31 Days to Actually Achieve Your Financial Resolutions
13th December 2021
Holiday spending got a little out of control? Looking to make this year the one where you finally become money savvy and take control of your finances instead of the other way around? Us too! That’s why for your new year’s resolutions, we’ve created this 31-day challenge to help you learn personal finance essentials, change your mindset around money (if needed) and live a healthier, better life by feeling empowered by your finances, not overwhelmed.
Whatever your financial goals, if your resolutions are to be better with money, join us on Facebook and Twitter and we’ll be your accountability buddy for January. Every day we’ll be posting a simple, manageable task with tips and guides learned from personal finance gurus. These tasks will work towards building your confidence around managing your finances and help you get into better money habits that will last all year long - and hopefully, the rest of your life.
See our guides below - Let’s get started!
- Week 1: Get a Handle on Things
- Week 2: Cut Costs
- Week 3: Build Better Financial Habits
- Week 4: Make Your Resolutions Stick
Day 1: Set your financial resolutions
What financial goals are you looking to achieve this month, and hopefully, this year? Maybe it’s to spend less, to save more or to pay off debt repayments quicker. Have a think and make it SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound), e.g: to put £100 into a separate savings account on the 15th of every month until July 2022 for our summer holiday.
Display your goals somewhere you’ll see it for the rest of the month, perhaps on your fridge, bathroom mirror, your phone lockscreen or screensaver. You could also display a photo of your end result as motivation.
Day 2: Explore your money thoughts
Grab a piece of paper or your notes app. Ask yourself: what does money mean to me? Write down everything that pops into your mind, no matter how small. Maybe you view money as an enemy, or something you can never keep hold of. This exercise should reveal your raw and honest views on money - often this comes from our parents, partners or even media. Set this aside and we’ll come back to it later.
Week 1: Get a Handle on Things
Like with anything, starting with the foundations will set you up for success. When it comes to your personal finances, this means clarifying both your mindset and current financial situation. Week 1 is all about being mindful of how your relationship with money affects your choices, increasing your awareness around your income and spending and, most importantly, introduces you to budgeting.
Weekly Challenge: Track all of your spending for the week (find out more on Day 4).
Daily Challenge: The No-Spend Challenge - one day this week, don’t spend a penny (ideally Wednesday).
Day 3: Shift your mindset
Real, permanent change comes from within, rather than any outside pressures, so it’s up to you to set yourself up for success. Remember, it’s not about changing everything at once - the all-or-nothing approach will often set you up for failure. Instead, be patient, persistent and learn from your mistakes. If you slip up, don’t give up.
Day 4: Learn to track your spending
It’s impossible to get a full, financial picture without taking the time to track your spending (and your income). Read our post on 4 Steps to Track Your Spending and Build Better Habits to learn where to start. By the end of this week, you’ll be surprised what you may learn about where your money’s going.
Day 5: Check your credit score
Every now and again, it’s important to take some time to check in with your credit score, whether that be with Experian, Clearscore or whatever service you use. Consider this the start of your financial MOT. To find out more, see our guide: Understanding Your Credit Score and How to Improve It.
Day 6: Collect your statements and documents
Start gathering all your financial statements (or get access to digital ones via online banking) in one place so you can start getting a clear overview of where you’re currently at and help with budgeting in the following days. This might also be a good time for a spring clean of your paperwork.
Day 7: Learn about budgeting
Budgeting is the most important tool in your financial toolbox, yet so many of us still don’t take advantage of its benefits. Before you give it a go, take some time to read up on exactly why it can be a life changer. Here’s Why Budgeting Is Important - It's The Best Thing You Can Do This Weekend.
Day 8: Create a budget
Today’s the day. Using yesterday’s post on budgeting and a template like this one from MoneySavingExpert, fill in your budget for the month. We recommend that you do this manually before you download any budgeting apps, rather than get distracted by shiny features. This way you will understand how important it is to plan ahead, spend on what matters most to you and cut back on what doesn’t.
Day 9: Download a budgeting app
Budgeting apps are an easy way to get an overview of your finances and allow you to start tracking what you’re spending simply by linking your bank account to the app usually through Open Banking technology. We’ve rounded up The Best UK Budgeting Apps to Track Your Money in 2023 to make the choice easier.
Week 2: Cut Costs
Unsurprisingly, one of the main ways to save money is to spend less of it, but we understand that is easier said than done. There’s a whole world of cost cutting ideas out there, which is why for Week 2, we’ve rounded up some of the best, most simple ways to trim a little (or a lot) off of your budget each month.
Weekly Challenge: The No New Clothes/Pet Toys/Tech/Chocolate Challenge - basically don’t buy any of what tempts you for a week.
Daily Challenges: The No-Spend Challenge - one day this week, don’t spend a penny (ideally Tuesday).
Day 10: Cancel any unnecessary subscriptions
Streaming services, apps, magazines, gaming subscriptions, there’s so much that many of us pay for on a monthly basis and, naturally, it all adds up. But do you need every single one of them this month? Have you even watched anything on NowTV recently? Read more on Why You Should Cancel Your Subscription Costs and aim to cancel any subscriptions you haven’t used for the last month - you can always change your mind later.
Day 11: Plan your weekly shop
The way you approach your weekly shop can be the difference between spending beyond your means and actually having money leftover to save. There are plenty of ways to avoid impulse spending or ordering takeaways because there’s nothing as good in the fridge. Your challenge right now is to read these 5 Essential Tips to Become a Savvy Supermarket Shopper and make a shopping list - your first step to building the habit.
Day 12: Negotiate your bills
You may think that the amount you spend on bills is non-negotiable, but that’s simply not true. Since you can switch suppliers to get a better deal (and you should), your current providers will be willing to haggle to keep you. Read The Simple Guide to Successfully Haggle Your Bills and call up one of your bill providers to get a better deal.
Day 13: Cut your energy usage
We’re all constantly using energy, even more so if you work from home and especially in the winter, but there are ways to bring your energy bills down without freezing you and your family in the process. Find out How to Save Money on Your Energy Bills and choose at least one idea from our list to try to stick to, like getting into the habit of unplugging your unused devices whenever possible.
Day 14: Find ways to cut back
The more everyday cutbacks you make on things unimportant to you, the more money you’ll have left for the big stuff - it’s as simple as that. Think about each part of your daily routine and ask, how can I achieve the same thing and spend less? For example, ordering your favourite coffee syrup online and making your favourite drink at home instead of always buying when you’re out. For more ideas, here are our 22 Everyday Ways to Cut Spending For 2022.
Day 15: Review your budget
However you’ve decided to budget, whether that’s by app or via a spreadsheet, it’s time to start reviewing it based on the week you’ve just had. Hopefully you’ve been effectively tracking your spending so checking it against your budget should be quick and easy.
Day 16: Reflect on your budget
Take some time and really understand your up-to-date budget and all your expenses for the last week and ask yourself the following questions:
- What were your wins for the week? What have you done well?
- Do you think your current budget is realistic?
- Are you noticing any patterns in your spending that you might want to change?
- Are there any habits that you want to break?
- What can you do next week to continue to improve?
Set yourself up to succeed by updating your budget based on these answers.
Week 3: Build Better Financial Habits
Depending on who you ask, it takes 21 days to form a habit, which is why we started you off with budgeting at the beginning of this January challenge, but it can also take as long (or longer) to break a habit. We all have bad spending habits - that’s only natural, but the good news is that those can become easy wins. Week 3 is dedicated to building good habits, and identifying the bad.
Weekly Challenge: The No Takeaway Challenge - this week don’t spend any money on takeaways or eating out.
Daily Challenges: The No-Spend Challenge - one day this week, don’t spend a penny (ideally Thursday). If you’ve managed this over the last two weeks, try two days this week.
Day 17: Identify your money behaviours
You may feel like you never have enough money each month, but have you actually taken the time to ask why? Read our post on 5 Reasons You Never Have Enough Money and see if you can identify which one relates to you. Once you understand why, you can truly start to make changes in your behaviours.
Day 18: Create a wishlist
One habit many of us have is impulse spending: we want it, we buy it. The best way to tackle this is to create a wishlist and before buying something, add it to the list, leave it for at least 24 hours, ideally 30 days and then decide if you still want it. Usually, you won’t. Additionally, start building a to-sell list with everything you don’t use so you can actually make some money through sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Depop.
Day 19: Plan for the year ahead
So you’ve got your monthly budget, but what about those times of the year that don’t neatly add up to the same amount? Christmas, birthdays, summer holidays - all of these can throw your budget completely out of the window. Read up on Why Your Calendar is Essential For Your Budget and make a list of all the times of year you anticipate spending more than your budget allows and add it to your budget. If you’re the kind of person who pays for Christmas with your December wages, this is for you.
Day 20: Calculate the cost of your habits
We all have our own personal spending habits, whether it’s a daily takeaway coffee, that Friday night pub trip or no-cooking weekends. Choose your most common habits and work out how much you spend on them per year: x12 for once a month, x52 for once a week, x250 for every working day and x365 for every day. What else could you buy with that total instead? Is it worth it? If not, remind yourself of that amount every time you’re tempted.
Day 21: Start creating an emergency fund
One of the best things you can do is create an emergency fund, even if you only start off with £1 as it builds the habit. Emergency funds can be your lifeline for when the unexpected happens including a broken down car, a vet bill or the aftermath of a break up. All you need to do is set up a dedicated savings account (which is free) and deposit at least £1. For more information, see How to Build an Emergency Fund for Rainy Days.
Day 22: Review your budget
Like last week, it’s time to review your budget based on your weekly income and outgoings. Has anything dramatically changed, good or bad? Keep it up if it’s looking good, but don’t worry if it’s not quite looking the way you wanted it to - accept it, and try to improve upon it next week.
Day 23: Reflect on your budget
This week, as well as noticing any spending patterns (are they the same from the week before?), take a moment to reflect on how you’re feeling. Meditation or journaling might be useful here if you practice them. By this point, you’re meant to be feeling more in control, more empowered. If, instead, it’s causing you stress, ask yourself why. You can reach out to our community on Facebook to talk with others doing this challenge who may be feeling the same, or slow down and follow at a pace that’s more comfortable.
Week 4: Make Your Resolutions Stick
With January coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about how your financial resolutions can shape your future. Cutting back and spending mindfully can be difficult, but Week 4 will help you to make these successful financial habits last by incorporating things like fun funds and accountability partners.
Weekly Challenge: The Cash Diet - this week, take out some cash and use this for everything you’re buying. Physically handing over cash is more impactful than using a card.
Daily Challenges: The No-Spend Challenge - one day this week, don’t spend a penny (ideally Monday). Try to do two days if you can.
Day 24: Check in with your career
Your career is the biggest factor in your finances, yet when we’re going through the motions, we forget to check in with ourselves and assess our career choices and progression. We’ve written some tips on how to tell if you Are You Being Paid Fairly, as well as how to have the awkward conversation about a raise if not and ideas to earn more in the future such as personal development if you are.
Day 25: Cut your food costs
Going forward, it’s time to pay more attention to how much you’re spending on food. We gave you tips on shopping savvy, but we also have 17 Simple Ways to Cut Your Food Costs. Consider these as mini challenges for the next month as you discover which work for you and your household. There are several you could start today like cooking from scratch as much as possible and leaving takeaways for special occasions.
Day 26: Set reminders
If you’re determined to keep your financial resolutions all year round, you may need a regular nudge to keep up the good work. Set payment reminders in your phone and make a note on your calendar to remind yourself to make payments on time, review statements and evaluate your budget.
Day 27: Build a fun fund
Having something fun to look forward to is always a great motivator so just because you’re consciously cutting back on spending, doesn’t mean all non-essential spending is bad. In fact, you should set a goal, big or small, whether that’s a sunny getaway or a fancy meal, and start saving what you can towards it. Plus, not everything on your fun list has to cost money - free activities are a win-win.
Day 28: Find an accountability partner
For the last month, we’ve been happy to be your accountability partner, but now as we draw to the end of the challenge, it’s time to find someone long term. Reach out and find yourself a friend, family member or colleague who will push you to achieve your goals, motivate you when you’re struggling and hold you accountable if you try to give up.
Day 29: Review your budget
It’s time to review that budget. It’s been more than 21 days since you started budgeting, is it beginning to feel like a habit yet? As always, go through your spending and see what areas are under or over budget. If you’ve just been paid, it may be time to start a new budget for the upcoming month, or you can wait until the 1st - it’s entirely up to you.
Day 30: Reflect on your resolutions
Remember the financial resolutions and your views on money from the first two days of the challenge? Read through these now and reflect on what has happened since. Did you achieve your goal? Have your views on money changed? Do you feel more confident or determined to learn more about your finances and how to change them? Take your time with this.
Day 31: Reward yourself and plan for the future
Congrats on making it this far! By kicking off the new year with a strong financial start, you should already be on track to meet your goals, whatever you chose them to be, so why not have a mini celebration. Ice cream, anyone?
Whether you participated for the whole month, or only read an article or two, hopefully you’ve discovered how motivating achievable daily goals can be, especially when they save you money. But, of course, this shouldn’t be the end of your journey - resolutions are designed to be for the year, not just January.
Your final task is to create a plan for the future. Use these questions to start:
- Will you continue regularly budgeting? (you absolutely should)
- Are there any habits you will keep?
- Are there any habits you still want to break? What can you change to make that possible?
- Based on the daily no-spend challenges, what day(s) of the week works best for your lifestyle, if you choose to continue it?
Remember, when it comes to keeping your financial resolutions, you are the key. You make decisions every day, every week and every month throughout the year that all add up when it comes to building savings and wealth. It can sound tough, but keep going, you’ve got this!
Share your success, insights and goals with us on Facebook and Twitter and join the community for future tips and guides to improve your finances.