We’re days away from a new year, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say ABOUT FUCKING TIME.
But with a new year comes a clean slate, and while I’m not one for lofty and unrealistic expectations of ways you should change yourself just because it’s January, if there’s ever been a need for a fresh start, surely this is it.
If you’re wanting to hit reset on your finances, here are five money mindset shifts to help you ring in 2021.
It’s okay to focus on happiness over progress
One thing I’ve really noticed about my spending since Melbourne came out of its 4.5 month second wave complete lockdown is that I’ve just not been ready to cut back on spending yet. Right now, my immediate happiness is more important than growing my savings balance, so I’ve been spending far more than normal because I’ve felt like I need to – and that’s okay.
When looking at your approach to spending for 2021, it’s okay to prioritise happiness over progress if you feel called to do so. A spending reset doesn’t have to mean ramping up saving and cutting back – though it can, if that’s where you’re at. Your 2021 reset might actually mean giving yourself more money to spend and less to save, because the past year has taught you what kind of life you want to lead. Of course I’m not suggesting we all go into debt just to have a good time. But, if you’re recalibrating your budget and feeling like you must save more and spend less because it’s a new year, remember you can prioritise happiness over progress.
Balance your current self with your future self
Something I want to focus on in 2021 is balancing looking after my current self with my future self. I’m a bit of a seasonal person and tend to have phases of certain types of behaviour, so I plan to try and mirror that in my spending plans by having chunks of time where I prioritise my future self by saving/investing more, and other times when I prioritise my current self by spending more.
Thinking about what that future self really looks like is helpful here. Scaling back social spending or going a little leaner on your groceries is much harder when you’re working towards an arbitrary savings goal (e.g. $10,000 for no reason). If you’re working towards being able to feel secure in an emergency, or towards travel, or towards buying a home, you’re far more likely to be able to make the decision to prioritise that future self.
The key is trying to make delayed gratification as exciting as instant gratification. Your brain knows exactly how great it’ll feel to go out for dinner now, or buy that top now, or go on that spontaneous holiday now. But train it to get excited in real time for things that you’re working towards later.
Shoot for 1% better
The 1% better rule comes from one of my all time favourite books, Atomic Habits. While it’s not actually talked about in the context of money, I like to link it to my money behaviours. For me, it’s all about prioritising getting a little bit better regularly over making giant leaps, because that’s the type of progress that’ll stick. Instead of trying to double your savings total in 3 months, try focusing on a 1% better approach. In 3 months, even if you haven’t grown your savings by much, have you learned new behaviours, or spent more in alignment with your real self, or done less emotional spending? That kind of progress will have more of a lasting impact, and it helps take the pressure off.
The trauma of 2020 is real
Like, really real. A lot of us are struggling to wrap our heads around the impact that 2020 has truly had on our mindsets, especially those who are still working. Don’t let your guilt that you weren’t the worst affected cloud your understanding of the real trauma of 2020. It’s been hard on everyone in some way or another, so give yourself a break and allow your feelings to rise to the surface.
The realness of the trauma is also important in goal setting. A new year often gets us giddy with possibility, but the pandemic is far from over, so don’t set yourself up for failure by attempting to suppress your reality.
You’ve done the best you could
Some people will be heading into 2021 feeling shame, disappointment and anger towards their finances after what’s happened in 2020. An important mindset shift here is remembering that you did the best you could in your circumstances. Even if you feel like you didn’t, you acted in the way you felt most appropriate at the time, during a period of radical uncertainty and never-before-seen conditions. Don’t judge yourself if you didn’t act in the way your hindsight is telling you you should have.