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27 Financial New Year’s Resolutions (and Motivation to Meet them!)

Financial New Year's resolution examples plus the motivation you'll need to meet them.

woman looking at iPad, smiling, text overlay "choose from 27 financial New Year's Resolutions"

It’s that time of year again – sometime between little goblins coming to visit our homes demanding candy and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation reruns…the new year has snuck up on us.

Which means, it’s time to start setting those New Year’s Financial Resolutions.

Setting financial New Year's resolutions can be both exciting + scary.

Scary because what if you don't meet your New Year financial goals? What if you don't even get close?

And exciting because you can really, really increase your financial health and get your money life in check by setting your goals right.

I've got lots of experience with setting and meeting financial goals, such as when my husband and I got engaged and vowed to pay down the remaining $25,000 of our combined debts before walking down the aisle. Or the time we saved up $2,500 without using paycheck money to put towards our honeymoon.

And I want to take my own experiences with both setting and meeting financial goals to show you what financial resolutions are, lots of examples to inspire you to set achievable ones, and then some motivations/consequences you can set up to make it more likely that you'll meet them.

What are Financial New Year's Resolutions?

Financial New Year's resolutions are any goal you resolve to accomplish next year that has some sort of money component to it.

Like a savings goal towards something you want to be/do/have, or a debt pay-down goal, or a money behavior goal such as picking up a new good spending habit that will allow you to spend less.

Anything that is going to raise your financial health in the new year + beyond.

I'm going to give you some examples below, but I want you to broaden your scope beyond just paying down debt and saving more money (even though, yes, these are great resolutions!).

Let me show you what I mean.

Note: For any financial resolution you choose, you'll want to track your progress. It really helps keep motivation up, and/or point out what you need to change to get back on track. I personally use the free app Empower, which will automatically track everything for you once you set it up.

New Year Financial Resolutions Examples

I want to give you examples of financial resolutions so that you can start making your own.

Financial resolution examples (feel free to steal any that speak to you!):

  1. Save $5,000 for a cruise to Alaska
  2. Max out your Retirement account contributions – 401(k), IRAs, etc.
  3. Pay off two of your creditors, completely
  4. Get completely debt-free
  5. Save for half of a down payment on your dream home
  6. Come up with a college savings plan for your child
  7. Open up a savings account, and put 5% of your take-home pay into it
  8. Start funneling 10% of my income via automatic withdrawals to your savings account
  9. Spend $150 less on groceries, every month
  10. Get your accounts organized and shut down the ones that no longer make sense
  11. Start saving for retirement
  12. Save enough percentage to your 401(k) to get the full employer match
  13. Start a savings account for your infant/toddler/child/teen
  14. Score an internship in the career field you want to eventually get into
  15. Save enough money to pay cash for next summer's family vacation
  16. Go on a family vacation next year
  17. Save 50% of your income, or one of your paychecks (in a two-paycheck household)
  18. Refinance your mortgage to pay it off in 15 years instead of what you have left on your 30-year mortgage
  19. Be able to afford your child to the private school you've had your heart set on
  20. Buy a second car
  21. Decrease spending on groceries by $200/month
  22. Move over stray 401(k)s from previous jobs all under one roof
  23. Set a new budget that actually reflects your current lifestyle
  24. Get an allowance set up for your kids
  25. Start having monthly money meetings with your spouse
  26. Set a family savings goal to work through together (and to teach the kids how to save money!)
  27. Save up to buy a used car for your soon-to-be 16-year-old

Financial Resolutions for the New Year Using Carrots and Sticks Strategy

Many attempt New Year’s Resolutions, and by February, few of those resolutions survive.

So next up, I want to show you the “Carrots and Sticks Strategy” and how this can apply to your own financial resolutions. It's one of my favorite financial tips for the New Year resolution process!

Basically, you set your goal up with a motivation to keep you going to meet it.

Do this by picking a Carrot Incentive, or a positive reward, and then a Stick Incentive, or a “punishment” for not doing something.

Here are examples:

Financial Resolution #1: Lose Weight

  • The Carrot: You can actually earn money by losing (a lot of) weight! Healthywage.com offers a free challenge that pays you $100 to bring your body mass index from above 30 (considered obese) to a healthy level (below 25) within one year. Check out the details on their website, as well as an added incentive: if you bet $300 of your own money, the prize comes to $1,000! Prize money comes from corporate sponsors, and your weight must be verified by a third party.
  • The Stick: In 2012, a staggering 40% of large and mid-sized companies began penalizing workers who were obese and/or who smoked with higher healthcare premiums and deductible costs than their colleagues. This trend is growing quickly, and it could just be a matter of time before it hits your own insurance premiums (or has it already? Our agency began charging higher premiums to smokers this past year).

Financial Resolution #2: Pay Off Debt

  • The Carrot: You can deal with your creditors directly and attempt to negotiate smaller debt loads, which is like free money to you (check into the tax consequences of doing so). Another carrot is to join the debt movement being launched today in the personal financial blogosphere with a goal of inspiring, helping, and motivating people to pay down $10 million worth of debt over the next 90 days. Submit an application and you could be awarded one of several scholarships towards paying down your debt even faster.
  • The Stick: We were paying approximately $75 per month in interest payments to carry our debt back in 2009 when we decided to get ‘gazelle intense’. If we had decided to pay off the debt in the amount of time the creditors wanted, we would still be paying on most of it today. Since paying it off in September 2010, we have saved $2,025 of our money from going into the creditors’ pockets in interest payments. Calculate how much interest you are paying per month and multiply this out several years from now. Do you want to pay this to a company, or to yourself?

Financial Resolution #3: Quit Smoking

  • The Carrot: Let’s say you consume 3 packs of cigarettes per week. At an average cost of $5.98 per pack, you are looking to save roughly $932.88 per year by quitting your habit.
  • The Stick: It should come as no surprise to you that even though the tax rate on cigarettes has been increased more than 100 times across the US since 2002, states are moving to raise it even higher in order to cover budget shortfalls. The average state tax rate on a pack of cigarettes is $1.49, with an additional $1.01 in federal excise taxes. That means you are paying approximately $390.00 in extra taxes each year (based on consuming 3 packs per week).

Financial Resolution #4: Start a Savings Fund to Purchase a Home

  • The Carrot: Depending upon your income, you may qualify for a matching savings account called an Individual Development Account (IDA) to help you reach your goal (maximum matching is typically $2,000, and the rate depends on the program). “IDA account holders must save a minimum amount on a fairly regular basis, within a certain time frame, and ultimately use their savings for specific asset-building purposes, such as the purchase of a home…”
  • The Stick: Certainly not everyone needs, wants, or should purchase a home. Renting is a perfectly fine option. If you do want a home, you will get nowhere if you don’t start to save for the down payment as soon as you can. On top of that, you will need closing costs, maintenance costs, moving costs, etc. Wait too long to get started and these historically low interest rates we’ve had over the last few years may be out of reach for you.

Psst: additional help with savings goals include this saving money motivation, how to save for multiple goals at once, and free money savings goal trackers.

Financial Resolution #5: Start an Emergency Fund

  • The Carrot: Get a jump-start on your emergency fund savings by signing up for the Oportun.co savings app. They use an algorithm to figure out your typical spending each month, then they automatically withdraw small amounts of money to your savings – small enough that you don't really notice. Within 2 months, we had $597 sitting in a savings account for us! It's pretty awesome.
  • The Stick: There is a saying that most Americans are 1-2 paychecks away from declaring bankruptcy. And it’s not just a saying; a recent survey conducted on behalf of a financial consortium shows that one in three Americans would be unable to make their mortgage or rent payment beyond one month if they lost their job. Have you calculated how long your savings will last you in the event of losing your household’s income?

Financial Resolution #6: Start a Retirement Account

  • The Carrot: In this article, I have outlined how to potentially get double tax incentives for low to middle-income households who contribute to retirement accounts.
  • The Stick: Have you looked at your social security statement in the last few years? How much can you expect from social security per month if you did not save any money for your retirement (and if the fund stays liquid enough to pay you when it’s your turn)? If you don’t feel like getting the statement out, I can tell you that the maximum possible benefit for a worker retiring at age 66 in 2011 is $2,366; the average, which is where most of us will be, is around $1180. It’s not likely to pay your monthly bills in retirement, let alone the additional medical costs and (hopefully) entertainment/travel things you’d like to do with your time. If you haven’t already, start saving today!

I could go on, and on, but you get the point!

So, how do you choose your own financial goals?

Choose Your Own Financial Resolutions Using Your Emotions

I want to ask you to do something a bit different when you're figuring out which financial goals to set.

You want to ask yourself,

“What money problems are you sure-as-heck not bringing into your next year?”

Start with deciding how you want your financial life next year to look. I’m not talking about the trips you want to take and the things you want to buy.

I’m talking about on a day-to-day basis, how do you want to feel?

I’ll get you started…

  • Peaceful
  • In control
  • Free
  • Money-savvy
  • Refreshed
  • Loving
  • Purposeful
  • Healthy
  • Resourceful
  • Settled
  • Abundant
  • Decisive

Now, I want you to ask yourself,

“Self, what is directly in my path from feeling FILL IN THE EMOTION(S) YOU CHOSE about my money?”

That’s your to-do list.

Some will be on-going type things you need to do, while others are one-offs you can knock out of your life in the next few months.

Now, I'll share my personal financial resolution with you!

Have You Made Your Financial Resolutions for Next Year?

If not, let me help you with two last resources.

The first? Is a list of 30+ 30-day challenges (free). You're bound to find something inspirational in there.

Secondly, let me share with you my own past financial New Year's Resolution.

Several years ago, I had a feeling of scarcity. It's a feeling I was ashamed of because my then-fiancé (now husband) and I are so blessed. We make good money, we recently bought the home of our dreams, we have two vehicles and enough money to fund retirement and entertain ourselves…but it has not felt like enough.

In our defense, at the time, our bills had increased substantially; we were working to pay off his car entirely, pay for our wedding and honeymoon in cash, and just purchased the home of our dreams. So, the funds that we were used to seeing on bank statements for the last several years had been depleted.

Instead of celebrating our life of abundance, I let this feeling leave me insecure, and wanting to hoard money and earnings just like a squirrel who competitively buries all the nuts he can find for fear of the winter famine to come.

But in reality, this led me to feel even more insecure and even less abundant – not a great money mindset to have.

And so it was with an empathetic and open heart that I listened to a segment on NPR last week that talked about the lack of pure, altruistic, charitable giving in the United States. In its place has been self-gratifying or self-rewarding charitable giving – the kind that you receive tangible benefits in return – or no charitable giving at all.

The benefits include trinkets that prominently display your generosities (like pink ribbons and bracelets for breast cancer donors), or being able to tout your givings as a corporation and thus making yourself more competitive, or donating solely for tax benefits, etc.

Throughout the year, I donated several bags of clothing to local thrift stores and gave out soy joy bars to homeless people at traffic lights. I also dropped off several bags of toiletry items at a domestic abuse women’s shelter.

But I started to wonder – have I really given of myself?

When I donated those bags of clothing, it was more with the intent of cleaning out our closets so that we would not have to pack and ship more boxes. The soy joy bars were free items that I scored from playing the drugstore game. The toiletries were also from various free deals I gathered from CVS throughout the year.

I absolutely loved donating these items and it made me feel good to help others out, but besides a little time on my end, these items did not cost me anything. And if they had, I could have taken that cost as a tax deduction.

Is that truly charitable giving?

When I was fifteen, I approached my parents with the idea of adopting a child overseas. I was making my own money at the time mucking horse stalls, and so each month I would pay the money to my parents who would write a $15 check out to the organization, which clothed, schooled, and fed her.

The child’s name was Belkis.

One year for her birthday I sent an extra $10, and she wrote a letter telling me how she was able to purchase a pair of jeans with it.

I felt such joy and compassion towards this child.

By not sharing this with anyone, I did it for the right reasons (except my parents knew because they had to write the check each month).

Somewhere over the years even though my income has risen dramatically, I have managed to feel more scarceness than I did when I made $90 per week and supported a little girl overseas. I have given this some thought this holiday season, and have come up with a possible explanation. I am competitive at heart so I don’t just want to save money, I want to save the most money.

If I were to check ‘yes’ on my electricity bill to add a few dollars to the fund for people who cannot afford heating and lighting, then that would shave percentages off my money-saving margins that I tediously accumulated all month by unplugging power chords when not in use.

If I were to give $1000 to a charity in 2019, then all of the extra earnings I received would not have been added to my bottom line.

No matter what the reasons have been, I wanted to change this. I decided that for that year, I was going to choose a charity or a cause, and donate consistently to it with actual money out of my earnings, and without sharing what organization/person it was.

And you know what? I did it. And still continue to do it.

Why It's Not Too Late to Set Your Money Goals (Even if It's May)

Here’s the deal: you’ve still got time to act.

Whew, you might be thinking.

But, Amanda, act on what?

Act on anything you need to in order to not take this year’s problems into your next year.

To really create that clean slate you crave each January 1st and beyond.

To draw a line in the sand and say,

“it might suck in the short-term, but I’m going to do whatever it takes right now to not bring THIS (fill in the blank with whatever “this” is) into my new year.”

With the New Year comes a collective motivation to take advantage of our semi-clean slates and become more of the people we wish to be. Use this time to set some intentional resolutions, choose your Carrots and Sticks, and work on them. I'd love to hear about your own Financial Resolutions for the New Year below!

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.

Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter

Sunday 6th of January 2013

Thanks for the ideas! I'm hoping to make some money (or at least not lose any) by losing weight during a dietbet.com movement.


Wednesday 2nd of January 2013

The psychology of what motivates people is very interesting. How people apply the carrot and the stick to themselves is very interesting. Great post