This is probably reflected best in the Mt Everest-like peak of gym membership sign ups on 1 January, and the Grand Canyon-like lows of actually using those memberships come February. The gyms are deserted.
I am all for people striving to better themselves by setting goals for exercise, productivity, career, what have you, but if you want to knuckle down in a way that requires minimal effort, has a high chance of being achievable and requires zero exercise time, why not look to setting some financial resolutions?
This could be setting specifics like have $x by 31 December, pay off all debt, save enough for *that* thing you really want or just generally become better with your money. Any step you take is a good one, so here’s my advice on how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yep, you can start these financial resolutions in February.
Track your spending
You can’t change something if you don’t know what’s really going on. How many times have you been paid and two weeks later spent it all with no idea what you bought with it?
Download a money tracking app. My absolute favourite is Pocketbook, which accesses your accounts and shows your income versus spending, then breaks down that spending into categories. Didn’t realise how much money you spent at Priceline? Well, now you do. So stop it.
Set a budget
Set yourself up with a good budget template – you can find a simple one here. Throw all your digits in with only necessary spending (budgets don’t have an ‘Emergency Shoes’ column) and crunch your numbers. You may be surprised with how much you should end up with at the end of each month after all your expenses have been accounted for.
Burn that number into your brain and use it as the red line you can’t go past.
Trim the fat
This is the hardest of all the hard financial resolutions, but probably the most necessary. This is the time we say goodbye to daily large, strong, soy, half-foam flat whites, lunches out and luxury brands. I’m not saying completely deprive yourself, let’s be realistic, it just means making some good substitutions.
Instead of coffee, drink green tea which is like $3 a box (and better for you). Switch out your fancy shampoo for one from the supermarket, and bring your lunch to work. Track how much you save over a two week period and I guarantee you’ll be impressed. Then keep it up.
Pay off debt
Aforementioned interest goes both ways, my friend. We want the good kind not the bad, and the bad comes from debt. Before you can save for anything you need to pay off what you owe. That’s credit cards, loans, cars, whatever your fiscal vice may be.
Use the monthly surplus from your budget to pay off your debt by setting up a direct debit the day you get paid. That way you almost don’t even realise its money you’re missing. For extra motivation, work out how long this will take based on your monthly contributions and mark it in your calendar with highlighters, glitters and f*cking unicorns.
Then go out that night and celebrate. Here are some tips for that purpose: 9 ways to have a big night out with little spend.
Set a goal
Doing something hard is even harder if you don’t have an end goal, so use your new grown up ways to work towards something. Whether it’s a holiday, car, investment or deposit for a home, keep it at the front of your mind.
Make it the wallpaper on your computer and phone and put it on a post it on your screen. Better yet, write it on a piece of paper and sticky tape it to your debit/credit card so every time you whip it out to spend some ca$h, you’re reminded what end you’re stealing from.
So there you have it. Go forth and literally and/or figuratively prosper – February – December is your bitch.