New year, NEW resolutions – this is the year we’re definitely going to make things happen, right?
But there’s a problem...
These resolutions – which yes, sounds nice and smart and so motivational – actually set us up to fail.
Why? Because, too often, they’re an emotional impulse-checklist that lacks a concrete plan for action. And action is the ONLY thing that matters in making a successful life change.
Not to mention, New Year’s resolutions are so timing dependent. If we fail to meet this abstract timeline, have we then lost our chance for the rest of the year?
Starting our resolution late or screwing up early, within the first few days or weeks, feels like a license to put it off until next year. Surely then positive lasting change will finally happen. Ya… right.
We’re in control all year long
Sure, resolutions might have been made with the best of intentions: A checklist to be the better version of ourselves...to create a better life – who doesn’t want that for themselves?
Here’s the thing. We can make these changes ANYTIME we need or want to – not just at the beginning of the year.
Remember: we’re in charge all year long.
It’s about the effort
Having goals are nice but the consistent actions we take towards those goals count much more.
Having a list of goals may be helpful. But even better is having a list of actionable steps to reach those goals.
It’s about doing our best everyday. Being consistent. And forming habits through sheer force of will.
What’s more? NOW is almost always the right time to start.
Strike while the iron is hot, when you’re full of motivation, and before laziness and procrastination have the chance to sink in.
Start forming that habit TODAY and be ready for momentary setbacks and failures along the way. They will come, so have a plan to overcome them now, before they hit. Think through what you’ll do when you’re tired, frustrated with progress, or all out of willpower.
Related: How to Get the Best Deal
Change is incremental
As much as we ALL crave for a miracle cure or a magic pill…
In real life? It’s about discipline and commitment.
And as boring as that sounds, there’s no cheap or easy shortcut. Not for free, nor for sale.
Keep making those small easy changes today that add up to big meaningful changes down the road.
Building better money habits all year long
So you’ve got some specific goals you want to achieve (like paying off that car loan for example), you’ve written down your action steps to achieve those goals, and…
...you’re ready to commit to make this year a turning point when it comes to your finances.
Here are 7 questions to get you thinking about some wallet-friendly habits to get started – and stick to – all year long:
1. Do you have a calendar reminder to pay your bills on time every month?
You know it, I know it…
It’s easy to forget.
We’re all so busy juggling too many things at once. Before you know it, a whole month has passed. Did we remember to pay our bills or even think about what we’ve spent?
Creating a recurring (and yes, pesky) calendar reminder urging us to pay our bills or else … (see list of negative consequences below) should scare our brain a little to get paying our outstanding bills and review our finances asap.
Sometimes, calendar reminders aren't enough though…
We need to stimulate our brain with a dose of fear. Here are some things that could happen if you miss paying your bills on time:
- Negative impact on your credit score, which in turn could have a…
- Negative impact when you apply for credit (like applying for a new credit card with better rewards, a mortgage, a car loan, etc)
- Negative impact when looking for condo or rental
- Negative impact on your job opportunities (more and more employers include credit scores in their background check)
- Negative impact on your savings (or vacation fund) from all those late fees and interest charges.
- [insert your fear right here]
2. How well do you know your number each month?
Math has never been my strongest (nor my favourite) subject. But that’s besides the point.
Because with money calculators and tools so widely and readily accessible – I’ve got no excuse.
At the very minimum, we should ALL know these four numbers by heart every month:
- Net income – our take home pay after taxes and other dues automatically take off from your pay
- Fixed expenses – like our rent or mortgage payment, car insurance, home insurance, loan payments and subscriptions fees
- Discretionary expenses – like grocery, restaurant and entertainment costs
- Savings and investments – how much do we put aside for savings and investments every month
Now, the plan is NOT to create an accounting ledger where every cent is accounted for. (That’s self-torture...unless you’re a super detailed person who actually enjoys it?)
If this is something completely foreign to you, no worries. Here’s an action plan that should take about 2 - 3 hours of initial time investment and the first step only takes 5 minutes:
1 - 1.5 hours
30 minutes - 1 hour
Savings and investment
3. How long has it been since you reviewed your paid subscriptions?
You can build a snowball of momentum by investing a couple of hours into knowing your numbers.
One amazing side effect is it forces you to notice all your paid subscription at once.
Take this opportunity to make note of which subscriptions still give you a tremendous amount of enjoyment and benefit…
If they don’t, you know what to do. Cut them mercilessly. Or find a cheaper alternative.
4. Are you saving automatically every month?
If you aren’t automatically saving a flat amount or percentage of your take home pay every month, then you need to get on that right away.
No matter how small the amount, developing the habit now is of great importance.
If you’ve got a GRRSP, then the answer here is an automatic yes.
Here are two follow-up questions:
- Are you maxing your employee GRRSP contributions?
- Can you afford to up the ante in your monthly savings?
Three more money habits
Three other wallet-friendly habits if you’re looking for ideas...
5. Are you prepping your lunch to bring to work most days if not every day?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy eating out. I love good food that I don’t have to cook. But I’d rather pay for a $20 dollar dish at a local restaurant made fresh from scratch – than spend $8 to $10 every day on fast food.
Eight dollars of buying lunch everyday is $40, double my budget of $20 for a delicious meal. (To have or not to have a drink, that’s another topic altogether.)
Sure, prepping your lunch meals takes initial thought and planning.
But when you make meal planning into a day-to-day routine, it becomes second nature.
Also, once you have a stable of weekly meal plans, you can just keep reusing them.
6. Are taking taking advantage of legit free money?
Legit free money isn’t too good to be true. It’s out there...
7. Have looked into cutting the cord?
Canadian cord cutters have been growing in number.
If you’re at the fence, read our free internet tv guide which will walk you through step-by-step.
Beyond this month
Checklists only come alive with action and effort.
There is no such thing as perfect timing. Things are never and can never be perfect.
Remember: resolutions aren’t exclusive to the new year.
We’re in control ALL year long. So find your resolve and get started today. It’s never too late.