How To Get A Good Return On Your New Year’s Resolutions

Your New Year’s Resolution
Resolve to renew all your old resolves,
And add a few that are new.
Resolve to keep them as long as you can.
What more can a poor man do?
- Early 20th century postcard

The last day of the year is often a time for looking back to the past and reflecting on the changes we want to make in the coming year.

Unfortunately, all those good intentions have evaporated by the middle of January and people have the “what’s the use?” feeling.  Only 40 percent will actually achieve what they set out to do, and I’ve seen that rate as low as 8 percent.

Related: Why you should take a day off to work on your finances

Resolutions seem to be very similar from year-to-year.

My solution?  Don’t try to start on the first day of the New Year when you’re cranky, sleep deprived and possibly hung over.  This is a recipe for failure.  Instead, turn your resolutions into small, manageable goals you can achieve throughout the year, and fit them in to your financial plan.

Top ten resolutions

1.  Exercise.  Sadly, most people join a gym, get the free Spandex shorts – and then never go back.  If you want to fit more exercise into your life wait until the most crowded six weeks is over.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations.  You’ve just spent the last two months packing in excess food that is now affixed to your backside.  Think about the journey, not the outcome.  You want to feel healthier, not participate in Mr/Ms Universe.  Try to meet new people who share your goals and you can urge each other on.

2.  Lose weight.  Let’s face it, we’re aging as a population, and with age comes middle-age spread.  Weight loss is the most popular resolution, but instead of resolving to lose 20 (or 50) pounds, resolve to eat better instead.  People who eat a healthy diet spend less on food compared to those who don’t.  Not only will you feel better, the potential savings can top up your investment account, or you can make a donation to the local food bank.  Charitable donations can be claimed as a non-refundable tax credit, which can reduce taxes owing.  Helping others can be financially rewarding.

3.  Quit smoking.  Everyone knows how bad this is for both your physical and financial health.  It’s hard to do because of its addictive nature.  However, the availability of proven quit smoking aids – such as gum, patch, and prescription medication – now makes it easier.  On average it takes smokers about four tries before they quit for good.  Once successful, the savings could be invested to earn a return of 18% if used to pay down a credit card.

4.  Reduce alcohol consumption.  I’m not saying quit drinking altogether (although you may resolve this on New Year’s Day).  Just spend $25 less a week on alcohol and invest it in your TFSA.  A savings of $1300 annually invested at 5% would grow to $62,000 in 25 years.

5.  Stop excessive shopping.  According to walletpop.ca Canadians spend almost $4000 a year on things they don’t need.  If you reduce your excessive shopping by 50% you can use the extra money to pay down your debt instead of increasing it.

6.  Learn something new.  Take a course or read a book.  A hobby or sideline can bring in part-time income.  Learn some basic home repairs to save the cost of a professional.  Learn about investing and money management.  Improve your employment skills.  If tuition is $500 and you get a raise of $50 a week, your net return is 9%.  Also, certain tuition expenses can be claimed as a non-refundable tax credit.

7.  Help others.  Volunteer for organizations that have special meaning for you.  You’ll not only be helping others, but learning valuable skills and meeting like-minded people.  Donate all those household items you no longer need.

8.  Get organized.  This is on just about everyone’s resolution list.  Reduce the clutter and find peace of mind in your home – and you’ll be able to invite someone over.  Organize your office and finally find that stapler when you need it.  Put together all the documents you need to file your income tax return.  The earlier you file, the sooner you’ll receive your potential tax refund and the sooner you can pay your holiday credit card debts.

9.  Start a savings plan.  Rather than saying you’ll save $5000 this year, resolve to put away $100 a week (and immediately set up an automatic transfer).

10.  Pay down your debts.  Enough has been said about this topic.

Final Thoughts

Get an app.  There’s a mobile app that can help every resolution.  They can track your progress and coach you through the process.  If you have a competitive nature, find an app that is shared by others – your new buddies.

Reassess – if it’s not working go back and modify.  If you can’t save $100 a week, knock it down to $50 and keep trying.  You may slip up once or twice.  That’s OK – you’re only human.

Don’t give up too easily.  Forgive yourself, move on and keep trying.


9 Responses to How To Get A Good Return On Your New Year’s Resolutions

  1. I read somewhere recently that you should resolve to lose 1 pound. It’s true that you can’t lost 2 without first losing 1. Then you try to repeat that tiny but all important step again.

    • @BetCrooks: It’s a good idea to keep your goals small and more manageable. Also, you should think of what you can do today to further your goal – skip the evening nachos, dump all your change in a jar, deal with mail instead of letting it pile up …..

    • @CanadianDaniel: I always have been pretty organized at work, but at home it’s a different story. Why is that? I’ve been getting rid of clutter and that helps but I’m still a procrastinator.

  2. “I’m not saying quit drinking altogether [...] Just spend $25 less a week on alcohol”

    I think it’s intervention time, Marie. If you can cut $25 per week from your alcohol budget and still be drinking, either you have very expensive tastes or are drinking way too much. Stats Canada says the average is $17/week per household.

    • @Potato: I’m not much of a drinker but when I took a look at the liquor store at Christmas time the prices seem pretty high.

      Also, on the rare occasions we go out to dinner one cocktail for me ($7) and two beers for my husband ($9) makes me think that people who regularly go out for drinks must pay way more than $25 at a time – at least for a couple.

      Maybe the people I know are just a bunch of boozers. :)

    • Most Canadians are lying about their consumption. Last year there were $20.3 billion and there were about 13.5 million households, or about $28/week per household. This was just the sales from the retail and control boards. Liquor sales from restaurant, and alcohol purchased abroad or homemade isn’t included.

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