New Year’s Resolutions Didn’t Stick? Don’t Give Up—Try This Instead

Even if you’ve let your best intentions slide since the first of the year, there are some psychologically sound techniques you can use to start reclaiming your goals. And it begins with something as simple as changing the way you look at your resolutions.

There’s a line from a song in the musical Camelot that captures how many of us feel about our New Year’s resolutions: “Those dreary vows that everyone takes / Everyone breaks . . .” Well, maybe not everyone, but the vast majority. In fact, according to research released by CNN, about 80% of those who make “those dreary vows” while clinking champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve have abandoned them by the end of February. Not only that, but about 40% of us typically make financial resolutions, so if 80% of those aren’t being kept, there’s potentially a lot of lost opportunity at stake.

A Better Way?

But don’t give up all hope just yet. Even if you’ve let your best intentions slide since the first of the year, there are some psychologically sound techniques you can use to start reclaiming your goals. And it begins with something as simple as changing the way you look at your resolutions.

There’s research to suggest that instead of framing your goals negatively—“I’m going to cut my spending by 10%”—you will increase your chances of success by positioning your intentions positively—“I’m going to increase my savings by 10%”. One study indicated that 60% of those who developed goals around positive images rather than negative ones were able to maintain meaningful change in their behavior for at least a year. The secret, it seems, is to have a target that involves doing something rather than avoiding something.

Here’s a list of possible resolutions, along with their “reframed” versions. See if any of these might have potential for you:

  • Instead of “Start sticking to a budget,” consider “Build a savings plan.”
  • Instead of “Keep better track of my finances,” think about “Create a net worth statement.”
  • Instead of “Stop throwing money away on rent,” how about “Make a plan for home ownership.”
  • Instead of “Learn to live within my means,” try “Pursue financial contentment.”

You get the idea. If you think about it, you can reframe almost any behavior—financial or otherwise—by focusing on a positive goal rather than thinking about avoiding a negative condition.

Making It Real

A couple of the goals above are perennially at the top of many people’s lists, so let’s take a closer look at some of these and think about ways to put our “positive framing” into practice.

1. Living within your means. Let’s face it, many Americans have developed a habit of living on about 110% of their actual income. That’s the main reason there is over a trillion dollars in credit card debt in this country, with each cardholder owing an average balance of $6,864. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Establishing a goal of spending less than you earn is one of the most foundational resolutions you can make if you really desire to achieve financial contentment.

2. Know your net worth. Having a good working knowledge of how your total assets stack up against your total liabilities is an essential element of establishing where you stand, financially. And after all, if you don’t know where you are right now, how are you supposed to figure out how to get where you want to go? Take some time to sit down and total up everything you own, then subtract everything you owe. Better yet, schedule a conversation with a professional financial advisor, who can not only help you figure out where you stand but can also suggest optimal ways, based on your unique situation, to get started down the road to where you want to be.

3. Build a savings plan. Doesn’t this sound so much better than “make a budget”? Of course, to be perfectly honest, a budget is basically a plan for how you intend to direct your money. But the benefit of framing it as a savings plan is that this directs you toward something—a secure retirement, the down payment on a home, a child’s college education—rather than simply restraining you from spending. Once again, having a positive goal provides stronger psychological leverage than putting something in the “off limits” category. Once you’ve decided what you’re saving for, plan to put a little aside each month before you spend on anything else. By “paying yourself first,” you’re taking steady steps toward achieving your goal.

At Curio, we’re always looking for ways help you get more satisfaction out of life. And it all starts by learning what is most important to you—not just about your money, but also about how you spend your time, what matters most to you, and what your goals are. By reframing your financial resolutions, you may be able to achieve greater satisfaction, knowing that you’re progressing toward the destination you’ve chosen. To find out more about how we can help, let’s talk. And to learn more about how important it is to have a map for your financial journey, visit our website to read our article, “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: A Tale of Financial Preparation.”

Important Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Curio Wealth, LLC [“Curio Wealth”]), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Curio Wealth. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Curio Wealth is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Curio Wealth’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request or at Please Note: Curio Wealth does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to Curio Wealth’s web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please Remember: If you are a Curio Wealth client, please contact Curio Wealth, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you would like to impose, add, or to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services. Unless, and until, you notify us, in writing, to the contrary, we shall continue to provide services as we do currently. Please Also Remember to advise us if you have not been receiving account statements (at least quarterly) from the account custodian.

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