Resolve to make a resolution you can keep

It’s less than 48 hours until the ball drops and I couldn’t be happier. Usually, I’m a bit wistful before New Year’s—excited about the change, but reluctant to let go of the past. Not so much this time. With 2008 almost behind us, I’m looking forward to a chance to finally wipe the slate clean. Though in reality, a new year is just a flip of the calendar, there’s no denying it has a strong psychological effect, one that we can use to our advantage.

For the first time in a long time, improving finances just might surpass losing weight and quitting smoking as the top New Year’s resolutions (though if you stop smoking, it’s a sure way to save money—along with, you know, extending your life). It makes a lot of sense. While we don’t have power over the economy, making a resolution gives us a sense of control—however small it may be—over our own lives.

Unfortunately, many resolutions are broken because they’re made amidst all the holiday excitement, and aren’t necessarily realistic. For the best chance of success, try aiming for a New Year’s resolution that is both specific and doable. For instance, if you just tell yourself this is the year you will get out of debt, improve your finances or spend less, you’re going to have a hard time meeting your goals because they’re so broad. Everyone wants to do those things, but many of us don’t succeed because we don’t draft a real plan.

I find it always helps to write a resolution down. That way, it becomes real—something to be checked off the to-do list. While you’re at it, you can break it down into the steps it will take to reach your ultimate goal.

Say you want to start saving. Hey, if just saying you’ll save money is enough to get you to do it, more power to you. But more likely, if saving was that easy, you probably would have started doing it already. Instead, try breaking the main objective down into smaller, more manageable goals.

For instance, could you make your daily coffee shop run a special treat instead of a routine? You could save up to $20 a week that way. I’m sure you could brainstorm a few other ways to cut back (check out the Give Yourself a Raise Flyer in our free Debt Relief Toolbox for ideas). Or maybe you’re already being thrifty, but the problem is the savings never makes it into the bank. How about setting up an automatic deposit? Decide how much you can handle socking away each month, and your bank will put it in your savings account for you.

If you really want to get the ball rolling, you have to first take some kind of action. If you live near Chicago or Atlanta, consider making one of our upcoming DebtStoppers community workshops part of your resolution plan. You can sign up here for the Jan. 15 workshop in Chicago or the Jan. 22 event in Atlanta.

Along with the chance to ask questions and get expert advice on debt, saving, foreclosure, bankruptcy, avoiding scams and more, you will also be entered into a raffle for a Dell laptop or a GPS system. And don’t worry about grabbing dinner before attending—the food’s on us.

Don’t fret if you can’t make it, though. You can still get personalized help by signing up for a free one-on-one debt analysis with one of our debt relief experts. Or, as mentioned earlier, register to receive a toolkit packed with useful tips and advice on all your financial needs. It’s all free and just a mouse click away. It just might be the easiest New Year’s resolution you will ever keep.

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