Hit the Refresh Button
A Guide to Resetting Your New Year’s Resolutions
January 15, 2020
Did you have tackling your personal finances on your resolution list this year?
If so, you’re not alone.
A late-2019 survey from Willful.co found that 76% of the Canadians they surveyed have at least one personal finance resolution on their list.
According to the survey, 46% of respondents have “pay off debt” on their New Year’s Resolution list; 30% are looking to create and stick to a budget; and 25% are committing to creating a will.
How are your plans coming along?
We’re two weeks into 2020 and odds are you’ve already fallen off track with your New Year’s resolutions.
A December 2018 New York Post article noted “Strava, the social network for athletes, has discovered that Saturday, Jan. 12, is the fateful day of New Year’s resolutions,” and further shared research that, “just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, while around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.”
In behavioral science this is known as the intention-action gap, where we say we want to achieve one thing but than fail to follow through.
So how does that translate back to personal finance resolutions?
Did you know, paying down debt is consistently ranked as a top financial goal, and yet year-over-year the average amount of household debt in Canada continues to rise?
That’s not to say that if you’ve already slipped, you should just throw in the towel on being the best version of yourself you aspired to be until January 1, 2021!
Read on to uncover three things you can use to help you hit the reset button and close the say-do gap!
#1 – Leverage the fresh start effect.
Researchers have found that we tend to motivate ourselves into good habits by using special occasions, or temporal landmarks (such as a new week, month, or year) to put past behaviour behind us and focus on being better.
While we typically see this framed as a New Year’s resolution, you can harness other dates – like the first day on the new job, the beginning of a new month of sales, or simply the start of the week on a Monday morning – to set the ball in motion.
#2 – Use a Commitment Contract
As we already described, it’s one thing to start, it’s another thing all together to stay committed.
Once you’ve decided to start (see the Fresh Start Effect above), we recommend using a commitment contract to help you stick to your intentions.
What’s a commitment contract? In its simplest form it is a binding agreement with yourself to ensure you act on your intentions. Commitment contracts leverage loss aversion and accountability to drive behavior change.
A commitment contract should:
• Define your goal
• Describe what it’ll take to accomplish it
• Set a date by when you’d like to achieve your goal
• Set a start date
• Be signed and dated
#3 – Make Things Automatic
Whether your goal is to save for a new home or pay down a credit card, one of the best things about digital banking is how easy it is to “set it and forget it.”
Even if you hate thinking about money, it now takes minutes of seriously thinking about it and setting up the right transfers, so that you can stop thinking about it for months at a time.
The use of automatic payments are what behavioral economists call a Commitment Device.
A commitment device is a choice made in the present which restricts your future set of choices, often as a means of controlling impulsive behavior and limiting choices to those that reflect long-term goals.
In the moment of motivation, it is easy to say that you want to save for your goals or pay down debt. But, when push comes to shove, excuses or forgetfulness get in the way.
If you haven’t already, find time today:
• to set up automatic bill and credit card payments (this will help you avoid late fees)
• make sure your retirement contribution is coming out of your paycheck (and if it isn’t, make sure it is!)
• kickstart your savings goal by adding an automatic transfer to your savings account that happens the same day you get paid
Happy New Year and all the best as you set out to stick to your resolutions!