The calendar is flipping over to 2022, which means many of us are thinking about which financial goals we want to achieve in the coming year.
And while setting resolutions is the norm for this time of year, they tend to be highly focused on changing something you feel is less than ideal in your life. Focus too much on the negative, and what should be an empowering process can feel deflating.
So if you’re looking for a different approach this year, try setting an intention rather than a resolution. The difference is that instead of striving for an end goal, you aim to achieve a particular mindset that guides your decision making.
How to set an intention
While a goal is about achieving a specific outcome, an intention is more of a positive affirmation that you can use to anchor yourself when you’re feeling off track with your goals and need to center yourself, says financial therapist Erika Wasserman.
Then, follow these steps to set an intention.
- Start with your emotions. Think about the areas you want to change and why. How do you feel about them now, and how would you ideally like to feel?
- Create a list of words and actions that align with those feelings. This can help you get specific about ways to declare your desires and help connect what you want to do with how you want to feel.
- Establish intention triggers. Whether you set a reminder alarm on your phone, put a sticky note on your computer monitor or make your intentions your passwords, incorporating them into your daily routine will help them stay top-of-mind.
Whatever intentions you choose, Wasserman says accountability is key. “Just like with weight loss or exercise — find a friend or group that you can share your intentions with, then set up monthly check- ins with them to ensure you stay on track all year,” she says.
Wasserman says to revisit your intentions throughout the year to help you determine if you need to revise or refine them. As your situation changes, you may need to refocus — and that’s OK. Let your intentions be solid enough to help you feel successful but fluid enough to meet your current needs.
If improving your finances is one of your intentions, here are some common intentions that may resonate with you and tips for how to use them on your journey to financial wellness.
5 common intentions and how to apply them to your finances
"I will align myself with my values.”
When you approach your finances from a value-based perspective, you can dig into what’s worth saving for, what’s worth splurging on and why.
“Understanding the ‘why’ behind your goal often leads to higher success rates in meeting your goals because you have identified a reason to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to things that could alter your financial plan,” Wasserman says. “For example, you may choose to buy a car because it will save you hours of time on public transportation, which will allow you to spend more time with your kids.”
Try doing a five-minute free-write on a piece of paper or a word document to help you get out your thoughts and feelings about money. This kind of “brain dump” can help you identify themes regarding your finances and get you more in touch with your values.
“I will operate from a place of gratitude.”
If you’re struggling with being grateful for what you have or find yourself using shopping as an emotional coping strategy, this could be an important intention to focus on.
“Often times our short-term decisions have an impact on our long-term goals,” Wasserman says. “Ask yourself when you’re making a purchase: ‘Will this help me meet my goals? Is this a need or a want? How will it impact my life for the better?’ ” Often, putting your purchase on pause for 24 hours gives you the time to determine whether you really wanted to make the purchase.
“I will live more authentically.”
It’s all too easy to compare your financial situation to other people’s, which can make staying true to yourself, your budget and your priorities a challenge.
“While you are comparing what you see on the outside, you don't know what their actual finances are,” Wasserman says. “You never know who is living beyond their means or dealing with crushing debt.”
To stay focused on your own priorities, Wasserman suggests listing financial boundaries you want in your life. “For example: I will move $200 over a month in auto savings; I will only grocery shop after I create a list; I won't lend friends or family money over $300; or I won't be late on paying bills each month.”
Doing this puts the focus back on your own finances and helps you stay accountable to yourself.
“I will overcome my obstacles.”
If you're saddled with debt, work toward focusing on how you are capable, not how you're failing or not meeting your goals. To do this effectively, Wasserman suggests setting an attainable goal such as: “I will become clear with how much debt I have and call to reduce the APR on my credit cards.”
“As you build the small wins, your confidence will grow and so will your success rate of overcoming obstacles,” she says.
"I will take care of my future self."
Focus on how your actions today can benefit future you. Set up automated transfers to a savings account set up for a specific financial goal so you can pay yourself first. Look at your retirement savings and see if you're able to sock away even 1 percent more than you are now.
“I am a big believer in the power of visualization,” Wasserman says. “Create a financial vision board, either old school with paper and scissors or digitally online. Have it in a place that you can see often to keep you excited to meet your future needs.”