The economics of New Year’s resolutions in the time of omicron

Matt Levin Dec 29, 2021
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As the pandemic stretches into its third year, New Year's resolutions may have to be more flexible. Cn0ra via Getty Images

The economics of New Year’s resolutions in the time of omicron

Matt Levin Dec 29, 2021
Heard on:
As the pandemic stretches into its third year, New Year's resolutions may have to be more flexible. Cn0ra via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Are you making New Year’s resolutions for 2022? Have you bought anything to make sure you stick to your goals? Maybe workout clothes for the outdoor jogger you know you’ll be next year, or a hardcover version of “Anna Karenina” for that book club you want to start. 

There’s a whole economy tied up in New Year’s resolutions. But with COVID yet again throwing a wrench in our best-laid plans, is anyone still in the mood to pay for self-improvement?

There’s this concept in marketing called the fresh-start effect. Basically, if you just buy this ThighMaster or self-help book, you can be a newer, better version of you.  

Omicron makes those fresh starts a tougher sell this New Year’s, said Grant Donnelly, a marketing professor at Ohio State University. 

“There probably is some sort of consumer resentment or kind of pessimism around believing what might be possible,” he said.

Still, he expects a New Year’s bump for some pandemic-friendly brands. 

Donnelly wants to spend more quality time with friends in 2022. So, instead of buying Scattergories for game night, he’s looking into “Jackbox. It’s like a virtual gaming system that allows you to connect with people,” he said.

New Year’s often motivates households to sort out their finances, according to Leanna Devinney, a financial planner with Fidelity — a Marketplace underwriter. 

Financial goals for 2022, she said, may be tied to another pandemic trend: quitting. “I’ve had clients who have said, ‘Being home, I want to do a career change.'”

Shashi Bellamkonda’s big goal for 2021 was travel. He hoped he’d be spending this holiday season in India, but that never happened. He just tested positive for COVID this week, though he’s feeling OK and is isolating in his home in Maryland.

“No, I’m not making resolutions,” he said. “The only resolution people should make is to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Bellamkonda does expect 2022 to feel more normal. But he’s not buying plane tickets just yet. 

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