Setting unrealistic financial goals for the new year can make your financial situation worse if you’re not careful. Rather than setting vague goals that aren’t achievable this new year, opt to make your resolutions specific and quantitative.
Don't “pay off debt,” but… pay off $200 worth of debt a month.
It's important to specify what you mean when you want to pay off your debt. If you have a vague goal for paying off debt, there's a good chance that the resolution will fizzle out. Try setting a specific amount to pay off each month so you have a clear idea and budget accordingly.
Remember to always take your current financial circumstances into consideration. Don't try to pay off $20,000 of student loan debt in a year because that's not realistic.
Don't “make more money,” but… work to get a promotion.
Achieving a goal to make more money is tricky. That entails getting a second job or quitting your current job to pursue a new one. Most people, especially those with families, can't swing the first option and it's not financially responsible to try the latter. Instead, try working towards a promotion or raise. Attend more meetings and networking events with your company. You also have the option of speaking with your boss about a raise.
Don't “spend less money,” but… cut $50 off your “eating out” budget every month.
The most important question to ask yourself when cutting out a part of your budget is “where do I overspend?” You obviously don't want to cut money out of your medical budget if you get sick pretty often. Instead, look at your budget and designate a specific amount that could be cut from a certain category each month. For example, if you feel like you could cut down on eating out every month, take $50 out of that budget.
Don't “save more money,” but… save $200 for your retirement fund.
If you make a goal simply to save more money, that may make you justify saving only $50 for the entire year. Some of the more popular reasons to save money are retirement, mortgages, and car payments. Try making short term and long term goals throughout the year. Maybe you want to save $5,000 for a car while saving $25 a month for your child's college fund.
Don't “stick to a budget,” but… use a budget-tracker each month.
Sticking to your budget is what makes all of these resolutions possible. However, if you are vague about your budget, you may end up flexing certain categories with impulse decisions.
If you can find a budget tracker that works for you, use it every day. If you have a visual representation of your spending it will help to keep you in check. Central Bank's Money Manager tool allows you to create personalized budget and savings goals, track your progress, and set alerts.