New School Year, New Resolutions

college student financial goalsAh, autumn.  That wonderful time of year when the leaves change color, football takes over the television for five uninterrupted months and students head back to school.

Alright, it’s not actually autumn, it’s August.  It’s still summer outside, and more of the country is watching grass turn brown than observing the leaves transitioning to orange.  School is starting, though, and you’ve probably already gone through a lot of the rituals that accompany a new school year, so you may be in a back-to-school mood.

Here’s a tradition you might not have tried: Have you made a new school year’s resolution?

We’re not talking about those promises you make to yourself every year about doing homework on Friday nights or not wearing sweatpants to class.  Have you made a resolution for this year that you actually intend to keep?

Now is the perfect time to make a change, while you’ve got a new planner just waiting to have milestones and goals written into it.  We’ve got some tips to aid you in keeping your resolution this school year.

Be Specific
First, set a clear goal.  Goals are only as useful as they are attainable, and goals are only attainable if they’re clearly articulated.  For example, “I want to eat better” is an admirable goal, but it’s difficult to figure out if you’ve actually done it or how that affects your decisions.  Eating two cookies is better than three, for example, but would you have eaten three cookies before?

That’s why it’s important to be specific. Instead of saying, “I want to be better with money so I won’t need to eat toast sandwiches at the end of the month,” try making a resolution like “I won’t date freshmen” or “I will set a budget every month.”

You can tell if you’ve set a budget even if you don’t always do a good job of following it.  Having a tangible goal gives you freedom as well.  Are you being good with your money if you buy a latte every once in a while?  Who can tell?  But if you have a budget, you can clearly see when you can afford a latte, and what else you might have to give up to get it.

Be Realistic
You also need to keep the goal simple enough so it is achievable.  “I’m going to work out for two hours every day” sounds great … for about a week.  Then it sounds like a hassle.  What do you do for two hours every day that you’re willing to give up?  Sleep? Homework? Xbox?

An easy to achieve resolution might be something like “I will spend Monday afternoons cleaning,” or “I’ll save $1,000 to put a down payment on a car within a year.”  Saving $1,000 might sound harder than working out, but it’s really not.  Put $85 per month away for a year or $43 per month for two years.  Even if you make minimum wage, $43 is only about one day’s salary each month.

Be Diligent
It’s easy to fool yourself into believing you’re living up to your resolutions.  Skipping desert for a week might make you feel like you’re on the path to losing weight.  But without counting calories or taking stock of your BMI, it’s impossible to know for sure.  Maybe you’re indulging elsewhere to reward your desert diligence.  Or slacking on workouts because you’ve been eating better.

That’s why you need a concrete, measurable system that keeps you accountable.  Put your goals in writing.  Then set time-based milestones that you can refer back to regularly to see if you’re hitting your targets — for example, a daily calorie goal or an objective to pay off your credit card balance by the end of the month.

And don’t be afraid to revise your resolutions based upon actual results.  If your goals have you stretched a little thin, adjust down to something that’s more attainable.  Small victories keep you from getting overly discouraged or burned out too early.

Similarly, a resolution should be the catalyst that helps you change behavior.  If it’s no sweat to reach your goals, you might want to consider ramping-up the difficulty level to keep you challenged and engaged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *