Group of friends celebrating on New Years Eve.

How To Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Melody Johnson12-minute read
February 04, 2022

As the end of the year approaches, it may be the perfect time to break out your planner and start goal setting for the new year! Whether you’re learning a new language or trying to break a bad habit, New Year's resolutions can start your year off in the right direction.

With about 40% of Americans setting New Year's resolutions, you might be shocked that roughly 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. But, if we're doomed to fail, is it even worth the effort? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Research shows that those who set goals are much more likely to see positive results. One surprising study ran a trial involving participants who set resolutions and those who did not. The results indicated that those who created a resolution were 10 times more likely to report positive changes in their lifestyle than those who didn’t set New Year goals. 

In this article, we'll take a brief look at the history of resolutions and why we make them, and we’ll offer some tips on how to keep your New Year's resolutions. We'll also go over how to apply some easy strategies to stop procrastinating and stay on track with the most common New Year's resolutions.

Why Do We Make New Year's Resolutions?

Celebrations of the new year date back as far as ancient Babylon. Back then, the observance started in late March with the first new moon after the spring equinox. During the 11-day festival, ancient Babylonians would mark this time of year by making all sorts of promises to gain favor with the gods.

As time went on, Caesar led an effort to reconfigure the early Roman calendar to better reflect the movements of the sun with the help of astronomers and mathematicians. January 1 was chosen as the beginning of the new year to pay homage to Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings.

What Is A New Year's Resolution?

Just like the ancient Babylonians, we’ve have been making promises to ourselves for thousands of years. These promises, or resolutions, typically start on the first of a new year and often involve self-improvement activities such as exercising more, losing weight, or saving money. Financial goals like paying down debt and saving more are frequently listed amongst New Year's resolution examples, especially after the holidays. You can read more about planning for your holidays in the article 10 Ways to Enjoy The Holidays Without Going Into Debt. Some of the most common New Year's resolution list activities include many of the following: 

  • Eating healthier
  • Getting in shape 
  • Saving money or paying down debt 
  • Learning something new 

Making It Stick

Many people have the intention of making good New Year's resolutions such as stopping "bad behavior" like eating too many sweets or not joining a gym. However, the truth is that change is difficult. A resolution without specific steps for follow-through is likely to fall by the wayside. With that in mind, here are some strategies you might find helpful if you plan on making any resolutions. These strategies can give you a higher likelihood of feeling accomplished when you evaluate your achievements at the end of each year.

Set SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals is a strategy used in both business and management settings for years. It's a helpful tool in determining if your resolution is feasible or if it's one that's destined to fall apart. By using this acronym, you can decide if a goal is achievable before committing to something unrealistic.

Make Your Resolutions Specific

The first thing to consider when creating your goals is to make your resolutions specific. This way, there's little doubt about whether you've accomplished what you've set out to do. For example, if you're planning on saving up for a big vacation, you can start by determining where you'd like to go and writing it down. 


Create Measurable New Year's Goals 

Second, to track the progress toward your result, your resolutions should be measurable. By using metrics, you can determine how you're progressing toward your goal. Let's say that your goal is to take a 5-day hiking trip through Machu Picchu. You can make this goal measurable by determining how much the trip would cost and then creating a savings goal for that amount. You can learn more about 10 Ways to Save Money This Year in this article.

Make Resolutions Achievable

Next, your goal must be achievable. So, if your goal is to save up for a luxury vacation that costs about $10,000, you can evaluate whether this goal is realistic or if you need to reconsider. At first, the thought of saving up $10,000 for a vacation might seem unrealistic. But, if you think about breaking your goal down into smaller increments, such as $500 or $1,000 at a time, this will be much easier and quicker to accomplish. Here are several helpful articles on how to improve your personal finances before you ring in a happy new year.

Set Relevant Resolutions

In other words, ask yourself if your goal is relevant to you. If you're not fiercely passionate about your resolution, you'll never be able to see the positive impact you set out to accomplish. For instance, if you want to decrease your time spent playing video games or mindlessly scrolling through social media, you'll need to have a strong motivation. Perhaps this motivation could be spending more quality time with your family and friends. Having a strong reason will help you stay on track. 

Write Out A Timetable

Lastly, you'll have to give yourself a specific timetable. When you give yourself a time frame for getting something done, it forces you to keep pushing forward. Perhaps you're looking to pay off some debt, and you don't know where to start. One way to accomplish this is by setting aside a monthly or weekly savings goal to place toward your payoff amount instead of trying to pay it off all at once. Here are several revealing articles to brush up your credit score after the holiday season.

Break It Down

While some argue that the SMART system doesn't work for all people, the important thing is to find a goal-setting process that works for you. Breaking down your big new year aspirations by making small adjustments to your lifestyle, such as spending 15 extra minutes on the treadmill, can help improve your chances of accomplishing a more significant task like running a marathon. The key is to break things up into specific, attainable goals that serve as building blocks to your larger resolution.

Talk About It

One of the main reasons that support groups are so popular is because talking about your struggles as well as your triumphs can provide valuable support, reinforcement and feedback. Other people with similar goals, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, will be able to share what has worked for them.

Physical meetup groups, online groups, discussion boards, or chats can give you valuable tips and resources. By talking about it, you create a level of accountability for yourself. In turn, you can also check in on everyone's progress toward their goals. You share wins or mistakes so that you and others can figure out how to correct them and minimize the chances of the same thing happening again.

Make It A Habit

Whatever your resolution happens to be, it helps to be consistent. The more you get into a routine, the more likely it is that you will stick to your goal. Goals such as eating healthier or getting more sleep are all about replacing certain habits with others that are more constructive and beneficial to your lifestyle. By doing things a little at a time, the new routine will become second nature if continued, and over time will become the new norm. 

Put A Little Money On The Line

One primary motivation to reach your goals is to commit financially. By making a little bit of an investment into something you want to accomplish, you will be more likely to work harder to reach your goal. This might mean purchasing a gym membership or setting aside more money toward savings to purchase your first home. As the saying goes, a little can go a long way, and similarly, a small investment can help you reinforce your New Year's resolution. You can find more innovative ways to save money to buy a house by reading these articles.

Application To Popular Resolutions

Now that we’ve gone over a few strategies to help keep your New Year's resolution on track, let’s look at how to apply them. Some of the most popular New Year's resolution examples are health-related in one way or another. While it's important to take care of ourselves, we recommend that you consult with a healthcare professional before making any big changes in terms of exercise and diet. You should also note that nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we'll share some creative ways to accomplish some of the most popular resolutions. 

Weight Loss

While we won't make any specific medical recommendations about weight loss or health, there are some great tips you can learn from the experts. Robert Herbst is a champion power lifter as well as a weight loss and wellness guru. He says, “A successful strategy that works for New Year's weight loss and fitness resolutions (and which probably works for other types as well) is to break the goal into small achievable parts rather than to go all out at once." In other words, by easing yourself into a fitness or health routine, you’ll get accustomed to the changes that you've set out to implement. 

Food diaries or fitness trackers like MyFitnessPal can help you track what you eat as well any exercise that you might complete during the day or evening. Using these great tools will allow you to share this data with your healthcare professional. It can also help you review what progress you've made toward your personal health goals. 

Exercise More

Thanks to technology, we have access to all sorts of resources online for exercise routines that fit all levels of ability. Of course, you'll want to consult a doctor and fitness professional to avoid injuring yourself. Whether you're a fan of yoga, cross-fit, running, or weight training, you can always turn your love or hate for exercise into a game. For example, you can challenge yourself to reach a specific number of steps per day and increase your step count each week. Going to the gym and eating healthier can feel like a chore when you do it alone, but much less so when you recruit a friend or coworker. Not only will you gain accountability, you can also crack a few jokes while you're burning up calories. 

Eat Healthier

One common diet weakness is eating too much sugar. Everyone is different when it comes to goals of eating healthy, and asking a health professional for their recommendations is always a safe bet. So before you think about starting your new diet, make sure you reach out to your doctor to get their take on things. 

People often think that a successful New Year's resolution is one that's never broken. The truth is that even small and frequent slip-ups can result in a positive impact on your lifestyle. A study conducted by the University of Scranton revealed that participants who achieved their goal made many mistakes along the way, but always recommitted themselves afterward.

Quit Smoking

You'll want to check in with your doctor on this one so you can make a sustainable lifestyle and health change. Quitting smoking is one of the ultimate ways to use the building blocks method. If you can start by cutting down from a pack a day to 15 cigarettes, then 10 cigarettes, and so on, it might be easier than quitting the habit cold turkey. Finally, there are a variety of substitutes and nicotine replacement therapies you could try under medical supervision if you’re struggling to quit on your own. By talking to your doctor, you might also be able to identify what triggers the need for a cigarette and come up with a healthier replacement habit. 

Reduce Stress And Sleep Better 

Everybody is a little different, so the amount of sleep you need can vary from person to person. However, there’s no denying that a lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your stress levels throughout the day. A study conducted by the University of Berkley found that even one night of losing quality sleep can increase anxiety levels up to 30%. If you have issues with sleep, talk to your doctor to make sure what you experience at night and during the day aren’t related to other medical conditions.

Prepare Your Sleeping Area

Take a moment to review your sleeping environment. Mattresses wear down after a while. Sometimes it's worth replacing an old mattress for a good night's rest. You can also try upgrading your pillows, which often come in a variety of materials like memory foam and cooling gels, to help you sleep comfortably throughout the night.

Review Your Bedtime Routine

After checking your environment, think about your bedtime routine.

Consider adding calming activities such as taking a bath or listening to relaxing music before bed. Simple changes such as avoiding checking social media on your phone can help your mind prepare for sleep before bed. You can even track the hours that you sleep to make your goals measurable by using trackers like FitBit or AppleWatch. 

Lose Debt And Save More Money

For many, a common New Year's goal is to freshen up their finances, including saving or spending less. The good news is that this is the type of goal is very easy to break down into specific, actionable steps.

Start A Budget

A great way to start your financial goal is by creating a budget. This way, you can see your monthly income in comparison to your expenses. Things like food and your rent are necessities and by looking at your expenses, you’ll be able to find what you should cut. 

Cut Down On Hidden Expenses

Simple changes like ditching cable for streaming services, packing lunches, or avoiding phone upgrades can have a major impact on large financial goals like purchasing or refinancing your house. Try looking at your bank account transactions to review if you have any subscriptions you've forgotten about that are draining your bank account.

Consider a Side Hustle

Once you’ve figured out what you can cut from the budget, see if there are opportunities to pick up some extra income to save or pay off debt. If you have skills in graphic design or even dog walking, there are many companies out there that provide flexible jobs. A friend of mine recently mentioned that he charges scooter batteries around his city to earn some extra cash.  

Pay Off Debt

Once you’ve squeezed as much money as you can out of your budget, it’s time to start paying off debt. Each person has a unique set of values on how they use their money, so there's not a one-size-fits-all approach to your finances. Let's say that you plan on applying for a mortgage soon, one thing you can do is to prioritize paying collections or charge-offs first. Dependent on the creditor or collection agency, you may need to negotiate to pay the full or partial amount. By the time something gets to collections, many agencies figure that some money is better than no money at all. Once you've made your payment, you need to collect a written statement from the agency stating that you've paid in full to keep for your financial records. 

Determine Your Debt Payoff Strategy 

If you’re generally just working on getting your finances in shape, one thing you should look at is something called the avalanche method. In this process, you would pay off the accounts with the highest amount of interest first to avoid paying extra on interest. The opposite of this is called the snowball method. In this case, you would pay off the lowest account balance first, then repeat this process with your other account balances from lowest to highest. While there are major benefits to both approaches, there's not a right or wrong way to pay off debt. Consulting a financial professional will help you determine the best way to pay off your debt and save for your goals. 

Consider Your Monthly Financial Commitments

When I first started saving for my first home, I had to consider how much my living expenses were before thinking about adding an extra mortgage payment. After I realized a large portion of my monthly expenses was going toward my student loan payments, I decided to pay them down every month. This worked in our favor because it helped our family to lower something called debt-to-income ratio. Essentially this is one of the major factors that helps lenders ensure that your finances won't be strained too much when taking on a new monthly payment. 

Hit Reset On Your Credit

One way to track the positive impact of your new habits on your credit is to sign up for a Rocket HQSM account. You’ll get your free credit score analysis once a week in addition to helpful ways to improve your credit based on the information on your report. There is also a credit score simulator where you can see how a particular change in your finances will impact your overall credit score.

Learn Something New

Learning a new language, practicing a new skill, or starting a new job are all things that take time. By setting an appointment on your calendar to practice, you can build your skills and make progress toward your New Year's goals. Many companies offer competitive scholarships or reduced student tuition for those interested in returning to school to pursue a new professional certificate or degree. Whatever you decide to do with the new year is up to you. 


Hopefully, this has helped you build the framework you need to create a New Year’s resolution you can actually stick to. If at first you don’t succeed, it’s all about the self-improvement journey anyway. For more on succeeding through a series of small steps, check out this article on setting micro-goals.

Apply For A Mortgage Online

Melody Johnson

The Rocket HQ Learning Center is here to help you reach your financial goals. Our mission is to put financial literacy into the hands of everyone - no matter education level or age.