Developing healthy money habits is a worthwhile throughout every month and season. Nevertheless, as in so many other areas of life, the New Year presents a perfect symbolic opportunity to commit—or, perhaps, recommit—yourself to the sort of personal financial fitness program that will make it easier to achieve many of your short- and long-term life goals.
And if you want that resolution to stick, don’t make the mistake of attempting to go it alone: Research shows that people who attempted to develop a physical exercise plan were more successful if they had a friend doing it with them. Similarly, you are more likely to succeed in your goal of saving more or spending less with the help of a financial fitness buddy or accountability partner.
While, for example, Joseph Hogue, a Chartered Financial Analyst from PeerFinance101, now earns passive income and saves diligently for retirement, he attributes much of his success to the self-awareness he gained from a soliciting the perspective of a trusted friend.
“I was on the financial equivalent of yo-yo dieting, saving every penny only to burn out and go on spending sprees, before a friend of mine called me on it,” Hogue recalled. “I never would have realized my financial failing if they hadn't shaken me out of my habit.”
Here’s how to find your own financial fitness buddy and create a system for success:
What You Need in a Buddy
Transparency is one of the most important elements you should look for in a financial fitness buddy, according to Jon Dulin of MoneySmartGuides:
“You either need to have a conversation with them to understand how they handle money or just pay close attention to their behavior and be honest with yourself,” he said.
Remember, if your buddy isn’t as dedicated as you are—or if they aren’t comfortable calling you out when you veer off track—you might miss the opportunity altogether. So be sure to find someone who’s as committed to a constructive financial routine as you are.
How to Find a Financial Fitness Buddy
Looking for a place to begin your financial fitness buddy search? You have a few different options.
First, you could ask someone close to you—a friend or even your spouse. If you go the latter route, trying arranging budget “dates,” during which you get coffee and discuss your shared finances. Doing this regularly can strengthen your relationship as well as your money habits.
On the other hand, if you think you’ll feel more comfortable being candid with a financial fitness buddy who isn’t closely connected to you, there are a variety of Facebook groups and online forums devoted to personal finance resolutions. Some offer matching services for accountability partners. If yours doesn’t simply ask if anyone’s interested in partnering with you.
Another tip: In some cities, community centers might offer financial classes—a great place to find a like-minded buddy who is serious about making real change.
How to Create a System for Accountability
One of the best ways to communicate with an accountability partner is to create a firm time that you’ll speak every week. This regular check-in can keep you on track and prevent you from losing steam.
A shared document via Google Docs or similar system where you share updates and track progress can also be an effective tool and motivator. And be willing to adapt as life happens: During busy times, chatting via text message or another chat program such as Slack can be more beneficial than sending an email that might sit unread in your buddy’s inbox for days.
As you undertake this journey, pause occasionally to celebrate your victories. Set up a system of rewards or incentives. Each person might have their own preferred perk—say a trip to the movies or a dinner out with friends. Acknowledging the small wins can keep you more motivated to stick to your goal, even when you’re feeling discouraged.