Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.
There’s no bad time for setting goals. However, there is a universally agreed-upon good time, and that’s the beginning of the year. Not only does the swapping of calendars provide a literal clean slate, but the need to get back on track after a busy, expensive, fattening holiday season provides strong motivation.
Unfortunately, the fire you feel in your belly on January 1st will flame out by January 10th if you don’t solidify your objectives, creating a plan that will help you accomplish what you set out to do. Anyone can have a goal, but only those who can figure out a roadmap leading from goal setting to goal fulfillment accomplish what they want.
My business and passion is helping people make their dreams come true, so I get a little excited around this time of year. For a brief moment in time, everyone else is as hyped up about goals as I am all year round. During January (and sometimes even into February!), I get to talk about lofty resolutions and then start pinpointing specific ways to turn those ideas into realities.
While New Year’s resolutions run the gamut of wishes and wants, I’m going to discuss three main categories: Finance, Fitness, and the Future. I’ll throw out some broad ideas and some specific tools. By the end of the article, you should know at least a few steps you can take to get started on your new goals for the new year.
I have a friend who works for You Need A Budget (YNAB, more on that company in a moment), and she says the company has to hire seasonal reps from late December through February for the hoards of new users looking to wrangle in their spending and become better budgeters. Every year, without fail, people become much more committed to their financial health, with high hopes for spending less, saving more, and increasing their earnings. This year I’m hoping you can tackle all three, and I’m hoping you’ll stick to it for more than just a couple months.
Of course, it’s not as easy as just declaring that you will spend less while earning and saving more. You have to target specific ways in which you’ll do those things. Especially with financial goals, it’s important to start small; do something that will allow you to see results and inspire you to keep the effort up.
The aforementioned YNAB is a great tool for assigning a job to every dollar you earn and cutting back on frivolous spending. The software uses a zero-based budgeting strategy, so it’s very clear when you’re trying to buy something you can’t actually afford. If you feel like you could use some assistance with tracking and planning how you spend, this is a solid option.
That said, a budgeting app can’t tell you how to spend less. It’s your job to figure out what you paid for in 2019 that you should stop paying for in 2020. This takes a lot of willpower, as you might have to downgrade the vehicle you’re leasing or cut yourself off from ordering delivery for a while. Most of the areas in which we overspend are hiding in plain sight, perceived by us to be necessary expenditures when they really are not.
Some fees, however, are hiding in the recesses of your credit and debit card statements, casually stealing a few dollars from you each month without delivering much in return. We get bombarded by services and subscriptions all day long, and eventually end up paying for things that we don’t remember signing up for. Ages ago, I spent a year paying AOL for internet service I didn’t use because I didn’t know I’d signed up for it. I’m sure some of you have similar stories, though perhaps not from such a dated internet provider.
In any case, Truebill is an excellent solution to your subscription problems. This is an app designed to save you from your past self, with software designed to help you in a handful of ways:
● Cancel subscriptions
● Generate spending reports
● Lower bills
● Set savings goals
The first feature is the foundation of the app, needling through your different accounts to find your recurring bills and seeing if any of them can go. Most people find something they didn’t know they were paying for each month. In other cases, seeing all your subscriptions lined up makes you realize you can do without at least a few of them.
It’s a little embarrassing to find out you’ve been paying for something you don’t use or need, and lots of people react by ignoring it, not wanting to confront the problem and admit they’ve been wasting money. Obviously, that means the money wasting will continue. Handing the reins over to Truebill makes the canceling process easier, but it also puts someone in your corner, reducing the shame a little bit.
With unwanted subscription services off the books, Truebill has a few other things to offer. The reports give you a snapshot of your spending habits, providing useful metrics as you try to figure out why you’re spending more than you’re earning. Truebill can also negotiate lower prices on things like cell phone and cable bills, scouring the web to see what deals are available and making sure you don’t pay top dollar when a cheaper option exists.
All these features feed into the savings assistance, as Truebill helps you set goals and then helps you reach them. Each feature of the app has stand-alone value, but when used together this simple tool can make a big difference with your financial wellbeing.
Buying fewer things doesn’t immediately translate into more savings. You still have to make smart decisions with the leftover funds to ensure that saving money doesn’t immediately turn back into spending money.
Setting separate savings goals can send shivers down the spine of someone already feeling a little strapped for cash, but it’s the only way to keep money from appearing as though it’s without purpose and eventually just getting spent. You need an emergency fund, a retirement account, personal savings and investment savings. If you lump all your savings together, you won’t really be covering any of the necessary categories.
With that in mind, I want to plug a couple sites that make saving and investing easier. I’ve written about Betterment before and have a full review of the site that you can check out to get some in-depth reporting. Betterment remains one of my favorite robo advisors for people who know they need a retirement account but don’t have the mental bandwidth to think about the strategy. You’ll have your investments curated by a fiduciary with your best interests in mind, and there’s no per-trade charge that wastes your money while lining the broker’s pockets.
Another online investment option is Webull, a savvy site that makes individual brokerage accounts supremely easy. The founders are all about tech and individual choice, using their platform to make investmenting quick and painless for users. And, in a rare turn of events, convenience doesn’t cost extra because Webull doesn’t charge a commission. They make money through back-end revenue streams so the company can’t get rich by simply gouging its clients.
Webull allows for stock, ETF and ADR trading, with options trading on the horizon. You can also open a traditional or Roth IRA through the site if you want to keep your money management tools in one place. With no commission concerns and no minimum balance to start, you can easily get a Webull account up and running as soon as you wake up on New Year’s morning.
The ever-simple third option: make more money. You can’t just snap your fingers and get a better paycheck, but you can snap your fingers and decide you want to take charge and earn a bigger paycheck.
Many of you should get paid more than what you currently do, and a quick talk with your employer would address that. Bosses aren’t always proactive with paying workers what they’re worth, and a little push can get the job done more often than you might expect. If you aren’t sure how to broach the subject, sit down with a friend or relative and fake your way through the conversation. If you some prep work, you’ll land on a method that feels comfortable.
If you feel like you’re in a dead-end job, you very well might be. Welcome to 2020, the year where you discover what you love and make it a bigger part of your life. Happiness should be a mainstay goal, so anyone trying to make and save money while working a soul-crushing job has bigger New Year’s decisions to make. Maybe it’s time to go back to school or hop into the gig economy. Find that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing but never had the time or courage and start coming up with ways you can take action on it.
Everyone knows the saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I will say some days still feel like work, but it’s work worth doing. I’d also add that if you love what you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful and generate more income, because you’ll enjoy putting in the effort.
It might sound inconceivable at first, but there’s a dream job waiting for you. If you want to find it, you need to start looking.
How are the holiday love handles treating you? Mine are in the middle of their annual visit and I’m hoping they won’t stay too long. I hate it when they overstay their welcome.
If you’re one of the millions of people that joins a gym, yoga studio, or workout group at the beginning of each year and cancels the membership by March, you’re in great company. Frankly, it’s better that you at least get a month of consistent exercise each year as opposed to none at all.
I believe we’ve all got our own path to fitness, and the hardest part of the struggle is trying to engage in a routine that doesn’t motivate you. Some people thrive on endurance training and repetition. Others need a lot of variety to keep their brain interested. In 2020, your goal shouldn’t simply be to “get fit,” but to find a fitness routine you enjoy.
While audiobooks aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about exercise, listening while I walk or run has been a game changer for me. Since I’m not going to have a narrator chatting away in my ears while I’m at home or work, I listen while I’m on the move. When I’m in the middle of a book I like, I find myself getting excited about the next day’s jog just because I want to get back into the story.
If you haven’t used Audible before, it’s a great source of audio titles and lets you start with a free trial so you can see how much you enjoy it. The collection is massive and you can find a ton of original content that’s exclusive to Audible. If you’ve tried running while listening to podcasts or music and don’t feel like it’s working, try playing a book through your earbuds. If you aren’t sure where to start, get some books that might help with those financial goals!
Picture yourself in 2020, jogging along as you listen to a book that will help you put your money to work, literally moving toward better fitness and better finances. Audible might not be an exercise app, but it could be the key to how you get in shape.
It’s funny how we go through life knowing that too many calories will add inches to our midsection, and yet I’m guessing most of you couldn’t tell me how many calories is too many.
Calorie counting isn’t the secret to a healthy diet, but it’s a quick way to prove to yourself that you’re overeating and see which foods you need to cut out of your meal plan. The Lose It! app makes it easy to track your consumption and set goals that will dictate what you eat and when. Throughout it all, you’ll get educated about which foods are more fattening than others. Turns out fruits and vegetables are healthy while a few slices of pizza isn’t particularly good for you. Who knew?!?
One of my favorite features of the Lose It! app is how you can earn extra calories each day by inputting your exercise. The longer you run in the morning, the better your chances of getting that pizza without ruining your diet plan. And, while you have a calorie limit for each day, the software tracks your weekly progress so if you shovel a pint of ice cream into your mouth on a Tuesday, you can eat nothing but grapefruit and celery on Wednesday and get things back on course.
While the New Year has you a little extra motivated, downloaded a fitness app and see if you can get in the habit of using it. If you adopt the routine and keep it going, you might continue getting in shape throughout the year and fitness won’t even be a concern in 2021.
Take a minute to think about the past few Januaries. If you’re about to declare, “This is the year!” for the third straight year without seeing any fundamental changes, you might need to take a look at the bigger picture.
We talked about changing careers and goals with regard to earning potential in the first section, but the root of your monotony might not be professional. Ignoring your job for a second, what is it you want? Do you want to travel? Raise a family? Spend all day with dogs? Become an inventor? Run for office? Think of the most outlandish thing you want, the dream that seems most unachievable: what would it look like if you tried to make it happen?
The problem with our craziest dreams isn’t that they can’t be realized, it’s that we don’t know how to bring them to fruition. Having not walked the path before, you don’t know how to get from grad student to CEO or retail worker to elected official. Fortunately, no one knows how to make these transformations until after the fact. There will be bumps in the road and plenty of moments of failure, but you can only figure out how to reach your goals by moving toward them.
That’s why the New Year is a perfect time to take a small step toward whatever dream you’ve been keeping at bay. Want to start a company? Go get coffee with a small business owner and pick their brain. Want to run for an elected post? Sit in on a city council member and talk to someone afterwards. Want to start a travel blog? Write an article about the last place you went and then get some feedback. The first step is easy to take, the hard part is convincing yourself to take it. Once you get comfortable outside your comfort zone, you’ll start seeing opportunities in every direction.
You can absolutely make this year better than the last, and you can get more out of your resolutions this year than you have in the past. Instead of setting lofty goals with no idea how you’ll accomplish them, find a new activity or service that lets you take immediate action. Whether it’s Webull, Lose It!, Audible, or any other app, a simple service can make a big difference when used the right way.
From all of us at Go Far With Kovar, we wish you and yours a Happy New Year and an amazingly prosperous 2020!