We recently surveyed people to better understand what drives their resolution-making and how likely they are to see a goal through to the finale. One of the most common goals that people highlighted for 2020 is to spend less and save more. This makes sense: our finances can be an emotionally-charged topic and our relationship with money is likely to change throughout our lives. Nearly half of survey respondents highlighted money as one of their top three sources of stress, and a quarter of Gen Xers called it out as their number one source of stress. Hear more about this topic from me on Money Life Podcast with Chuck Jaffe.   

Perhaps money is such a hard thing to pin down because there are so many contributing factors — and not all of them are in our control. We may know when our paychecks will come and when rent is due, but there are plenty of question marks when looking ahead, such as unforeseen medical expenses, home and auto repairs, and family and friend related expenses (wedding season send shock waves through anyone else’s bank account?).

It also can cause interpersonal strain — more than a third (35%) of respondents said money is the top thing they fight about with their partner, and it’s the number one reason for arguments among millennial couples.

It’s clearly important to get our finances under control — for the sake of our sanity and relationships. But our likelihood to drop resolutions before we actually make progress is a major barrier. A habit takes an average of 66 days to stick, but most people drop resolutions within six weeks (42 days) of the new year. Here are five tips that can help you finally stick to your goals this year — or pick up where you left off if you’re one of the 62% of people who have already veered off path. 


1. Be specific and realistic

Spending less and saving more are great goals in theory, but vague in practice. Start by asking yourself why you’re setting a goal to begin with. Do you want to save up for an upcoming trip? Or are you looking to settle down and need to put together a down payment for a home? Knowing what you’re aiming for and when you hope to meet your goal can help you get more clear about how much you need to save each month and how much you have left to spend. 


2. Track your progress

You don’t have to do it all at once. Reaching financial goals is typically a long game, so set benchmarks to help you make progress over time. Keep tabs on how you’re doing each week, month or quarter. Once you reach the first benchmark, check in on what worked and what you could have done better so you can reach the second benchmark even quicker.


3. Put your money and time where your goals are

Set aside time each week (or month) to track progress against the benchmarks you’ve set for yourself. And if you need some additional support, consider paying for an app or class to help guide your effort. About two-thirds of our survey respondents said they have spent money in an effort to keep their resolutions, and 84% are willing to use an app if they knew it had helped others. Creating incentives can also be a good way to keep up the momentum — so look for opportunities to reward yourself for a job well done.


4. Say it out loud.

Tell someone you respect about your goals — and any concerns you have in trying to meet them. They can help keep you on track by checking in on your progress — and may even lend a hand with some friendly competition.


5. Don’t worry if you stray off course

Failing to keep a resolution can feel like a crushing defeat — especially if you’ve already written it down or socialized your goal with people in your life. But don’t let a setback stop you from picking back up where you left off. If you overspend one month, start again, with a specific and (potentially more) realistic goal that you can meet the following month.


Cut yourself some slack this year, and use the tips above including trying out a personal finance app to help you stay on track.  By the end of the year you may just surprise yourself — and have enough left over to treat yourself to a celebration.