If you want to make New Year's resolutions you actually can keep in 2018, don't set yourself up for failure by committing to costly changes. In other words, you shouldn't have to shell out a lot of money for your resolutions. That's especially true if the changes you want to make involve improving your finances.
Many of the best New Year's resolutions don't cost a thing to implement. In fact, plenty can actually help you save money. You can improve your finances and your life with any or all of these 30 resolutions that won't cost you any money to keep and might actually make you rich.
Free New Year’s Resolution #1: Make a List of Financial Goals
It won't cost you a thing to figure out what you want to achieve financially in 2018. "Write down three responsibilities or goals that are important to you," said Sean Pearson, associate vice president of Ameriprise Financial in Conshohocken, Penn. "Some examples would be big picture goals like retirement or education. Maybe it's something fun like a vacation or a home improvement project, or maybe it's as simple as paying off debt."
Learn More: Secret Tips to Live a Financially Secure Life
Free New Year’s Resolution #2: Make Your Goals Align With Your Spending
To reach the goals you set, make a New Year's resolution to align your spending with what matters most. To do this, Pearson recommends recording all of your spending for a month or two. Then see whether you're spending on things that are taking you closer to or farther away from your goals.
"If you can line up what you want and what you spend, you will have less stress and more financial confidence in the new year," Pearson said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #3: Create a Budget
Make 2018 the year you finally create a budget and stick to it. There are plenty of simple budget templates you can download for free, or you can use a free app such as Mint or Personal Capital to keep track of your spending.
Free New Year’s Resolution #4: Learn More About Personal Finance
Educating yourself about money management can help improve your finances. There are plenty websites, such as GOBankingRates, that offer free personal finance information. Set a goal to read at least one personal finance article a week to increase your knowledge. Better yet, sign up for a newsletter that curates those stories for you.
Free New Year’s Resolution #5: Get Organized
Resolve to keep your finances organized this year. Set aside time each day or week to go through bills, organize paperwork, go through your email inbox and tackle other tasks. "This will aid in stress reduction and eliminate that overwhelmed feeling by keeping your life clean and simple," said Sarah L. Carlson, founder of Fulcrum Financial Group in Spokane, Wash.
Free New Year’s Resolution #6: Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine
Living a healthier lifestyle is one of the most popular resolutions for 2018, a GOBankingRates survey found. But you don't have to shell out big bucks for a gym membership if you want to get healthier by exercising. "Do it without spending a dime — go outside or workout from home," Carlson said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #7: Listen to Self-Improvement Podcasts
In the book "Rich Habits Poor Habits," Tom Corley and Michael Yardney write that successful people spend time every day increasing their knowledge and improving their skills. You can do this for free by downloading podcasts that focus on self-help or self-improvement. Listen as you go to work, exercise or do household chores.
Free New Year’s Resolution #8: Set up Automatic Bill Pay
If you haven't already, set up automatic bill pay. It's free to do through your service providers. Your bank might also offer this service. Having bills paid automatically can help you avoid late fees and the cost of postage. "You save time, money and stress," said Marguerita M. Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, a financial planning firm in Potomac, Md.
Free New Year’s Resolution #9: Check Your Bank and Credit Accounts Daily
If you have time to check Facebook daily, you have time to check in on your finances. Resolve to check your bank and credit card accounts daily, said longtime personal finance journalist Donna Freedman, who is the author of the "Your Playbook for Tough Times" book series and who blogs at DonnaFreedman.com. Just spending two minutes reviewing your accounts can help you spot any fraudulent charges or unnecessary fees and help you be more aware of your spending.
Free New Year’s Resolution #10: Set up Account Alerts
It's simple and free to log onto your bank and credit card accounts and set up alerts to notify you of activity on your accounts. For example, you might be able get text or email alerts if your account balance drops below a certain amount, helping you avoid overdraft fees. Or you can get notifications when charges are made to your debit or credit cards, which can help you catch fraudulent activity.
Free New Year’s Resolution #11: Check Your Credit Report
It won't cost a dime to get a copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Your report shows all of the credit accounts and loans you have, the amount owed, your payment history and whether you have any bad debt. You can see what factors might be affecting your credit score, pinpoint errors that might be hurting your credit and identify fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name when you check your credit report.
Free New Year’s Resolution #12: Have Regular Money Dates
If you're married or have a significant other, resolve to have regular money dates, a set time each week or month to review your budget and financial accounts and discuss money goals. A TD Bank survey found that happy couples are more likely to discuss finances at least once a month than unhappy couples.
Keep Reading: How Happy Couples Talk About Money
Free New Year’s Resolution #13: Declutter
Resolve to clean out one drawer, closet or room each month and donate items you no longer want to Goodwill or a similar charitable organization, said Kristi Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Financial Planning in Denver. "You will feel lighter, enjoy your space more and help someone in need," she said. Plus, decluttering can help you save hundreds of dollars each year.
Free New Year’s Resolution #14: Buy Only What You Can Afford to Pay in Cash
Don't go deeper into debt in the new year. Instead, resolve to purchase only what you can pay cash for or can pay off the charge on your credit card immediately. "It might not be easy, but it can be a great achievement for you," said Brett Anderson, president of St. Croix Advisors in Hudson, Wis.
Free New Year’s Resolution #15: Make a Weekly Menu
Creating a weekly menu might help you save money because you'll have your meals planned and won't resort to takeout or restaurant meals. Spend a few minutes figuring out what you want to eat for the week, Freedman said. Then take stock of the ingredients you have on hand and make a list of what you need to buy. It's an easy way to trim your budget and your waistline.
Free New Year’s Resolution #16: Prepare Leftovers Before You Eat
When you make big meals such as a pot of chili, get in the habit of taking two minutes before eating dinner to engineer leftovers, Freedman said. "That is, put some portions in the fridge and some in the freezer," she said. "You'll have grab-and-go lunches or easy dinners for those evenings when you don't want to cook."
Free New Year’s Resolution #17: Make Breakfast and Lunch at Night
Get in the habit each night of setting up for breakfast the next morning. Fill the coffeemaker and set a box of cereal, piece of fruit or protein bar on the counter. While you're at it, pack a lunch to take to work the next day.
"Both the breakfast and lunch plans will keep you from just grabbing a bear claw from the coffee cart in the workplace lobby and going out for lunch," Freedman said. "Large potential annual savings, to say nothing of the fact that you'll eat better."
Free New Year’s Resolution #18: Skip Sodas
Instead of ordering sodas with meals, get in the habit of drinking water, Cheng said. "You save some money and some calories." Drinking soda is a dumb expense you're better off slashing from your budget now.
Free New Year’s Resolution #19: Take the Stairs
Rather than hop on the elevator, take the stairs when possible. "Obviously, it may not be appropriate to run up 15 flights with heavy bags and gear," Cheng said. But when you can climb stairs, it's a free way to get in a little exercise, she said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #20: Walk During Conference Calls
If you're going to be stuck on the phone for a while, resolve to make the most of that time by taking a walk. "It's free and good for your health," Cheng said. "I walked 4 miles during one conference call. Either it was a long call, or I walk fast."
Just make sure you walk someplace where it's quiet and you can get good reception, she said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #21: Take a Mindful Minute
Get in the habit of pausing for a minute to relax and reflect, Cheng said. Taking deep breaths will help reduce stress — and it's free. If necessary, set a reminder on your mobile device to notify you daily to take a little break.
Free New Year’s Resolution #22: Be More Grateful
If money worries are keeping you up at night, you can reduce your financial stress for free by resolving to focus on what you're grateful for, said Ellen Rogin, founder of Strategic Financial Designs in Northfield, Ill. "A regular gratitude practice has been shown to significantly reduce stress levels. Try starting your day by writing down three things you are grateful for," she said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #23: Commit to Doing Generous Acts
You don't have to open your wallet to help others. You can volunteer your time. "Doing kind acts not only boosts your mood, but also may improve your health and extend your life," Rogin said.
Free New Year’s Resolution #24: Break a Bad Money Habit
In addition to adopting better financial habits in 2018, commit to ditching a behavior that drains your bank account. "We all have bad habits when it comes to money: buying coffee on the way to work, getting takeout on the way home or never sticking to the budget," said Richmond, creator of the blog PF Geeks. "This year, pick one bad habit you know you have with money and make 2018 the year you kill it forever." There are strategies to break bad money habits faster, too.
Free New Year’s Resolution #25: Read Books You Already Own
You can keep yourself entertained or learn something new by reading books — and it won't necessarily cost you anything. "Before you go out and buy the next bestseller, read one of the books sitting in your 'someday stack,'" Richmond of PF Geeks said. "You bought the book for a reason, so read it!"
Free New Year’s Resolution #26: Update Beneficiaries for Your Accounts
Resolve to check your financial accounts such as life insurance policies and retirement plans to see if the beneficiaries for those accounts are up-to-date. "This housekeeping item is often forgotten, especially because some employers offer life insurance without the employee needing to name a beneficiary," said Melissa Sotudeh, a wealth advisor with Halpern Financial in Rockville, Md. If don't do it, your money might not go to the right person when you die.
Free New Year’s Resolution #27: Review Your Will and Estate Documents
If you already have a will or estate plan, it won't cost you anything to review it to make sure you're still happy the people you named as your heirs, executors, trustees or guardians for your children, said Scott Bishop, executive vice president of STA Wealth Management in Houston. If you've experienced a major life change — marriage, divorce or birth of a child — you might find that you need to update your legal documents.
Free New Year’s Resolution #28: Review Your Investment Portfolio
You might not have given much thought to the investments in your retirement account since you first picked them. In 2018, Bishop recommends resolving to review your investment account to determine if you need to rebalance your portfolio. You might discover that it's time to sell some investments and buy some new ones. There are dangers to 'set it and forget it' retirement plans.
Free New Year’s Resolution #29: Reshop Your Car Insurance
Get in the habit of reshopping your auto insurance every year to see if you can get a better deal. A study by J.D. Power found that auto insurance customers who reshop policies and switch insurers save an average of $356 on their annual premiums.
Free New Year’s Resolution #30: Keep a Journal
In his book, "Laws of Success: 12 Laws That Turn Dreams Into Reality," motivational speaker Les Brown offers tips to help you succeed. One habit he recommends you adopt to figure out what you want in life is daily journaling. Write whatever comes to your mind to see what patterns emerge and what desires you have.