Three Simple Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success

As we start 2024, many of us will begin by setting goals for the new year. According to Statista, this year, the top resolution is to save more money. The old favorites are still in the top 5: To Exercise more, to eat healthier, to spend more time with family/friends, and to lose weight. Other financial goals are also high on the list, such as eating out less or reducing spending. Financial goals topping the list isn’t anything new. With inflation cutting into our budgets and lifestyle creep, making it so we have less and less to put back for a rainy day, it is easy to see why it would top the list in 2024. So, how do we make our resolutions stick?

There is a reason for all the memes of gyms being packed in January and almost empty by the first of February. It takes a lot of work to do a 180 from your comfort zone and make it stick. So how do you? You can do it in three simple steps.

1. Make a plan.

I know this sounds simple, and it is, but honestly, most New Year’s resolutions skip this step. Or at least don’t give it the proper treatment. Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to exercise more. Most people’s plan is to get a gym membership and go to the gym. That is as about as far as it goes. Then, when they get the January cold or oversleep one morning, the skips start adding up, and little things will keep them home rather than following the plan. When you make your plan, try to automate as much of the process as possible or build in rewards/consequences to ensure you are more motivated to keep it up rather than skip.

With financial goals, this could be as easy as diverting a part of your weekly paycheck into a savings/retirement account rather than your checking account. Doing it automatically ensures you don’t forget or overspend before it gets moved over. Your plan also needs to have contingencies for things that will come up. Whenever you start saving money, something could make you feel like you need to stop or pull the money back. It could be something significant like your car breakdown or medical issues. Or it could be something like your lifestyle has always used 100% of your income, so now saving a portion makes you choose something to give up. Don’t stop your savings in either case. Set up levels that would still allow you to save some, even if it isn’t the total amount.

2. Have some accountability.

If no one knows you have set a goal, it is easy to back out of it. Social media is also not the preferred method of accountability. While you can have accountability with people through social media, often, they need to be closer to invest in your progress. When you want to make a change in your life, you really want accountability at the level of a mentor or sponsor. They are vested in whether you follow through with this goal. So, if your goal is to exercise more, then making sure there are people who know you and what you are doing to check up on you is important. Setting consequences for not fulfilling your goal may create more interest in your accountability partners—something like 40 burpees for every workout missed in a week.

With a financial goal, this gets tricky for people because, for so many, talking about finances is a taboo topic. It also, many times, doesn’t affect just you but your spouse and family as well. So, having them be a part of the goal setting will help with accountability and setting realistic goals since more people would be involved in the planning process.

3. Measure your progress.

Anytime you set a goal, whether it be physical, financial, or spiritual, having a way to check your progress is vital in helping you stick with the changes you made to get there. But make sure your measurements are broken down into increments rather than just measuring to the end goal. If your New Year’s resolution were to lose 20 pounds, then a good measuring point would be weekly weight checks or snapping a daily photo to see how your diet/exercise affects you over time. Then, have a more significant checkpoint to ensure those smaller checkpoints lead to your overall goal.

With a financial resolution, this could look like wanting to save more for retirement. Once you make your plan, it turns into “wanting to save 10x my salary by the time I retire.” Your plan gets you to set up your automatic contribution and makes your spouse and family your accountability partners in the resolution. You measure your progress by ensuring your monthly deposits are going into your account and then measuring each quarter to see how much growth you have seen. Set small marks at first, $1,000 saved in x many months. As you extend this goal for the years to come, you start putting out road markers to see when you have 1x your salary, 2x, 3x, etc., until you retire.

Whatever your resolution is this year, stick with it. Make the minor, simple adjustments needed to your daily routine to make it easier to succeed. Most resolutions are worth having, but they don’t have to wait until January 1st. If you have already broken your resolution for 2024, hit the reset button and start again. Getting a head start on 2025’s New Year’s resolution will only help.