Ah, New Year’s Resolutions! The solemn vows of total abstinence from sweets and daily runs up and down the local mountain that seem so right (this is YOUR YEAR!) while you’re kicking back the bubbly on December 31st are suddenly living nightmares when reality kicks in (usually sometime in the first week of January). Turns out life without chocolate is barely worth living and running just isn’t enjoyable in that foot of New England snow that will be here until April. It’s no secret that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail within a matter of weeks or months. However, the birth of a new year is still a great time to make a change for the better in your life. It’s a good mental starting point after the craziness and overindulgence of the holiday season. A good resolution is obtainable and actionable. I.e. I will cook dinner at home 3 times a week NOT I’ll never eat takeout again (too extreme) or I’ll be healthier (too vague).
Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Cook at Home
Eating out (or getting carry out) too often is bad for your wallet and your waistline. Knowing what goes into your food and ergo into your body is one of the basic tenants of healthy living. Stock up on fruit, oatmeal, and nuts for a quick breakfast at home. Pack leftovers for lunch instead of spending $10 on a sad looking salad from the corner deli. Keep snacks in your bag (like nuts, apples, oranges, or seaweed snacks) so you don’t get tempted by the vending machine or coffee shop at 3 pm. And finally, make dinner at home. Takeout is almost always uneconomical, unhealthy, and undelicious. We love doing a meal delivery service a few times a week. It reduces the amount of grocery shopping I have to do and forces us to try new recipes, many of which get modified and worked into our regular dinner rotation.
Meal delivery services are great for several reasons:
- They arrive at your door, letting you skip the grocery store.
- Ingredients are preportioned and depending on your local grocery prices (shiitakes are outrageously expensive at our local supermarkets) and whether you would use a larger container of an expensive ingredient (truffle oil comes to mind), can be cost effective. If you would otherwise be ordering takeout, they are definitely cost-effective.
- Recipes are generally healthy (it depends on the company and what you choose) and can be modified to suit your preferences – less spicy, change up the oil, whatever
- They’re fun! It’s like having your own sous chef. If you have a little one in the house, getting 20 minutes of time to yourself to make some Instagram worthy food is like a vacation in the kitchen. Even if I don’t love a recipe, I almost always learn something new.
I thought a meal delivery service would be expensive but with all the great deals and referral programs, it hasn’t increased our grocery budget. If you’re not sure, try a discounted week at HomeChef ($30 off your first week when you sign up via our link) or HelloFresh (use our code 947T7A for $40 off your first box) let your tastebuds decide. (If you use my codes, I get credit to spend on my own boxes with HomeChef or HelloFresh. Thank you in advance!)
Good home cooking resolutions: I will cook at home x times a week. I will try one new recipe every two weeks. I will pack my lunch 4 times a week.
2. Learn to Say NO
Saying no let’s you say yes to what really matters. It’s a lifelong process to find the right balance. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. It’s worth it. We get conditioned to say yes to the point where it becomes a reflex and not a true answer. Saying no to making 12 dozen Elsa cupcakes for the PTA bake sale let’s you say yes to more time with your munchkins (write a check if you feel guilty). Saying no to that weekly bar night that you’re not really feeling in your life anymore let’s you make space for something new (learning to cook? yoga? time with your SO?) that fits who you are now. You can also say no to activities (ahem hours wasted on youtube/pinterest/buzzfeed/pick-your-poison) that don’t improve your life. Ask yourself:
- Does this bring me joy?
- Will I wish I had done this in a week? A year? Five? When I’m eighty-five?
- Is there another way to achieve this goal?
- Am I doing this because I think I “should”?
Saying no and yes to the right things is a journey, so remember to make your resolution obtainable and actionable. Examples: I will say no to smartphones at the dinner table and will turn my phone on silent and leave it in the living room. I will commit to no more than 1 PTA project a semester. I will let someone else organize the family Easter party this year.
3. Maximize Your “Easy” Money
We all know (in theory) that decreasing our expenses and/or increasing our income creates more room in our budgets for savings, paying down debt, etc. The problem with this is that if you’ve already done a few rounds of decreasing expenses – cutting cable, no daily mocha-choca-five-dollar-lattes, etc. – you eventually run out of reasonable things to cut without feeling very deprived. And it’s always great if you can ask for a raise or switch jobs for a higher salary but sometimes that’s not in the cards in the immediate future. In the meantime, make it a point this year to increase your other sources of money. I like to save these and use for vacations, padding an emergency fund, extra student loan payments, etc. Some examples:
- Use credit card rewards to your advantage – one card gives me 3% on gas, another on groceries, and another gives 5% on rotating categories. At no point am I earning less than 1% on any purchase and a year’s worth of purchases can me a couple hundred dollars back for things I was going to buy anyway (gas, food, etc.). This only makes sense if you pay your credits cards in full each month, of course.
- Take advantage of cash back sites when you shop online. I go through Ebates and probably average $25-50 a quarter in cash back. It really adds up and is free to join. Join here. (I may get credit from Ebates if you join – thank you!)
- Once a season, unload items you don’t need on Ebay or Craigslist or hold a yearly yard sale. Donate the rest. It’s a bit of a pain but old ipods, clothes in nice condition, books, special edition DVDs, etc. can add up to a pretty penny over the course of a year.
- Sign up for focus groups. Search “focus groups NEAREST CITY TO YOU” or check Craigslist (use common sense on there) to find groups near you. Many are held online or via phone nowadays and you can earn $25-400+ in only a few hours or at most days.
- Get a side hustle — teach a dance/karate/soccer class a few nights week, walk dogs, watch children, pick up one shift a week at the local diner.
4. Build Moving Meditation into Each Day
Meditation doesn’t have to involve chanting and sitting still for an hour (although if that works for you, great). Yoga lends itself to moving meditation naturally but any activity where you can relax your mind and just be in the moment works. This can be as simple as getting off the train one stop early for a 5 minute walk by yourself or committing to be mindful when you do the dishes each night. Meditation of any kind has myriad benefits. The important thing is just to start.
5. Plan a Trip
Planning is one of the best parts of travel – anticipating what you’ll see, what you’ll eat, how much you’ll get to relax. Pick a destination you’ve been wanting to visit and put it one the schedule, even if it’s for 2018. Pick something somewhere between camping in the next county and a luxury African safari — you want something that will excite you but is obtainable within a few years (and start saving for that safari if it’s on your bucket list!). Take an afternoon to research the time of year you want to go and make up a budget for transportation (flights/trains, cabs, car rental, incidentals), hotel, attraction tickets, souvenirs, dining, any visa/passport fees, etc. Now add 10-20% to be safe. This is your goal amount – post it on your bathroom mirror, put it in your wallet, add it to your spreadsheets – anything that will keep you focused on the goal. I like to maintain a separate savings account online to keep this money separate. If your budget is tight, fund this account with your side money — cash back, side hustle, focus groups, holiday gifts, etc. It will take awhile but there’s nothing like taking a trip that’s completely prepaid and guilt free:)
What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2016? Tell me below and use the giveaway form below to enter to win a $5 Amazon GC from The Vegan Wifey to kick start your resolution. Get a trip planner, a new kitchen tool, or whatever tickles your fancy. Good luck 🙂