Here we are at the end of the year and many of us may be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Some of the most common resolutions are: stay fit; get healthy; lose weight; and get your finances in order.
And if getting your finances in order is your resolution, we are here to help. Once you learn that something as secular as how you spend, save, give and earn money has a spiritual impact, life changes.
With that in mind, we have some ideas to help you stick to financial resolutions for the long term.
Here are 7 Steps tips for keeping those financial resolutions.
1. Concentrate on one or two of the most important resolutions. If you try to do too many things all at once it is easy to become frustrated. Focus on tackling the one or two things in your life that bother you the most, and define a resolution that helps to fix those problems. Maybe you want to pay off debt or save for the down payment on a home or simply get organized so you can actually know where your money is going. Pick the most important one for your resolution.
2. Define the reason for making the change. Deciding on a resolution because of pressure from others or because you think you “should” will never keep you motivated for very long. The change needs to be a deep desire in your own heart—and hopefully this desire is driven by a need to please God and be a good steward of the blessings you have received from him. Why do you want to pay off debt? Why do you want to start an emergency fund? Why do you want to gain control of your finances?
3. Use a Patron Saint, a Bible verse or a prayer to help you achieve your goal. This will provide strength in times of doubt or temptation and help keep you motivated. Put a post it note on your bathroom mirror or in your car or on the fridge where you will see it every day to give yourself encouragement.
This link from BeliefNet.com gives you seven patron saints for financial wellness.
Here are a few Bible verses you can use for reflection and encouragement.
If you are trying to get out of debt, meditate on Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” If you are in debt, and don’t think you are a slave, try missing a payment.
Sirach 20:11 works if paying off a specific loan is on your list of resolutions. “There is one who buys much for little, but pays for it seven times over.” Depending on your interest rate, you can pay more than twice as much for an item by making only the minimum payment on a credit card. Are you “paying for something seven times over?”
If your resolution is to save money, picture Proverbs 21:20, which tells us: “Precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise, but the fool consumes them.” Spending first means there will never be enough money to save, and unexpected expenses result in debt.
To stop overspending, reflect on 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evils.” When we overspend, it can be due to using money as a form of gratification. The power, fun, fulfillment and short-term happiness we get from spending can quickly turn into idolatry if our spending habits overwhelm us.
Google “Stewardship Prayer” and you’ll find lots of prayers to help you become a good steward. Pick the one that speaks to your heart.
4. Make sure your resolution is achievable. It is easy to get carried away with resolutions and make them so brilliant that they are impossible to achieve. If your resolution is to save $500 a month and you are barely making ends meet each month, saving $500 a month is not a realistic goal. You will improve your likelihood of success by taking small steps, being faithful to those small steps, and building on your success.
5. Make your resolution part of a long term goal. If you’ve decided to pay off debt, it may tie to a long term goal of putting yourself into a position to buy a home. Or maybe getting out of debt means more savings for retirement, or funding college for the kids. Whatever it is, your immediate resolution should be a first step towards a bigger life goal.
6. Be VERY specific about exactly what your goal looks like. Generic statement like “Manage my money better” is too vague and you really don’t have a roadmap for what to do, or how to define success.
The change you want to make needs to be concrete, well defined, and measurable. A well-defined goal would be “I want to save $1,000 for an emergency fund by December 30, 2021”
This is a concrete goal—you know the amount and the time frame so you can measure your progress. If you start at the beginning of the year, you’ll have 52 weeks to meet your goal. Each week, you need to save about $20.
7. The next step is to define what you’ll do each week to meet your goal. How will you save $20 a week? Will you quit eating lunch at a restaurant? Stop using the vending machines at work? Start a carpool to get back and forth to work? Avoid the toll roads? Or some combination of all of these? By making many small daily choices you can achieve your long-term goal.
Every single day, there should be something simple and small you can do to move closer to achieving your resolution. The small consistent successes are evidence that you are making positive forward progress. Looking to your resolution on a weekly basis helps you stay on track for success.
Our prayer for you this year is that you eliminate financial burdens in your life and honor God in the way you spend, save, give and manage your finances.
If you truly make a resolution that is God centered and wrapped in prayer, it is much easier to maintain the strength to keep the resolution.