5 Ways to Make Your Money Resolutions Stick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Resolving to take  better care of your finances is easy, but actually following through is another story. To make sure you meet your financial goals in 2012, MainStreet highlights five ways to make your money resolutions a success.

Get a Financial Buddy


A recent study from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 85% of Americans feel it would be somewhat helpful to have a buddy hold them accountable in reaching their New Year’s resolutions. While the buddy approach is popular for those trying to achieve health or weight-loss goals, Paul Golden, NEFE spokesman, says friends interested in reaching money goals also shouldn’t shy away from pairing up.

“You don’t have to share a lot of personal information,” he says. Instead, simply ask a close friend, relative or colleague to check in to see if you achieved a monthly goal, such as setting aside a specific amount of money, or even ask them to accompany you when shopping so you can both keep each other’s spending in check.

Golden adds that while this buddy could be anyone, you should be careful to make sure your goals are like-minded to increase the odds that you will both stay true to them.


Downsize Your Goals


Setting a realistic goal is the key to actually achieving it, so if your current resolution is too far-reaching, you may want to tweak the parameters. For instance, instead of saying that you need to raise your credit score by 100 points, tell yourself that you want to establish a better payment history in 2012.  Additionally, you may want to eliminate the stress of establishing a $3,000 emergency fund by planning to put away an additional $20 per paycheck.

“If you don’t think you can achieve your goal, it’s easy to walk away from it,” says Steve Schwartz, personal finance expert with identity theft company Intersections, Inc. ”Don’t set yourself up for failure.”

Seek Out Technological Help

Your resolution will ultimately be much more successful if you seek out tools to systemize it, says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. For instance, if you are trying to save more money, it might help to set up an automated deposit that goes directly from a paycheck to a savings account each month. 

You can also arrange to have more money put into your employer-sponsored 401(k) program, or those who are trying to pay down credit card debt can establish a monthly payment schedule that helps bring the balance down as the year progresses.

This way, “you safeguard yourself against your own temptations,” de Baca says.

You can also take advantage of new Web tools, such as Amazon’s (Stock Quote: AMZN) 21habit.com, which helps consumers monetize common goals.

Or, if you’d prefer to have something to help you keep track of resolutions while on the go, find some great smartphone apps for in this MainStreet roundup!

Write Down Your Action Plan

De Baca points out that writing down goals can be extremely helpful when planning for retirement, so consumers should also try putting their 2012 money resolutions down on paper.

“Writing a goal down gives it a weightiness that just thinking about it doesn’t reach,” says Jim Heitman, certified financial planner with Compass Financial Planning.

But you shouldn’t stop at typing up a single outline.

“Put [your goal] in several places where you will see it throughout your day: bathroom mirror, computer monitor, steering wheel, even taped to every credit and debit card in your wallet,” Heitman says. “Consistency is key.”

Treat Yourself Every Now and Then

Becoming too regimented and fixated on your goal will ultimately lead you to resent it, so don’t write off spending altogether.

“If you view your plan like a diet, you are doomed to fail,” says Frank C. Boucher, a certified financial planner with Boucher Financial Planning Services.

Instead, he suggests working some of life’s little pleasures into your spending plan …  after making one or two adjustments.

“Instead of going out to dinner and a movie with your friends, invite them to your home for potluck and a video,” Boucher says. “You'll probably have a lot more fun and you will save money.”

What other small adjustments can you make that will help you save more money this year? Find out in MainStreet’s roundup of 12 things you should stop paying for in 2012!

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at Skowronski.jeanine@thestreet.com, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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