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Sticking with your financial resolutions

1/1/2015, 6 a.m.
With the New Year underway, there is a heavy focus around resolutions.
Whether you are making a resolution to celebrate a fresh start or looking to make a change no matter the time of year, maintaining resolutions can be difficult.

— With the New Year underway, there is a heavy focus around resolutions. Whether you are making a resolution to celebrate a fresh start or looking to make a change no matter the time of year, maintaining resolutions can be difficult. In fact, a recent survey from Bank of America found that 49 percent of respondents don’t make New Year’s resolutions because they prefer to set goals throughout the year.

Goals tied to the New Year, and those set at various points in the year, are all aimed at making significant life changes. According to the survey, 81 percent of resolutions involve health and fitness, 45 percent involve personal finances and 30 percent are targeted toward making changes in social life and relationships. With the large number of people planning to make changes in their finances, it is helpful to determine how to best ensure you achieve your goal.

Research shows that consumers who understand their behaviors and motivations are more likely to build and keep positive habits for the long term. That’s why it’s so important to have strategies to keep those financial resolutions throughout the year. A few pointers to stick with your financial resolutions include:

Prepare before your resolution begins: Putting thought into your resolutions before you spring into action can put you on the path to change. Starting early with a few small changes can also improve your odds of staying the course to achieve your goals.

Develop an action plan: It’s fine to make a resolution, but the odds of sticking with it improve dramatically if you create an action plan of smaller steps to support your goals. Creating a budget? Start by tracking your spending to see where the money is going. Then create a budget that’s tight but workable, to give you more flexibility to pay down debt, increase savings or invest for retirement. If have to carry a balance, but want to responsibly manage your credit card, consider a card that helps build positive habits. For example, Bank of America’s Better Balance Rewards card pays you to manage your credit card use. Every quarter that you pay more than your minimum balance on time, you earn $25 cash back. If you have at least one other qualifying account with Bank of America, you can receive another $5 bonus, totaling up to $30 a quarter. You’ll be eligible for up to $120 a year toward your balance, and you’ll feel better knowing how much you can spend each month.

Write it down: Forty percent of survey respondents say they use written reminders to help stay on track with their resolutions. Try writing your resolutions on Post-it notes, in Evernote, in calendar reminders or on notes stuck to the refrigerator— whatever you’ll look at regularly— to keep yourself committed and on track.

Get a little help from your friends: Sometimes a gentle reminder from a family member or friend can work wonders. Share your resolutions with a trusted person and ask for occasional reminders.

Partner up: Find a friend or loved one with the same resolution and agree to motivate and support one another to stick to your goals. It’s easier to manage a diet, exercise plan or budget if you have support. Twenty percent of respondents plan to partner up to keep to their resolutions.

Start your New Year’s resolutions thinking today, and keep the big goals in mind every day, whether they aim for better health, sounder finances or better relationships. With the right attitude and commitment, 2014 could be a very good year.