Good economy or bad, Americans are still making financial New Year’s resolutions – and still not keeping them

Debt.com has asked the same questions every year for the past three years – and the majority of survey respondents say the same thing each time.

Do you have any financial resolutions for this year?YesNo
202073.54%26.46%
201965.37%34.63%
201877.28%22.72%

“Save more money” has been Americans’ favorite financial resolution every year with the exception of 2018 – when the most selected response was to “pay off my credit card debt.”

What’s your financial resolution?202020192018
Pay off my credit card debt61.51%58.35%70.46%
Save more money67.08%65.74%66.70%
Spend less to keep a balanced budget44.99%45.97%47.49%
Stop using credit cards23.39%24.67%30.89%
Start investing20.54%16.25%15.64%
Buy a car14.24%16.18%12.16%
Pay off student loans16.51%12.23%12.45%
Buy a home14.76%13.54%11.87%

It’s not surprising that Americans wanted to pay down their credit card debt most in 2018. That year, Debt.com had the most replies to “running up/maxing out my credit card balances” as the biggest financial regret from the prior year.

What’s your biggest financial regret from the last year?202020192018
Running up/maxing out my credit card balances35.12%30.66%44.43%
I don’t have any financial regrets26.00%30.02%22.85%
Missing payments and damaging my credit score23.16%23.31%23%
Letting a debt go into collections17.79%19.17%18.56%
Draining all the money from my savings account18.56%17.42%17.53%
Making a big purchase on a credit card because it didn’t fit my budget11.43%10.61%13.48%
Using money out of my 401(k) or IRA6.98%7.45%7.49%
Going overboard on a vacation because it cost too much5.06%4.04%4.79%

Each year, the majority of survey respondents tell us they didn’t have a New Year’s resolution related to debt, money or credit in the past.

In years past have you made New Year’s resolutions related to debt, money or your credit?YesNo
202043.62%56.38%
201938.72%61.28%
201843.59%56.41%

And most respondents probably don’t make financial resolutions, because most don’t think they work.

Why don’t you make financial resolution?202020192018
I never make resolutions because I don’t think they work51.03%53.16%49.60%
My finances are so bad that I can’t figure out where to start25.44%22.74%25.94%
I have bigger fish to fry in my life right now16.55%17.05%19.79%
My finances are perfect, so I don’t need financial resolutions6.98%7.05%4.68%

And it looks like financial New Year’s resolutions don’t work for most Americans. Consistently for three years straight, the majority of our survey respondents have told us that they didn’t reach their goals.

Did you keep them and reach your goal?YesNo
202042.78%57.22%
201939.17%60.83%
201836.55%63.45%

For those who do achieve their financial resolutions, it takes most survey respondents a full year to get it done.

How long did it take you to achieve your resolution?202020192018
I worked the whole year to keep my resolution46.91%38.19%42.92%
It took more than that year, but I finally reached my goal30.45%35.92%31.60%
It took me about half a year14.40%16.83%17.92%
I knocked it out within just a few months8.23%9.06%7.55%

Conversely, it took those who stopped working on their financial New Year’s resolutions a full year before throwing in the towel. So they definitely gave it a try before saying making a resolution just doesn’t work for them.

How long was it before you stopped working on the resolution?202020192018
I worked all year, but couldn’t make it happen35.29%38.41%42.39%
I kept it up for a months, but then I got busy/distracted32.51%32.36%29.62%
I made the resolution, but never made a plan to make it happen21.67%19.62%19.29%
I started working, but forgot about it in less than a month10.53%9.60%8.70%

Methodology: Debt.com surveyed 1,326 people and asked ten questions related to personal finance and the New Year to understand consumer behavior around their money resolutions. People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted from Dec. 27, 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020. *In 2019 Debt.com surveyed 2,100 people using the same type of consumer-focused questions regarding personal finance New Year resolutions utilizing SurveyMoney. And in 2018 Debt.com surveyed 1,349 people with the same survey tool.