My husband, Earl, and I love to establish annual goals together as the New Year approaches. Some people call this process “making New Year’s resolutions.” We call it goal setting.
Whatever the case, this yearly ritual helps keep us focused, it strengthens our marriage and goal setting often even saves us money.
For all these reasons and more, I was excited when my hubby shared with me a list of ideas for 2015 that he wanted us to implement in the New Year based on our shared experiences from this past year. After all, part of growing older and wiser is learning from your past in order to duplicate your successes and not repeat your mistakes.
So without further adieu, here is a list of 10 financial New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2015 that we’ll be putting into practice. It’s an awesome collection of concepts and goals that can help anyone, whether you’re married or single.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 1: Stop wasting time
We’ve all heard the expression “time is money.” That’s true. But time is so much more than that! It’s a precious commodity that can never be regained.
Earl sent me an interesting article this year about how much time people waste online. The writer described how many of us fall victim to WILFing (what was I looking for) and a “Bermuda triangle of low productivity created by Gmail, Facebook and Twitter.”
Never heard of WILFing? I hadn’t either. But now I’m very conscious of it. Check out the article mentioned above to learn what WILFing is and see if you recognize your own behaviors. If so, you could probably benefit from managing your time better.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 2: Get ultra organized
I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most organized person in the world. Thank God I have Earl because he’s the one who keeps things running smoothly in our household and our business. Still, he wants to step up our game in 2015, and so do I. So one of our New Year’s resolutions is to become even more organized.
This goal has many benefits. Being better organized not only makes you more productive, it reduces stress, helps you avoid wasting time, and creates a healthier overall environment. If nothing else, I’ll stop asking Earl and the kids: “Where are my keys?” or “Where’s my purse?” when I’m trying to get out of the house.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 3: No automatic billing renewals
I can’t tell you how many things I’ve bought over the years, including in 2014, and then not received true value out of them – or in some cases they simply outlived their usefulness.
Magazines went unread. Online subscriptions stopped being regularly used. And various services never fully delivered. Nonetheless, we kept paying for all these things, simply because they were all being billed automatically and electronically, on a monthly basis.
In 2015, we won’t be making any purchases where the billing hits our credit card or checking account each month in a way that escapes our scrutiny or lets us easily forget about the item. In many cases, such electronic billing arrangements favor the seller, not the customer, because companies know that relatively few people take the time to immediately cancel something that’s on auto pay. Those who do cancel often have paid for the service for many months before they wise up.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 4: Multiply any monthly fee by 12 and see how you feel about the value of what you are getting
For things you’re already paying for on a monthly basis, do the “annual cost” test to put the expense into proper perspective. For instance, if something costs you $49.99 a month that may not sound like a lot. But on a yearly basis, that’s about $600. Just ask yourself whether whatever you’re paying for is worth it, or whether that money could be used better elsewhere.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 5: Do not agree to any sales presentation that demands an immediate decision
This one usually isn’t a problem for us because, frankly, we rarely encounter formal sales presentations – especially in our home. In 2014, though, we did have a couple of situations where people wanted us to buy products or services after pitching those items.
On the surface, they weren’t exactly high-pressure “you must buy now!” type of pitches. But just the time that the salespersons spent with us (especially during one marathon meeting) created an expectation that we’d be making a decision (presumably a “Yes”) right then and there.
For the most part, that’s not our decision style. Earl and I have found that, for us, it’s usually better to “sleep on it” and avoid making on-the-spot decisions. This gives us a chance to think through our spending decisions and talk about issues privately, without a third party lurking nearby.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 6: Say “No” to contracts whenever possible, and be prepared to walk away from them if necessary
Signing contracts is sometimes unavoidable in your personal or business life. That’s especially true for people like us who are entrepreneurs. Still, we’ll be shying away from contracts in 2015.
I don’t mean contracts with our clients and customers, of course. That’s a normal and desired part of doing business. I mean contracts for other stuff – like products ranging from smart phones to office equipment, or services from vendors, anything from servicing home appliances to performing tech work.
We have three main issues with contracts. First, they often lock you in to a particular product or service, which reduces your flexibility and options. Contracts can also limit your ability to shop around later, decreasing your bargaining power. Finally, many contracts have punitive early termination terms or costly breakup fees if you change your mind.
So this year, we’ll be saying “thanks, but no thanks” to pretty much anything that requires a contract. I don’t think we’ll regret this decision, especially since when we look back on our past spending decisions – buying everything from travel services to software – we usually come out ahead when we purchase on an “a la carte” basis.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 7: Think about the impact of any decision six months, one to three years, or even five to 10 years into the future
It’s easy to make a decision guided by today’s circumstances or even how you feel about something at the present moment. But what if conditions change a year from now, as is often the case? Or what if you simply have a change of heart? To avoid buyer’s remorse and to make smarter decisions of any kind, consider the short, medium and long-term implications of your choices.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 8: Work together more
This might sound like an odd resolution to anyone who knows us, since Earl and I work together day in and day out. In fact, our computers are literally side-by-side in our home office and we co-own and jointly run our financial education business, TheMoneyCoach.net LLC.
I’ve had both women and men tell me that they would pull their hair out (or worse!) if they had to work in business for eight to 12 hours a day with their spouse.
Fortunately, we happen to love to work together. Even better: as Earl has pointed out to me, we are so much more effective and productive when we collaborate.
I’m glad I have a spouse that recognizes each of our unique talents and strengths, but also knows that our joint efforts take us even further, as a couple, as parents and in business.
Regardless of whether you’re single or married, you likely have people around you who can make life easier: friends, co-workers, siblings, parents and relatives, or even neighbors who lend a helping hand. Tap into the power of connection through your relationships and reach more of your personal and professional goals in the New Year.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 9: Get help when needed, before help is urgently needed
It’s tricky financial work when you’re managing a family budget or running a business. You have to strike a balance between doing things on your own (which saves money) or paying for stuff that you can’t or shouldn’t be doing.
To avoid being penny-wise and pound foolish in the New Year, my husband and I are going to be more candid and analytical about the areas of our lives where we truly need help, and then just get the help.
Waiting until things are dire, or in crisis mode, only costs more time, money and aggravation in the long run. Either that, or you run yourself ragged trying to do everything alone.
We consider our health and sanity to be priceless treasures, so one of our goals is to better recognize if either of us has a true need for outside help with our work, parental responsibilities, civic obligations and more. The goal is to spot these needs before either one of us feels like we’re drowning under the weight of these demands.
Financial New Year’s Resolution 10: Stop buying the same stuff over and over again
Just before Christmas, I logged onto Amazon.com and ordered a science book for my youngest daughter. When it arrived, Earl took one look at it and asked: “Doesn’t she already have this book?” Then he walked away, went into another room, and came back in less than 30 seconds with the exact same book. Argggh!
Now, honestly, my first thought (besides “Doh!”) was: Well, it only cost a couple bucks, so maybe I’ll give it to some other kid. Then my more rationale mind took over: Nice try, Lynnette. But it’s the principle of the matter.
Buying what you already have is obviously not a good use of your money, no matter how large or small the amount. Moreover, duplicating your spending suggests disorganization (see Resolution #2) and lack of clarity about what you already have.
Just to reinforce the point to myself, I also double-checked the price. For whatever reason, I thought the book was something like $4.99. Turns out it was $14.49. Needless to say, that book went right back into the box to return to Amazon.
Meantime, we’ll put that $14.49, and a lot more, back into our bank account by sticking with all of our goals and New Year’s resolutions in 2015 and beyond.