Have you made a resolution to get your finances under control, only to see it dissolve as fast as your willpower when faced with a box of doughnuts on the conference room table?
If you're forever breaking your money resolutions, whether at the new year or any other time, you may be due for a resolution makeover. Instead of vaguely promising yourself that you'll "organize your finances" in 2007, try laying out your resolutions in fine, even agonizing, detail.
Not only will you improve your chances for success by making yourself accountable to a more tangible goal, but you may also have at your fingertips a plan to turn your resolution into action. Take a look at some of these examples:
Resolution No. 1: Save for an emergency
If you simply promise yourself that you'll start putting money away for a rainy day, will you act when that next paycheck comes? Make your resolution more specific by doing a little math. Decide how much you want to have saved by the end of the year and then divide by 12 (or 24 if you get your checks twice a month). Now your resolution may read something more like this: Accumulate $1,200 in an emergency fund this year by saving $50 from each paycheck.
We've covered the who, what, and when. For extra credit, ask yourself how and where. Answer these questions and your resolution becomes something you can act on tomorrow: Accumulate $1,200 in an emergency fund this year by automatically depositing $50 from each paycheck to a high-yield, online savings account.
If you need help with the specifics of how and why you should have an emergency savings fund, make it your first resolution to stop at the Short-Term Savings Center for more information.
Resolution No. 2: Pay off consumer debts
I have no polling data to prove this, but I would venture to guess that this New Year's resolution may be second only to losing weight and exercising more. Here's where being extremely specific about your goals may help you see success well into the summer and throughout the year.
To move from the general "pay off debt" to a more specific plan, you'll need to take some time to figure out what you owe. Make a list of your debts and the interest rate for each card or loan. Now, add up the total. Decide which of these debts you want to tackle first, and you're already on your way to a more specific resolution. For example, your resolution may become: Pay off the outstanding balance on the credit card with the highest interest rate.
Now you can turn to the marvels of Internet technology to help you out a little bit. Let's say your most nettlesome credit card charges you 20% interest, and you owe $5,000. Find yourself a handy online calculator, such as the "What will it take to pay off my balance?" calculator right here at The Motley Fool. Crunch the numbers, and you can add them to your resolution: Stop charging purchases to my highest-interest credit card and pay $463 every month to wipe out the $5,000 balance by the end of the year.
If you have a multiplicity of consumer debts and need more help getting a handle on the specifics, take a look at the Credit Center. You'll also find a free guide to help you get out of debt, which will have you wallowing in debt details in no time at all.
Resolution No. 3: Start investing
Start dreaming about the fabulous new person you want to be in the new year, and you may quickly imagine a portfolio of soaring stocks that makes you rich, rich, rich! So, how do you turn "start investing" into reality? Make a resolution that will walk you through all the steps you need to turn your fantasy into something more concrete.
If you start with the basics, your resolution might read: Open a brokerage account and invest $1,000 in stocks this year. Once you've gotten as far as making that promise, you'll quickly learn that you'll have a million other questions to answer about where to put your money. Put a deadline on your resolution to spur you along, and dig in.
To begin, you might be interested in the stocks that the Motley Fool CAPS community nominated as the best blue chip for 2007. The list includes old standbys like 3M
Check out their thoughts and do some research on your own, and you'll be on your way to fulfilling a resolution to establish yourself as a stock investor in 2007.
Here's some more Foolish reading to get you started investing:
Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple does not own stock in any company mentioned in this article, and she welcomes your feedback. eBay is a Stock Advisor recommendation, and 3M is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.