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Why Even Bother with New Year’s Resolutions to Pay Down Debt?



Question: We’re not even six weeks into 2017 and my boyfriend has already blown his New Year’s resolution to stop running up his credit cards and actually start paying them down.

He was doing fine until the Super Bowl last weekend. Then he not only spent $200 on buying drinks for his friends (because he says his team won, and it’s a tradition) but he also spent another $120 on football jerseys and hats, even though he has a lot of them already. He wears them when we go out on dates, and it’s annoying.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking to my New Year’s resolution to pay extra on my car loan so it’ll be paid off a year early, and I’m not buying any more sexy boots. (I admit I’m addicted to boots, but I also admit I have a shelf full and don’t need any more this year.)

I’m wondering if this relationship has a future if my boyfriend can’t even make it two months on his promise. What do you think?

Paula in South Carolina

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

I’ve never been keen on New Year’s resolutions, Paula. Last month, I compared them to dental floss. My main objection is that a resolution is like a diet, which we’re all likely to give up on at some point.

Just like you should make lifestyle changes instead of hop on the latest diet fad, financial resolutions don’t help as much as small, permanent changes in your financial planning.

Your boyfriend has essentially cheated on his diet — but he hasn’t cheated on your relationship. Few Americans take their New Year’s resolutions seriously. As I’ve mentioned before, a mere 8 percent of us keep them.

It also turns out that women make more resolutions about finances than men do. In fact, they make more resolutions in general. A recent Harris Poll asked men and women what kind of New Year’s resolutions they’ve made this year…

  • Eat healthier (33 percent of women vs. 23 of men)
  • Save more money (29 percent vs. 21 percent)
  • Lose weight (29 percent vs. 18 percent)
  • Pay down debt (19 percent vs. 14 percent)

As you can see, the top four resolutions split neatly between food and money. As you can also see, there’s no way that many Americans are keeping that many resolutions.

So I wouldn’t harshly judge your boyfriend for slipping on Super Sunday. Ask yourself how tempted you might be if you spied a once-a-year sale on boots!

Instead, if you really want to judge your boyfriend’s commitment to both a loving and financial relationship, sit down together and discuss the basics of personal finance and money management.

If you can agree on these principles, I still can’t guarantee your relationship will last. However, if you don’t agree, I can predict (based on more than two decades of counseling couples about money) that your relationship will suffer or possibly even fail.

Bottom line: This is about being resolute about money every day, not making a New Year’s resolution.

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