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No resolutions, no added stress

Sienna Kossman

New Year’s resolutions can inspire change and personal growth or result in failure, guilt and stress, which is why I’m avoiding them altogether.

Last year, I made three specific New Year’s financial resolutions. Despite completing nearly all three by the middle of summer, I’ve decided not to make any new ones this year.

I made this no-resolution decision to help accomplish something that, in my opinion, is even more important: reducing financial stress. That doesn’t mean kicking back and spending whatever I want. It just means adjusting my attitude so I’m mentally prepared for the long haul.

To be completely honest, I spent the last week of December moping about all the things I didn’t do or achieve in 2015. For example, I’d wanted to end the year with $0 credit card balances, but the holidays temporarily derailed that goal. I wanted to pay more toward my student loan balance, even though I’m already making nearly double the monthly payments. I thought I’d see a bigger savings account balance by now. You get the idea.

I didn’t really stop grumbling until I sat down to make my 2016 budget last weekend. After reviewing all the numbers and notes on last year’s spreadsheet, I began to realize how much I actually accomplished in 2015. For example, my car loan, which I’ve had for only 15 months, is almost half paid off. I’ve reduced and streamlined my living expenses. I’m teaching myself how to use a cash-back credit card to my advantage, without overspending. The list goes on.

The more I thought about 2015, the more I began to feel really silly. Why did I feel so negative at first? Thanks to blog posts I wrote about my financial goals, plans and struggles last year, it’s probably because I’ve given myself too many financial tasks to accomplish at one time.

Plans and specific to-do lists are great, but while trying to “do all the things,” as I like to say, I inadvertently put more stress on myself. I think this distracted me from my successes and made it all too easy to focus on failures.

So, to put my best financial foot forward in 2016, I’m going to avoid making yet another list of to-dos and just set one very basic goal for myself: Keep improving.

Whether this means slowly increasing the amount I add to my savings account each month or reducing how much I still use my debit card, my objective is to just keep moving forward. I’m doing so many things well, so instead of spreading my energy — and money — even thinner, I want to focus on progress.

Now, this generalized approach may contradict professional advice that clearly defined goals help achieve progress, but I’m not worried about that. My financial progress may be harder to track than that of others who have set more specific objectives, but only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. The only way I can fail is if I stop doing what I’ve already been doing and knowing that makes my tired brain really happy.

If you’re a fan of New Year’s resolutions and really want to keep yours, good for you. My colleague Kelly Dilworth just shared some solid advice for sticking to your resolutions. However, if you are experiencing a little goal burnout like me, consider taking on a different mindset as 2016 begins.

Here’s to a less regimented, more relaxed year that’s better than the last!

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