Ask Chuck: How Can I Keep My New Year’s Resolutions?
Apparently, like so many others, my number one New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is related to financial goals. It was the same for me last year. So I am looking for tips to actually keep them this year!
New Year, New Me
Dear New Me,
Like you, I like to make resolutions or set goals every year. I gave up coffee 4 years ago and have been able to stick to it. Three years ago, I decided to only drink water. I have kept that resolution as well. I try to stay off sugar. And, have tried to give up gluten. I have not done so well at those last two goals!
Like our health, financial goals are important if we want to be proactive and manage our money well. We must assess our management of the previous year in order to make strides this year. Let’s talk about some important financial goals and then my tips on how to stick to them.
Financial Goals for 2018
Establishing a fresh budget is wise. Before plugging in numbers, pray and ask the Lord to illumine your heart and mind. If you are married, consider setting aside a day with your spouse to make plans. Ask yourself some tough questions.
- How should I change my lifestyle to better steward God’s money?
- Am I tithing and giving like I desire? If not, why?
- Have I established an emergency fund?
- Have I paid down debt?
- Am I saving and investing?
- Do I have a good advisor or accountability partner?
- Have I repented of wasteful spending?
- Am I holding any bitterness because of my situation?
- Do I work as unto the Lord and live in gratitude for what He provides?
Ask God to give you a genuine desire to steward well. It requires discipline and delayed gratification that is not natural to our flesh. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “… train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Godliness when it comes to money requires sacrifices in order to give and serve others. You must act, not just hope, to grow in stewardship. As you humbly depend on the Lord you will experience a closeness to Him that will motivate you even more.
Sticking to Your Resolutions
So, what are some practical ways to keep your resolutions this year?
Set realistic goals so you don’t get discouraged and quit. Post those goals or carry them in a small notebook so you can refer to them daily. I write my goals on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker so I see them every day.
Stay focused and positive. Keep a daily journal of your progress, however small. Have a weekly meeting with your spouse to discuss and celebrate your progress. Meet with a mentor on a monthly basis. Keep your eyes on the reward, not the pain.
Mind the small details. Keep close tabs on your spending. Record every penny you spend. Some may call you a “penny-pincher”, but your close attention will pay off if you are trying to get out of debt and establish regular giving and saving habits. Pennies become dimes and quarters and eventually dollars.
Make giving a top priority. This will bring you joy and extra motivation to stick to your financial goals. It will also add more meaning to your financial journey.
Write down ways you plan to save money each week. This may be a new practice for you and hard initially. Start with some of these ideas:
- Take your lunch to work.
- Make your own coffee.
- Carpool, bike or walk.
- Sell your house and downsize or rent.
- Drive your old car with gratitude.
- Plan a weekly menu and don’t eat out.
- Avoid shopping except for necessaries.
- Find free entertainment and have fun.
- Save every $5 or $10 or $20 bill that you get. When you get $100, deposit it into a savings account.
- Learn to be content and grateful for all you have.
- Don’t complain! And, do not give in to fear.
- Try to do without cable TV, netflix or even your smartphone.
As Paul told the Philippians, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. …I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:6-7, 13 ESV)
Managing Your Surplus
If you have a goal to better manage your surplus, you will need to plan how you want to give and invest.
- Give to the work of the Lord and consider how you can increase what you are currently doing.
- Control your personal spending. Seek the lifestyle that God has for you and stick to it in spite of available surpluses. Balance is key. Too much spending breeds indulgence; too little is martyrdom. Seek Him, then do what pleases Him. He has different plans for each of our lives.
- Make a written plan for the use of potential surpluses because it’s easy to rationalize spending it. Plan before the money becomes available. Decide on what you will reinvest, and what you will give. Avoid hoarding out of fear of the future.
- Work on a plan to wisely invest what you have so that you can give more as the Lord increases your returns.
Finally, be vigilant in renewing your mind on Truth. Immersing yourself in Scripture will help you avoid the trappings of the world and keep you focused on the source of all strength, peace and joy. May He be your greatest treasure this new year. And, let me know how you are doing about late February! That is when it is tempting to give up.
A great way to start the new year is by devoting some time to understanding God’s principles for managing money. I suggest that you and your spouse commit to take the MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. It’s an online resource that will walk you through 7 lessons that will help you conquer your financial issues by learning what God’s word says about money. Get started today.
Originally published on the Christian Post, January 5, 2018