Each January, Americans forfeit financial stability to fund ambitious New Year’s resolutions.
Fitness centers, online dating sites and membership-only clubs capitalize on that renewed ambition, upping their advertising efforts and offering “limited time only” discounts. The average patron will shell out anywhere from $25 to $200 on typical New Year’s resolutions, such as losing weight, learning a new skill or finding love, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Unfortunately, these fix-it purchases often result in unused pairs of brand-new Nikes and a monthly Rosetta Stone bill for the Spanish class you’re actively skipping.
As the poster-generation for crippling student loan debt and dismal entry-level wages, we can’t afford to fall victim to the lure of an often expensive fresh start.
Let’s leave the impulsive spending to those who aren’t financially bound to the Ramen Noodle diet. Consider these five tips and choose a pragmatic resolution for 2016:
The advice of Harvard econ professor and Princeton psychology professor? Do less in 2016.
In Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir’s book, “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” the two professors argue that a perceived scarcity of time changes your perception of how much work you can get done. Essentially, taking on too much in the new year can lead to a packed schedule, pushed deadlines and ultimately abandoning your resolution altogether.
Instead, underestimate the time and effort you’re willing to commit. Putting less on your plate will free up your schedule and enable you to focus long-term, which is what you want when committing to year-long goals.
2. Don’t Make Any Game-Time Decisions
George Loewenstein, an esteemed behavioral economist, argues that human understanding is “state dependent.” This means that we’re more likely to misrepresent our future abilities when we are in “hot” or “cold” states, such as joy, love, anger or hatred. It’s basically like being drunk on emotion.
An example of a “hot state”? The start of a new year. Wait for the joyous end-of-the-year fog to lift before committing to any ambitious New Year’s resolutions; your wallet will thank you.
3. Be Realistic
Promising to save money and pay off your student debt when you already have five trips abroad planned is setting yourself up for failure.
It’s essential to be realistic about what is feasible time-wise, schedule-wise and money-wise if you want to be successful in the new year. Looking at what lies ahead will allow you to choose a pragmatic resolution complete with a realistic plan of attack.
4. Create Accountability
To be a part of the depressingly small share of people who actually achieve their New Year’s goals (just 8 percent), you have to find a foolproof way to hold yourself accountable.
Try promising yourself small rewards for hitting predetermined milestones or vocalizing your goal to a trusted friend – you’ll feel more pressure to accomplish it if someone else knows about it. Penning a short “mission statement” for your goal is also a great way to refocus in a pinch of frustration.
You may also have to rearrange your schedule in order to make your goal a priority. For example, a goal of eating healthy may require getting up 20 minutes earlier to make a nutritious and healthy breakfast; running out the door with a Poptart won’t cut it.
5. Focus on the Long-Term
As humans, we’re constantly searching for an answer to the question, “How does this benefit me?” But sticking to a goal requires forfeiting instant gratification for long-term success.
For example, skipping your afternoon workout to run errands may make the most sense on a busy day. But, prioritizing the daily minutia will ultimately derail you from your end goal of losing weight.
Tuning out this knee-jerk reaction is unnatural but necessary to keep your eye on the prize. Make your resolution the long-term benefit that trumps all.
Have you ever been able to stick to a New Year’s resolution? Share your tips in the comments below or catch up with us on Facebook. Happy New Year!