How To Pick A Resolution That Will Actually Stick

It’s that time of year! Resolution time. We usually like to start with some lofty goals and high ideals. It’s the month of extremism and abstinence.

I won’t spend money on anything for the whole month.

I will stop drinking forever.

I will not make any impulse purchases ever.

These are all dreams that are not actually realistic. We are humans. Humans have wants and desires that are hard to overcome and to do that we have to be realistic. Setting to large of a goal can actually lead to failure. It it easier to accept defeat when it was long-shot anyways. “Reach for the stars” and “aim big” are great tenants to live by but not very practical when actually choosing a goal and resolution that you want to reach.

Every big achievement starts with small baby steps.

Specific. Actionable. Measurable. Realistic. Lasting

Lasting- Choose something that is maintainable. Going on a spending fast is not going to get you anywhere concrete. It may help you for this month, but what about the next?

How do you choose a resolution that you will actually keep? Make sure it has some of the following characteristics:

Specific- big, sweeping statements sound nice and motivational but are not actually practical. I will not drink alone before 8 o’clock at night is a specific goal that solves a specific problem.

Actionable- Choosing to do something is easier than choosing NOT to do something. I will make myself coffee at home is easier to do, than I will NOT buy coffee at Starbucks.

Measurable- You need to be able to measure what you do do that you can celebrate when you do it. You need to be able to build on the positive momentum of your achievement. Create a goal that you can measure. Something subjective is not ideal because of the human tendency to create excuses. So “I will not make impulse purchases” can’t really be measured because who decides what is an “impulse”? I will not spend more than $50 is measurable, you either did or you didn’t. “I will make coffee at home for one week” is measurable.

Realistic- If the goal is unrealistic or too difficult than you will quit before you start. We don’t like failure so if the goal is never going to be reached we probably won’t try at all. You are probably not going to save 50% of your paycheck right off the bat. You probably won’t cut all impulse spending right away (if this is an issue for you). Some things that are more realistic? 5% or 10% of your paycheck should go to savings. Put $5 a month away in a retirement account. Set a budget for impulse purchases that is what you can afford but not too small that you blow it all on the first day.

Lasting- Can you pick something that will last the whole year? Choosing a goal or resolution that will last and be a real change in your lifestyle (forever?) should really be the point. After all, wouldn’t it be great if each year you make a change that can be build on the next year? Don’t pick something flashy that will make you burn out by February. Pick something small, meaningful, realistic and measurable that you can really do for the whole year!

The Number 1 Problem with Personal Finance

I just read a whole thread on Twitter “bashing” FIRE and extreme miserliness. The gist was “Why be miserable just to save money?”. It then started veering into the mentality of “If I can’t/don’t want to be miserly then why shouldn’t I spend/waste tons of money?”
I rarely get political but I think we have the same issue with politics today.

THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE WITH PERSONAL FINANCE AND POLITICS TODAY IS EXTREMISM ON BOTH SIDES.

The problem with extreme blogs and subreddits (though why anyone uses that as a barometer is beyond me) is that the extremism is broadcast and amplified on social media. At the other end is the extreme materialism that has permeated our culture. Those that show off their extremely lavish lifestyles. This, too, is broadcast and amplified on social media. I know that I sound like a grouchy old lady complaining about today’s ills and “social media” but I am just a millennial who is seeing what is going around in the world. There is no moderation. There is no “middle ground”, there is no “balance”. There is either good or bad. Extreme one way or extreme the other way.

In terms of finance, there is either a miser or a lavish spender. Pay off all your student loans in 2 years or never pay them off. Never buy deodorant or buy $11 deodorant. Analyze each purchase or never look at the bill. I think that “we” (as in people who live today) often tend to look at things and then either hate or love them. If we have an idea with which we disagree, we automatically take up the opposing stance without considering that there may be a middle ground. There may be a balance. There may be good and bad mixed up together. We are so desperate to label everything “good”, “bad”, “tolerant”, “intolerant” that we can’t see that maybe there is a middle. Maybe there is a mixture of both.

Now, since this is a personal finance blog and I don’t want to sit and complain about “what is wrong with the world today” I will turn my rant to personal finance.

There is a way to be financially responsible without becoming a miser. There is a way to enjoy life without spending all our money. You can be financially stable without being a millionaire or retiring at 40.

Now, if you choose to practice extreme frugalism, out of choice, (there are many people who must do this out of necessity) than I guess that is your choice and right. Just be aware that extremism can often lead to abuse and then it is no longer your choice or right.

My message is this: don’t be turned off from being financially responsible by extremism. Don’t stop listening or doing the best you can just because you heard/read/saw/experienced the other end. Allow yourself to find the medium and the balance that works for you.

You can stick to a budget and still buy things you enjoy.
You can cut frivolous spending and still do things you enjoy.
You can use hand-me-downs and not traumatize your children.
You can save money and still spend some.
You can be careful about going into debt and still go to school.
You can make careful financial decisions and still have children.
You can choose to stay home often and still still go to a family wedding.
You can not buy a brand-new Audi and still have a decent car.
You can shop sales and use coupons without driving you and your family crazy.

It does not need to be all or none. It really doesn’t. That voice in your head? The one that is telling you that it’s not worth doing unless you’re doing it completely? Realize that extremism is rearing its ugly head.

Let’s not let extremism of any sort ruin our lives and our futures.

4 Great Books to Read Right Now

Running List of Books

Here are some great books that I love that have really helped me with gaining control of my financial life. Even though some of the books have nothing to do with finances- they have helped gain control of my life and therefore of my finances. Everything is intertwined. Having control of your life will help you have control of your finances. Having control of your finances will help you be in control of your life.

All these books are available on Amazon (affiliate links are located in this post) but you can check your local library to see if any are available. I don’t like to spend money and that includes books so I don’t buy a book unless I have already read it and KNOW that I want to own it.

I personally invested in a Kindle a few years back and I constantly check out books from the library onto my Kindle instead of buying books or e-books. This way I don’t need to make it to the library while they are actually open.

Here is a list of 4 great books and I would love to add more to the list. These are all worth a read!

(You can also give them as gifts but people don’t take kindly to being giving self-help books as a gift. It comes across as um.. sanctimonious and jerky.)

  1. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. This is the basic book of personal finance and paying off debt. Although many people disagree with some of his methods it has worked for many, many people particularly those who are drowning in debt and can’t seem to get out. Its a great basic book and you have to read it first to disagree with it.
  2. How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger– This is not a personal finance book but a health book that helped me improve my eating habits. He is a big proponent of a plant-based diet which means cutting out a lot of animal-based proteins. Using this book as a guide has helped me cut down on my grocery bill tremendously while eating healthier. How Not to Die Cookbook is the cookbook companion and includes recipes that he approves of. Just Remember: just because it is vegan does not mean it is budget-friendly. I actually own this book which should tell you how much I like it because I don’t buy books.
  3. Sink Reflections by FlyLady– One of my favorites. My mother read this when I was a teenager and I adopted many of her tools since then. This is not a personal finance book but following her book will save your finances. Getting organized about meal planning, cleaning, shopping etc. will save you all that money that is unnecessarily spent. No more spending money on take-out because there is no dinner, no more buying things twice because you forgot where you put it, no more last minute shopping. The tools and habits in this book are life-changing! No joke.
  4. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley- I haven’t read this book yet but it is on my reading list. This was recommended by @Financesafter50 after I posted on Twitter asking for recommendations. See what his response was here.

What other books have changed your life? Hit the comments or respond to my tweet! Great books will be added to this post! Respond here!