On New Year’s Resolutions

When you’re managing your money, you’re playing an active role in what it does, how it works for you — hopefully aligning it with where your values are. The key to staying on top of the whole thing boils down to one basic principle:

Revisit. And Revisit Often.

At the beginning of last year, I broke down my New Year’s Resolutions into four categories:

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual
  3. Business
  4. Financial

I had two goals per section and wrote them down on a 3×5 card, which went in my wallet (an aside: if your wallet is so huge, because you save the business card from the guy that hands out 300 business cards a day, and your wallet is also your receipt filing system and a source for fire kindling in an emergency, then you may need to stick your goals somewhere else).

At the end of each quarter, I revisited these goals. I had to adjust a few of them because I changed employment situations in a major way, but it was interesting to come to them after just 90 days and see how things had changed. Had I lost focus? Was I on track? These little moments of reflection did amazing things for me this year — it seems I had more clarity in what I wanted to accomplish and how I would get there.

Some might say that a quarterly revisit isn’t frequent enough, but my goals were of a nature that didn’t require anything more frequent than that anyway. I found it to be just right.

One goal, that we later cancelled, was to purchase a home (we cancelled it because we moved to a new state and need to get to know the area, and I also believe the market will soften yet). That’s a large goal. Would I need to revisit it weekly? Hardly.

A goal that I also had was with a specific exercise regimen. I learned quickly that I become bored of specifics, but do enjoy the daily workout — it just needs to be changed a bit more frequently than I had originally anticipated. Revisiting it monthly may have been slightly better, but quarterly worked just fine.

If you were to set a goal about dieting, you’d want to revisit it frequently because food plays such a common, frequent role in our lives.

The key is to match the frequency of your revisiting and recalibration with the frequency of the goal itself. It will help you stay on track.

If March is all about Madness, then late December/early January is all about New Year’s Resolutions. A very popular resolution is to manage your money better. As with food, money flows in and out of our lives daily. Frequency is absolutely key here. If you decide to make YNAB part of your New Year’s Resolution Solution, then embrace the idea of looking at it often. This will keep you on track and focused on your longer-term goals. Money management is a means to an end, so keep those ends in sight — they’re your motivation!