Illustration of the start of a New Year's resolution list surrounded by six pictures in circles: an apple with a milk carton, a person walking outside, a person riding a bike, a book, a small picture of a piggy bank, and a small picture of a dumbbell.

Set Sights on Smaller Resolutions for 2021

After a tough 2020, making New Year’s resolutions might seem daunting. By shifting your perspective and giving yourself some grace, you can set smaller, attainable goals to keep yourself on track in 2021.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager
Published Dec 31, 2020 in: Budgeting

Read time: 4 minutes

If you're a resolution maker, New Year's is usually an exciting, hopeful time. But with the challenges of COVID-19 as a backdrop, it might be tough to dig into this goal-setting tradition with your usual enthusiasm.

We chatted with BECU Financial Health Check Supervisor Cea Burrough to help you get inspired and set you up for success in the coming year.

"A lot of people had a hard year in 2020, so thinking about resolutions for 2021 might be overwhelming," Burrough said. "But setting goals can help, even if they're small. They're encouraging and give you something to work toward and celebrate."

So, cut yourself some slack and try these tips for making a list that looks a little different this year.

Set Small Savings Goals

If there's a silver lining, Burrough thinks it's that 2020 highlighted the importance of having an emergency fund. But committing to building the recommended three to six months of savings is a recipe for a broken resolution.

"Start with a micro-goal," Burrough said. "Maybe it's $100, then another $100. Choose an amount that feels comfortable for your budget and remember to take a moment to celebrate the achievement of each small step."

Once you're in a groove, Burrough recommends setting up automatic transfers into savings for your chosen amount and for as often as you're comfortable. After a few months, you'll be pleased to see how your savings account has grown.

Opt for a Pay Down Instead of a Payoff

If you're still carrying debt you meant to pay off in 2020, then 2021 is your year to chip away at it.

Focus on the credit card with the highest interest rate and commit to making more than the minimum payment. If you have several credit cards, paying off the one with the lowest balance could also be a good goal.

Remember, your situation is probably different this year. Setting attainable goals will make you more likely to stick with them.

Cut Back Without Cutting Out

Remember that auto-renewing online magazine subscription? If the answer is, "Nope," then it's probably a good time to cancel. If the answer is, "You mean the one I read with my child every night before bed?" that one is probably a keeper.

Comfort and joy are of great value, especially right now. Burrough recommends looking at your spending for opportunities to cut back but try not to deprive yourself of everything. 

Commit to Asking for Help

Burrough said the people who need the most help are often the least likely to ask for it.

"People who are really struggling don't feel like they have the energy to look at their finances," she said. "But there are services that can help identify opportunities to save, pay down debt and manage your budget. The first step is to make the call."

Because of COVID-19, many people have changed their spending habits, not eating out or spending money on their daily commute. Make a commitment to get professional guidance on how to best redirect your funds so that it makes financial sense for you.

Give Yourself a Break

Before you beat yourself up for not achieving your 2020 goals, remember the circumstances were different last New Year's. Chances are good you weren't planning with an upcoming pandemic in mind.

"I like to tell people to give themselves some grace," Burrough said.

Even if it looks a little different, 2021 is a new year, and you can make resolutions that match your situation and the time that we're in. So set a few smaller goals and pause to celebrate your achievements.

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Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager

Katie writes for BECU about personal finance and social justice topics. Her career spans reporting for newspapers and communicating on behalf of government agencies and private businesses. Learn about Katie's career and education on LinkedIn.