The holidays are behind us but the few additional pounds are hanging around to remind us of our overindulgence. It’s the time to mirror upon our not-so-great habits we’ve displayed over the past year and to resolve to make changes.
While pledging to make drastic changes to your eating habits is a popular resolution, it usually doesn’t last more than a associate of weeks. It’s all about taking baby steps towards establishing a lifelong lifestyle change. Here are some great ways to start the New Year right:
Pick up a hobby
According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, when you do things that make you feel good, such as a hobby, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which controls how we feel about life. Activities you enjoy also stimulate an area of the brain that makes you feel happy. Think hobbies are a waste of time? Think again! Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus.
So, if you were thinking about picking up guitar, go for it! Or, start up a basketball league with your buddies. You’ll get your guy time fix and get to blow off steam-giving you more energy to confront the world with your best foot forward.
Save more money
There are many easy ways to save money that really add up–from savings account that automatically move money from each paycheck to booking cheaper travel to being more strategic about where you go to happy hour.
But according to financial planning experts, the first steps toward financial freedom is understanding your financial reality-how much you make, how much it costs to live and how much discretionary income you have to play with. Use your bank’s online spending reports characterize to keep track of daily spending, and make adjustments when you identify bad patterns. If you smoke, cutting out cigarettes is not only good for your health-it will save you about $1,800 a year.
Driving less is another huge way to save money. Carpooling, using public transportation and biking/walking goes beyond being environmentally-conscious, it can save you hundreds of dollars a year on gas, means maintenance and parking fees. Buying gently-used vehicles and furniture by consignment is another smart way to save money, both on the front end of acquisition costs and in resale value.
Go by your closets, garage and basement and keep up a garage sale, or place ads on Craigslist and take unwanted clothes to a consignment shop or Goodwill for a tax write-off. And the easiest tip of all, is just to stop spending as much money! Just have your bank automatically withdraw a set amount of percentage from each paycheck-when you have less to work with, you’ll naturally reign in your spending.
Start a retirement fund
It’s never too early to start planning for your retirement. Think about this: a 25 year old guy can invest $2,000 a year for eight years without investing an additional dollar after the age of 33 will earn more by the age of 65 than a 34 year old who invests $2,000 a year for 32 years. One of the best retirement plan options obtainable is your employer’s 401(k) Plan. You make pre-tax contributions, which reduces your taxable income, while earnings grow tax-deferred until retirement. In most situations, employers will match a portion of your contribution. If your employer offers a 401(k) it’s foolish not to participate-it’s like leaving money on the table … and walking away.
Another option for retirement saving is the IRA (Individual Retirement Account). A traditional IRA allows pre-tax contributions to grow tax-deferred, meaning you don’t pay taxes until you withdraw the money, so the amount you would have paid in taxes earns income from the time you contribute it until you take it out.
If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan or you work for yourself, a SIMPLE-IRA, self-employed 401(k), or KEOGH are options for only proprietors and the self employed.
Make a smart investment
Investing isn’t just about stocks and bonds. Investing in an art, vintage car or watch collection is considered an investment too. If you have a passion, why not add a smart collection to your net worth? Not sure how to go about investing in art? You can subsribe to art publications, attend showings and get cozy with a trusted art advisor. For more tips, see the AskMen.com article on buying art.
With the real estate market in its current state, now is a great time to buy that investment character you’ve been thinking about. According to an article published by Forbes, the best markets in the US to get a good real estate deal include:
1. Fort Worth, Texas
2. Kansas City, MO
3. Houston, TX
4. Cleveland, OH
5. Denver, CO
6. Long Island, NY
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Orlando, FL
9. Phoenix, AZ
10. Las Vegas, NV
Eat more whole foods
functional foods have monopolized the foods industry and with good reason-they’re functional, and usually cheaper too. Most of us are on-the-go and don’t have time to cook a home-cooked breakfast or prepare spaghetti sauce from scratch, let alone seek out a nutritious and healthy lunch during our hectic days.
So what are processed foods? It’s pretty simple: processed foods have been changed from their natural state for convenience, prolonging shelf life, or safety. The methods used for processing foods include canning, halting, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing. With all of the hoopla over healthy eating, it’s hard to know what’s good for us and what’s bad. While certain processed foods are, in fact, unhealthy, not all are bad for us-so I’m not saying to set afloat an all-out boycott of all things pre-packaged and processed.
Milk is technically a processed food product because it’s pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to keep fats from separating. Instead of stressing out about what not to eat, try loading your fridge with healthy whole food snacks and packing a lunch of veggies, fruits and nuts. Opt for fresh soups and veggie wraps from restaurants and leave the onion rings and sodas for your cheat day.
Do more for others
Most of us wish we had more time to devote to giving back to the community. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to give up chunks of time to use delivering food or taking a youngster under your wing. If you do have the time, more strength to you. If not, there are other ways to do your part to help those less fortunate.
Donate unwanted household items, non-perishable food and clothes to local charities or families you know could use them. Donating money or sponsoring a needy child is a great way to give back when you don’t have time to spare. A growing trend is shopping specially with retailers who donate to charities. You can buy the products you typically would buy and nevertheless do something good for someone else.
Get more quality sleep
Sleep is an area where many of us skimp, and it’s no surprise. With our 24-hour society and increasing demands to balance work and home life, how does anyone get any sleep? To compound the problem is noise pollution and a dozen other factors detrimental to sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, nearly 40 million American men and women suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation doesn’t get a lot of attention but is the cause of many illnesses and accidents, not to mention cranky moods and lackluster skin tones.
Start the New Year off right. Get to bed early enough so that you can wake up naturally without the help of an alarm clock and cut the caffeine after 5 p.m. or earlier if you can. Also, skip the nightcap; it’s more likely to disrupt your sleep than it will aid in restful slumber.
use more time with family
Life is short-why not work more family time into your life? If you don’t have a partner or kids, call up your parents, siblings or cousins. Keeping ties with those who knew you way back when is cathartic and keeps you down to earth. What is it all worth working for if we can’t use it with the people we love?
You’re hearing it everywhere. Green is in! already if you’re not a bonafide treehugger, going green helps your bank account just as much as the “global warming” crisis (truly probably more so).
Green your car-check your air pressure and air filter, remove bike racks and any equipment or additional “stuff” you’re carrying around in your trunk; this will help with fuel efficiency. Of course leaving the car in the garage helps too. Car sharing and using public transportation cut down on means emissions.
Green your house–install water-saving shower heads and aerators, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth and switch to energy-efficient appliances. If you have a garden, collect rain water to water plants.
What’s your New Year’s resolution?