralized list of all of your
    • Sources of income
    • Bills and expenses
    • Debts
  3. Start a written budget and commit to 90 days of “trial and error”.
  4. Start tracking every single expense.

The whole idea behind setting achievable goals is to make them well…. achievable. The best way to do that is to make them bite-sized, lay them out step-by-step in a do-this-then-do-this manner and eliminate any kind of overwhelm with tenacity and vigor.

 

Let's Address Overwhelm

One of the best ways to eliminate overwhelm is to break any task down into 25 minute time blocks. That’s right, if you even have the idea that you’re going to be tempted to procrastinate or quite, it’s best to grab your phone or some kind of timer, set it for 25 minutes, put your head down and then take a 5-10 minute break once you’ve completed the block.

I’ve been using this technique for years as an online business owner and content creator AND we’ve recommended it to thousands of our financial coaching students and it really does work.

Two areas where overwhelm might try to creep into your mind will likely be: 2) organizing your finances and 3) getting on a written budget. For these two goals in particular, it’s a good idea to be aware of the potential overwhelm (which may have been keeping you from doing them all along) and to go ahead and set that timer.

If you’re prone to overwhelm, I highly recommend breaking this exercise into 25 minute time blocks. Here’s a free 25 Minute Time Block Strategy resource that will tell you how to do that.

 

Resolution 1: Commit To $1k In 30 Days

Our community actually has a $1k in 30 days challenge that you can do a deep dive into. This is where we help you find, cut and/or earn $1000 inside of 30 days so that you can: pay off debt with it, save it or invest it.

As a matter of fact, if you use this strategy regularly throughout your personal finance journey, it will serve you well for many years to come... 

So, whether you’re paying off debt, saving for an emergency fund or saving/investing for your retirement, the principles of grabbing cash in “$1000 handfuls” will help you reach your goals much faster AND will  simultaneously gift you with a lifelong financial skill.

My strong recommendation for this particular resolution would be to go ahead and download the PDF resource pack as it has all the printable forms you'll need to complete this exercise AND will help you to keep this process "top of mind" when you start to feel a little overwhelmed or challenged.

Here's the free downloadable/printable PDF version of the challenge and resource pack.

Additionally, here’s another post I wrote that walks you through a 30 day money challenge cadence.

 

Resolution 2: Organize Your Finances

This is what I like to call “the forgotten budgeting step” and I’ve written an entire blog post about it that includes a printable pdf workbook. Most of us fail to get on a budget or fail to stay on a budget because we’re trying to do too much at once AND typically because our finances are completely disorganized. That was certainly the case for me a decade ago.

The Forgotten Budgeting Step

So to reduce the overwhelm and increase your chances of budgeting success, I 100% recommend taking the time to do this organization project. It may take a few days, it may take longer, but I can promise you that it’s totally worth it.

Take a deep breath. Depending on how organized/disorganized you are, this might take more than one sitting.

Don’t worry it’s normal. Rome wasn’t built in a day and MOST of our students don’t remember ALL of their bills, expenses and debts the first time through.

Again, if you’re prone to overwhelm, I highly recommend breaking this exercise into 25 minute time blocks. Here’s a free 25 Minute Time Block Strategy resource that will tell you how to do that.

Gather all of your materials including the "Everything I Owe" PDF Worksheet

  • Start by “brainstorming” all of the bills you can remember. The following steps are meant to get the wheels turning and to help you find all the “nooks and crannies”
  • You may want to print off a couple of copies of the "Everything I Owe" PDF Worksheet as you will likely rewrite by “due date” after your 1st draft “brainstorm”. 
  • Also, as a way to “jog” your memory, go ahead and download our Budget PDF Form. The categories may help you to remember things you might otherwise forget.
  • Make sure to include “due dates” with every expense you write down. We’ll organize them by date later in the process. This part is all about “getting it all down on paper”.
  • Gather up all of the following you can:
    • Bank statements and log into all of your online banking accounts.
    • Credit card statements and log into your online accounts.
    • Mortgage/2nd mortgage/HELOC/HOA statements.
    • Car payment stubs 
    • Student  loan statements
    • Personal loan statements 
    • Rental invoices
    • Utility bills (electricity, water, sewer, gas, pest control, internet
    • Insurance invoices (home, car, health, life, disability, identity theft)
    • Car maintenance, oil change receipts.
    • Grocery receipts 
    • Restaurant receipts
    • Gas receipts
    • Travel related expenses
    • Cell phone
    • Medical related expenses (doctor visits, chiropractor, medications, supplements)
    • Irregular expenses like: gifts, back to school, seasonals
    • Miscellaneous… 

Write them all out in your "Everything I Owe" PDF Worksheet making sure to include the bill due date.

Again, set that timer for 25 minutes if you start to feel overwhelmed and take a break for 5-10 minutes and then get back at it.

Don’t worry, it’s not going to be perfect the first time. Remember, this is just the first draft and it will get more and more accurate the more times you rewrite it (just like budgeting).

PRO STEP: Now that you’ve “brainstormed”, go back and rewrite all of your bills, expenses and debts in order of due date and/or write them out on a monthly calendar.

Don't be afraid of rewriting. Rewriting is a hallmark of all steps of the "learning to budget" process. Shun, the "set it and forget it" mindset. It will not serve you.

Instead, resolve that you're going to do "whatever it takes" to become successful at this and I promise you, you will!

NOW, you’re ready to put all of those bills, expenses and debts into a written budget.

 

Resolution 3: Get On A Written Budget

“We must consult our means rather than our wishes.” ― George Washington

"A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went" - Dave Ramsey

This content is from a blog post I wrote called Budgeting 101: How To Build A Budget (You Can Actually Stick To) and I highly recommend walking through it if you’re ready to have a step-by-step, do-this-then-do-this, no overwhelm type of guide. 

There’s also a free pdf guide that you can download and keep on hand as you move through the process.

Do you want the free downloadable PDF guide of this material?

Budgeting or cash flow planning is a fundamental life skill that absolutely everyone needs, kind of like breathing. This post addresses the "why", the "what" and the "how" of starting a basic budget (also known as “budgeting 101”). 

It’s my personal and professional conviction that budgeting and personal finance is something that should absolutely be taught in our public schools. It’s always puzzled me that it’s not. I truly believe that, had I been taught how to properly budget in my more formative years, I would have avoided the $43,000 of consumer debt (and consequent anguish) I got myself into about a decade ago. 

After having climbed out of that hole (it took 2.5 years) and now having coached students for over a decade, it’s my strong assertion that basic budgeting skills are absolutely necessary as part of any kind of personal financial literacy. 

But alas, we can’t simply rely on public (or private) institutions to teach our children how it’s done. Budgeting skills MUST be initiated in the home. And to be able to teach it effectively, we must both know it and practice it ourselves.

So, we created this resource to help you, no matter where you are long the continuum of learning how to budget:

1) total beginner,

2) some experience, but need more help/development,

3) tried, failed and gave up or

4) never even considered it until a life circumstance dictated it absolutely necessary to get on a budget.

I can promise you that, if you commit to the process, learning how to budget will immediately change the trajectory of your finances and your life for the better! Ready to become a budgeting nerd?

 

Resolution 4: Start Tracking Every Expense

If you want to really win with budgeting and with your finances in general, make it easier on yourself and start tracking every single penny of expenses. Tedious? Yes possibly, at first. But I can attest that even after budgeting successfully for over a decade, this practice has dramatically increased my wife’s and my trajectory toward financial independence.

I just can’t say enough about the combined activities of budgeting and diligent expense tracking have on your overall awareness about your money. The two in tandem are a game changer.

And like the pre-budgeting step, diligent expense tracking is a form of “budget insurance”. Alongside your written budget, this will help you to reign in  your finances and find “budget leakages”, in a way that will help you to feel like you’ve gotten a raise even if you technically haven’t (yet).

So, whether you’re seeking more control over your money, to eliminate debt, or to save for a big goal (i.e. house, car, college, retirement), budgeting will help you to both 1) benchmark your progress and, (when done consistently) 2) give you as sense of accomplishment and progress toward your goals.

 

Why track every single penny?

Two reasons: 1) it helps to shorten the overall budgeting learning curve and 2) it gives any unsavory financial habits “no place to hide”. Let’s unpack these two.

 

Shortened Learning Curve

Expense tracking will greatly shorten the learning curve in your budgeting efforts. How? It will make you more acutely aware of every single penny that comes in and every penny that goes out. And that awareness will naturally start making you more conscious of your money moves, for better or for worse. 

As a natural result, you’ll start to see a change in your attitudes toward spending in a way you never could in your “pre-tracking” days.

Test me here. Try it for 30 days and let me know your results.

For more about the "why" of budgeting and expense tracking, check out this post: You Have Full Permission To Be A Colossal Budgeting Nerd

 

No Place To Hide

If you have bad financial habits and you want to change them, then both budgeting and expense tracking, when done honestly, will absolutely help you. Tracking your every penny of expenses will very quickly shed light on when, where and how you spend. 

If you ever want to get control of your finances, you’ve got to eliminate all the places you’ve been hiding.

For more ideas on how to give yourself "no place to hide", check out this post: How To Destroy Debt By Giving Yourself No Place To Hide

 

Free Expense Tracker

Here’s a free expense/receipt tracking resource you can use to track your expenses. Make a commitment to take it with you and use it as a financial journal for 30 days. I promise you’ll be surprised at how quickly it will become a habit that will serve you well for many many years to come. 

This tracking process will absolutely supercharge your financial health. Again, this is all about awareness and control. You’re using your budget and tracking vehicles as your “external brain”, rather than trying to keep everything top of mind. Our financial lives are WAY too complicated and detailed for that.

All of this organization, categorization and tracking will help you to sleep better at night. With everything externalized and accounted for, you can relax and breathe much more easily.

 

Conclusion & Call To Action

So, hopefully I’ve helped you to either articulate your own new year’s resolutions with a little more clarity or I’ve actually helped you find one (or 4). :)

Again, my purpose for this piece of content: to help you set up and ultimately to successfully turn these 4 financially-oriented new year's resolutions into lifelong financial habits that will continue to serve you well.

As a review, here they are the 4 in brief:

  1. Commit to earning/finding/saving/cutting (expenses) $1k in 30 days.
  2. Organize your financial life by making a centralized list of all of your
    1. Sources of income
    2. Bills and expenses
    3. Debts
  3. Start a written budget and commit to 90 days of “trial and error”.
  4. Start tracking every single expense.

Like I mentioned earlier, the whole idea behind setting achievable goals is to make them well…. achievable. The best way to do that is to make them bite-sized, lay them out step-by-step in a do-this-then-do-this manner and eliminate any kind of overwhelm with tenacity and vigor.

That's what I've aimed at helping you with in this post and I now want to help you take it all into the realm of reality by calling you to take a small step toward your own success.

 

Call To Action

So, all of this is just “infotainment” if we don’t give it the teeth of decisive action. So, what I want you to do is download one or both of these free guides and make a commitment to complete the first step of either or both. Here’s how you can get them.

$1k In 30 Days Challenge And Resource Pack

Budgeting 101: How To Build A Budget (You Can Actually Stick To)

And let me know in the comments below, what was your biggest surprise in digging into one or more of these resolutions?

Read this next: https://www.zerodebtcoach.com/blog/new-year-money-challenge

 

What To Do Next

Now that you have that as a basic framework for some financial goal setting, the next step is to get as granular as possible with the rest of your financial life. I want to offer you another completely free resource that will help you map out your money with even more confidence.

Ready to get total control over your money? Introducing My FREE 8 Steps To Erase Debt Guide

These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years

Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.

  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!

I’ve created a simple, easy to follow “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever. 

 

Here are some additional options to help you accomplish your personal finance goals:

  1. Check out our YouTube Channel for "how to" video guides.
  2. Join our Zero Debt Tribe Community on Facebook, a group of friendly, like-minded personal finance enthusiasts, budgeting nerds, debt-eliminators and “FI-ers” who are there to help each other succeed? Click here to request to join for support and encouragement!
  3. Our library of Free Products & Printables.

 

What do you need help with the most right now?

And finally, I want to encourage you and challenge you to get started in this process. You can do this by downloading this blogpost as your guide. The downloadable pdf contains all the printable forms and instructions you need to get this process started.

So, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,

Brad

Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

 
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

 

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