How to Actually Keep Your New Year's Debt Resolution

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Hi Taylor: I’m committed to paying off at least some debt as my resolution this year. I had the same goal last year and failed, so I think I need some help. Any hot tips? - Marie


Hey Marie: The hottest tip is to stick with it, but that probably feels like a bit of a cop-out. The approach that works best varies from person to person, so you need to keep at it until you find a reliable system. I’ll give some ideas to get started, and hopefully this will be your year!


1. Target one loan at first. It sounds like you might have enough debt that it’s spread out over a few credit cards, maybe some student loans, perhaps a car payment? If that’s the case, the big picture probably feels pretty overwhelming. Go after one balance, ideally the smallest, and try to get it off the books. Even if it means paying the minimum on a high-interest card while taking care of the last $1,500 of a student loan, the feeling of accomplishment can really push you forward. And, once that smaller loan is gone, you free up a little more money each month to put toward another balance.

2. Cancel something. Anything. Cable, gym membership, home phone, Prime, a magazine subscription. You get to pick and it can be as big or small a monthly fee as you want. The point is to prove to yourself that some spending doesn’t need to happen, and even the slightest change can motivate you to do more. What don’t you need? It might be iCloud storage or a monthly service you’ve been meaning to cancel. Even better, this might be the time to get rid of cable or something you use frequently but would be better off without. It’s really easy to view a lot of things as “needs” when you know your life would go on relatively unchanged if those things were gone.

3. Obsess over debt. One of the main reasons people can’t get out of debt is that they don’t actually prioritize it. Even if you target one loan and stop paying for a monthly housekeeping service, those efforts are nullified if you still choose filet mignon every time you eat out or can’t stop yourself from taking a daily visit to the coffee shop. You need to pay close attention to your spending habits and get laser-focused on the ones you can change. Start a spreadsheet, download a money managing app, whatever you need to do. If you really want to see those balances drop, you’ll make this your #1 goal for 2021.


I’ve seen people climb out from under hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and I know you can do the same. Set goals and don’t lose sight of them, even when things get overwhelming. Good luck and Happy New Year!