Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miscellaneous Friday - New Year's resolutions

It's the middle of February, and of course we all have given up on our New Year's resolutions by now.  Or if you're like me, you haven't really started on them yet.  (My main resolution was to get back on Weight Watchers in a serious way.  I lost 16 lbs. last year, and about 15 lbs. the year before that, and kept the weight loss off both times.  I would like to keep the momentum going, but I've had a lot of stress going on, so for the moment, I've been happy to just be maintaining my weight loss.  But I need to start going to meetings again and staying on the plan, because it works.)

We all make the same resolutions every year, which look something like this:  lose weight/start eating healthy; start an exercise program/be more active; save money/get finances in order; get organized; clean out the clutter.  It's a lot to take on at one time, so it's not your fault if you haven't been able to stick to any of them or even get started.

But the good news is that there are 12 months in the year, and it's only the middle of the second month!  There is plenty of time to get back on track!  Instead of trying to do 5 or 6 big life-changing resolutions, why not choose one to work on?  You are not a failure - you are just setting your priorities in order, a very sensible thing to do.

Say you decide you really want to get your finances in order this year - make an action list and get started.  Your list might look something like this:

  • go to the library and get a couple of books on topics like how to set up a budget, how to start a savings plan, how to plan for the future (see, you're already saving money by going to the library instead of buying the books).
  • read the books and decide what will work for you - don't be afraid to start with small steps - you have a better chance of succeeding with small steps, and besides, not every idea will work for every person.
  • think about what your financial goals really are:  do you want to save toward a long-term goal like retirement, or are you trying to scrape together the down-payment on a house?  Do you need to save for your kids' college, or are your needs more short-term and urgent, like having enough money to pay your property taxes?
  • take a morning or afternoon when you can work undisturbed by your family, your job, etc.; get out your checkbook and go through every debit and find out exactly where your money is going.  If you pay everything with a credit card to rack up mileage points, go through your credit card statements.  Do you really know how much you spend on things like food, mobile phones, gas for the car, etc.?  Knowing where your money is going will help you understand where you need to budget more money or where you might need to economize.
Everyone needs a place to start.  Knowing what your ultimate goal is will help you formulate a plan to get there.  Don't be afraid to seek professional help.  You can often find free seminars on just about any subject at libraries, community centers, churches, local colleges, even businesses.

Maybe you need some better, more attainable resolutions - here are some suggestions:
  • leave 5 minutes earlier than you really need to - if you know that you HAVE to be out of the house by 8 a.m. or you'll be late for work, try leaving at 7:55 or even 7:50.  You would be surprised how big a stress reliever this is.  Even if something unforeseen arises, like heavier traffic than usual, you'll still get to work on time.  You'll be a better driver, too.
  • check in with all of your doctors this year - not all at once, you can spread the visits out over the next 10-1/2 months.  See your dentist, your eye doctor, and your GP - you'll be surprised how much better you feel.  And have that colonoscopy that you've been putting off!
  • take care of things while they're small - whether it's a tooth that's bothering you or a faucet that's dripping, it's usually easier and cheaper to take care of things when you first notice them.
  • deal with the mail as it comes in - don't leave it until there is a huge intimidating pile that needs to be gone through.
Are you starting to get the idea?  Good.  I'll stop sermonizing now.

Tomorrow:   Literary Monday

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