Struggling with your New Year’s Resolution? Learn how to do them right (and sustainably)

two smalled pices of paper wth pen sitting above them. 'New Year Resolutions' written on left piece of paper and three bulleted list with no text.

Did you know that most people who make New Year’s resolutions quit on Jan. 19?  

If you’re struggling to keep going, you’re not alone. Even if you’re not a resolutions person, the new year is always a good time to strive to be better with finances and take steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Two NAU experts weigh in on how to be more successful with two of the most popular resolutions.

Help reduce stress through financial goal setting

portrait photo of Nancy Baca- associate teaching professor of Economics and Interim Director for the Economic Policy Institute at the W.A. Franke College of Business.
Nancy Baca, Associate Teaching Professor of Economics, Interim Director – Economic Policy Institute

Nancy Baca is an associate teaching professor of economics and interim director of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) at The W. A. Franke College of Business. When she’s not running the EPI or teaching economics to NAU students, Baca creates and teaches financial literacy programs throughout northern Arizona. Her programs include Financial Family Fun Night and Financial Fitness in Action, created for and disseminated to northern Arizona high school students and their families. With ‘being better with money’ ranking among the most popular resolutions, Baca shares manageable steps to becoming more proactive with your finances. 

Studies have shown a strong correlation between financial stress and mental well-being. Financial issues are the top source of stress for most people – even more stressful than family, politics, health or jobs. Because money is such an integral part of everyday life, it is hard to ignore financial issues. Financial stress can increase arguing with family members, cause loss of sleep, resulting in feelings of fear and uncertainty, and make some people withdraw from personal interaction. Having a solid financial plan can help reduce financial stress and protect your mental health. 

The start of a new year is a great time to think about how we can do things differently to set ourselves up for financial success in the coming months. Small changes can make a big difference, and developing smart money habits is a great way to start implementing those changes. It is easy to lose sight of our financial goals, but they are the foundation for good decision-making. Consider the list of suggestions below to reduce financial stress and kick-start your financial future. 

  1. Write down an achievable goal for the new year somewhere where you see it on a regular basis. 
  2. Create a budget so you have a better understanding of your expenses and where you might be able to save money.
  3. Set up direct deposit to have some money go into your savings account every payday. Start the habit, no matter how small the amount. 
  4. Get an updated credit score for free from Experian, Equifax or Transunion. Learn more about how to improve your score. 
  5. Pay more than your minimum payment on credit card balances.
  6. Call your credit card providers and ask for a lower interest rate. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a call. 

Improve well-being by prioritizing health and fitness this year and beyond

Like financial fitness, multiple goals relating to fitness and living a healthier lifestyle also rank amongst the top new year’s resolutions. It’s never a bad time to want to be healthy and more active, but this goal receives extra attention in January; however, gyms tend to empty by February. So, how do we make these goals stick? Frank Micale is a lecturer and the FIT coordinator for the Department of Health Sciences at NAU and recently gave a workshop: New Year New You: Plan for Success in 2023 and Beyond. Micale breaks down the components of ‘getting healthy’ and shares his insights on concrete, actionable and most importantly, sustainable ways to work toward this goal.  

  • Identify your roadblocks to success and strategies to overcome them: Before jumping in headfirst, stop and ask yourself–what has stopped me from my health goals in the past? Time? Planning? Lack of motivation? Take a moment to brainstorm what hasn’t worked out for you, why it hasn’t worked and what would help mitigate these roadblocks. What would you consider success, and what would you consider failure regarding your health goals? If your goal of healthy eating was derailed due to time, you may consider prepping healthy meals and snacks when you have more time, like on the weekend. If motivation or accountability were major roadblocks to your success in the past, consider an accountabili-buddy! Someone with similar goals who is willing to take walks or go to fitness classes with you. Giving and receiving support is a great way to get and stay on track.
  • Goal setting (develop a hierarchy): When setting goals, it can be encouraging to start by expressing a value or belief and building from there. example: “I am a strong and energetic person, and I value hiking with my dogs.” When setting goals, it’s helpful to make them “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound). Setting a goal to ‘work out more’ is not specific and will be difficult to measure. Similarly, a goal to ‘work out every day,’ may not be realistic or attainable due to other commitments or current physical level. Some examples of SMART goals include: “I am not energetic if I don’t get enough sleep, so my goal is to get at least eight hours of sleep a night; if I need to be awake by 7 a.m., then I need to be asleep by 11 p.m. To increase my strength, my goal is to complete a 40-minute weight-based exercise twice a week. Lastly, to add a time-bound component you may choose to reassess in three months and see if you can either increase your weight and/or increase the number of weight-based workouts three times a week.
  • Maximizing motivation: The strongest motivation will come intrinsically; this is why it is so important to be intentional about your goals and plans. You may wish to stay healthy to see your grandchildren graduate college or keep taking active vacations into your 70s; whatever the motivation, it should be strong and personal to meet the psychological need for high motivation. Once you have your underlying motivation, these three key factors of motivation also will be important to pin down:  
    1. Competence–know what to do before doing it (nothing is a bigger setback than an injury!). 
    2. Relatedness–connect to others throughout your journey.
    3. Autonomy–be in control of your goals and motivations. 
  • Setting a weekly plan: Follow up on your goals and make time for them. This can be as simple as creating recurring calendar meetings for your two weight-based exercise sessions (one on Monday and the other on Saturday to give your muscles time to recover, for example). If another commitment takes precedence, reschedule your food prep/workout for your next available time. Reach out to others to see if you can help motivate them as someone may help motivate you! Setting aside time to meet and chat over the week can be helpful in learning more about what strategies are working and what areas need attention in the coming weeks.
  • Check NAU resources: DYK students can take fitness classes for credit. From yoga to skiing to martial arts, get credit (literally) for being active. NAU’s FIT program has something for everyone and days/times to work with any schedule. Similarly, NAU employees can take advantage of NAU’s recreation employee programs.  

Don’t wait! Your financial and fitness journeys are waiting for you. 


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Cynthia Gerber | NAU Communications
(928) 523-7341 |


NAU Communications