By Victoria Rolfe / Red Hook, NY
January is, of course, traditionally the time when we make resolutions, and unfortunately February is when we traditionally break them. Why is that? Well …change is hard. We are ultimately creatures of habit and a resolution by its very nature requires change. And we would much prefer going along in our daily lives doing the same things in the same ways as we have always done them. So, regrettably, our resolutions go by the wayside , life goes on and we feel bad.
Instead of worrying about the resolutions you didn’t live up to this year, how about setting some new goals for yourself? “What’s the difference?” I can hear you asking. While a resolution tends to be somewhat vague (“I want to lose weight”). If you are setting them the proper way, a goal is more specific. And to help you make them specific, the genius gurus that be have come up with this cute little acronym: S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound).
So, taking the example of losing weight, we would say “I want to lose 20 pounds (specific) by April (time-bound) and I will do this by losing two pounds per week (measurable).” This goal would be both attainable and realistic. Saying you wanted to lose 100 pounds by April would be very unrealistic. But setting a mini goal of two pounds per week makes it easier to work towards. You can now just concentrate on those two pounds per week, rather than the bigger (more daunting) 20 pounds by April. You can even set up a reward system for yourself every week if you make your two-pound goal : get a massage, get your nails done, watch your favorite movie, whatever.
Now, let’s translate this into a money goal. Rather than a vague “I want to save more money this year,” try “I want to save $2,000 by the end of the year.” Now you can break this down into how much you would need to save each month ($167), and per week ($38), and even per day ($5.48). Once broken down this way, it is easily manageable. What can you give up that is currently costing you $5.48 per day, or $38 per week? And it is much easier to monitor your progress. It is helpful to make a chart for yourself. You can easily see if you are on track.
To be even more specific make a plan for where you are going to put this saved money, perhaps opening up a separate savings account for it. And it should be earmarked for a specific purpose: a vacation, new furniture, a new computer. Or it can be an account that you will continue to add $2,000 (or more) into each year going forward, toward your emergency fund, or a house, or a car.
Now you are not just making vague resolutions– you are setting goals the S.M.A.R.T. way. It is a specific amount (broken down into even more specific “mini” goals), it is realistic and attainable, and certainly measurable. And you can continue to monitor your progress throughout the year (and give yourself little mini rewards if you need them).
When you set your goals in this very definitive way, you are now shooting towards something very precise, and keeping that goal in mind, it is now easier to give up whatever you need to do in order to achieve your goal. You are not just making your own coffee in the morning to save money–you are saving up for that computer, or furniture, or car or house. It gives you more of an incentive to make the sacrifice.
In the weight-loss scenario, it makes it easier to give up the one or two things that are contributing to your weight gain and swap them for healthier options, just to make that two-pound weight loss for the week.
So, try ditching those nebulous resolutions and instead set yourself some S.M.A.R.T goals in February and see if you don’t stick to them this time around.
As for my resolution this year, I kept it very simple and attainable. On a quest for the healthiest possible diet, I have researched quite a few of them. While they might differ on other nutrients, every single one of them says to eat more leafy greens. So my goal is to eat leafy greens every day this year, and for the rest of my life. So far so good!
Best of luck to you in reaching for your new S.M.A.R.T, goals and making some positive changes in your life this year!
Victoria Rolfe has had a love of gardening all her life, from the time she was a tiny child coveting the daffodils growing in her neighbor’s yard (and wondering why she couldn’t have them in her own), to her teenage years when she took her pot experimentation in a different direction by growing the seeds she extracted from the bag into a beautiful marijuana plant on her bedroom windowsill. She went on in her adult years to feed her family by growing a huge and bountiful vegetable garden, as well as beautifying her three-acre property with an array of ornamental trees, bushes and flowers in the magnificent Hudson Valley region of New York.
Victoria learned a great deal in the process of all this plant experimentation. She then added to that knowledge by taking courses with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to become a Master Gardener Volunteer. In her volunteer capacity, she helps to educate the public on gardening through classes and information booths, most notably at the Dutchess County N.Y. Fair each August. Throughout the summer months, Victoria is most likely to be found among the weeds, either in her own garden or those of others who actually pay her to play in their dirt and do the thing she loves best, delight in the magical world of gardening.
Victoria is not only a gardening aficionado; she is also passionate about helping people live a better life on less money. Visit her website and blog at brightfuture2budget4.weebly.com, or email her at email@example.com.