The road to healthy financial behavior #4: good intentions

By Jessica Ruelens

With the first month of the year behind us, it’s time to take stock of your New Year’ resolutions. There is absolutely no need to give up on them already! With these thinking and doing exercises you too can get to work with a sense of purpose and really turn your resolutions for this year into actions.

Tips & Tricks by CEBUD

A goal without a plan is just a wish 

Did you also make a list of good intentions for 2021? Do you remember what you accomplished of your good intentions from last year or did you already forget them in February? 2021 will be different! With these thinking and doing exercises, you too will be able to get started on your goals and turn this year’s resolutions into actions. Ready, set, go!

Step 1: Dream a little dream …

Dreaming is free, but executing them often costs money, unfortunately. First of all, make your dream concrete. What do you want to change in your life, and what does that have to do with money? What goals do you have and what steps do you need to take to achieve them? Choose a challenging but achievable goal. If you have a limited income or high fixed costs, it is not so useful to think that you can save an extra 3,000 euros in a year. If you can’t manage to save 250 euros each month in the first few months, chances are you’ll throw in the towel. So be realistic! 

Preferably choose something that you can (partially) achieve in the shorter term. See it as a big stick. In five years enough savings to go on a trip around the world? Chances are you’ll keep postponing that goal or change course halfway through. In that case, break your dream down into pieces and set intermediate goals. 

Think about how you can track your progress. Can you visualize that, with pictures, a video, checklists, spreadsheets or cash flow statements? Seeing where you came from, where you want to go, and how you’ve already moved forward will give you extra motivation. 

Step 2: Why do you want to achieve this goal?  

Also, reflect on the end result. Why is it important and why do you want to achieve it? Do you want to save for a big purchase, a trip around the world or for greater peace of mind? Are you putting away a piggy bank for your children or are you already preparing for your retirement? Do you want to start your own business? Are you going to stand on your own two feet and want to get a handle on your income and spending? 

Imagine what your life will be like when you have achieved this goal. What will be different? How will that affect you? How will that change the life you are living now? If you have a difficult moment or feel that your efforts are not paying off, think back to this as well. This may motivate you to persevere. 

Step 3: Life as an obstacle course?

Surely it’s not the first time you’ve made a good intention. Why did things not work out before? Maybe there are certain situations that tempted you. Maybe you find it difficult to leave habitual behavior behind or you have a hard time persevering. Identify the obstacles you anticipate and write them all down. 

Step 4: I love it when a plan comes together

Now you can make a plan. What steps are needed to reach your goal? Make concrete plans, also taking into account the expected obstacles. So consider in advance what you will do if you are faced with such an obstacle. Formulate your plans best in the form of an IF… THEN… intention. “If I am tempted to buy another pair of shoes again, I will wait a day before doing so.” Compare it to saying no to an appointment you don’t feel like going to: if you’ve thought of an excuse beforehand, it’s much easier to do that too. You will see that you can also resist temptation more easily or turn around difficult situations if you know in advance what you can do. 

Step 5: Don’t give up!

You know what you want to achieve and why that is so important, you know what obstacles to expect and how you will deal with them. Then all that’s left is to do it. Easy like sunday morning! 

You will notice that even then it is not always easy to stick to your resolutions and not to fall into habitual behavior. So don’t be too hard on yourself either. You can expect to have a relapse at some point, make a decision out of habit or because you can’t resist the temptation. Learn from it! Why couldn’t you stick to your resolution and how can you avoid it next time? 

Build in the occasional reward. Think of it as a piece of cake for those on a diet or a lazy Sunday for those who want to exercise more. You’ll see that you’ll be able to stick with it better then.

Rules of thumb for effectively carrying out your resolutions:

– Know what you want to accomplish and why. 🍰
– Map out what obstacles you expect and how you will address them. 
– Do! 
– Don’t be too hard on yourself and foresee occasional rewards.  
– What one writes down, stays. On our website you will find a handy worksheet that will guide you through these steps. 
– Goal completed! Piece of Cake 😉