As 2023 comes to a close, many of us begin to ponder our New Year resolutions – and with personal finances stretched tighter than ever, money-related goals are high on our lists.
A new poll by Hargreaves Lansdown shows that more than a third (38 per cent) of us will make a financial resolution this year, rising to 60 per cent of those aged 18 to 34. However, it also revealed that a fifth of resolutions made in the past haven’t lasted a week! And one in 20 don’t last a single day.
Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “We’re a nation of serial failed resolvers. Every year, millions of us pledge to spend less, save more, sort out our debts, pay into a pension or get investing.
“This year, one in three of us plan to turn over a new leaf when it comes to our finances. Unfortunately, these best intentions fall by the wayside – with an impressive one in five giving up within a week – even before we get round to putting the Christmas decorations back in the loft.”
With this in mind, here are six top tips for making financial resolutions that will stick:
1. Be specific
If you make a general pledge to spend less – without thinking about where you can cut back, it’s likely to be as successful as a general pledge to lose weight without a diet or exercise plan. Start by drawing up a budget of everything you spend and everything you earn. Your current account app may show you spending categories, or you can look through past statements. This should help you identify where you’re overspending, so you can make a specific pledge – like to cancel a gym membership or stop buying clothes on payday.
2. Change one thing
Lifestyle change is hard, so a complete overnight lifestyle transformation is going to be incredibly difficult to stick with. Far better to set clear, achievable goals, one at a time. If you have expensive short-term debts, these should be your priority, followed by protecting your family with things like insurance and a will, before moving onto building emergency savings and saving or investing for the long term. Your resolution will depend where you are on this path, but don’t try to do everything at once.
3. Give up the things you DON’T like first
Sacrificing things like takeaway coffee seems like an obvious choice, because it’s a luxury we don’t really need. However, if you give up all the little things that make every day a bit more pleasant, you’ll have to make ten difficult decisions a day, and you’ll eventually give up. It’s a good idea to cut back on these luxuries, but before you give up the things you love, it makes far more sense to give up the things you don’t love at all – like overpaying for your energy, mobile phone or broadband or buying expensive grocery brands. Try our top green energy suppliers to make a move that’s also good for the planet.
4. Do the right thing automatically
Don’t try to do the right thing every day. Set it up to happen without you thinking about it. If you need to build your savings, set up a direct debit to go into a savings account each month or try an auto-savings app. If you want to start investing, a regular saver is a great option, where your direct debit pays into an investment account every month. These don’t need to be enormous sums, you can start with as little as £25. Just pay what you can, and set it up to come out of your account on payday – before you have a chance to miss it – so you automatically do the right thing every month.
5. Be realistic
If you set unrealistic goals, and try to get there too quickly, you’ll soon run out of momentum. Set realistic, achievable goals, build a budget around them, and save a sensible, affordable sum every month to pay off debts, build emergency savings, work on your pension or build investments. That way, you’ll be able to look back at the year and be proud of everything you have achieved, rather than bemoaning another year where your Christmas chocolates lasted longer than your resolutions.”
6. Invest in something you care about
Investing can be much more fun and motivating if you put your money into something you care about changing – climate change, biodiversity loss, the plastic problem, poverty or gender inequality. You don’t need to have huge sums of money to invest, you can put as little as £5 into a positive impact fund – try one of our top DIY sustainable investment platforms.