Give yourself a couple of weeks, though, and your resolve will have been sorely tested.
One study found that on average we give up giving up on January 12.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because lifestyle change is difficult. In the vast majority of cases, we want to change the way we spend, which can mean giving up buying things we love. Then, once we’ve freed up this cash, we somehow have to persuade ourselves to save it or use it to pay off debt – rather than blowing it on something we really want.
It means filling our day with scores of difficult choices, and managing to choose the sensible money-saving one every time.
So before you hit the wall, it’s worth taking stock of how hard you have made your financial resolutions, and consider the two tricks that make sticking to them an absolute doddle.
The first is not to give up the things you love, but ditch the things you hate spending money on anyway.
Most of us have direct debits we feel terribly guilty about, because we’re just not using them enough. These can be the first to go.
It might be membership of a gym you last attended this time last year, a diet service you didn’t stick with, a magazine for the hobbies you’re neglecting, or any other monthly commitment to something that brings you no joy.
As long as you’re beyond the minimum period, get in touch with each company and cancel it.
Nobody is going to miss wasting hundreds of pounds a year paying over the odds for gas and electricity.
When the energy default tariffs were introduced in 2019 for people who were paying far too much on standard tariffs, they applied to 11 million people. The new rules mean they’re wasting less money than before, but they’re still overpaying, and they’re not alone. If you haven’t switched in the past 12 months, spend some time with comparison sites, and you could save a fortune.
Chucking food away makes us all feel bad, and yet we ditch £60 of food every month on average. By far the best way to avoid this does involve some effort – through meal planning and shopping lists. If that sounds like too much trouble, it might be easier just to use the freezer more – buying frozen rather than fresh where possible, and checking the fridge every few days for items you’re not going to eat in time which needs to be bunged in the freezer.
Finally, learn the power of ‘no’. Our tendency to go with the flow means we waste an awful lot of cash on things we never wanted in the first place.
By learning how to say ‘no’ you can avoid everything from expensive nights out with people you don’t really like to purchases your kids really don’t need.
Taken together, these things can save £120 a month, with only the slightest of effort. You can then use this cash to make your other resolutions happen.
The second key is to automate your best decisions, so you can do the right thing without trying.
If you have expensive debts to repay, set up a direct debit to come out of your account on payday to boost your usual repayments. If you’ve already paid your debts off, set it up to go into a savings account on day one. You should aim to build three to six months’ worth of essential expenses in an easy access account as an emergency savings safety net.
At the same time, think about your pension. If you’re employed, aged 23 or over, and earn more than the minimum threshold, you’ll be put into a pension scheme at work automatically.
However, contributions are just eight per cent of pay – split between you and your employer – and the rough rule of thumb we should be working towards is 15 per cent.
Check to see if your employer will boost their contributions if you pay more in, and take as much advantage of the extra free cash as you can.
If you’re quick, you can do all your cost cutting and set up this automation well before the 12th. That way it doesn’t matter if your resolve crumbles to dust on the 13th, you’ll be able to stick with these resolutions all year without really trying.
How long are you planning to live?
The oldest person in the world is due to celebrate their birthday today. Kane Tanaka is 118, and is Japan’s oldest person on record.
Few of us expect to live this long. When we’re planning our retirement, most of us expect a typical lifespan of around 84 years for a man or 86 for a woman. But Kane probably thought she would face far more average longevity too, so there’s always the chance of a surprise.
It means it’s worth considering what would happen to your finances if you lived 10 or 20 years beyond your expectations.
The best way to be certain you won’t outlive your money is to have a secure, guaranteed income for life, to cover the cost of the essentials. If you’re lucky this will include a defined benefit pension, but is also likely to include a state pension and possibly annuity income.
The introduction of pension freedoms made annuities a rare breed, because the vast majority of people decide to draw money from their pension instead. This comes with additional risks, but can still work if you live far longer than expected, as long as you don’t draw to much at any one time.
One sensible approach is just to take the natural income produced by your investments, so the lump sum remains.
This will often tend to be around four per cent, but you need to be prepared to take less at times when the income drops.