Most of us associate New Year's resolutions with exercise. This could be an early morning run, pounding the streets in the pouring rain or religiously subjecting your body to fierce, gym-based workouts. I’ve noticed the usual January influx of enthusiastic new faces at our swimming club and, like divorce lawyers, this is a busy time of the year for bicycle retailers.

Many people make resolutions either because they want to adopt good habits or rid themselves of bad ones. A desire to lose weight is often prompted by a long, hard look in the mirror at our post-festive season bodies, when even breathing has a limited effect. That lower belly wobble your hand can no longer conceal definitely did not exist at the beginning of November. Time to do something about it.

Thousands of people want to stop smoking and consider the New Year a great time to pack in the evil weed. Laudable though such a desire is, there’s no doubt that dropping the ciggies in January will be difficult, especially as the most effective way of doing so is to apply willpower.

Regular, successful New Year resolutionists appreciate the benefits of simply feeling better by doing something different. After all, January is a miserable month: you’re back at work, the weather’s lousy, bills hit your email inbox or drop through your letterbox with disappointing frequency, you don’t get paid until the end of the month and you would rather not pile any additional outgoings on your credit cards. The first part of the year is an excellent time to counter this by taking up a new hobby like learning a new language or an instrument.

One of my most effective resolutions was made more than a decade ago. It has nothing to do with physical exercise and I’ve stuck with it to the point where it’s become a habit which is, I suppose, the ultimate objective of any resolution. And, while it might sound a little nerdy, it can deliver some substantial savings – money which can then be invested.

At the start of each year, I diarise dates a month or so before a host of product or service renewals are due, including expenditure on items such as mobile phones, magazine subscriptions or car and home insurance premia. These simple reminders give me time to check up on the availability of alternatives and to then ask existing suppliers if they’re prepared to match what is often a better offer available with a competitor.

The initial purge of subscriptions and direct debit payments, which took place in 2011, netted more than £2,500, which I duly invested into a pension. Each year, therefore, I check whether any other outgoings can be shaved or dropped altogether.

My biggest single saving last year was on home and contents insurance. Last January, as usual, I flagged up the renewal date for our home insurance (October) and marked a day in early September when I would check alternative costs using a comparison website such as in an attempt to unearth a cheaper policy.

A note of warning: some insurance quotes appear incredibly cheap, but this is almost certainly because you’re not comparing like-for-like. Initially, it looked as though we would save hundreds of pounds on our combined home and contents insurance, but once specific requirements were added, the level of savings began to fall. Nevertheless, I eventually discovered a policy matching exactly what we had, priced at £85 less than our existing insurance company was offering. The exercise took about an hour.

Ken Carter, head of insurance services at, reckons that highlighting insurance renewal dates is one of the easiest ways to save money.

“Studies have shown that people who establish new year resolutions are, on average, almost 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than folks who don’t make any resolutions,” he says.

Flagging up insurance renewal dates is a no-brainer,” adds Mr Carter. “Because we should remember that the majority of people do not stick with their New Year's resolutions for long. A study completed in 2020 found that a little over half of participants declared that they had successfully stuck with their resolutions after a year.

“However, making a resolution in January to check insurance renewal dates, even though they might be much later in the year, ensures that the effect of the resolution lasts much longer.”

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular blog, The Week In Numbers.

This column is for general information only and cannot be relied on as financial advice for individuals. Consult your professional adviser.