(NEW YORK) -- If you find yourself already falling behind your New Year’s resolution to put yourself in better financial shape this year, you’re not alone.
Saving money and making smart financial decisions are attainable goals but, more often than not, people fall short and end up having trouble making ends meet.
Fortunately, there are smart and easy steps you can take to get your financial life back on track.
Alexa Von Tobel, founder of LearnVest, a financial and money-management site geared towards women, spoke with ABC News about her site’s S.M.A.R.T. money management program.
Von Tobel says using the five steps -- Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely -- outlined below will increase your savings and empower you financially.
S -- SPECIFIC. Make specific goals with your financial resolutions. Von Tobel says to look three to five years into your future to figure out what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to save for a home, or a child, for example, or maybe just a specific amount of money?
“Back into what you need to achieve this year in order to get there, and then come up with one specific number,” Von Tobel says. “Create a specific number and know it.”
M -- MEASURABLE. Von Tobel says it’s important to make your goal(s) measurable and to narrow them into smaller, or what she calls, “micro goals.” If you want to save $10,000 this year, for example, you need to save about $1,000 per month.
“Make smaller numbers that you can measure so that every single month you can know where you’re achieving and know that you have very simple smaller numbers that you can use to measure progress,” she says.
A -- ATTAINABLE. This step is crucial for setting expectations and ensuring that you know the steps you need to take to achieve your savings goal(s).
“If you are making these goals, I want you to figure out how you’re going to attain them,” Von Tobel says. “I want you to step back and say, ‘If I’m trying to save that $10,000, where am I going to cut it from my budget?” Am I going to save an extra $200 per week, and how is that going to happen?’”
R -- REALISTIC. This fourth step is an important aspect in setting expectations for yourself so you don’t set goals that are not achievable and then abandon them completely when they’re not met.
“If you go through and realize that there’s just no chance that you can save $10,000 and the number is more like $5,000 this year, then set a realistic goal,” Von Tobel advises.
T -- TIMELY. This final step requires that you set mini check-ins for yourself and your goals, and is the most important of the five steps, according to Von Tobel.
“If you’re trying to save $10,000 this year, what do you need to do every single two weeks, or what do you need to do every single month?” she says. “Set a number that you’re trying to achieve and check in with it.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio