Making New Year's resolutions stick
January has come and gone. So, how's that New Year's resolution coming along?
"Many consumers resolve to become better money managers in the New Year," said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"Spending less and saving more sound like great ideas but we often find it difficult to actually change our behaviors."
Even if that resolution isn't working out quite the way it was envisioned, Connerly said it's never too late to take up the call to change.
"Theories from psychology provide tips that help consumers achieve success in changing money management behaviors," she said.
Here are some tactics that may help you manage your goals:
--Write specific goals. What would you like to change about your personal finances? The first step in moving from dreams to reality is to develop specific goals and write them down. Use "I" statements and positive words such as "I will build an emergency savings fund." Writing down your goals increases the chance that you stick with them.
--Take small action steps. What can you do to reach your goal? Whether reducing debt or starting a record-keeping system, break it down into detailed actions. Identifying small action steps makes behavior change easier.
--Overcome fear. Fear is a common stumbling block for reaching goals. People may fear losing money in investment. They may dread saying "No" to family members' spending. They might feel intimidated about learning to create a spending plan. Write down your concerns. Learning more about the issue can help you overcome your fears. Knowledge is power.
--Control your environment. In spite of good intentions, consumers can still be led astray by the surrounding environment. "Learn to control the environment when you can," she said. "If you're trying to cut spending; don't go window shopping. If you're trying to pay off debt; limit spending to a set amount of cash and leave credit cards at home." Hoping to increase savings? Direct deposit from your paycheck into your savings account. Having trouble paying bills on time? Set up automatic draft from your checking account and never pay a late fee again.
--Avoid negative thoughts. "Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies," Connerly said. "When it comes to behavior change, pessimists tend to give up more easily. Fortunately, we can counter negative thinking with positive thoughts. Stop thinking of money management as difficult or unpleasant. Instead, think 'I can learn the skills to achieve financial success.'"