There are two types of New Year’s resolutions, those made with money in mind, and those that burn through it like it’s last year’s style. But just because we don’t openly say, “Hey, self, let’s save some money this year,” or “Hey there, you, let’s put a dent in that credit card bill over the next 12 months,” shouldn’t saving money — or at least spending it wisely — always be a goal?
Whether you’ve resolved to get fit, cut junk food from your diet, de-clutter, see the world or simply clean out your DVR, you can make sure that your goals don’t set you up for a financial revival-type resolution next year by making sure your goals for the year are free of financial side effects.
Do you really want to go cut sugar from your diet, or are you just doing it because your friend talked you into it? Before you throw away everything in your pantry with refined sugar and convince yourself you like the taste of costly sugar alternatives, do your homework and decide if your heart’s really in it before your money is. It’s worth mentioning, that if you do need to or want to make drastic changes in your diet, you can shop your commissary for lower prices on foods that can stock your healthy kitchen.
Changes you can’t afford this year
I’d love to blaze through every DIY project on my Pinterest page, scoop up investment properties or backpack through Europe. And, even though these can be done on the cheap (relative to the dream you’re chasing), they still need financial backing. Let’s make sure our resolutions match our financial state.
Ignoring those costly activities on your to-do list this year won’t help much. Be upfront and honest with yourself. If you make resolutions with built-in price tags, like going back to school or remodeling the kitchen, crunch the numbers before you commit. Set a budget, shop your options and make sure you’re comfortable with the costs.
Let’s say, for instance, you want to get in shape this year. Let’s say your plan is to join a gym. Then let’s say you call up the first gym in the phone book (note to self, find out if phone books are still a thing and a relevant reference) and they offer you a ridiculously expensive 10-year contractual membership…with start-up fees. You proudly accept when they throw in some smoothie coupons. But if you would’ve taken the time to shop around, you’d know that your installation fitness center gives you the same workout without bringing your wallet into the equation (with the exception of your military ID card).
You can increase your nutrition without a $500 juicer. You can start blogging without a dime. And you can rent equipment, like — oh, I don’t know — camping gear, instead of spending a fortune on a new outdoorsy lifestyle that you might not be cut out for.
All in upfront
Repeat after me, “Year.” We have all year — 12 months, 365 days — to turn our resolutions into reality. Just like you can’t safely lose all the pounds you want to shed in the first week of the year, you likely can’t responsibly front all the cash for a year-long change in the first few months. Instead, pace yourself, consider any cost associated with your resolution to be an added monthly expense, and budget like you would your cell phone bill or fun allowance. Knowing what you can afford can also help you set a realistic timeline for achieving your goal this year.
Setting it in stone
Sometimes great ideas don’t pan out. Sometimes you check the boxes faster than you expected, and other times you need to slow down for the sake of your budget, body or lack of time. Take time to re-evaluate your resolution after a month or so. If you splurged on a gym membership, but you prefer to just run on your own, you might as well save your money and cancel your membership. If, after only a couple of months, you’ve burned through half of your travel budget, maybe it’s time for a staycation.
I hope you’ve resolved wisely, and even if you haven’t, there’s still plenty of time on the calendar to make adjustments. As a service member or family member, you have the advantage of cost-effective or no-cost resources on your installation or here on Military OneSource — you might as well try them. Here’s hoping 2015 is the year we stick to our resolutions without sacrificing our hard-earned money.