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Ways to stay financially disciplined in the New Year

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Set a money objective. Oftentimes we don’t create goals because it seems too complicated or we don’t know what they should be in the first place. Or you might feel uninspired because you created financial goals in the past, but they didn’t help.

This year, try a different, simplified approach by setting a money objective. It’s a word or short phrase that gives direction to your entire financial life and becomes a theme you rally around. You might keep the same money objective forever or update it from year to year.

For instance, if you’re worried about not saving enough for retirement, your money objective could be “future needs.” Online shopping out of control? Try “spend mindfully.” Or “kid’s college” could be your financial mantra if your No. 1 priority is paying for a child’s education. Just pick something you feel strongly about and pursue it with a vengeance. 

Use automation. Whether you want to save for a house down payment, emergency fund or beach vacation, make it as convenient as possible to achieve your money objective. Automation adds built-in discipline to your financial life and reduces the likelihood that you’ll forget your objective or spend money on things you don’t need.

If you have a retirement plan at work, always participate and contribute as much as possible. These accounts are so successful at getting workers to save because contributions must be deducted from your paycheck before you ever see the money.

Most employers offer direct deposit for your paycheck that can be split into multiple accounts, such as your checking and savings.

Not having to think about saving takes the stress out of managing money. And after a while, you probably won’t even miss the money.

Give yourself a challenge. If controlling your spending is a struggle, be aware of how it’s holding you back from achieving your money objective. Cutting unnecessary expenses is the key to living below your means, so you have plenty of money left over each month to reach your financial dreams.

Give yourself a challenge by actively resisting expenses that are most tempting. For instance, you might:

Cook at home every day for a month instead of eating out; not buy any new clothes for 60 days; avoid shopping as entertainment; wait at least 24 hours before buying anything more expensive than a certain dollar amount.

Change your environment. To change your habits, try changing your environment. Sometimes staying motivated is as simple as frequently reminding yourself of your money objective.

Create visible triggers that prompt you to think about what you want to accomplish every day. Put cues in your home, workplace, car and other strategic places you can’t avoid. When those prompts get your attention, they spark fresh inspiration and foster good habits.

Get support. You might find that it’s easier to achieve your money objective with a partner or group than to work on it alone. Consider asking a close friend, roommate or spouse to help you stay accountable.

Set a time to check in with each other on a regular basis to report your challenges and progress, so you clear away barriers to success.

When you begin making financial progress, something miraculous happens. You start to feel excited about having money in the bank or seeing your retirement account balance surge. Knowing that you have the self-control and discipline to achieve your money objective gives you energy to overcome challenges and completely transform your financial life.

Laura Adams

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