At the start of every year, optimism abounds as Americans across the country vow to create better habits for themselves. And after a year like 2020, you’re probably more motivated than ever to bring about change.
But let’s face it — sticking to a New Year’s resolution is harder than making one: Research shows most people drop their resolutions before February even rolls around. So to help inspire you as you start working toward your 2021 money goals, we asked three women to share how they were able to successfully stick with their financial resolutions.
RESOLUTION NO. 1: CONQUER STUDENT LOANS
My 2020 resolution was to pay off $3,000 of my student loan debt. Not only do I want to be free from the financial obligation, I’m also trying to save for a home, so I want to go into that process with the least amount of debt possible.
How I Stuck With It: I was fortunate enough to continue working during the pandemic and, with everything closed down, I was spending less money to begin with, which means I had more to put toward my student loans. I also took a basic online financial course and created a budget that I felt I could stick with even after the world reopens. I track my weekly spending to ensure I stay within my budget.
How I’m Doing Today: It only took me four months to reach my goal, so I challenged myself to pay off an additional $3,000 from my student loans, which I am set to do at the end of this month. – Alicia Quilantan, Boise, Idaho
RESOLUTION NO. 2: START SAVING FOR A HOME
Last year, I wanted to make progress on saving for a down payment to buy a house. But rather than save however much I felt like or had left over, my goal was to make regular deposits of a set amount of money each month.
How I Stuck With It: I bought a budget planner notebook from Barnes & Noble that helped me create a spending plan to fit my needs without being too restrictive. I found it was helpful to track my spending early in the year so that I could look for patterns and make changes as needed.
For instance, I had subscriptions to different monthly services for things like makeup, music and tea that I enjoyed but added up over time. Rather than cut these out entirely, I switched up what I subscribed to each month up so that I was still saving money without missing out completely. I also noticed I was ordering takeout five or six times a week, and spending between $20 and $30 every time. I started cooking at home more, and now only order takeout once in a while.
How I'm Doing Today: Every month since last January, I’ve been able to put $1,400 into a savings account specifically earmarked for a down payment. It now feels much more realistic that I’ll be able to own a home in the city that I work in within the next year or so. I also feel less stressed about having enough money every month to pay bills, have fun and save. – Krissy Savas, Aliso Viejo, California
RESOLUTION NO. 3: TAKE CONTROL OF DEBT
Every year starting in 2012, my New Year’s resolution has always been to pay off my debt. But with the amount of debt I had, I knew it would take some time. Back then, I operated a now-defunct cosmetics business that was swimming in more than $5,000 of credit card debt. I also had my own debt of about $10,000 — a combination of retail addiction and the high cost of living in New York City. I used my credit cards not only to pay for necessities, but also to pay for things like designer shopping, pricey brunches and regular happy hours.
How I Stuck With It: Growing up, my mom always preached the importance of having good credit. Clearly I had forgotten those lessons, but I knew I had to get real with myself and start thinking about the life I wanted to live and the things I wanted to do. For example, I always dreamed of being a homeowner and knew that if I continued to mismanage my finances, I'd have a hard time securing loans or financial credibility. That motivated me to change my lifestyle.
How I’m Doing Today: It took me seven years, but I paid off all my debt in December 2019. Not having to worry about it has given me peace of mind, which has been liberating. Now I have a flourishing savings account and can do so much more with my money. – Genevia Sawyer, Olney, Maryland