Turning Resolutions Into Habits

Turning resolutions into habits.

Making New Year’s resolutions has become almost cliché, because, let’s face it, most of us can’t make it to the end of January. The trick is tying your resolution to your current behavior and making it a habit. Let’s say you have resolved in 2013 to increase your 401(k) contributions. With your current budget, you may not have extra cash readily available, so you need to look for an expense you can cut to free up funds.

Denying yourself something you count on or truly enjoy can be the first step in failing to keep your resolution – just ask a chocolate lover who has tried to quit cold turkey as part of a diet, only to boomerang the next week by eating a whole box of truffles. You need to be creative to find expenses you can live without, without feeling denied. For example, maybe you love the silver screen and you reward yourself at the end of each work week with a night out at the movies. Using round numbers, you and your spouse probably spend $20 for tickets. 

What do you spend on snacks? Two drinks and a tub of popcorn can easily run $15 to $20 at most theaters. Instead of giving up movie night altogether, what about having that snack before you leave home? Cost of two 20-ounce bottles of pop and a bag of microwave popcorn – less than $5. You’ve saved $10 to $15. Do that every week, and you’ve saved $40 to $60 a month – approximately $500 to $700 a year – without giving up your movie night completely. 

This is just one example of habits – like buying snacks at the theater – that can be eliminated without losing the things you need or love – like movies. If you can’t eliminate it entirely without feeling deprived or resentful, try reducing or making it a reward. For example, if you stick to your movie snack goal for three months, reward yourself for one night with those two theater sodas and popcorn – extra large with extra butter! 

Your financial resolutions for 2013 may be bigger than an extra $500 in your 401(k), in which case, you may want to consider consulting with a Certified Financial Planner, who can help you find ways to meet your goals this year. 


Unexpected – Fifty percent of retirees left the work force sooner than they expected, oftentimes the result of health issues, disabilities or corporate downsizing. Only 8 percent of those individuals who retired earlier than they anticipated did so for positive reasons, e.g., their retirement accumulation was larger than expected (source: EBRI, BTN Research). 

Still Making Payments – Of 1,018 baby boomers surveyed in July 2012, 48 percent anticipate that they will retire with debt (e.g., mortgages, credit card debt or car payments).  Baby boomers are the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. In 2013, this group of folks will turn age 49-67 (source: Fidelity, BTN Research). 

My Own Fault – Of 2,093 individuals surveyed in December 2012, 63 percent admitted that any financial problem they have experienced in their life was “self-inflicted” as opposed to being caused by circumstances beyond their control (source: National Foundation for Credit Counseling, BTN Research).

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