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How to make and keep New Year resolutions on money

Given the nation's recessionary state, perhaps it's no surprise that money-related resolutions -- such as saving more and charging less -- are high on New Year's resolution lists. One survey even found money issues unseating the usual top resolutions of losing weight and exercising more.

But promises made are not always promises kept, so new approaches may be in order.

When it comes to making such recurring commitments, oftentimes you "go back to what you know," said Carolyn McCormack, director of education at SafeGuard Credit Counseling Services Inc. in Hauppauge. "There's a value to exploring other possibilities and reaching out to look for other methods you can apply to your financial wellness." 

WeightWatchers for wallets
About eight years ago, Elyse Silver, 41, of Glen Cove, said her two major goals were to develop healthier eating habits and cut back on spending to save for her young son's college education. Silver dropped 54 pounds and 4½ years ago became a WeightWatchers leader.

She found that the steps that led to her weight loss and healthy eating were transferable to her finances. Indeed, McCormack said that sticking with a plan of eating is like sticking with a spending plan.

Silver said she has applied to her finances the program's tracking technique -- writing down everything she eats -- and storyboarding, setting goals and breaking them down to small, realistic steps. The result? "I have managed to save enough to cover what is probably a year's tuition for college," Silver said. 

Money therapists
Those who regularly feel shame, anxiety or fear when money is discussed might consider doing some excavation work before, or in the midst of, tackling nuts and bolts financial issues. That's where financial therapists come in.

Amanda Clayman, a psychotherapist in Manhattan, specializes in helping people recognize and dissect the beliefs and emotions behind their money problems.

"I never advise a person what to do with money," she said. The idea is to help people connect their core values to money and see that "money is how we put our dreams in action."

She suggests pacing yourself with money goals. Many resolutions fail, she said, because "most people push themselves until they're exhausted and have no more energy." 

Debtors Anonymous
The 12-step spiritual program patterned on Alcoholics Anonymous has members from all walks of life, said Richard, a member and psychologist in Manhattan. He advises potential newcomers to explore and keep an open mind.

One major tool that members use is the "pressure relief group:" two experienced members sit down with a newer one, discuss a problem area, then suggest ways to improve.

Camaraderie is another plus. Patrick, 44, an operations trainer and member since 1995, said he met five newcomers at the Tuesday night Merrick meeting (locate Long Island meetings at "You're alone until you realize you're not alone," he said. You see people who have had similar problems, and "that's when the hope kicks in."

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