It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to change about your life next year. New Year’s resolutions can actually be a wonderful tool for self-improvement.
You just have to lean-in and commit. Don’t be like all those people you know who start with a bang, (with a new exercise or diet scheme, for instance) only to throw in the towel by mid-February.
“Easy for YOU to say, Cubert!” Okay… And admittedly I’ve had plenty of my own resolutions in the past that have fizzled out like last night’s half-empty can of Stroh’s. But there is an approach for making resolutions stick you might find useful.
SMART is a handy acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. It boils down to this: Keep your resolutions measurable and incremental. In other words, focus on chipping-away at your goals and not taking them head on with an “all or nothing” approach.
An example is weight loss. If you want to lost 50 pounds. Focus first on losing five pounds over the first two months. Establish some new routines and habits. If you’re only able to lose five pounds every two months afterwards, is 30 pounds lost still a win? Yes! (Add that “Y” to SMART for me.)
My resolutions for 2018 – Draft
I’ve got a few money ideas for my own resolutions I figure you might want to try yourself. Nothing too onerous or cliché here. Just some useful little improvements, to make the “ride of life” a bit more amenable. DRUM ROLL….
- Happy hour reductions by 50%. This one got me in 2017. I must have become popular at work all of a sudden. I enjoy going out for a drink but it always ends up being two, with an order of crappy wings or some other short order disaster. Let’s save ourselves some money and limit happy hours to once a month. Annual cost avoidance: $300
- Zero dollars spent on clothing. That’s right. We’re going bare-ass naked in 2018! Woohoo!!! Seriously though, I had a goal this past year to not spend a dime on clothing. Instead, I ended up plunking down almost $800. How the hell does THAT happen? Well, my job moved from a more laid back, casual office, to the more uppity executive showcase HQ. There was tailoring involved. Annual cost avoidance going forward: $500
- Ride my bike to work more often. I’ve got a really good setup being just 9 miles from work with most of the route on quiet side streets or bike paths. I even have a dedicated locker at the office. So, why the heck am I settling for a mere twice per week ride-in rate??? Financial Panther needs to give me a comeuppance on this one. In 2018, my resolution is to ride in 3x per week, and get this, 1x per week through WINTER. Annual savings (@$10 per bike commute vs. driving): $540
- Eat less meat. For a couple of years, I’ve been toying with the Primal Blueprint diet. This is where you avoid eating grains and limit starches, and instead focus on whole-foods like vegetables and animal protein. My reason for taking this on was to avoid inflammatory foods. Problem is, meat isn’t cheap, it isn’t environmentally sustainable (in general), and oftentimes it sits like a lead weight in your gut. My 2018 resolution is to limit my meat intake to no more than twice per week. This should cut our Costco meat spending by roughly $50 per month, or $600 per year.
- Pay more attention to my benefit plan. I’ve only got another year and a half to go before I retire from Corporate America, but it seems I waited until the tail end to grow a brain. That’s my way of admitting I F’ed up my benefits selection the last several years. Nothing extreme mind you. I was simply too cheap to opt into our company’s $4 per month vision plan, which covers comprehensive eye-exams. I get an annual comprehensive eye exam because I get the occasional flare up of iritis. The exams cost almost $250 each. To think, all these years I could have avoided paying over $200 for that. D’oh! Dammit! Grrr…. Sigh…. Now, at the end, we know better. Savings: $202 per year.
- Enjoy more live performances. Mrs. Cubert and I got to enjoy a stage performance this past weekend. We forked over $15 a pop to see a holiday satire stage act that brought out all of the emotions. It was funny as sin. Lucky us, Minneapolis is like a mini-New York City for live theater. Even the small, very local productions are well crafted. Quality theater in high supply means cheap tickets. I figure we need to ramp up our occasional date nights at least once a quarter to enjoy more of this art form. Added Cost: $320 per year. This is a trade-off I can stomach. Experiences are sometimes worth the money!
All that adds up to $1,822 saved per year on the ledger. But bigger than that are the benefits to my health and the environment, plus some juice for the “lifetime experience bucket”, seeing those quality plays and live acts. SCORE.
Continuing good habits you started in 2017 is just as important
I wake up at 5AM every day now. Never would’ve believed that to be possible when the year started. I always figured I’d scheme the other direction, i.e., how to wake up way later. Early retirement – that’s the trick! Well, shoot. Instead, I’m up with the worms and somehow happy about it.
If you enjoy writing blog posts like I do, you get it. The 5AM thing is like adding a whole new constructive facet to my day. Used to be work, then home, then bed. Now, it’s Blog, then work, then home (or sometimes gym), then bed. Cracked the code of happiness right there, yessiree Bob!
But seriously, why not “sandwich” the least savory part of your day between things you enjoy? Cram that dreaded cube job between your fun side projects in the early AM, and then unwind when you get home.
If you don’t blog, or take the precious time to read EVERY post I write, maybe you could set up a daily workout routine at 5AM. That’s what Mrs. Cubert does. And I still don’t think she’s read my last post yet…
Some other good habits I’m trying to keep:
- Posting every Monday and Thursday on a consistent basis. Whoopsie! It hasn’t been a strong showing in December for ol’ Cubert. I’ve had so many self-inflicted technology issues, it’s been like death by a thousand corrupted-files. I’ll insert a little 2018 resolution here: No more F’ing with a stable blog, just to chip a few milliseconds off of page load times.
- Riding my bike to work. There’s simply no excuse not to. With decent weather, Google Maps, and a locker room at work, it’s a tailor-made situation. The trick for me is to take advantage of opportunities the three days a week I’m not dropping off the kiddos at pre-school.
- Hitting the gym twice per week. During the cold months I try to fling some kettle bells and heavy ropes around. It’s a free membership, in case you’re wondering. That’s one of the perks of being married to one of the trainers…. Some evenings, after a long day of working in that lovely cubicle, you get the hankering for an Old Fashioned more than an intense workout. C’mon, SMARTY, stick with Plan A!
- Social Media hath not no dang hold over thyself. Facebook? Nope. LinkedIn? Nope. Twitter? Only spot checks from the desktop when blogging. I haven’t gone so far as to remove Safari from my iPhone. I need that to make sure my site hasn’t taken a dump with all the messing I’ve done to it lately. I’m really satisfied with how this has gone for me. One less big, fat non-productive distraction in my life. Thou can do it tooeth!!!
- Paying off that mortgage. Oh yeah. That mortgage thing I wrote about earlier this summer. Seems I got distracted when a little Airbnb opportunity came along and subsumed over $30K of my emergency fund (home equity line of credit.) To be fair, and in sticking with the “chip away” approach, we did manage to cut the outstanding balance from $177K down to $118K before the Airbnb came into the picture. In 2018, we’ll be back on this horse. After the HELOC is paid off first though.
What sort of self-improvement habits are you working on?
I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on 2018. Nothing too onerous. Very achievable. Will I hit them all 100%? Probably not, but I think I’ll come close. You better believe I’ll scour for coupons to help us get into some really nice plays at the Guthrie next year.
We might even check out some live jazz at the Dakota. I just need to convince Mrs. Cubert that jazz isn’t just for really old people.
Abandoned Cubicle will continue to be a focus for me. I can’t even describe it as a “labor of love.” I don’t really think of it as “labor” to write these posts. That’s important, especially considering how frustrating the last few weeks with all the down-time were.*
It’d be great to hear from you fine readers, what resolutions you have planned for yourselves. Do they qualify as SMART(Y)? What about some good habits you’ve undertaken in 2017? Do you plan to build on them into 2018?
Let’s hold one another accountable
We’ll get it all down in “writing” on this post, so we can refer back to it throughout 2018. Who knows? Maybe you can give me some well-deserved sh*t for not riding my bike as much, or for settling for stand-up comedy as our “live performance” dates.
I wouldn’t mind giving you all some crap too. But more as a loving, caring, early-retirement-bound coach of sorts. We encourage, not shame here, friends.
*Talk about problems!!! I’ve gone from having to have my site rebuilt due to cache programs causing corrupt files, to finally throwing in the towel and switching hosting platforms. I’m now hosting with SiteGround, and so far so good. Light a candle for me. Thanks for sticking with abandoned cubicle these past few weeks. We’ll be faster, and much more reliable going forward.
**Epilogue: I’ve added a resolution – to become and stay a millionaire. Here’s my pledge, and a plea to join J. Money’s Million Dollar Club: In order for me, Cubert J. Cubert I, to become a millionaire, I pledge to do the following (each year): avoid exotic investments, improve myself with reading and training, focus on people over things, and try to let go of my addiction to my budget spreadsheets. There is more to life!