With the start of the new year, I thought I'd attempt making and - more important - sticking to some financial resolutions.
According to a Fidelity Financial Resolutions study, 52 percent of Americans listed "saving more money" as their top resolution. Paying off debt and spending less came in second and third.
I am among that 52 percent.
My big-picture financial goals for this year are to pay off my credit card by July 31 and to save at least $1,500 by Dec. 31 (paying off said credit card will help).
Sounds pretty good, eh?
Our goals are always lofty at the first of the year but often fall by the wayside as our excitement fades or we face challenges.
Statisticbrain.com says only 8 percent of Americans who regularly make resolutions actually meet their goals.
Psychology experts say breaking down resolutions into realistic mini-goals, and telling people about them to create accountability, will boost our chances of success. Setting specific goals helps as well.
Replacing vague goals to "save money" with specific goals to save, for example, $1,500 by the end of the year, gives us more of a focus.
For the tech-savvy, there are tons of apps - and many of them are free - to help us reach our goals.
For example, you can set up an account on Mint.com and access and track your budget and spending from computer or smartphone.
There are also investment apps such as Betterment and countless coupon apps that allow you to store coupons for your favorite stores on your smartphone.
Don't forget smart-shopping apps like CompareMe, which allows you to compare products and prices to find the best deal.
Gotta love the digital age.
To reach my goals this year, I have made a list of 12 monthly resolutions that will help me succeed.
At the beginning of each month, I will post a blog reminder of what the goal is for that month (feel free to join me at any time).
At month's end, I will post a blog entry about whether I accomplished that goal or not, how I did it or what got in the way, and tips.
I'd love to hear your resolutions, tips and experiences.
The Centsible Mom blog can be found at azstarnet.com/centsiblemom
For help making financial resolutions for yourself, Fidelity.com has a really cool month-by-month list as well. Just do a search for "Keep your resolutions in 2013."
2013 Monthly goals
Here they are, my resolutions, in ink and delivered in a newspaper that reaches 355,610 readers. That's some serious accountability.
January: Get organized and track spending. I think I'll try Mint.com, since it's so convenient.
February: After tracking all expenses in January, I will be able to see where we can cut expenses and make a budget. I will also start paying myself before paying the bills. Experts say if you don't put your savings aside before paying everybody else, you won't do it. In order to do this, I will have $20 per payday automatically deposited into a savings account before I even see my check. It's not much, but it's more than I'm doing now.
Also, get back on track with diet and exercise in order to lose 20 pounds and qualify for insurance incentive reimbursement by October.
March: Organize the taxes. Get W-2 forms, paperwork and receipts together to get taxes done on time.
April: Make coffee at home rather than buying it on the way to work to save about $40 a month. Also, change A/C filters and get the house ready for summer.
May: Bring lunch to work at least three times a week to save about $45 a month. Increase automatic deposit amount to reflect that savings.
June: Start back-to-school shopping to avoid buying everything at once.
July: Make final credit card payment. This will save about $40 a month for the remainder of the year.
August: Challenge myself to make a month of healthy meals for the family with a $200 budget.
September: In honor of National Coupon Month, I'll challenge myself to save at least $50 at the grocery store. I think we'll do something fun on the blog for this month. Who's up for a coupon challenge?
October: Get health screening to get reimbursed for weight loss and qualify for next year's incentive. That will be $420 in our bank account.
November: Re-evaluate insurance policies and make changes as necessary. Bankrate.com suggests double- checking auto, home and life insurance policies to make sure you're getting the best deal relative to coverage levels. It says this is one of the best ways to save money over time.
December: Be done with Christmas shopping by Dec. 10.
Set next year's goals.
If I do this right, I'll exceed my goal, and save $1,830.
Arizona Daily Star reporter Angela Pittenger, our "Centsible Mom," shares tips, ideas and news about how Tucson consumers can find value and stretch their budgets. Send suggestions, ideas or questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4137.