New Year’s Resolutions with Real Solutions
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Congratulations! You’ve completed another 584 million miles (around the sun). You’ve taken eight and a half million breaths over the course of 31 million seconds, drunk at least a thousand litres of water (well, you should have) and blinked over 10 million times. And you’ve thrown away nearly a tonne of rubbish and swallowed approximately 7.6 insects. Actually we made that last one up. But it all goes to show: a year is a long time to keep up a resolution.
Let’s face it, willpower alone is never going to be enough to make you stick to your good intentions. So we bring you our list of New Year’s resolutions with a difference. These easy commitments are designed to reward your efforts and give you back at least as much as you put in. 2019, here we come!
Take ‘one small step’
Think about what you really want out of life, then break it down into steps. Your task is now a simple one: do the first step. So if your dream is to own your own home, get yourself a Lifetime ISA and start a savings regime. If it’s to take early retirement at 55, then check your workplace pension and see how much more you need to be contributing. No goal is too ambitious if you break it into small enough steps.
Set weekly or monthly goals
As we just pointed out, a year is a long time. This makes resolutions hard to keep as they fade into the past. So make it your resolution to set yourself small, regular goals over each week or month – anything from saving an extra £10 to walking 10k steps a day. Award yourself a small prize for achieving each one, and tell your partner or a close friend about your goals, so they hold you to them.
Have ‘dry weeks’ rather than months
‘Dry January’ and ‘Sober October’ are designed to get us off the hard stuff for a while, and that’s great. It’s also really, really difficult. Instead, try having one week per month with no alcohol. Not only is it less of a struggle, but it’s also better for you health-wise, and will save you three times as much money as abstaining for a single month.
Change how you get around
One of the most common resolutions is ‘Join a gym’. Another is ‘Save money’. Spot the catch. Gyms take the pounds off you in every sense – meanwhile, you’re spending money on petrol, car parks and public transport. You can solve both problems just by changing your travel habits: swap the car for a bike, swap the bus for walking, swap walking for jogging. Exercise isn’t just about staying healthy – it can be a great mode of transport too.
Get out more
And by ‘out’ we mean ‘outside’. Most of us spend far too little time in the open air or in the countryside. Studies have shown that rooms with higher ceilings make people both happier and more creative, and open sky offers the most powerful creative stimulus of all. A regular walk in wide open spaces could work wonders for your wellbeing, as well as opening up your mind to new possibilities and plans as you tackle life’s biggest decisions.
Say yes to more things
Ask anyone over a certain age (say, 25) what it is that they regret, and they’re most likely to mention something that they didn’t do. What we regret most are the missed opportunities, the party we didn’t go to (that the love of our life did), the job we didn’t apply for, the house we didn’t view that would have been perfect. Aim to turn one ‘No’ into a ‘Yes’ every month and see what new prospects it opens up.
Do more for yourself
The older you get, the more you might find that you’re living for others rather than yourself. This is most true when you’re a parent, and you constantly put yourself last in line for treats because let’s face it, family comes first. But don’t you deserve a break too? Aeroplanes tell you ‘Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others’ – and it’s great advice. Take care of your own wellbeing and you’ll have more to give.
Take a daily hour
Set aside one hour a day for something that will improve your life. It could be a single thing (yoga, meditation, killing zombies on the XBox) or a range of different interests and activities that will help you on the way to your life goals. One of the things many people overlook is financial management – getting to grips with your savings, income and outgoings, and working out how to manage your money better. You can then also spot the warning signs that may indicate a need for financial advice.
Read more fiction
Never underestimate the healing power of getting lost in a good book. Aside from being great entertainment on a long commute, escaping into someone else’s story helps you sort out the muddle of your own thoughts. And living through other characters who face big decisions and really can make you better at taking control of your own life – so long as you learn from the heroes, not the villains.
Realise your full value
Relax – we’re talking about monetary value here. Hard cash. You almost certainly have an underused skill that someone out there will pay you for – and with the gig economy, it’s never been easier to make extra money. There are now a host of different freelance sites such as Upwork, Toptal, Fiverr, Freelancer and Guru, where you can take on occasional or regular work to supplement your income. And if it works out for you, it could set you on the road to starting your own business.
Self-defence classes are a popular New Year’s resolution, as they serve the quadruple purpose of keeping you fit, giving you more confidence, improving your social life and helping you stay safe. Popular forms of martial arts of personal protection include Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), aikido, traditional boxing and Krav Maga. Besides thinking about your physical protection, consider how else people might try to take advantage of you – such as cold-callers or fraudsters hoping to catch you off guard. See how this lady gave the predators a taste of their own medicine.
Ditch toxic relationships
What is a toxic relationship? Quite simply, it’s having ties with anyone who makes you feel worse instead of better. Yes, we all have friends who depend on us and perhaps take more than they give, and that’s fine so long as they appreciate you and you enjoy being there for them. But when you suspect someone of hanging round you just to exploit or criticise you, it may be time to cut them loose. Beware of toxic financial relationships too. If you have financial ties (e.g. a shared credit card) with someone who has a poor credit score, it can harm your own mortgage prospects.
Has every day become a dress-down Friday for you? A more casual look can feel comfortable, but it’s worth rediscovering the joy of being super-smart. Though it takes a bit more effort, a sharp look can make you feel better about yourself and will cause others instinctively to respect you more. It also doesn’t need to be expensive. Quality and designer clothes can be picked up fairly cheaply from auction sites such as eBay and from charity shops.
Another well-worn resolution is the new hobby – but you might not have time for one, what with dining out, doing all the food shopping and cooking all those family meals *LIGHTBULB MOMENT*. Yes – if learning to cook and/or bake is your hobby, you can legitimately indulge your new passion every day. You’re preparing meals anyway, so you can justify the time and money you spend, while making good meals cheaper. Eventually your hobby could have earning potential – e.g. baking cakes for parties and events.
Give yourself a money makeover
How often do take a good look at your finances? Like a house, they can spring leaks over time, so it’s worth tracking these down and fixing them. Areas of waste include bank accounts with low or no interest, a poor mortgage deal, loans and credit card debts, memberships you don’t use enough, utility and entertainment providers, mobile phone contracts, spending habits – the list goes on. So make time!
Use a digital piggy bank
Technology is always providing new ways to save money, and one of the best ideas of recent years has been the spare-change saving app. Examples of these include Moneybox, Starling, Monzo, Revolut and Chip. Some simply round up the cost of everything you buy and put the difference in a virtual ‘coin jar’, while others are smarter and can automatically invest this ‘spare change’ in funds of your choice. It’s a simple but effective way to save without effort.
Not everyone has a book in them, or a painting, or a hit single. But you’ve definitely got more to give the world than you know. The things you create from your own imagination and skill are the truest expression of yourself, and so can be the key to understanding yourself more fully. The time when this is most valuable is after the shock of a major life change – such as reaching adulthood, starting a family or retiring. These are the times you might need to rediscover your own identity, so get creating!
Have a regular health check-up
A yearly or twice-yearly check up with your GP isn’t wasting their time – it could save a lot more time, money and stress further down the line. Besides helping you to prevent and manage potentially serious illnesses, it can help you avoid developing conditions that could affect your life insurance or income protection cover. Later in life, health checks can serve yet another valuable purpose, by identifying conditions that could entitle you to a lucrative enhanced annuity.
Reconnect with an old friend
And we don’t mean just on Facebook! Social media may have brought us together, but in some ways it keeps people apart too. Think of someone you’d love to see again in person, and the chances are that they will feel the same. (But seeing as it’s New Year, best keep it to friends, not exes!)
Change something – anything
So much of our lives we live on autopilot – and it’s killing our brains. Identify something that you always do in the same way – whether it’s what you eat for breakfast, the route you take to work, when you do the household chores, what you watch on TV, how you exercise or unwind – and do it differently for a while. As random as this sounds, it’s an exercise in mindfulness, as it makes you more aware of the present moment. This in turn wakes up the brain, stimulates creativity and energises you. All of which will definitely aid your progress if you’re pondering life’s biggest decisions.
If you would like to talk about any of the issues in this article or need more general help with your finances, please get in touch with us.
This article first appeared on Unbiased.