Stick to financial plan in 2012

We’re rolling into the new year with high hopes that it will be a great one. We’ve already drafted our list of “money must-do’s” and encourage you to do the same. However, making that list is a far cry from seeing it through. With that in mind, we’ve come up with three practical tips to help your resolutions become reality and not roadkill.

Have a plan with a vision. Whether you’re intent on spending less, paying off debt or achieving another goal, you should have a written plan. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be obvious – tape it to the refrigerator, your closet door, or wherever it can be a constant reminder of your goals. Then create your personal vision of that success. Maybe it’s staring at your dream home, standing on the green, or just going to the mailbox with absolute certainty that nothing scary awaits. A little imagery can go a long way.

Reward yourself along the way, and report up. No matter the task, a singular focus without a break can spell disaster. You’ve been there before – a binge of sweets after weeks of dieting, or a shopping spree that sinks months of frugality. Instead, include some modest “atta boys” along the way. Got that first credit card paid off? Celebrate the success with dinner out with your spouse or a friend. In fact, your spouse or friend may make the ideal accountability partner. Whether you’re watching what you eat or trying to exercise more, knowing someone will be there to give you a pat on the back or a kick on the backside when you need one is helpful.

Set achievable goals. Be realistic. In many cases it may be a multiyear endeavor, but one of the quickest ways to ensure failure is to set goals that are nothing but a dream. That leads to feeling discouraged, and ultimately throwing in the towel. The only way to eat that elephant is one bite at a time.