The new year is a few weeks old, how are your financial resolutions going?
Nearly three out of five Australians set New Year's resolutions to do with money and four out of five have financial goals, ANZ research suggests. Our desire for change is strong but follow-through is often trickier.
Just under half of Australians admit they are not doing everything they can to achieve their goals and often we can barely remember our resolutions by the time February rolls around.
So why the disconnect?
RMIT University Professor Roslyn Russell offers some insight: "It's great to set a goal but if they are not achievable, if they are not meaningful, if we don't have a plan in order to reach the goal then other things are going to divert us from our intentions."
No need to fall off the wagon completely. Check out these ways to give your resolutions more stickability.
Focus on what you have achieved: you've made a decision to be more in control of your money. That's a great start, Russell says. Some of us don't even get that far.
Russell's research shows people often have to hit rock-bottom before they take action.
Financial literacy educator Larissa Zimmerman has a great suggestion for people struggling to set a financial goal. She talks to them about their hobbies and shows them how they can bring those skills into play in their financial world.
She points to one woman who took up salsa dancing. "In the beginning she felt like a klutz," she says. She found it confusing and thought she might not persist. Two years later: "She can do it with her eyes closed and without stepping on her partner's toes."
The experience she gained from getting out of her comfort zone, improving with practice and the fun of dancing with someone else can all be translated into money management.
Focus on what's important to you
Sometimes our goals have a big "should" behind them, rather than truly expressing our desires. "One of my top tips is to make it meaningful and to make it your goal, not someone else's goal," Russell says.
Zimmerman connects people with what they really value before handing them a budgeting worksheet. She points to a Housing NSW client who attended one of her workshops. Getting clear on what he really valued in life - his estranged wife and children - and where his money was going helped him find the motivation to do life differently. "He got off the drugs, he got a job, he got back with his wife and now he's a wonderful father to his two girls."
It's also about being aware our financial wellbeing affects every other area of our lives, including our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Bring your goals alive
Zimmerman suggests a vision board may be a way to get in touch with your goals in a sensory way. A vision board is a poster with assorted images of the things you want to have, be or do.
"If you take the time and effort to cut out pictures or draw or paint you are engaging the different senses," Zimmerman says. "If you can visualise, even imagine what you will smell, when you achieve that goal you are going to be more motivated."
Have a plan
We've all heard the "cut out the cappuccino" method for achieving our financial goals. Russell is not a great believer in any approach that leaves people feeling deprived. She says you're more likely to achieve your goal if your plan includes things that give you happiness and pleasure along the way.
Go against the flow
Willpower may not be enough if you are swimming against beliefs in your family background, friendship circle or society. Zimmerman's father lived through the Depression and advised her "to make sure she always had a roof over her head and food on the table". She bought her first house at 21. But she came up against a subconscious limiting belief when trying to build a business. In her family people in business were despised. "If I succeeded in business, I would lose my father's love."
Russell says women often have a "hatred" of money because it represents pain or conflict in their family history, adding being aware of these influences is the first step towards change.
Get help and carry on
Russell urges people to use the fresh year to review their finances and take advantage of resources such as ASIC's Moneysmart website and ANZ's Money Minded program. "There is so much gained from [getting on top of your money]."
How a 'vision board' helped Brigitte achieve her goals
About six years ago Sydneysider Brigitte Perik created a vision board to capture her desires - big and small - for her life. On it she piled pictures of everything from yoga classes to travel to Dubai and cruises, a Porsche, a house and a strong marriage and family relationships.
She says about 80 per cent of her desires have become reality, including the Porsche, and sometimes in unpredictable ways, such as a cruise last year.
Challenges with a supplier in her husband's business led to a decision to make a switch. "The new supplier had the cruise as a reward," she says.
Last year she and her husband bought a new house in 24 hours and an architect is now designing their dream home.
Why did it work? "My take on vision boards was not just to get some pictures and look at them every day but to have a look at where my values, beliefs, goals all came into play with making the vision board actually happen," Brigitte says.
"A vision board is based on the concept of what you focus on expands ... so it's a matter of finding what you want in your life and keeping it in your focus. The unconscious mind works differently to the conscious. It sees and hears things that sometimes we don't consciously perceive."
She learned to set SMART goals that were specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and had a timeframe and tackled an ingrained belief that "money is evil".
Through training to be a neuro-linguistic programming coach she has a better relationship with money and is more involved in family financial decisions. "I've been able to change my values to be able to accept that money is a good thing and that has made the biggest difference."
Her tips are to write down your goals and have a plan but realise there is more than one way to achieve it.
"Just be open to things happening in a different way to what you expect."