It can be intimidating to make resolutions we can stick to when we’re
standing in front of a fresh calendar and looking at the new year ahead. No one knows everything that will happen, but making some financial resolutions help to get us started on the right foot.
Being in a partnership as a married couple not only means having to work around each person’s wants/needs, but also the potential for more unexpected expenses. In a marriage there are two families, two careers, two cars (most likely), and (potentially) kids. All of these things impact our finances and as a result have to be considered when setting resolutions at the beginning of the year.
5 Things to Remember When Making Financial New Year’s Resolutions
Whether you have debt piled high, some travel dreams, or you’re hoping to move or buy a new home, making goals as a couple is a great way to give yourself some traction.
My husband and I are big goal-setters, and it’s mostly because we’ve become addicted to the feeling of smashing our goals as a team. Here are some things to remember as you’re setting goals for the new year:
1. Be Honest About Life Expenses
If you make $45,000 a year and your goal is to pay off debt, don’t do yourself the disservice of aiming to spend every penny you earn on payments. After you’ve covered your costs of living, there should to be some “wiggle room” for extra expenses (think: niece’s birthdays, date night, small car repairs, etc).
Be honest with yourself about what you’ll need to save for wiggle room each month. It’s best to think of it as a mini emergency fund. If at the end of the month you haven’t had to use it, feel free to add what’s left to your debt payment or other financial goal.
You don’t want to be the people who can’t attend the family potluck because you put every penny you have towards a kitchen remodel, vacation, or student loans. Just do your best, put a chunk of your money towards your goal, and save yourself a little wiggle room if you can.
2. Prioritize What’s Important to You
It’s definitely worthwhile to sit down and outline your priorities as a couple before you attempt to take on New Year’s resolutions as a team. Once you know what you both feel are the most important things in your life, you can make goals that work towards those priorities.
Do you love to travel? Are you hoping to put your kids through private school? Does your home need some repairs? Would you like to own a boat or RV? These are all things you can work towards that require some financial goal setting. Whatever is important to you should be reflected in your plan for the year.
Remember to be realistic, bearing in mind your income and honest life expenses. But also give yourself the challenge to make your dreams/priorities come true by following through on the goals you set for yourself.
3. Refuse to Bow to Cultural Pressures
Don’t let culture, your family, or other outside forces throw you off track. There will always be people who are ready to tell you about why their priorities make more sense. There will always be commercials and marketers trying to make you feel like you NEED some new tool or expensive trip.
Don’t let the world around you distract you from the goals you have for yourselves as a married couple and family unit. If you’ve done the work of evaluating your lives, dreams, goals, and needs, then it is your job to keep yourselves on track. Nobody else knows your situation or your relationship better than you do. Don’t let anyone else behind the wheel.
4. Resist Depleting the Emergency Fund
If you don’t have an emergency fund, you can skip this reminder. However, my husband and I love our emergency fund and all the peace of mind that it provides for us. It’s certainly a priority for us to have some money set aside for those life expenses you can’t control.
When it comes to smashing financial goals we set at the beginning of the year, we have to remind ourselves that our emergency fund is not a part of the money we can use. It’s tough sometimes when we’re stuck between the choice of going on a weekend trip or staying home because we’ve used up our wiggle room money. However, dipping into the emergency fund is not an option for us.
Keeping our emergency fund in place for the year is a resolution on its own, but it can be very tempting to use that money when we want to do something that didn’t fit in our monthly budget. Dave Ramsey always says that when you have an emergency fund, emergencies seem to happen less frequently. There are some things we absolutely can’t control, but having that money set aside certainly means that some expenses don’t feel like emergencies to us anymore.
For that reason alone, it’s crucial for us to resist depleting the emergency fund, even if it helps us to achieve another short-term financial goal.
Here is a story that I read once and it made me feel very glad to have our emergency fund.
5. Plan Out a Few Check-In Points
It’s easy to make plans at the beginning of the year and then forget about them as the months go by. Don’t let this happen! When you sit down to make your goals, schedule official check-in points throughout the year. Put them down on the calendar!
How frequently you want to check in on your goals is up to you, but every couple months is an acceptable start. Sit down together and talk about how you’ve been doing, where you are in comparison to where you should be, and what you need to do to successfully hit your goals.
It’s important to review WHY you want to succeed each time you perform a check-in.
When you’re willing to admit your missteps and reaffirm your goals multiple times throughout the year, you’re less likely to blow them off.
11 Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions
And while finances are a wonderful place to put some of our New Year’s effort, there are certainly lots of other ways for married couples to take action and make the new year a great one.
Working on resolutions as a couple gives you someone to rely on when you’re slipping up and someone you can encourage when you see them struggling. You’re more likely to succeed when you are being held accountable — so make your goals a team effort and celebrate successes throughout the year.
My husband and I love to set relationship goals for ourselves at the start of the new year. Whether it’s focusing on our relationship, or the way we treat other people in our lives, we have found it both fulfilling and worthwhile to make New Year’s resolutions that aren’t only focused around ourselves. Below are just a few examples of relationship, contentment, and self-improvement resolutions you can tackle as a couple:
New Year’s Resolution Inspiration: Relationships
- Focus on saying positive and uplifting things out loud to the people around you on a daily basis. (Even a small compliment can make someone’s day)
- Making an effort to serve the people around you without expecting reciprocation. (It feels awesome to do a good thing for someone else just because you want to show them that you appreciate them.)
- Reconnect or send a touch-base email to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time — maybe even follow up by scheduling a coffee date just to see how their life is going.
- Make a meal for someone who is going through a rough time and drop it off at their house. (Don’t forget to include a friendly and heartfelt note!)
New Year’s Resolution Inspiration: Intentional Contentment
- Go through your home and get rid of clutter or items you no longer need. Then shift your focus to caring intentionally for the things you have. Clean them thoughtfully and find a “home” for each item you keep.
- Start a thankfulness pin board or list in a place you see on a daily basis. Add notes whenever you have a moment to remember what you are thankful for this year. (If you have kids, get them involved) It’s a great thing to discuss over meals or at Thanksgiving.
- Make an effort to print and hang more pictures of your family and other favorite people around your home to remind yourself of what’s important — and why we work so darn hard every day!
New Year’s Resolution Inspiration: Self-Improvement
- Switch out some of your before bed phone time for reading a chapter from a book. You don’t have to ditch the phone completely, but you might find yourself preferring to read anyway!
- Find opportunities to be active — even if it doesn’t include a structured date with the treadmill or weights. Go for more walks, play tag with your kids, or go on small weekend trips to enjoy the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a chore!
- Get up a little bit earlier each month (we’re talking 5 minutes or so) so that by the end of the year, you’ll be up and at ‘em an hour earlier. That time could be used to exercise, clean, check emails, or enjoy a cup of coffee before the rush of the day.
- Cut out high calorie drinks on weekdays — saving some more “fun” drinks for the weekend. Try to start drinking only water, tea, and black coffee on weekdays — it’ll help you stay hydrated and maybe even drop some weight by the end of the year!
More Financial and Goal Setting Tips & Inspiration
Whether you’re a goal-oriented person like me, or you’ve just begun the process of setting some goals for yourself, be sure to visit the Life and Finances categories to gather more encouragement and inspiration.