Getting on a Plan with Your FinancesRISMEDIA, December 30, 2010—New Year's Day is the traditional time for setting resolutions. But make them too lofty or unreasonable and by Valentine's Day, you will wonder what went wrong. GreenPath Debt Solutions trainers Megan Bridgett and Aimee O'Brien, offer up some simple and attainable ways for you to get financial goals in line in the first sixty days of the New Year:
On January 1, when you are still excited about your New Year's resolution, coordinate a family meeting. "It is important to keep all members of the family involved in the decision making process," said Bridgett. For instance, children can help save the family money by simply turning off lights when they are not in use and monitoring cell phone usage and charges.
January 1st-14th: Brainstorm on both your short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals could occur within the next three to six months, and long term could be within the next few years. Try to make sure to keep them SMART:
Specific - Try to be as specific as possible. For instance, if your goal is to "save money," try to make it specific by saying "I want to save money in order to buy a new car."
Measurable - Another tip is to make the goal measurable. One way to do this is to identify an amount that you would like to get to.
Attainable - If goals are not attainable, you will easily be discouraged and will maybe give up.
Realistic - You will want to make sure that you are being realistic. For instance, if I had a goal of "Never eat lunch out while at work," this might not be realistic or possible. But if I changed it to "Eat out lunch once per week while at work," I am far more likely to stick with it.
Timely - Think of a time frame and a deadline for the goal to be accomplished. This will help you to stay focused and motivated.
The month of January: January 1st come up with a projected budget of your monthly expenses, breaking them into different categories: Groceries, clothing, entertainment, dining out, utilities, household bills, debts, etc.
"Then, for the month of January, hold on to every receipt," said O'Brien. Each week, go through the receipts together, and place them in to the different categories that you have identified. Each month, tally up the totals, and compare what you have spent to what you had projected. "People tend to spend ten to twenty percent over what they anticipated and projected spending," said O'Brien. This will help you to identify areas to adjust or cut back.
The month of February: Start making some cutbacks. "Think of areas that you feel you can cut back on, and identify how much you can cut back by," said Bridgett. "Make sure to stay realistic with this and do not cut out everything. Gradually make these changes to keep yourself motivated and excited."
Keep tracking your expenses. Use a notebook and compare at the end of the month. Any money that was saved possibly put in a family bank account. "Share the results with the family, so that they are a part of this accomplishment," said O'Brien. Each month, have another family meeting and celebrate your successes by doing something fun together as a family. This celebration does not have to be expensive. It could be renting a video and having "Movie Night."
Get through the first 60 days of attaining your goals and tracking your progress, and the next 300 days will find you saving, budgeting and tracking your way to financial success in 2011.