Why Are Resolutions to Lose Weight and Save Money so Tough to Keep?

Americans struggle with both goals -- but you don't have to.

It’s the time of year when many people start dropping their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a recent Business Insider survey found that after one month, the determination to keep resolutions seems to slacken, with 22 percent of respondents saying it’s fine to drop resolutions by the end of February.

It’s unfortunate that New Year’s resolutions aren’t followed through more often, especially when those resolutions involve saving money and being healthier. These two tend to be among the top resolutions people make every year, but new data suggests that one of these resolutions is easier to keep than the other.

A recent CIT Bank survey found that 57 percent of Americans think it’s easier to eat out and order in less than it is to keep a financial resolution for a year. And another 27 percent said losing 15 pounds is easier than sticking to a financial goal. This is what Americans think, but are they right? Keep reading to find out what’s more difficult for Americans: losing weight or saving more money.

Click to See: One Expert Reveals How to Master Your Finance Goals for 2019

Americans Struggle With Losing Weight and Saving Money

It’s hard to say definitively which goal is easier to achieve — losing weight or sticking to financial goals (e.g., saving more money). It ultimately depends on the individual and their habits. However, the following statistics might suggest that sticking to financial goals could actually be easier than what many Americans think:

  • Of the 27 percent of Americans who made a financial resolution in 2018, 74 percent stuck with it, according to Fidelity Investments.
  • Meanwhile, 54 percent of Americans attempted to lose weight in the new year, but only 59 percent of these respondents were able to stick with it, according to Elliptical Reviews.

In addition to the 41 percent of people who failed to lose weight, the Elliptical Reviews survey also found that 54 percent of people have failed at dieting or eating healthier, 44 percent of people have failed at exercising more and 17 percent have failed at saving more and spending less.

But make no mistake — sticking with weight-loss and financial goals is no easy task. And whether it’s losing weight or saving more money, research shows that many Americans struggle with both goals.

According to a 2018 CDC report, 49.1 percent of adults tried to lose weight in the last 12 months from 2013 to 2016. And research by the Cleveland Clinic found that most Americans are concerned about their weight — and getting heart disease as a result of too much weight — but only 43 percent have tried to make dietary changes. Meanwhile, 40 percent of those who have identified as being overweight or obese aren’t careful about what they eat.

So although the will to lose weight and be healthier is there, converting that will into practical results seems to be much tougher for Americans. The same can be said about Americans’ will to stick to financial goals and save more money.

Many Americans lack sufficient savings in their savings account. GOBankingRates’ 2018 Annual Savings survey found that 32 percent of Americans have $0 in savings, and an additional 26 percent have less than $1,000. But, many Americans have resolved to save more money this year.

Thirty-six percent of respondents in GOBankingRates’ New Year’s Resolution survey said they’re aiming to save more money in 2019, and the average savings goal is a little bit more than $26,000. Additionally, a more recent poll found the following when respondents were asked to describe how they felt about their savings goal and future plans:

  • One-third of respondents (32.6 percent) said, “I should be saving a lot more to meet my goals.”
  • The second most popular answer was, “I should be saving a bit more to meet my goals,” with over 24 percent of responses.
  • The third most popular response — and also not encouraging — was “I’m not sure/I don’t know whether I’ll have enough or not,” with 23.8 percent of responses.
  • And in last, with under a fifth of responses (19.4 percent) was, “I am saving enough to meet my goals.”

The survey results reveal a frustrating conundrum when it comes to Americans and saving money. Americans seem to be quite aware that they should be doing better with their saving — a combined 56.8 percent know this fact. Yet, doing this in real life is easier said than done.

See the Results: Americans’ Top Goals (and Financial Worries) in 2019

How to Stick to Your Health and Financial Goals

According to CIT Bank survey, 65 percent of respondents made a New Year’s financial resolution in 2019. GOBankingRates’ New Year’s resolution survey found that 37 percent of Americans made resolutions to get in shape and/or eat healthier. These good intentions can amount to nothing, however, if people don’t build the habits to carry their resolutions to fruition.

The key to keeping to your New Year’s resolutions, financial goals or getting healthier is to build new habits. This is a difficult and gradual process but by far the most effective.

According to a study on habit formation by the European Journal of Social Psychology, a critical objective is to reach automaticity — the ability to perform tasks without conscious thought. The way to do this is through repetition of a behavior in a consistent context, such as exercising before work every morning or depositing part of your paycheck immediately into your savings account.

“For many, a New Year’s resolution becomes an afterthought a few weeks into January,” said Ravi Kumar, head of internet banking for CIT Bank. “But our study shows it doesn’t have to be that way. Building a steady habit of savings is an effective way to keep your financial resolutions on track. ”

There are simple strategies to help you jump-start better habits. Automatic transfers from checking to savings account, for example, can take care of having to remember to save part of your paycheck. It’s something that 69 percent of Americans don’t do, but it’s a straightforward way to build your savings effectively.

These other tips might sound boring, but like automatic transfers, they are very effective when applied over time:

  • Be consistent
  • Write your goal or resolution down on paper
  • Reward yourself along the way
  • Give yourself time to adopt, change and eliminate bad habits and form new ones

Remember: You Can Accomplish Both Goals at Once

When it comes to your health and financial goals, remember this: These goals complement each other. Pledging and committing to eating out or ordering in less is cost-effective, and can leave you with more money left over to put into savings. Grocery shopping for produce, like individual fruits and vegetables, is both cheaper than buying pre-packaged food and healthier for you. And lastly, exercising — such as running or even walking — can be used for short distances instead of taking Lyft or Uber, which can add up alarmingly fast.

Keep reading to see the No. 1 thing Americans are saving for.

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