How to stick to your money resolutions in 2023

We make bold New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions but sticking to them for a whole year can be exceptionally difficult. Barely a week into the new year, confession posts start popping up on social media as people share their resolution fails.

Not sticking to all your goals is okay in certain areas of life. But when it comes to money, you need more discipline if you’re serious about improving your finances. It can be very empowering to take control of your goals and your plan to get there. Stick to the plan, and you'll end up with the result you want.

It’s the sticking to the plan that often trips us up, but that doesn’t have to be so in 2023. Here are some simple, practical steps to change your mindset and help you keep any money resolutions you might have made on New Year’s Eve.

‘This year I resolve to save more’

The only way to reach any savings target is to save one month after another until you’ve set aside enough. That sounds achingly boring, but it’s the simple truth. You can accelerate your savings by investing in accounts that pay attractive interest rates, but the discipline of saving regularly is the most important habit to learn.

The trick is to set savings goals with affordable monthly deposits and realistic time frames. You’d probably lose interest if you saved only R50 a month toward a goal of R10,000. It’s not impossible, but it would take nearly 15 years.

What size monthly deposits would you need to save R10,000 in a reasonable time, you might ask? You can remove the guesswork by using the handy savings calculators on our Savings and Investments page.

The first allows you to enter how much you want to save every month, with the result showing you how fast your money will grow over 5 years in different investment accounts. The calculator shows that if you can invest R500 a month, you’ll be able to save R10,000 in 19 months.

The second calculator allows you to set the target amount and the date you need it by, and then shows you how much to save every month to reach your goal. To save R10,000 in 12 months, for example, the calculator shows that you need to invest around R704 per month.


‘This year I want to cut my debt’

Debt is a fact of modern life – for most, it’s essential for major purchases like a home or car, and a useful resource to have access to when you’re hit by unexpected expenses or interruptions in cash flow. But if you find yourself using credit to cover basic expenses or taking your credit card and overdraft balance to the limit every month, it’s a sign you should reduce your debt before taking on any more.

If you find yourself in this position, take stock of your spending. Living off credit is not sustainable, and you might need the help of a financial advisor to develop a strategy to reduce your debt levels. Cutting debt not only reduces your stress, it also increases how much you have left over to spend on your lifestyle.

One way to remain motivated to settle your debt as quickly as you can is to calculate the interest you’re paying. Consider the same example of R10,000, but this time as debt on your credit card or a short-term loan at an interest rate of 18% per year. Settling this debt over 18 months would cost you around R640 per month, meaning you pay back a total of R11,520 – more than R1,500 in interest.


‘This year I want to build up my emergency fund’

A piece of common advice you'll hear from financial advisors is to build an emergency savings fund before you even think of investing. The theory is that securing your immediate well-being should be your priority, because everything else in your long-term financial plan depends on remaining financially secure. 

Experts recommend saving between 3 and 6 months’ worth of expenses, to cope with sudden emergencies or maintain your lifestyle if your income is interrupted temporarily. It can take a long time to save that much, especially if you’re making monthly deposits in retirement and other investments at the same time.

It’s never easy sticking to the discipline of saving money every month, especially when that money could provide more luxuries and treats for you and your family. But cast your mind back to the darkest days of the pandemic when the shutdown brought everything to a halt. Those who were prepared were able to carry on, which can’t be said for those who lost jobs and had nothing to fall back on. 

It’s precisely these unforeseen, life-altering events that your emergency fund is supposed to protect you from. You can never choose what crisis you’re going to face, but you can choose to be financially prepared for the worst.

There is no coincidence that these 3 suggestions are designed to limit the impact that external shocks can have on your finances. If you’re financially secure, then your overall stress levels will be lower, and you’ll start finding ways to not just survive financially but to thrive. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution should be to empower yourself to thrive with better money choices in 2023?