Debt-Free in 2011 Part II: How to Stick to Your Goals

You've made the resolution to get out of debt this year. Now comes the hard part, say Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys - sticking to it.

If merely wanting a goal was enough, we'd all be skinny, rich non-nail biters. Obviously that's not the case. In reality, most folks fail to keep New Year's resolutions because their plans don't adhere to the "three Rs," according to If you want to improve your finances this year, you need a blueprint that's reasonable, realistic and rewarding.

Sure, you could pay down debt a lot faster if you started saving a quarter of your income or hocking your most prized possessions on Craigslist. But you also risk falling off track a lot faster. Asking too much of yourself too soon can leave you burned out. It's better to start small. If you're used to paying just the minimum on your credit card bill, try increasing your payment by $25 a month before jumping to $250. If it works, try $50, then $75 and so on.

Realistically, you're going to run into obstacles. Be prepared to tweak your debt repayment/savings plan as necessary. And know that the easier you make it on yourself, the more likely you are to be successful. For instance, by setting up automatic payments, you won't have to make the decision to save part of each paycheck - your bank will take care of it for you. If the idea of crunching numbers has you avoiding your budget, set up a budgeting system with a program like or try the financial bootcamp at Or how about giving one of our free community financial workshops a go?

Obviously, having less debt is a reward in itself. But getting there takes time. You deserve some pats on the back along the way. Forgetting to reward yourself can cause you to burn out just as quickly as asking too much of yourself. If you've been sticking to a tight budget, leave room for some small indulgences. Maybe you can turn them into incentives - for instance, by cutting back or meeting your savings quota for the month, take the family out to dinner or a movie. Or if you sell or donate a lot of stuff you don't need, use a small portion of the money to buy something new that you've been wanting.

As long as we're being realistic, it's important to recognize that even the best plans can backfire. If you fall off the wagon - or you simply have too much debt to begin with - don't throw away all your hard work. Just find a better plan. In many cases, that plan will be bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy can help reduce or eliminate stubborn debts by offering a realistic (there's that word again) payment plan and legal protection. Learn more about what bankruptcy can do for you and your family when you try a free one-on-one debt analysis with an Atlanta bankruptcy attorney.

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