For this post, I’m so thrilled to have partnered with Emily at Dig In, Dig Out. My first guest post! We both see how important it is to change habits long term in order to find financial success. What better place to kick off new habits than with a New Year’s resolution?
Emily started budgeting a year ago and still marvels at what she’s learned about budgeting, self-control and relationships. She started Dig In, Dig Out with a simple goal in mind: to dig into the debt to dig out of debt. In addition to all things frugal, Emily enjoys cross stitching, seagulls, and inspiring others to take control of their finances! Check her out @digindigout.
So, ’tis the season for starting some New Year resolution ideas! It’s no secret that the vast majority of resolutions are dumped by the end of January. Avoid this by setting specific, achievable steps in each area below. By breaking down into pieces, maybe your resolution will stop being a resolution and become a life change.
Maybe it’s much too early in the game,
Oh but I thought I’d ask you just the same,
What are you choosing for your New Year’s resolution?
I’m here to make it easy for you: we’re going to choose them all. Hear me out.
Getting out of debt requires a lifestyle change, to say the least. Every aspect of your life changes and I know (trust me, I know) how overwhelming that can be. However, if you break down the larger goal—financial independence—into smaller chunks, you can start the new year with fun, focus and the ability achieve more than you expected. By looking at each chunk as a New Year’s resolution, we’re not only making the steps smaller but giving each a purpose.
1. Get More Organized/Stress Less
Knowing what you owe and when you owe it is Step 1 in taking control of your finances. You might think shining a bright light on the “problem” will make you feel helpless, distressed or embarrassed. However, in my experience and in watching others, getting your debt ducks in a row is a huge relief. When I started my journey, I made a simple spreadsheet with the name of the debt, the amount owed, the due date and any notes. Now I update it every time I pay off a chunk. It’s easier and less stressful to slay a monster you’re familiar with versus confronting an unknown beast.
2. Learn Something New
Learning to care for your finances will literally pay off for the rest of your life. The numbers game might be intimidating at first, but the feeling of control you’ll have is worth it. There are SO MANY books and blogs (oh hey!) out there with advice on getting out of debt, but it all starts when you learn how to really budget. Find a tracking method that’s easy for you (so you actually do it) and learn from your spending patterns. My spreadsheets are so simple a child could use them. And with that we visit our next resolution…
3. Spend More Time with Family/Friends
They say to learn something you should teach it, so why not involve the whole family in budgeting? Not only will the kids pick up good financial habits early on, your family will be forced to stay accountable to each other.
Budgeting can be fun, I swear. Who can find the best coupon? Who went the longest without spending anything? Who picked up an extra chore? Bonus: hanging out with the fam or inviting the gals over is a great way to stay in, have fun and save $$.
4. Lose Weight
You know what’s free? Getting outside. You know what you’ll want when you’re on a budget? Free activities. I started walking with a friend once a week this summer and we still look forward to it. Look for free running clubs or promotions at fitness studios. For the colder months check out one of the many fitness apps–I like Sworkit for the free guided workouts, yoga, and stretching sessions.
Additionally, once you’re on a budget, going out to eat will be a thing of the past. You’ll now be planning healthy meals at home and that means more control over what you put in your body. I always look for sales on canned beans and frozen veggies so I can stock up on the cheap. Having healthy choices on hand is a terrific way to help you eat healthier. Call me boring, but I’ve chosen to have the same healthy lunch every day of the week, cutting down on lunch grocery spending and calories.
5. Quit Smoking
I’m not a smoker anymore, but when I was, cigarettes were about $8 a pack. No further explanation needed on this one.
6. The Three R’s
Captain Obvious here: when you’re on a budget, you don’t buy as much, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to. I wanted a new dress for a Christmas party so very, very badly. Instead, I took out my old dresses, realized no one at the party had seen any of them, and got tons of compliments in the end. There’s no shame in wearing the clothes you already have. Try consigning items you no longer wear and surprise yourself at how creative you get as you reduce, reuse, and recycle.
7. Give Back
I’ve watched peoples’ lives be transformed by the work they do with organizations they believe in. Get a crew together and it’s an even more fun, free and rewarding activity. My selfish self asks: what sounds better when your coworker asked what you did over the weekend: “I went to dinner and a movie” or “I helped build houses for families in need?” Whatever your motivation, being involved in your community is gratifying and uplifting. Which leads to…
8. Love/Respect Yourself More
This is a tough one. Really tough. So many people are ashamed of their financial situation and have no clue that the person standing next to them might be, too. Jealousy can be a real issue when you’ve cut back expenses, so focus on how you’ll feel in the future. Don’t base your self-worth on your net worth. Give yourself a break, try different budgeting methods until you find one that’s right for you, and acknowledge your accomplishments as you go.
Like many important life decisions, taking control of your finances is a process that will change you more than you know. I promise it will take some weight off your shoulders and the best time to start is with a fresh year on the horizon. Break down your financial goal into bite-size pieces and when people ask, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” you can proudly say: all of them.