How to revive your New Year’s resolutions by focusing on your finances

Maybe you have it down to a routine: Enjoy the holidays (perhaps a little too much), make a resolution to eat better and exercise once the calendar turns to January, and get a gym membership. Yet, only a few weeks later, you’re stuck with all the holiday weight, none of the gains, and maybe a twinge of guilt.

Relax! You’re not alone if you’ve already given your New Year’s resolution the cold shoulder. By this time each year, about 80 percent of those who decided to make get fit and lose weight have already given up, according to US News and World Report.

Before you throw in the towel (or throw yourself at that box of Valentine’s chocolates), consider a different approach: Whip your waistline into shape by focusing first on your wallet.

While getting your finances in shape probably won’t give you the chiseled six-pack of your dreams, ignoring your financial situation certainly won’t help either. Julie Kalkowski, Executive Director of the  Financial Hope Collaborative (FHC) at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business explains, “Stress is the number-one cause of health problems in America, and money is the number-one cause of stress.”

Stress related to money can lead to poor choices when it comes to your diet, relationships, and spending – all of which can lead to even more stress. Where does the cycle end?

That’s what a study from the FHC is working to solve. Since 2009, the FHC has helped over 800 low-income single mothers take control of their financial well-being through its Financial Success Program.

This year-long program focuses on classroom training, learning to use a simple money management system, and ongoing financial coaching. By managing their monthly cash flow, each student in the program builds confidence – first in their finances before spilling over into other areas of their lives such as work and parenting.

The results are promising. Previous graduates of the program reported, on average:

  • 34 percent fewer late bill payments
  • 23 percent fewer utility shutoffs
  • 33 percent fewer payday loans
  • Salary increases of $7,000 in two years

According to researchers, pre- and post-tests given as part of the study showed significant increases in clients’ financial well-being, sense of control, and confidence. As an added bonus, graduates said they spent less time at the drive thru and more time exercising.

Graduates also reported reductions in weight, BMI and percentage of body fat — just by getting their finances in order. FHC staff members sometimes don’t recognize graduates down the road because they look so relaxed, well-rested, and healthier!

Thanks to a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, FHC researchers are working with a larger test group, hoping to replicate the results seen in earlier studies. If these results are any indication, it’s not too late to take a closer look at your financial situation, save your resolution and break the New Year’s cycle. Good luck!