New Year, New $tart

Have you made a New Year’s resolution yet? Often, we promise to change something about our lives; and at Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), we think the new year offers a great opportunity to jump-start a change in managing finances.

Flikr | Some rights reserved by maplemama

Flikr | Some rights reserved by maplemama

What is your vision of financial security and how do you intend to achieve it?

People who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them (statistically proven!). So, write it out! This not only takes care of step one of the goal setting process, but also helps communicate goals to all involved.

There will also be less resistance to making changes when a common goal has already been shared and agreed upon. Set short-term and long-term goals and when you accomplish one, add another to the list. It’s never too late! Use this CCCS Financial Goals worksheet to get started setting SMART goals.

Consider the following categories to help build your financial goals:

  1. Financial Habits (the good ones!)
  2. Savings
  3. Housing
  4. Transportation
  5. Vacation & Fun
  6. Retirement
  7. Family & Children
  8. Education

Be SMART about it…

The best goals are SMART goals.

Specific—Goals need to be specific enough to suggest action. (example: New chair, rather than “new furniture”)

Measurable—Choose a goal that allows you to chart your progress. (example: $1000 in savings account, rather than “more money”)

Action-Oriented—Do you have written goals, set dates, anticipated obstacles, or plan of action?          

Realistic—Is there a balance between safety and risk? Can you reasonably expect to accomplish this goal in the time frame?

Time Sensitive—Is the timing right? Is the target completion realistic, but flexible?

Be honest and realistic…

No matter how sincere the intention, it may not be realistic to eliminate all debt in one year or to build six month emergency fund before next year is up. Make a resolution that is realistic and be honest with yourself about what can be accomplished in the next 12 months.

Here are some ideas to get you started setting financial goals and resolutions:

  • Build an emergency fund of 3-6 months living expenses.
  • Eliminate bank and ATM fees from your budget.
  • Pay for all gifts with cash.
  • Clip coupons and put the dollar amount saved into a savings account.
  • Carry your lunch instead of eating out at work.
  • Carpool or take mass transit more often.
  • Pay more than the minimum on every bill.
  • Make and keep a monthly expense budget.
  • Check my credit report for free through at least 1 time next year.

Break your goal into manageable pieces and devise an action plan to reach it…

If a goal is just too big to fit into a 12 month plan, consider breaking it down into a series of smaller steps. How many of those steps can be accomplished in the next year? Avoid stress and be more likely to achieve your goals by having reasonable expectations.

Make your goals a priority, but stay flexible…

Prioritize goals based on your needs versus your wants. If we take care of the needs first, then we will be able to celebrate our hard work by fulfilling our wants next. Keep in mind that life events can skew our plans. Be prepared to take care of emergencies as they come up, then get back on track.

Be sure to revisit your goals throughout the year. Decide if you have achieved the goal, are making good progress, or want to adjust the goal.

If you need assistance making a plan to achieve your new financial goals, call 1-888-258-2227 or e-mail to make an appointment with a certified credit counselor.

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