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3 Financial Goals I'm Setting for Myself in 2021

By Maurie Backman - Dec 4, 2020 at 8:00AM

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Here's what my personal resolutions look like. How do yours compare?

A champagne cork laying on top of Jan. 1 date on a calendar.

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I tend to have mixed feelings about New Year's resolutions. On the one hand, they're helpful and motivational. On the other hand, they set a lot of people up for disappointment. Thankfully, one thing I've learned is that if I'm going to set financial resolutions, they need to be reasonable and attainable. With that in mind, here are three goals I've established for the upcoming year that I hope to be able to achieve.

1. Throw out less food

Like many parents of young children, I often find myself tossing out food -- not because I've purchased too much, but because my kids' preferences can sometimes change from day to day. But I can't just blame my household's food waste on my children. 

The reality is that I often buy extra items to avoid having to make additional trips to the supermarket, only to have perishables go bad on me when they don't get used in time. Also, I tend to make grocery lists without actually verifying what's in our pantry, fridge, and freezer first. And while I'm pretty good about avoiding impulse buys at the supermarket (namely, because I'm usually in a rush and eager to get out of there), that doesn't mean I always buy the right things.

If I had to guess, I'd say I probably throw out around $5 to $10 worth of food per week, and while that may not seem terrible, in the course of a year, it can really add up. Rather than toss out several hundred dollars' worth of food in the coming year -- money that can instead go into my savings account -- I'm hoping to take better inventory and buy more judiciously. 

2. Stop being cheap with the wrong things

In an effort to save money and maintain a frugal existence, I sometimes go overboard. For example, I'll buy cheap clothing since I work from home full-time. However, some of those items will shrink or get destroyed in the wash after just a few uses because of their inferior quality. I've done the same with household items as well -- I've bought appliances that were too low-end for our own good. 

In the coming year, I hope to make better spending decisions. I doubt I'll start swapping my $8 leggings for ones that cost $50 apiece, but there's probably a happy medium there.

3. Get better at budgeting

My family has a budget. The problem? We often don't stick to it. Because I have the type of job where it's possible to work more and earn extra money, my solution to overspending is often to just take on more projects to compensate. But that's not addressing the core problem -- that sometimes, my husband and I let our budget fall by the wayside. And frankly, this solution has at times left me teetering on the verge of burnout. 

Before the new year kicks off, I plan to sit down with my husband, review our expenses, and put together a budget that might be more realistic to follow. We may need to cut back on certain expenses if we find we need more wiggle room in other spending categories, but it's time to stop falling back on extra work to make up for our bad habits. 

What goals do you have for 2021?

The good thing about the goals I'm setting for the coming year is that I actually have a chance at achieving them. As you go about the process of writing down your financial resolutions, make sure you're not just setting yourself up for failure. It's OK to think big, but a better bet may be to strive for smaller, meaningful changes that you can feel good about. If you set the bar too high and don't succeed, you may get frustrated and give up on improving your finances altogether, and that's really the last thing you want.

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