8 New Year’s Resolutions That Won’t Empty Your Wallet

A woman smiles while adding resolutions to a cork board


About 44% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year, and about 18% set more than one according to ForbesHealth. While the practice is obviously popular, keeping New Year’s resolutions can be hard.

If you find yourself gung-ho about resolutions in January but falling off the wagon quickly, you’re not alone. A New Plate/Ipsos study found 55% keep their resolutions less than a year, and 44% of those prevail for less than a month.

To beat the odds and make resolutions you can keep, set yourself up for success. This includes considering the cost of possible resolutions and planning affordable paths to your success.

To help you out, we’ve gathered money-saving suggestions for six common new year’s resolution ideas.

Resolution #1: Eat Healthy & Feel Better

Eat out less and cook at home more. Go online and check out tips on how to save money when you make nutritious home-cooked meals. For instance:

  • Eat appropriate portions and eat less meat, which can be the most expensive food group on your shopping list. The article advises that three ounces is an appropriate serving size for cooked meat (about four ounces raw). 
  • Divide your plate – no more than a quarter for meat, about half for vegetables, and a quarter for whole grains.
  • Buy less expensive cuts of beef and pork. Cook them low and slow – three hours or more – to make them tender.  Check out more tips for saving money on groceries.

If you currently eat out often, chances are you’ll be shocked at how much money you can save by eating at home. And you’ll be getting healthier, all while keeping your resolutions and a healthier bank account.

Resolution #2: Exercise & Get in Shape

Who really needs an expensive gym membership? Take your exercise outside – even if you have to bundle up against the cold. Getting out in the sun for a brisk walk can also help the “winter blahs” and a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Getting fit doesn’t mean you have to buy pricey equipment, either. You can find lots of free exercise routines online that require little or no equipment. For instance, “Nerd Fitness” features bodyweight exercises and workouts that can be done on outdoor playground equipment. YouTube is also a great source for workout videos of all kinds.

As an added bonus, an exercise resolution can help with stress relief and stress management without costing you a dime.

There are also plenty of great apps to help you exercise as you stay encouraged and accountable. Check out MyFitnessPal, MapMyWalk, or FitOn to get started on your new year’s goals.

Resolution #3: Quit Smoking

Some programs cost money, but you can find free resources to help you kick the habit at SmokeFree.gov. Many employers now also offer programs to help you quit. These are often free and may include free or subsidized medications to help you quit. You could even save on your health insurance premiums by quitting.

Even if you pay a fee for your program or medications, the cost is small compared to the savings you’ll realize by quitting – not to mention the health benefits.

Resolution #4: Donate & Volunteer

Looking to support good causes in the new year? Charities appreciate money donations, but you can help in other ways. Consider donating your time and skills. Nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers.

Even if you have other resolutions, like getting healthy, you can often support both at the same time. Walk dogs at your local animal rescue. Get a workout moving boxes for an organization in need.

Volunteering is a remarkable way to meet new people and learn new skills. Find something you believe in and resolve to support your community this year. It just might be the best – and cheapest – resolution you’ve ever made.

Resolution #5: Save Money

Even a resolution to spend less and improve your finances can cost money if you buy books and programs offered by financial experts. But you can find free budgeting and financial planning services through organizations in your community, as well as financial organizations like your bank, that can help you figure out how to save money.

There are many excellent free resources for financial advice and education. Consider trustworthy sites like Motley Fool, Forbes, or your bank’s own website. There are lots of free apps to help you manage your money. Try Mint, EveryDollar, or YNAB (short for You Need a Budget). These tools can offer support to help you track spending and create a budget to help you save.

Resolution #6: Learn Something New

When you learn new skills, you open the door to opportunities that could raise your income. Training often costs money, but scholarships are available for adult students. And if you know where to look, you can find free or low-cost training.

Don’t forget to ask about educational assistance at work. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees – especially if the classes are job-related.

Even learning a new hobby can bring a lot to your life, including new people. Pursuing a skill or hobby you’ve always been interested in, like knitting or woodworking, is a new year’s resolution that will keep on giving. YouTube is an excellent free source of information for learning new hobbies.

Resolution #7: Learn a New Language

If you’re not the artsy-craftsy type, what about learning a new language? Free versions of language learning apps like Duolingo and Babble can help you become conversational without ever spending a dime. You can later upgrade to inexpensive paid versions or software like Rosetta Stone if you want to continue learning.

With dozens of languages available, this is a cheap resolution that can’t go wrong. You’ll feel like you’re playing a video game, all while learning a new language that can deepen your travel experiences and even enhance your resume.

Just 30 minutes a day of active study will have you rapidly learning a language. If you want to learn even faster, watch or listen to content in the new language for an hour a day (and still for free).

Resolution #8: Reduce Stress

Last but not least, reducing stress is a resolution that just keeps giving. From improving mental health to lowering blood pressure and inflammation, there’s almost no downside to reducing stress – and you can get started for free.

You can attack high stress with multiple approaches that won’t empty your wallet. Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, even if it’s low-key.  Getting outdoors is beneficial. Meditating with a free app like Calm or Headspace is a great idea. Headspace’s guided meditation is even offered by Microsoft as part of day-end updates from Cortana. Scheduling self-care activities, spending time with loved ones, taking part in classes or hobbies you love, and getting plenty of sleep can all take a bite out of stress without biting your budget.

With so many excellent ways to improve or enrich your life, there’s no reason your new year’s resolutions need to cost you a dime. Keep those pennies in your pocket and chase another great goal for next year: financial security.

New Year's Resolutions FAQs

  • What is a new year’s resolution?

    A new year’s resolution is a promise to improve something about one’s life or make a change in the coming year.

  • Why do 80 percent of New Year's resolutions fail?

    Put simply, it’s hard to make new habits. And according to VeryWell Mind, most of us set resolutions that are really big, while we would see more success by setting smaller, intermediate goals that are more attainable.

  • What are the best new year's resolutions?
This is a matter of personal opinion. If you pick something that matters to you and work to make improvements, it’s hard to go wrong. You could even set a funny new year’s resolution, like laughing more each day, learning new jokes, or going to more comedy shows. The best resolution is the one that makes a difference to you.