Cynics might say that the best way to avoid the disappointment of failed New Year’s resolutions is not to make them in the first place, so in this blog we’re going to defy the pessimists and show some simple ways you could have a healthier, happier and more prosperous 2015.
Much of the country is gearing up the festivities which seem to start in about late November and carry on ’til the first week of January. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to deal with festive excess without too much to worry about.
There are some simple measures that we can all take to make lifestyle changes stick in the new year and this can also help with making positive changes in spending, saving and investing.
Make it manageable
January resolutions invariably fail because they are unrealistic.
If you need to lose weight, stop smoking, and curb your sugar and alcohol intake, the best thing to do is to tackle each problem one at a time.
If you decided to start with losing weight, you are much more likely to succeed by setting yourself small but achievable goals.
Your biggest obstacle isn’t the dieting or exercise, it is maintaining a positive mental attitude, and it’s a lot easier to do this once you start to have small successes. Each milestone you hit will build your confidence and make you see that achieving your goal is possible.
There is no point starting off with a daunting task that seems impossible, the mind invariably convinces us to give up if a task seems to be beyond our power to complete.
Ignore the voices
Humans have evolved to avoid hardship and to gravitate towards comfort.
An afternoon in front of the TV with food and drink may be more gratifying to our nervous systems than training for a marathon; however marathon runners experience far more endorphin highs than couch potatoes in the long run.
This is why, after your first run round the park or your first trip to the gym, the voice within will probably say something like: “Well done, you deserve a treat” or “You can stop now”.
This voice seeks to avoid effort and steer you towards instant gratification, but it will be your undoing. It’s the same voice that tells you to spend on a credit card when you know you can’t afford it.
In the New Year there are two kinds of plan you could make; a physical fitness plan and a financial one.
In the first case, block a manageable amount of time each week, get some advice on diet, identify your fitness goals, and then stick to it.
In the second case, the procedure is remarkably similar. If you’ve decided that 2015 is the year that your finances need to get back on track, start by identifying your goals (preferably on New Year’s Day).
As with fitness, your goals need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Related. If you’ve decided that your biggest priority is to pay off the credit card and eliminate personal debt, you need to work specifically out exactly how much you owe.
Find a way of measuring how much you are repaying. This is relatively simple; look at your online bank statements regularly, or look at the monthly credit card bill. Keep a close eye on these figures because we cannot manage what we do not measure.
Your monthly debt reduction goals need to be attainable and realistic. If you can only afford to repay £30 a month, don’t attempt to pay off £100 because you will simply fail to do so and collapse into apathy.
Your savings plan should include short term, medium term and long term goals. Plan what you want to save, spend, and invest in 2015. This might include a new car or a summer holiday. Look at what you need to save for in the next 3-5 years – the medium term, which might include university costs or a home extension. Then you need to think about long term savings such as retirement, or paying off the mortgage.
Pay debt before you save
Your financial planning should always focus on eliminating debt first because it will invariably have a higher rate of interest than savings do.
If you are looking for new ways to manage your wealth effectively in 2015, why not get some advice from a financial adviser?