MintStyle

MintStyle with Rachel Weingarten: Stop Keeping Up with the Joneses in 2013

Paying bills

We are three days into the New Year and you may already be having a hard time following through with your resolutions.

Financial resolutions are always popular choices but sticking to a budget and tackling your financial goals is an incredible act of self-control — sometimes you just really don’t want to think twice before indulging and would rather have the immediate gratification.

Reset. Restart. Monitor Your Needs

For that reason and to tie-in with the Mint.com Money Boo Boos Sweepstakes, I’d like to propose a new resolution for this year: Stop keeping up with the Joneses.

It seems like a simple enough savings/spending mantra, but with the constant onslaught of advertisements and our increasing engagement in social media outlets, it’s hard to know what you want, what you need and what you feel compelled to own.

Instead of caving in to external pressures that might have you splurging on too many nights out with friends or clothing you don’t need or can’t afford, now is the time to try to reset, restart and continuously monitor your own internal meter of necessities, splurges and savings.

A Year of Change

Over the next month, I’ll be covering some of the more common New Year’s resolutions- from fitness to socializing, to looking and feeling better, to upgrading your tech, to decorating and upgrading your space.

Instead of simply offering advice and shopping options, I’ll include input from industry experts on how to cut spending without cutting corners. It’s entirely possible to invest wisely in even the most seemingly frivolous purchases.

More than anything though, I’ll try to include easily implementable ways for you to create a stylish spending and savings plan that allows you to keep current without caving into external pressure.

First Steps

Take stock of what you’d like to change about yourself and your environment over the next year. It can be something as simple as your hairstyle or wardrobe, or a larger investment, like a new vehicle or place of residence.

The key is that you only upgrade the things that you truly feel no longer suit your lifestyle or future goals.

Now that you know what you want to change, think about what you need to toss, recycle or eliminate to achieve your goals.

Then, think about what you can keep — change doesn’t necessarily mean making a total (and expensive) overhaul of your entire life.

Do you really need a new cell phone, or do you just covet one as cool as your co-worker’s? If having the latest and greatest tech is part of your job, then there should be no compromise.

If however, you’re simply moved by the pursuit of the next cool thing, consider waiting to upgrade.

Budget, Budget, Budget

After you’ve pared down your list of things that truly need upgrading, set a budget for the entire project. Create a high/low estimation of what it would cost for you to make the changes.

Compare the low and the high end and find a happy medium that works for your budget, goals and lifestyle.

You can use the free budgeting and goal-setting tools from Mint.com to set a goal, create a timeline and keep you on track.

After you have set your goal, think about what you might have to sacrifice. Can you give up on comfort? Quality? Ease of use?

Remember: No change is easy or effortless — you have to commit to the process and constantly create compromises to reach your ultimate goals.

For example, if your day isn’t complete without a Starbucks run, it’s possible a new (but pricey) Keurig Vue system will win in a price comparison against your daily latte habit.

Set Benchmarks

Be flexible and modify your list as needed: If your goals and needs change throughout the year and you find yourself spending more or less, update them to reflect these changes.

Create milestones for your goals and take stock of the way your changes have improved your life.

The key to new and lasting changes is for them to be organic and intuitive — not external.

Now is the time to stop measuring your needs by the accouterments of others and live your life based off your own dreams and desires.

Rachel Weingarten would love to hear about your style goals for the New Year. She’s a noted style expert and author of Career and Corporate Cool and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s. Visit her online at http://racheletc.com or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her with your burning style questions at mintstylerachel at gmail.com