There’s something about the beginning of a new year that makes us feel like we have a new lease on life. Although many joke about the making and breaking of New Year’s resolutions, the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology released a study at the end of last year that showed those who made New Year’s resolutions were 10 times more likely to reach their goals than those who did not.
So what are the top New Year’s resolutions? According to the same study the top three New Year’s resolutions made are: losing weight, getting organized, and spending less/saving more. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the mortgage business is being able to help people reach their financial goals. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some “tips” on how to keep your New Year’s resolutions:
1. Nobody likes to lose so make your resolutions manageable. Even if one or two of your resolutions are going to be a challenge to achieve, by setting at least a couple smaller, more attainable goals you’ll gain confidence after a win or two that may carry over to your more difficult resolutions.
2. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Most people set too many goals and they’re facing a long list of daunting tasks. By choosing the most important goals and breaking big goals into smaller parts, you’ll feel less pressure. For example, if you know that saving $3,000 means setting aside $250/month, you’ll feel accomplished and motivated when you meet that goal in January rather than focusing on the $2,750 left to save.
3. Make a plan. It’s easy to set a goal, not as easy to make a plan. Yet, without scheduling in gym time, it’ll be hard to get there. Without analyzing your budget, it’ll be hard to see where you can save more. Make a plan and set times throughout the year to analyze what’s working, what’s not and make adjustments accordingly so that you can realistically achieve your goal.
I also want to share with you a few great tools that might help you as you’re considering your financial outlook for 2014.
1. Mint.com. This free, online tool created by Intuit also has a handy mobile app. It allows you to track your spending, savings goals and much more in an easy-to-use program. You can see your spending trends and more. If you’re comfortable sharing your online banking data with the program, it will download your transaction information directly from your bank account(s) and credit card(s) and do its best to auto-categorize spending patterns so you can track your spending with very minimal effort. See where you’re money goes, where you can cut back, and its goal setting tools are great for keeping you on track.
2. ReadyforZero.com. This is another online tool that helps you calculate the amount you’ll have to pay per month to reach a certain payoff date. Unlike a traditional loan calculator that tells you your monthly payments based on interest rates and loan term, Ready for Zero lets you set the date you’d like to pay off the debt and will calculate your monthly payments based on that. It also uses visual tools to help keep you motivated and focused on the end result.
3. CNN’s Money Tools found at money.cnn.com/tools. This site has some great calculators that can help you plan for retirement, anticipate college funds, purchase a first or move-up home and more.
4. Investopedia and Stocktouch. Two mobile apps for learning and managing the stock market for those newer to investing or just looking to expand or manage their portfolio.
5. Creditcards.com. From 0 percent balance transfers to 5 percent cashback bonuses, this site will let you search through hundreds of different cards that fit your credit profile to find out who’s making the best offer for your specific needs. Banks are always working to compete for your business. Although you may find that your current card(s) is the best there is, you may also find that you could be saving hundreds in interest with a balance transfer or accumulating cash back just for buying gas and groceries.
I hope that these tips and tools help you in preparing for a fantastic 2014.
• Brandon Moore is a senior mortgage banker (NMLS 258524) who resides in Ahwatukee with his wife and two boys. Reach him at (480) 222-8893 or BrandonM@ASmartLoan.com.