How quickly after the stroke of midnight on January first did you abandon your new year’s resolutions? January is really an arbitrary date for a new year, as many other cultures start the new year at another time. But change is good at any point in time.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 we hear: “That you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”
Many times our ‘old selves’ is the way we are slaves to bad habits or how resistant we are the changes we know are good for us. When you make a resolution, no matter what time of year it is, put away your old self and walk with God through prayer and meditation to renew yourself!
While many resolutions come and go, 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. With that in mind, we have some ideas to help you stick to financial resolutions for the long term.
1. Don’t set a lot of resolutions.
Try concentrating on one really important thing you want to accomplish. If you set a lot of resolutions, it is easy to lose focus and become frustrated. Focus on tackling the one thing in your life that bothers you the most and determine a resolution that helps to fix that problem.
2. Define the reason you want to make the change.
Making changes because of pressure from others or because you think you should, will not motivate you for very long. The change needs to be driven by a deep desire on your own heart to make a change—and hopefully this yearning for change is driven by a longing to please God.
3. Make sure your resolution is achievable.
It is easy to get carried away with resolutions. If your resolution is to save $500 a month and you are barely making ends meet each month, then saving $500 a month is not a realistic goal. You will improve your likelihood of success by taking small reasonable steps, and being faithful to those small steps.
4. 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 buying a house. Maybe you want to bump up your savings for retirement. Maybe you need to save for college for the kids. Whatever it is, your immediate resolution should be a first step towards that larger goal.
Define and understand the long-term goal and keep the big picture in mind as you make little steps on your journey.
5. Be VERY specific about the resolution
Define exactly what the resolution looks like. A generic statement like “Save Money” is too vague. You can put a penny in your piggy bank and declare success. The change you want to make needs to be concrete—something that is well defined and measurable.
So a well-defined goal would be to say “I want to save $1,000 for an emergency fund by December 30, 2020.” This is a concrete goal—you know the amount and the time frame so you can measure your progress. If you start this week, you’ll have 11 months or about 46 weeks to meet your goal. So each week, you need to save about $23 and you need to define HOW you will save $23 each week.
For example, if you want to save $23 a week, your daily step might be to take your coffee from home to work instead of stopping at the fancy coffee store each morning. Or maybe you quit using online shopping as entertainment when you are bored. Can you join or start a carpool and share the cost of transportation, tolls and parking?
By making many small daily choices you can concentrate on the long-term goal. Every single day, there should be something simple and small you can do to move towards your goal. Make sure you know what those steps are and take them over and over again.
Taking these little daily steps will help you achieve your bigger goal. If you truly want a resolution to succeed, the best way to succeed is to take charge of the situations you CAN control and protect the resolution as much as you can against the situations that you CAN’T control.
6. Automate as much as you can.
Make the banking automatic—sign up with your bank or financial institution to automatically deduct the money and have it directed to where you want it to go.
7. Check on your progress regularly and frequently.
Fill your resolution with mini-milestones that you can check on as frequently as possible—weekly, at the very least. The whole point is to make sure that you are seeing success, and using that small success as evidence that you are making positive forward progress toward fulfilling your bigger goals.
As you make progress, celebrate your success, but make sure that your celebration doesn’t undermine your goal. If you’ve achieved a savings goal, don’t go on a spending spree as a reward. Instead, reward yourself with a few hours to do something that you consider fun and inexpensive!
One of the most helpful ways we’ve seen people change their finances is by taking one of the Bible study from Compass Catholic ministries. If you want to start a Compass study at your church or with a group of personal friends, contact us. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have online classes available several times a year and you can sign-up on the CompassCatholic.org website.
The two things we hear most frequently about the Compass Bible studies:
1. “I wish I had learned this earlier”
2. “Why doesn’t the Church teach us more practical things like this?”
People who are young or old all say this, so there is no time like the present to learn what God has to say about managing money his way.
Our prayer for you this year is that you eliminate financial burdens in your life and honor God in the way you spend, save and manage your finances. Checkout the Manage Your Money God’s way podcast for more on keeping your resolutions.