The new year offers a fresh start. It’s often the starting point to make changes. You might be great at creating resolutions and setting goals, but maybe you aren’t always successful at keeping and achieving them. It takes commitment to follow through, so your resolutions are more than wishes and broken promises. You can increase your chance for success by having a solid plan.

INITIAL PLAN: List your short- and long-term goals. Brainstorm and get them down on paper. Pick a single goal that is realistic. Don’t complicate things by setting too many goals at one time. However, you might discover that some of your goals overlap, so you’ll be able to work simultaneously on more than one. For example, if two of your goals are to try new recipes and lose weight, you could combine those two mini goals into one. You want to make your goal as specific as possible. For example, if you want to save money, you can specify frugal ways to set some aside, decide how much you want to save and how often you plan to do it within a certain time frame versus simply stating you want to save money. The key is to work toward a goal that is high enough to be a challenge but not so out of reach that it’s not feasible.

KNOWLEDGE GATHERING: Learn more about your goal. Understand how much time you need and actually have to commit to it.

* Are you willing to make sacrifices?

* Are there others you know that have successfully achieved your goal that you can network with?

* Do you require further resources for your goal?

* Will you need a support system?

COPING STRATEGIES: To combat any pitfalls and obstacles, consider what they might be ahead of time, so you can be prepared. If you know people aren’t going to be supportive, then don’t share your goal with them. If you’re aware that a situation will sabotage your goal, then try to avoid it. Ask yourself whether your decisions are bringing you closer or further from your goal. Stick to your goal, and don’t quit when there’s a setback. Keep trying. Pick yourself right up again, and continue where you left off.

DEADLINES: Create a start date and deadline. This will prevent procrastination and help you stay committed and will help others to support you. A deadline holds you accountable. You can create a final deadline and break up your goal into smaller, more manageable steps, too.

MOTIVATION AND REWARDS: Once you achieve a milestone, reward yourself so you stay motivated. Visualize accomplishing your goal. Tell yourself “I will do this” instead of “I want to do this.” List all of the positive aspects and benefits of reaching your goal. Have a concrete vision of achievement. Often, affirmations on Post-it notes can help remind you of your commitment to your goal, too.

REVIEW: Track your progress, and review your goal frequently. Ask yourself whether this goal is still a priority. Evaluate what is working and what isn’t, and make any revisions accordingly. Once you’ve achieved your goal, reflect on it. Was it too easy? If so, make the next goal more challenging. Did you learn anything new to apply to your other goals? Most important, enjoy your success. Don’t make excuses. Take a step today!

Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (, a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., fourth Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail