As 2015 comes to a close, many of us are looking forward to a fresh start in 2016. That may be why a whopping 45% of us tend to set New Year's resolutions, according to a University of Scranton study—although only 8% actually make it to the finish line and achieve our goals.
This less-than-stellar stat got us thinking about financial New Year's resolutions—and, more specifically, how to go about setting money-related goals you'll stick with to the end.
"As people are sitting down to write down their goals for the new year, I highly recommend breaking them down into 90-day plans," says financial behaviorist Jacquette M. Timmons. Turning the goals into "more manageable, bite-size pieces, also helps you figure out what you need to focus on immediately."
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Another crucial piece of advice Timmons drives home is the importance of setting clear, actionable goals—financial or otherwise.
"Don't just say that you want to save more," she adds. "Say, 'In 2016 I want to save $10,000.' This will help shape your overall benchmarks and the milestones you create. It also influences the trade-offs and the habits you practice in the meantime."
Need inspiration for creating your financial goals for the new year?
We asked real people to share their financial resolutions—and how they plan on achieving them. Maybe their stories will help motivate you!
Zina Kumok, 27, freelance writer; and Sam Leffers, 27, freelance writer/editor and musician, Denver
One of our biggest goals of 2016 is to create a reliable source of passive income. My husband, Sam, and I have decided that buying a rental property is a fantastic way to get this rolling.
We started getting more serious about this a few months ago and are currently saving for a down payment and researching potential properties. We currently have our sights set on single- and double-family homes in Indianapolis, which is where we used to live.
Finding passive streams of income is something that could be really valuable to us down the road. Why? We don't want to have to work full-time until we're 65. Our New Year's resolution is to purchase our first property. From there, we'd ideally like to buy one new property per year so that we can eventually retire early.
Maria Vizzi, 50, president of an environmental solutions company, New York City
My parents, who grew up during World War II, seldom spend money on themselves. This year I'd love to save $10,000 to be used specifically for their care throughout the year. Between health-care needs, home repairs and day-to-day living, their expenses add up quickly. Taking that burden off their shoulders and making life a little easier for them is what's really pushing me toward this goal.
To make it a reality, I'll be making a few lifestyle tweaks in 2016. I plan on cooking more meals at home—and in New York City, what you save by not eating out can add up fast! I'm also going to dial back my shopping for new clothes and accessories, while also cutting back on little splurges like my daily latte. I'm not a fan of depriving yourself for the sake of saving, but making these minor changes will have a big impact on how much I can provide for my parents."
Roy Berkowitz, 29, cloud engineer, San Diego
My goal for 2016 is to have it be the first year that I max out both my retirement accounts. While I already meet the maximum contribution for my Roth IRA every year, I have yet to do the same for my 401(k). My resolution is to take the pay raise I'm expecting this year and divert it directly into that account, which will be enough to max it out. With my employer throwing in a 5% match, this will really help put me on the right track for retirement.
Growing up, my family always had a tough time with managing money, which is exactly why I made the conscious decision early on that I never wanted to be in that position. My New Year's resolution is definitely in line with that.
Amanda Abella, 27, online business coach and personal finance author, Miami
When I graduated from college back in 2010 with an English literature degree, I found myself smack in the middle of the Great Recession—no job prospects and, unfortunately, no money. To avoid going into debt, I moved back home with my parents. And while I did eventually score work as a language teacher and then a recruiter, I was seriously underemployed. It wasn't until about two years ago that I had the courage to quit my job entirely and turn my freelance writing side business into a full-time gig. The risk paid off, and these days I'm earning almost double what I was making at my last job!
But five years after graduating, I'm still living with my parents—2016 will be the year I change that. I've stockpiled enough cash to get me going, and I'm also bringing in enough income to live comfortably on my own. Another big motivation for me is the fact that my aging grandmother recently moved in with my parents, and my family could really use the extra space that my departure would create.
After struggling financially for so many years, it feels incredible to finally be in a position where I can move into my own place. My plan is to pack up within the next few months.
Caitlin Wolf, 31, public relations account director, Baltimore, Md.
2016 is shaping up to be an epic year: My husband, Barrett, and I are expecting our first child! This detail obviously changes our financial picture a bit as we prepare to accommodate a growing family. For starters, I'll be taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, half of which will be unpaid.
To be as ready as possible for the baby, I've made it my goal to save up over time for large purchases, in the hopes that it'll decrease my spending on big items overall. This delayed-gratification approach is a bit different than my current lifestyle. I'm quite used to living in a dual-income, child-free household—in other words, if I want to splurge on a nice purse or even a small vacation on a whim, I can. But that's definitely going to change after our little one is born.
My resolution is to pinpoint big-ticket items I want well in advance, then use digital savings accounts to save up for them over time. When it comes time to make the purchase, I'll be able to pay for it in full—with cash. This will really force me to focus my saving efforts, which will ultimately help curb my spending. I think it'll also make me appreciate these purchases even more."
Kate Anderson, 46, organization expert, San Diego
As my job title implies, staying organized is a big part of my life. While I've had a system in place to keep track of my receipts and financial documents for some time now, I really want to step this up in the new year and do a better job of recording and organizing my actual spending.
I'm super motivated and have even purchased a receipt scanner! I've also recently started using some digital tools to help me better track my monthly spending and project future expenses. By taking these simple steps, I'm hoping to fine-tune my budgeting skills so that I'm ultimately more prepared for upcoming expenses, which should also help me save better.
I've been so great at incorporating organization into so many other areas of my life—it seems unwise not to put those same practices to use when it comes to my finances.