Many people make financial resolutions in January when New Years rolls around. They promise themselves that they will get their finances in shape and manage their money better. But how many of us actually keep these promises? We’re already halfway through the year. How many of those resolutions were you able to keep? There’s certainly a degree of fatigue surrounding the yearly ritual of making money-related resolutions to improve your finances. So often, consumers get stuck in the same ruts that involves “saving more” and “getting out of debt.” Rather than resign yourself to these types of resolutions that are easy to lose interest in, why not try something new? Here are some unconventional resolutions to try. Best of all, you can get started on them today. Why wait until January 1st to take control of your money?
Stop Looking At Your Investment Accounts
Well, stop looking at them so often at least. We’re not saying never look at them. However, the more you have invested, the more it’s tempting to check the balance every single day. I know some people who check multiple times every single day — almost every hour! I do understand. A significant portion of your wealth is on the line. It can be exciting to watch in real time as the stock market goes up. It can also be terrifying when the markets dip. Overall, though, this kind of constant surveillance can lead to poor decision-making.
You might prematurely sell when there’s short term fear. You could also buy too much when there’s short term greed. Unfortunately, both of these scenarios lead you to the poor house. If you are a long-term investor who is trying to gain wealth for decades, then why do the daily fluctuations matter? Try to limit yourself to one check per month (or once per quarter), unless you’re actively speculating in certain securities.
Talk to Your Children About Money..
Our financial resolutions often revolve around fixing our own finances. However, what about setting goals that can result in more educated children for a change? It’s easy to teach them too. All you have to do is share the mistakes you’ve made and there will be plenty to learn from. Of course, you can be sure they will still make plenty of mistakes of their own too as they grow.
Talk about what you’ve learned. The act of trying to articulate the lessons you’ve already learned will help you avoid the mishaps in the future too. Hopefully, it will help your kids avoid those same mistakes too. These money lessons could be the best help you could ever give them in life.
…And Your Spouse Too
Never mind talking about money with the kids. Too many people neglect money conversations with the person who they share the most financial liabilities with. Money almost always ranks as the number one reason that marriages fall apart. A big part of the problem is that too many couples don’t communicate well about money (or anything else, for that matter).
To avoid these problems, make sure you have regular conversations about money with your partner. Always keep the communication channels open, and you’ll be able to avoid many of those money fights. Go ahead and make it a habit to talk about the routine bills that need paying, the credit card balances, or how your saving or investment goals are coming. Set up weekly (or monthly) budget meetings to talk about team goals. You can collaborate on things like big purchases (a new car or family vacation, for example) or an increased focus on retirement savings. You are a team after all!
Don’t Confuse Spending Less with Actual Savings
Buying something on sale should never be considered “saving money.” You still spent money. It doesn’t count towards your saving goals. You should always differentiate between spending less and actually saving. As in, putting money into a savings or investment account for safekeeping. Even buying something at 90% off still means you are spending the 10%. That’s money you can no longer save. Never forget that.
Make it a point to understand the difference. When you are saving, make sure you are really saving the money. It’s not as simple as just
“not spending it.” You have to see an actual deposit in order for it to count. Anything else is just fuzzy math. Fuzzy math is not good for your bottom line.
Plan a Surprise Trip
This is an especially good resolution, because it’s a fun one. Now you definitely don’t have any excuses to skip it. The reason why spending money here counts as a “financial resolution” is because you always want to make time to stay close with your family. One of the best ways to do that is through shared experiences.
Vacations can be expensive. However, we’re not saying you need a lavish two-week trip to a five-star beach resort somewhere. You should make room in your budget for something as simple as a trip to the zoo or local amusement park. Or maybe it’s a weekend cottage rental where the family can jump in a lake.
There are plenty of money conflicts that can arise in a typical family. The reason why some families can easily deal with them (while others let those same issues turn into a catastrophe) is that some families trust each other and others don’t. Can your family deal with a storm if one comes?
Consider Money As a Tool (And Not a Goal)
Too many simply people spend too much. However, there’s also a sizable population that are maybe too frugal. It’s good to save for tomorrow. Just remember that today is also important. Saving money is good, but a balance is important. Money is useful but it’s just a tool. It’s a means to an end, but not an end in itself.
My widely successful Uncle just told me he’s going to invest in a $70 million condo project in Phoenix. The first question I asked was “why?” He is already 70 years old. He runs a company that employs hundreds of people around the world. Frankly, he makes millions every single year. He doesn’t need the money and always complains that he works too hard. What’s the point of jumping into another project when the best thing that can happen is to pad an already abundantly filled wallet?
Avoid Over-Investment In Your Employer’s Stock
Investing more is almost always a good financial resolution. However, you don’t want to go overboard, especially as it relates to your own employer’s stock. You certainly don’t want your company to run into trouble, find yourself laid off, and a sizable chunk of your money is invested in their stock (which is also crashing).
You can simply invest in an index fund to build wealth. For those who need more help, a financial adviser can also help you choose other investments too. It always makes sense to spread your risk around, so that you aren’t stuck with too many eggs in one basket.
Don’t Justify Home Improvements As “Investments”
Too often, we say that we are “investing” in our home by making improvements. The unfortunate truth is that you probably won’t come close to recouping the amount you spend. Plus, every dollar that’s put into a home is allocated to a fixed asset you can’t withdraw money from. Yes, there’s a cash out refinance. However, good luck trying to convince a lender that you can take more out because your bathroom has a new faucet.
Be realistic about the return you can expect on a home improvement project. The bathrooms and the kitchens are the two places you’re most likely to see an actual return from. Otherwise, go ahead and make upgrades to your home if you can afford it. You want to enjoy living there, after all. Just don’t fool yourself into calling them “investments.” They are actually extra expenditures.
Try Something New
A former co-worker of my wife promises herself that she will try something completely new (and slightly out of her comfort zone) every year. It’s made her get into sky diving, baking, and even kickboxing. She doesn’t end up loving everything she tries. However, she might be the best conversationalist on the planet, with her wide variety of interesting experiences.
It’s opened her eyes to different career paths and it’s also expanded her network significantly. It’s not the sole reason she’s climbed up to become a director in a very competitive field, but I bet it definitely helped. Trying new things could be scary but why not give it a shot? How does this relate to money, you ask? Your new skydiving buddy could have a hot investment tip. Your karate instructor might be looking for a new business partner to open a new retail space. Trying new things (and keeping an open mind) can lead to lots of valuable new contacts and knowledge.
Seriously, do it. Now. Volunteering will open your eyes to the sufferings in the world — probably more than anything else you do. I went on a house-building mission trip to Mexico a few years back. I can honestly say I came back a changed man. I was so much more grateful for the life we have here — even though we live just a short two-hour drive away from the border. It’s also help me realize that you don’t need money to live a fulfilling and happy life.
One of these days, I’m going to bring my kids there too. It’ll be hard work, helping out in the heat. However, my children also nee to learn about the life of other people around the world. Volunteering has changed countless lives, and it’s not just the recipients of the good gestures that benefit. It offers valuable perspective about those who are making do with much less.
Check The Progress On Your Old Resolutions
Everyone loves to make new resolutions. That’s the easy part! But as we all know, it’s much harder to stick to these promises as the weeks and months tick by. Instead of continually making new financial resolutions, why not go back to some of the ones you’ve already made in the past, and check on your progress.
You don’t even have to completely fulfill your goal. Just make an attempt to be closer to the finish line than you were before. Did you make a goal to start saving 20% of your paycheck by the end of the year? Even if you struggled to hit that mark, did you manage to save 5% of your income? That’s still forward progress.
Did you want to build an emergency fund that could last you six months, but expenses kept coming up? Start with just saving enough for one month. Heck, start with a single week if you need to. Just get started and work your way up. The hardest part is getting started. Once you get the ball rolling, then the push gets easier and easier.
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to wait until January to make resolutions. When a goal is worth reaching, then the best day to start making that resolution is yesterday. The second-best day is today. Start off with the fun one and plan a surprise trip. Then do the easier ones like start talking about money more often with your kids. Find a way to start making progress and you have a whole list of accomplished goals before you know it. I have faith in you!