More than a third of New Year's Resolutions hang by a thread

Failure and breaking New Year's Resolutions

By the end of the first week in January, more than a quarter of all New Year's Resolutions had failed, by the end of this week, more than a third will have fallen by the wayside, and by the end of the month, the vast majority will have given up. There are, however, five ways to avoid being a quitter.

See also: New Year's Resolutions for 2017 to transform your finances

See also: Your new year's resolution: properties with a gym

See also: Job applications surge due with return to work after festive break

A study by the free credit reporting service, Noddle, fund that most of us started 2017 with the best of intentions. Some 70% of people wanted to detox their finances, while more than 55% of people started a diet. However, 7.3 million people will break their resolutions before the end of the year - and most will have fallen off the wagon in less than a month.

The key to understanding why we fall short, and doing something about it, is to understand a little of how our brains work - so we set the right resolutions, and stick to them.

1) Pick the easy goals
The resolutions that require a change in daily habits are the hardest to keep. It doesn't mean we shouldn't make them at all, but it may be easier starting with something that we only need to do once or twice a year. This may be something like switching utilities, finding a better savings account, or shopping around for insurance. This can save us hundreds of pounds a year, without any lifestyle change at all.

2) Be realistic
Don't try to change everything overnight: it will be too overwhelming. Instead, pick a few easy goals, and stick with them. Once you have a few months' worth of success under your belt, you could try introducing a few more. This gradual approach will avoid everything seeming so hard that you throw in the towel.

3) Identify your weaknesses
If you are keen to make a lifestyle change, think about your potential weaknesses. Leading behavioural economist, Professor Ivo Vlaev, says that a major issue is simply the fact that we cave into temptation - which 40% of people struggle with. He says one useful approach is to identify when we are most likely to indulge in expensive habits. So, for example, do you buy a take away coffee every morning to make commuting feel less of a chore? He says: "Once identified, try substituting those habits with less expensive, but as rewarding, alternatives." This could mean subscribing to podcasts you can enjoy on the way to work for free.

4) Reinforce the habit
If we want to introduce a new habit into our routine, associate it with something you like to do. Vlaev says: "Associate checking your online account with something you enjoy doing in a specific situation. For example, during your lunch break or before checking Facebook. By doing this you should develop an automatic habit of checking your accounts regularly, which will feel rewarding rather than a chore." Once a month, you could also factor in checking your credit rating, to ensure everything is as you expect.

5) Pick yourself up
Once you have broken a New Year's Resolution, you shouldn't give yourself permission to fall back into bad habits for the rest of the year. Instead, you need to address why you have fallen off the wagon. Perhaps the goal was too challenging, or you failed to spot a weakness. Whatever it is, address the problem, and start again.

Nobody ever said that sticking to resolutions was easy. However, these five steps should help you buck the trend, and end 2017 with better habits and more cash.

Most common causes of debt
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Most common causes of debt

There are some very common reasons for building up problem debts. Here we reveal seven of the most common, and what you can do if you face them.

Unemployment or illness that means one or more of the household’s earners are unable to work will bring a profound change in family finances, and according to the Money Advice Service is the most common reason for getting into problem debt.

If your circumstances change, therefore, you need to immediately address your family finances, and put everything on a minimum spend lockdown. You should also look into the benefits and tax credits that are available sooner rather than later, to try to close the gap.

If you are on the kind of contract that means varying hours, it can be incredibly difficult to work out what you can afford to spend - making it the second most common reason for getting into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

Rather than swinging through the extremes from week to week, the best approach is to establish a budget that will work in the leanest of months, so you don't find yourself getting used to the months when you work more hours.

According to Citizens Advice, trying to service too much debt is the third most common reason for getting into difficulties. The TUC found that those with problem debts spend 40% of their income on debt repayments.

If you are in this position, you officially need some help with your debt problems. If you continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, you will end up owing more and more, so you need to take stock and talk to a debt charity about all your options.

The double-whammy of the legal bills combined with the incredible cost of establishing two separate households is enough to make divorce or separation the fourth most common reason for going into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

There's no easy solution, but if you are going through this, it can be helpful to talk through your financial situation with someone you trust or a debt charity, who can help you balance a stretched budget.

Problem debts aren’t necessarily caused by a sudden shock to the system. According to the Money Advice Service, 20% of their clients are simply trying to live on an unsustainably low income.

If you are in this category, it’s important to seek help on the benefits and tax credits you may be able to receive. It’s not always easy to navigate the system, but charities like StepChange have experts on the benefits system who can talk you through what’s available.

The combination of rising costs and stagnating wages over the last few years has meant increasingly people saw their monthly wage cover less and less of their monthly outgoings. This position has started to ease more recently, but has left many people far worse off than before the financial crisis. The Money Advice Trust said a combination of this and unexpected costs was responsible for almost one in ten problem debts.

If you consistently spend more than you are expecting, it's well worth keeping a spending diary. That way you can establish the real cost of living, and start to identify where you can cut costs.

The Money Advice Service says it commonly deals with individuals who have struggled to get to grips with budgeting and debts, and have got into debt because they don’t have the skills and knowledge to manage their money effectively.

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