Not only is it the start of a new year, but it’s the start of a new decade. That takes setting New Year’s resolutions to a whole new level, or better yet, provides you with an opportunity to set New Decade’s resolutions. In any case, if you’re like 70% of Americans, you’re likely making a money-related New Year’s resolution, and if you’re like more than half of those making a money-related resolution, then it’s likely specific to saving more money. (1)

No matter what your money-related, or other, goals are this year, it doesn’t happen overnight (otherwise it likely would have already been done). Instead, it requires preparation, persistence and consistency to accomplish. No matter what your resolutions entail -- to lose weight, get fit, learn something new or to save money -- the same basic principle holds true. To hit your goal, you need to set yourself up for success. And to set yourself up for success, you need to set a SMART goal. No matter how ambitious or focused you are, without the appropriate goal in mind, you may never measure up. And by defining what your success looks like, you can see progress to be able to truthfully decide if you hit your goal or need to adjust.

After all, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, with most already busted by February. (2) So how can you defeat the odds? Set your eyes on the right prize. For example, you may have your mind set that you want to get fit this year. Nobody can argue that is a great intention, but the disconnect is whether that should be classified as your resolution. How can you decide if you’re fit or not? Although your image may look something like The Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger, that’s likely not realistic and you will fall short when you go to evaluate your results at the end of the year. Instead, you may set your goal to lose 15 pounds, run a half marathon or go to the gym 3 times a week (or all of the above!). At the end of the year, you won’t have a subjective bar to decide if it was a success or fail, but rather a straightforward rubric to gauge against.

Same idea is true for saving money. Your intention may be to save money, with a made-up image of a new car in the garage, student loans paid off and dream vacation booked – but that’s likely unrealistic. So how can you use this money-saving intention to accomplish a New Year’s resolution? Set yourself up for success by setting a SMART goal. Let’s break this down:

  • Specific: the difference between an image vs a goal is specificity. In other words, take the guess-work out of your intention and turn it into more of a checkbox. Did you do it, or not? The more specific the better to ensure you’re making progress on that intention track.
  • Measurable: how will you measure up and define success? Provide any data or metrics to hold you accountable.
  • Achievable: the goal needs to be realistic and not simply an unattainable “image.”
  • Relevant: this one should be a no-brainer. The goal should be relevant to you.
  • Timely: have a set deadline or timeline for your goal. Better yet, have milestones along the way to keep you on track.

If your New Year’s resolution is to “save money,” you’re not set up for success, yet. Instead, change that good intention into a SMART goal. Let’s look at 3 ways you can do this:

  • Example 1: put $100 away per month to save $1,200 minimum at the end of the year for an emergency fund.
  • Example 2: find side hustle by March to save $4,000 extra by end of the year to contribute to a down payment for a new home.
  • Example 3: put 5% of each paycheck aside for your wedding fund.

Of course your life and situation will determine how your SMART goal is crafted, but the key is to be specific on what your intention is, why it’s important to you and how you’ll accomplish it. The result? You can confidently claim if you’ve hit your goal at the end of the year. Or, you’ll know if you need to adjust it accordingly.

Although “saving more” is certainly a good intention, make this the year you take the extra step to make it a true New Year’s resolution. By doing so, you could beat the odds and be part of the small group who accomplish their goals. By doing so, you’ll begin to see real progress and can build on your success year over year. When the next decade comes, you may be that much closer to your image you had in your mind. As the meme goes: “My New Year’s resolution is to follow through with my New Year’s resolution.” By making your resolution SMART, you can make 2020 truly count.

ISU Credit Union has many savings options available to help meet you New Year's money savings goals!