Financial self control: 3 tricks for the New Year

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At the end of the day, those who manage to complete their financial resolution this year -- whether it's to save more or spend less (or both) -- will do so thanks to self-control.

Sure, budgeting pie charts and spending diaries will offer some guidance, but the power of self-control will be the engine that drives goal-setters to the finish line. Having some restraint often prompts us to make better choices, though it's easier said than done.  Here are some behavioral tricks to help make it easier.

1. Change your routine

Dr. Sam Sommers, a social psychologist at Tufts University and author of the new book, Situations Matter recently penned a column for Psychology Today on how to kick bad habits. His thesis is that we ought to change our day-to-day patterns and routines to avoid the bad behaviors that have become second-nature to us. "Anything you can do to disrupt your automatic response to your surroundings can be beneficial," writes Sommers. If, say, your ride home from work involves driving past your favorite store -- and you can't resist the urge to stop in -- take a different route.  Or, if you tend to fill up an online shopping cart after dinner, consider booking a yoga class in the evenings or inviting a friend over to watch a movie instead. 

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2. Save with a friend

It's one thing to make a promise to yourself to save. It's another to share that promise with a friend with mutual ambitions. Together, you can fight off temptation to eat out and splurge on wants when you really ought to be paying down debt or building up your savings - much like having a workout buddy can encourage you to get off the couch and go for a run. In fact, studies have shown that exercising with a friend boosts weight loss. 

3.  Hide the plastic

"Handicap your habit by proactively preventing access to the tools of addiction in precisely those contexts where you know they'll be most harmful," writes Sommers.  So, if your addiction is charging items you can't really afford, freeze the cards, hide 'em, whatever you need to do remove them from sight and mind. A personal trick: I have an online savings account at ING and, while the bank has sent me a debit card attached to the account, I've purposely avoided memorizing the pin. The result? Never withdrawing from that account.

  • Farnoosh Torabi On Twitter»

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    Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter at @farnoosh.

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