YNAB Financial New Year's Resolutions

20 Money Resolutions for 2021

And How to Make Them Stick


This is the year you master your money! We’ve got 20 money resolutions for 2021 to get you saving more, paying off debt, and getting into tip-top financial shape. We’ve got a grab bag of ideas for bank accounts of all shapes and sizes.

1. Do a month-long money challenge

Looking for a financial challenge this January? Try the 34-day reset challenge to slim and trim your spending and get your finances in shape. There are only three rules, and you do them every day for 34 days:

  1. Track your spending, every dollar.
  2. Only buy essentials (You decide what counts as an essential.)
  3. No eating out. No exceptions.

At the end of the 34 days, you’ll have a little nest egg saved (on average, people save $1,000) and you apply that to the goal you set at the beginning: maybe it’s to pay off debt, save an emergency fund, or maybe it’s something fun like buying that big thing you’ve always wanted and paying for it in cash.

2. Pay off your credit card debt. 

Debt isn’t free, and you’ve had enough of the expensive credit card variety. Do a full roundhouse kick on that debt balance this year.

Not sure where to start? Check out this free video course that’s full of lightbulb moments of why paying off debt has been so hard, and it’ll give you a new mindset that will make it easier to get out of debt fast (and stay out for good).

3. Break a vice.

We’ve got a great recipe for this one: pick that vice (for some, Starbucks iced chai, for others smoking). Break it out as a category in your budget and assign zero dollars to it. That means every time you want your vice, you’ve got to take money from things that might matter more. We’re not saying don’t buy it: we’re saying de-fund it. There’s an important mental clarity dance that will help you break the vice for good.

4. Pay off your car loan. 

Get one step closer to that debt-free life with a paid-off car. The average used car payment costs $381/month (and new cars cost $530/month). Imagine all the other things that money could buy instead. Need some inspiration? Success stories abound for paying off double-digit debt in a short period of time (see here, here, and here).

Get some accountability by joining our free debt bootcamp this January. You’ll be surrounded by others that feel the same hefty weight of debt, our teachers guide you through a straightforward path to paying it off, and you’ll turbocharge your progress with the extra accountability.

5. Break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.  

This could be the year you finally break the paycheck to paycheck cycle! You can, you really can. Learn how to get a month ahead with your money and feel that cycle of stress just wash away.

6. Fund a new computer/phone before your old one dies. 

Just picture the feeling when your phone does a triple backflip into the toilet (not even a splash! Perfect 10!) and then realize you already have a pile of money waiting to fund a new one. Just add a Category to your budget for “New Technology” and start funding it. $50-$100 a month will get you ready for a new phone or laptop by the end of the year. Technology will break, and you can be ready for it with cold, hard cash.

7. Refinance your mortgage.

Could a global pandemic be the best time to refinance your mortgage? Well, turns out if you’re in a solid financial position and you plan to live in your house for awhile: the question of if you should refinance actually has a clear answer.

8. Build wealth.

You make decent money but it never seems to accumulate. Get your finances organized and optimized with a wealth-building tool like YNAB. For Ivan, a software engineer in Silicon Valley, he’s been able to painlessly trim 20% off his monthly spending and easily track his FIRE progress.

Those with large incomes might find their salaries become even more powerful with the intentionality and analysis of a budget.

-Ivan, Software Engineer in Silicon Valley

You’ll have the data all in one place for making informed financial decisions, you’ll know exactly where your money goes, and you’ll supercharge your hard-earned dollars to get what you want out of life. Start your free 34-day trial of YNAB (no credit card required).

9. Save $1,000 for a rainy day. 

Statistics are scary when 60% of Americans can’t pull together $1,000 from savings in case of an emergency. Get on the brighter side of that statistic by pulling together a buffer for when the unexpected hits (because it surely will).

Want to build this nest egg and have it done in just over a month? The average person doing the 34-Day Reset saves $1,000.

10. Get the full employer match for your 401k. 

If you’ve got extra money sitting around, put it to use by upping your retirement contribution. Employers will often match 3-5% of your contributions. If you’re hovering around the low end of that number, bump it up for the full match. For a greater challenge, see if you can push yourself up to a full 15% retirement savings rate. Any additional funds can help! Set it up on auto-deduct and watch the balance grow.

11. Cut your student loan payment term in half. 

If you’re on a ten-year repayment plan and have a little extra wiggle room (or extra motivation) in your budget, consider crunching it down to five years. This doesn’t necessarily have to include any refinancing, it just means increasing your monthly payment and a sprint to the finish line.

12. Pay for someone else’s groceries. 

Spice up your money life with an extra heap of generosity this year. We heard the heart-warming story last year of one woman who paid for another person’s groceries at Aldi when she realized their card had been declined. What makes the story even more incredible is that she used to be that girl. Read the rest of her turnaround story.

When opportunity strikes, don’t miss your chance.

13. Don’t eat out for a month. 

Are you up for the challenge? Eating out is a perennial thief of hard-earned dollars and can be a good reset after a busy (and treat-filled) December. Try to go without spending any money on food or drink outside the home for one whole month. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Make the no-spend month more fun by doing it with others in the 34-Day Reset challenge.

14. Pay for your dream vacation in cash.

Wine-tasting in Italy, whale-watching in Alaska, the Great American Roadtrip—we can dream of these in the not-so-distant future, right? Start turning that hope to reality by saving up for it in cash. It’s easy to set aside dollars and keep track of your progress in your budget! Happy travels!

15. Open a Roth IRA. 

If you’ve been doing the 401k thing and have heard of this Roth IRA jazz, maybe it’s the year you check it out. Some financial advisors recommend both types of savings (especially if you’re an avocado-toast-eating millennial or woke gen-z’er with compound interest on your side). This gives you greater flexibility in your golden years (having both lets you choose from a taxed or tax-free pot of money).

What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA?

16. Give more away. 

To quote a country song, “never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.” You just can’t take it with you! Maybe this is the year you start siphoning money off to that animal shelter, that literacy program, that community garden. Find a cause worth spreading and support them. Dollars can be a remarkable (and rewarding) support structure.

17. Rollover your old 401k. 

Take that old 401k from a prior job and consolidate. This will involve some phone calls or emails with the holding institution and new one, but you’ll feel great once it’s done. The biggest benefit: simplicity. Read more about how to do a rollover here.

18. Do a debt sprint. 

You don’t have an amount in mind, you just know you want to start crushing it. Check out this framework of how to pay off $26,000 in debt on a $35,000 per year income. Plus, don’t miss our debt bootcamp to get all the support and resources you need to race to the finish line.

19. Grant some of your wishes. 

Maybe you’ve been wanting a dutch oven for a long time, or a new pair of Wicked Good slippers. This is your year. Set up a category group for all these wishes, and whenever you are assigning dollars jobs, see if any are up for the task. Learn more about setting up a Wish List in YNAB here or watch the video below.

20. Pay off zero percent interest loans. 

Just because they’re zero percent doesn’t mean they won’t mess with your money mind. If you’ve got an impending end to your 0% APR perk this year, hustle to pay it off before that date hits. Read this story of a nightmare year of zero percent interest for further inspiration. 

How to Make Your Resolutions Stick

If you’ve done this song and dance before you know the feeling come January 31—or January 3—when the wind goes out of your sails. Whoooooosh.

Here’s how to make this New Year’s resolution stick. It’s all about tricking yourself.

Do it with a friend.

Yep, talking about money goals can be squirmy but sometimes you’ve gotta tell another living soul the very thing you want to do, in hopes that their iron with sharpen your own. We’ve got a great path for you in our Debt Bootcamp or trying your hand at the 34-Day Reset (just one more shameless plug, it’s going to be so good!) where you can join other like-minded debt payoff hustlers. It’s just the motivation the budget doctor ordered.

Take yourself out of the equation.

One of the greatest technological advancements of the century in the world of personal finance: automatic transfers and payments. If you’re trying to up your student loan payment, your mortgage payment, your retirement contribution, your savings rate, success is just a few clicks away with an automatic transfer from one account to another.

This one is quick: it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to do, then the hard work of saving is already done for you!

Shorten it. Sometimes, by a lot.

Maybe you wanted to pay off $800 a month on your student loans for the whole year. We love the tenacity. But by now maybe you know you’ll get to the end of the month, miss your goal by $200, and throw in the towel. It was too exhausting.

Instead, what if you just did $400 by January 15? 

Here’s what we love about this approach: you’re going to get to Jan 15 and hot dang, you’ve paid off $450! Then January 16 comes and you say—you know what, I can do that again. And you pay off another $400. Shortening your goals might be the wind in your sails you need to keep going, and you might get to the very same spot with more of your mental energy intact.

Write it down.

Ugh, I know this one feels so lame. But it’s SO TRUE. Printed, written, block letters, curly letters. WRITE IT DOWN.  We’ll even accept an email or a note in your phone on this one. You’ll be more prone to keep that promise you made to yourself when it’s clear and you can see it with written proof.

There you have it—20 money ideas for the year and how to make them stick. We can’t wait to hear your success stories. Send ’em over here when you’re ready or do some reading for your own inspiration of what’s possible.