New Years financial resolutions challenges on low income

Are you the type of person who makes New Years Resolutions?

Not me. I fall into the group who doesn’t keep them! Yeah, that’s probably over 90% of us.

What are typical New Year’s goals? Losing weight, exercising, and cutting out bad habits are common resolutions for people looking for a healthier lifestyle.

If you have weight loss goals, check out my post on a year to a healthier lifestyle for tips on how you can save money on fitness. Generally, it means ditching the gym membership and following exercise videos on YouTube for free. Riding your bike and walking don’t cost money either.

Here are 10 easy tips to stay healthy on a budget.

Financial resolutions for the New Year

Actually, let’s not call them financial resolutions. Let’s call them challenges. Many of us face nothing but financial challenges. Our healthy resolutions challenges have nothing to do with weight loss. We’re aiming to make our lives easier when it comes to finances.

When you’re single, older on a fixed income, or a low-income earner, it’s so hard to make – and keep – financial goals. Our main goal is just trying to survive. Hoping there’s enough money in the bank account for the rent, groceries, and the electric bill.

Never Buy Food on CreditConsumer debt is on the rise as people struggle to pay their bills. That’s because we need to use credit cards just for basics. It’s easier to pay with a credit card now, but it’s harder to figure out how to pay the bill when there’s no money in the bank on the due date.

Experts say that people who write their goals down have a better chance of achieving them. I don’t know about that. I’ve written down all kinds of goals over the years and when I looked back at them – meh.

My time planner

In 2000, in an effort to become more organized, I bought a Taylor on time planner – the deluxe edition that came with a binder.

In this day and age with digital calendars Taylor went the way of the dodo bird, but this planner worked for me. Each day went from 7am to 9pm with lots of writing room. At the top of each day were two sections called follow ups and action plans. This is where I wrote reminders such as the car insurance due date. You know – things that my Outlook calendar works just as well for these days.

The Taylor in Time website is still up and they have a free PDF download of the weekly planner, if you’re interested. It seems you’ll have to print this out 52 times if you like it! Taylor recommends a similar planner from Quo Vadis that will work. I am almost tempted. Not quite. I mean if I’ve gone many years without my Taylor calendar, I can probably survive.

I bought a calendar refill every year and it has a section to write down goals. My 2007 calendar is still in my binder.

Here are my 2007 goals:

  1. Pay down at least 75% of debt.
  2. Sell 10 magazine articles.
  3. Finish Dangerous Cache.

Taylor’s instructions were to then break it down into my weekly goals and as each goal is completed, check it off.

None of those 2007 goals are checked off.

I eventually became debt free but it took closer to 10 years.

I don’t know how many articles I sold that year, obviously less than 10.

Dangerous Cache? That’s the title of a romantic suspense novel I was writing. I never finished it. Though I did finish other novels over the next few years.

My track record might suck, but maybe you’ll be better than me. Or choose easier goals!

In 2018 I wrote a post about my financial goals saving money for my 2019 TFSA. That’s a Canadian money product: Tax Free Saving Account.

Every year my financial goal is to save for the next year’s TFSA. The max amount Canadians can contribute in 2020 is $6,000. Yes, I’m on track and will deposit that amount into my Questrade TFSA account in early January, 2020. And then struggle to do it all over again next year.

I’m so pleased with myself. I’ve sacrificed to make this happen and hope my retirement years will be a little better. Though it’s important to point out that the TFSA isn’t really a “retirement” account, although many people treat it that way. It just means good old Revenue Canada isn’t going to tax us when we withdraw the money, and we can withdraw the money any time at any age. In other words, it’s better than a registered retirement product where we do get taxed when we withdraw the money. The TFSA is an excellent choice over the RRSP for people on low incomes who don’t need to be taxed to death any more.

I’ve arranged for the last transfer of the year into my EQ bank account. I met my goal!

New Years financial resolutions challenges on low income

One at a time

Are you thinking about financial goals for 2020?

Here’s a list to help you get started. Or at least started thinking. Change them up and figure out what applies in your situation.

  1. Pay off debt. Try the snowball method I talk about in this post.
  2. Emergency savings. Read more in this post.
  3. Save money to ____. Fill in the blank. Maybe it’s a vacation, renovation, or a car.
  4. Make more money.
  5. Learn how to become a DIY investor
  6. Start a Christmas fund.

If you dread your credit card bill, especially the one in January if you used plastic for Christmas shopping, then make paying off your debt your biggest priority. Start small by first not incurring any further debt.

At the same time, you can also start your Christmas fund. Get rid of that Christmas stress caused by lack of money!

Christmas Stress caused by (lack of) MoneyYou can also start throwing a little money at your emergency fund.

So that’ll get you started when money is tight and you want to lower your stress levels caused by finances. Bust debt. Emergency fund. Christmas fund.

When we’re facing financial challenges, things like vacations and non-essential items have to be cut back. I haven’t put any money in my vacation fund for the last half of 2019 because I have less income. That means my priorities are basic living expenses. Surviving. Well, and I did manage to fully fund my 2020 TFSA. Whew!

How about the news that broke just before Christmas that grocery prices are increasing?

I’m not so concerned about the rising cost of meat. The joys of being a vegetarian! Or I should say, a pescatarian. I eat seafood, but mostly I follow a plant based diet, so my concerns are more about rising fruit and vegetable costs. You might need to reevaluate your food choices. I’ve drastically cut back on tuna and other seafood over the past few months.

For inspiration, read my post about 10 easy ways to save money on a vegetarian diet.

Making more money

I just want to touch on the topic of making more money because I haven’t written a blog post on this topic.


I have no magical way you can do this.

Generally speaking, making more money means working overtime at your current job or picking up a second job. Maybe starting a side gig. See Nick Loper’s book, The Side Hustle, that is currently free on Amazon. (Always check the price before you click to purchase. If it’s no longer free and you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.)

Also see The Penny Hoarder for ideas on how to make money.

What if you’re currently unemployed? You’re already struggling just to find one permanent income stream. Finding any income would be totally bonus.

When you’re unemployed and able and willing to work it is so frustrating and discouraging not to find a job. Especially if you’re single and you’re the only income and all you have is negative cash flow.

I picked up a part time gig I found on Craigslist – visiting a man with Alzheimer’s in a senior’s residence. One daughter lives in Ontario and the other daughter is local but not able to visit as often as she’d like and feels guilty. So I come in and visit him and make sure all is well. It gives them peace of mind and a couple hundred extra dollars for me each month.

So, keep in mind the Gig section on Craigslist if you’re looking for one-off situations.


Start the New Year with a mindset shift. Who’s with me on this? Maybe that can be our New Year’s goal – if we were actually the type of people who make goals for the New Year!

We’ll rethink things and figure out how to make our money work better for us.

We need a plan that is simple enough for us to use. Or we just won’t do it.

Apps to help us budget and save money? There are free ones out there. Maybe this is a thing for the younger set. At my age, I can barely use my cell phone. It has more bells and whistles on it than I’ll ever figure out. My phone is used for calls and occasionally texts. Sometimes I check my email or get online to look for something. I have a bunch of apps, most that are never opened. No more apps for me! Too complicated!

On the other hand, I can use Excel, but spreadsheets can be really complicated. If you’re comfortable with Excel, here’s a link to the budget spreadsheet I use to track my spending.

Pen and paper might work just as well for you.

Financial challenges take commitment. Do you want to change your mindset? Make your life a little easier? Better?

You’re starting with a clean slate in January. If you’re planning to start a Christmas fund for 2020 so you can pay for everything in cash next Christmas, this is the month to get it going. You don’t want to be playing catch up in the summer.

How about this for a challenge in 2020? Do something every day that scares you! Legal stuff, I mean!

I’ve actually started doing this, but I haven’t been able to keep up with the daily pace. Weekly? OK! Well, maybe…

Let me end with this – Always remember: your credit card is not your friend.

Here’s to small successes! Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

More reading:

How to Save Money and Bust Debt

Taking Control of Debt on a Low Income

A year to a healthier lifestyleBeing a Single Woman and Dealing with a Bank or Credit Union

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