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December is the time when people tend to reflect on their financial habits over the course of the previous year and pledge to do better in the upcoming year. And while 2020 has certainly been a doozy, it doesn't mean we should all give up on our financial resolutions for 2021. In fact, those of us who cover the personal finance beat for a living have our own ideas of what we'd like to accomplish in the new year. Here are three of our top goals.
1. Lead with my head, not my emotions
Dana George: If I've learned anything from the British rock band The Kinks, it's that it's a "mixed up, muddled up, shook up world." And if I've learned anything from 2020, it's that emotional spending is for suckers. No matter how muddled up 2021 becomes, my financial vow for the year is to stay the course. That means no new subscription boxes filled with soap made of snail mucus extract or eye serum made of 24-karat gold. No more wasting money on subscription television services I rarely use. And no more wondering if I should invest less so I can fill my already-full emergency account with more money.
2020 was the first year in a long time that I allowed fear of the unknown to inform my financial habits. I'm done with that. For me, 2021 is all about leading with my head, not my emotions. I not only research and write about personal finances; I genuinely enjoy the subject. That means using what I know and what I learn to maximize my financial situation.
2. Completely overhaul my budget
Elizabeth Aldrich: Most people saw dramatic changes to their lifestyles in 2020, and along with it, their spending habits. That's certainly been the case for me. Amidst all the chaos of this year, though, I didn't take the time to sit down and analyze exactly how my spending shifted until recently. While this year nearly cut entire categories out of my budget -- like travel and dining out -- I realized that the money I would've spent on those activities was being funneled into things that are less meaningful to me, like online shopping.
My goal for next year is to be diligent about tracking my spending and sticking to a budget. I want to create an entirely new budget for myself that accounts for the changes to my lifestyle and also helps me spend more on the things that matter while cutting way back on the things that don't. This means way less shopping and food delivery, and a lot more stashing money away for mid- and long-term goals like retirement and saving up to take the trip of a lifetime once travel is safer. Centering my finances around my values actually makes me excited to create a budget and cut back on spending, because I know it will pay off.
3. Spend more mindfully
Maurie Backman: A lot of people may be pledging to boost their savings in the new year, or pay off unhealthy debt. My primary goal is a little less tangible but equally meaningful -- I want to put my money to better use by spending more mindfully. Often, if there's something I need for my household, I'll search for it online and buy it without researching prices elsewhere just to get it done with. In doing so, I probably throw out money on the regular.
Similarly, like many people, I'll fall victim to the occasional impulse buy, and while this isn't a particularly large budget-buster for me, the troubling part is that I often don't end up getting much use out of the things I buy on a whim. That's why my goal is to think more carefully about how I spend and put a little more time into my buying decisions. If I accomplish that, I might manage to hit on some peripheral goals, like saving for my kids' college or a big trip once travel becomes a safer prospect.
Many of us are more than happy to see 2020 come to a close. As you celebrate the start of a new year, think about the ways you can better your financial picture and have something to be proud of next December.