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Get Your Life Together in the New Year

Forget about a New Year’s Resolution, ’cause we know those usually fail, right?  How about a New Year’s long-term quality of life strategy?  What about instead of focusing on one specific goal, like losing 10 pounds, you focus on broader areas and goals that will improve your overall life and will be easier to refocus on (and be more successful with) if you get sidetracked?  Here are five examples and starting points.

1.  Instead of…Aim to lose 10 pounds by Spring, Aim to Eat Better

Sure, you’ve told yourself many times that you’d like to eat better, but if you give up your fixation on a specific number weight goal and focus on the food you’re putting into your body, you may actually achieve that number goal sooner than you imagined.  Here are simple ways you can eat better:

  • Cook at least one, at-home, kick A*$ dinner per week.  Go on, try to make Rachel Ray jealous.  Find a recipe and plan over the week to get the ingredients you need.  Allrecipes.com is a great online source, so ditch the cookbook excuse.  Not only will you KNOW you’re eating right at least once a week, but you’ll become a more confident–maybe even fabulous–cook in no time.
  • If you can’t give up your sweet drink obsession, how about aiming that you won’t drink a pepsi until a certain time.  Not only will you have something to look forward to, but you may end up ingesting fewer sugary drink calories if you can delay your daily intake start-time.
  • Drink more water.  Sounds boring or maybe impossible, right? How about starting with the goal of the addition of one water bottle per day (for the eco-conscious, make that a reusable water bottle!), perhaps as a lunch drink substitute. 

2.  Instead of…Get Rid of All Debt, Aim to Come Up with a Money Plan

Of course, getting finances in order a.s.a.p., getting rid of debt and putting savings in order is ideal in a perfect world, but sometimes it takes time to get all those ducks in a row lined up.  Instead of stressing out about bills and lack of savings, come up with a plan. A plan is like having a foundation, you can’t build up if you don’t have that solid base.  Here are a few ideas for devising a plan.

  • Immerse yourself in money reading material.  Read blogs, like the awesome Frugal Dad blog.  Google the Debt Snowball.  Read up on Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman.
  • Figure out how much money you need to save.  Many people don’t even have a clue how much they should save or spend.  This post called The Proper Rate of Savings, is a good guide.  As you’ll see, there’s the 10% club and the Dave Ramsey Plan, among others.
  • Open a savings account, like a high-interest online account (ING or Ally) and have money directly deposited into the account each month.  Hey, even if you can only squeak out $10 from your monthly budget, at the end of the year, you’ll have something to show for your savings efforts.
  • Start getting into the coupon habit.  No, you don’t have to go OCD, but clipping coupons and frugality is the new cool.  Why not line your child’s college savings account or 529 with that $1.00 you saved off those bagels you were going to buy anyway, instead of giving it to a big corporation?

3. Instead of…Stop Worrying About Work, Work On Your Side Hustle

Use your time off or weekends to think about extra ways you can bring in income (oh, if you’re starting a side biz, you may want to get clearance from your current employer if it presents any conflicts of interest or if required by your employment contract).  Ideas include:

  • Selling on ebay, starting your own business / becoming an entrepreneur, selling baked goods at a local farmer’s market, babysitting for others, using your skills to start a freelance or consulting business, taking a class that will help you move up in your current job or develop skills you need to branch out on your own

4. Instead of… Spend More Time with the Kids, Come Up with One Play Time Strategy

Most parents want to spend more fun time with the kids, but in today’s hectic world, it’s often hard to find the time or meaningful opportunities to do so.  Instead of resolving to spend more time with the kids, come up with one specific play time strategy, so you actually feel like you’ve accomplishing your goal.  Here are examples:

  • Pizza night Friday (or Tuesday or 1st Sunday of the month).  Kids and parents love pizza, right?  And Pizza night doesn’t have to break the bank.  It’s easy and super cheap to make homemade pizza (here’s a favorite recipe).  What better way to spend time with your family and talk about what’s going on in everyone’s lives than over pizza?
  • Start a message board.  Not enough time in the day to chat?  Start a message board or mailbox system (e.g., hang an old chalkboard or corkboard) with the goal that every person in the family leaves a “friendly” note for another family member during the week.  Alternatives include daily text messages, e.g., “hey, sis, just want to TU for letting me use your hairspray 2day.”
  • Designate a family play day.  For example, the first Friday evening of every month is strictly family “date” time, such as night skiing, board game night, bowling or movie night.

5. Instead of… Fight or Yell Less, Devise a Better Communication Plan

If you think you yell or argue too much, instead of resolving to stop arguing, fighting or getting mad, resolve to come up with a plan for better communication. Better communication starts by letting others know how you feel when specific behaviors tick you off or cause some other emotional response.  It’s a mature, more evolved way of expressing emotions than say the ol’ finger salute or scream fest.  Where to start?  Here are some tips:

  • Do a YouTube search for “Better Communication” and you’ll find a huge selection of videos on improving communication and listening.
  • Check out books or videos at the library.
  • Find self-help communication resources on DVD or streaming video, like NetFlix.

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