Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? I have done away with the practice myself. Instead I set New Year’s Goals. Semantics, you say? Perhaps, but I believe the distinction goes beyond semantics.
Resolutions VS Goals
A resolution is a strong statement that either will or won’t do something: I will stop eating fast food; I will work out five times a week for 30 minutes; I will track my spending…you get the picture.
A goal is more involved; it is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result”. More importantly goals provide direction to achieve a desired outcome: they are intentional and require planning and taking realistic action. Instead of resolving to not eat fast food I can instead say: “I want to spend less money on take out and I want to lose weight so I will eat fast food only four times a year.”
A Shared Journey of Accountability
I have started many new years with goals in mind, mostly around behaviors I want to change, and ended them with the same bad habits. This year it’s time to try something new. I am going to enlist all the readers of this blog to help me reach my goals. I have read a lot about reaching goals and behavior change and one strategy that I read over and over again is to write down your goals, and then enlist help in being held accountable. I’ve also read that having to confess that you haven’t kept a goal can be motivating as well. So this year I am committing to my goals very publicly. Here goes it…
Spend 50% less on dining out, take out, and alcohol
My husband and I were going over our spending report for the past year (we use the YNAB app for budgeting and tracking), and were shocked by some of the areas we spent too much money on: namely dining out, take out, and alcohol. We were also motivated to change this when we realized we could easily save up for his dream trip to Spain or my dream trip to the UK if we just reduced these three areas of spending by fifty percent. It’s easy to say you want to spend less going out to eat, but hard in practice when your friends call you up and want to go out. I know we are going to need help with this so I signed up for a 20-day course from the Center for Advanced Hindsight on hacking personal finance behavior.
Plan for the “Big Exit”
No one wants to think about or plan for their death, or the death of a loved one. Since it is inevitable that at some point our time on this earth will come to an end – and because I turned 50 this year – I have decided that this is the year I will complete my health care directive, put together a Will, and plan my funeral. When you stop to think about it, there is a lot to think of: does my spouse know all the passwords to websites? Is he listed as a beneficiary on every account I have, including my own checking and savings? Do people know that I am an organ donor? Those are the little things.
I want to make sure my funeral is planned so when my loved ones are grieving they have little to do except grieve (and they will be less susceptible to expensive upcharges from highly skilled sales people). Think about it; funerals are big business. A typical funeral can cost anywhere from $7000 – $10,000 on average. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Minnesota (FCA of MN) has fantastic information about after-death choices and how to make after-death arrangements that fit individual needs, values, and budgets. Budget, even in death? Absolutely. I do not want my death to be a financial burden on my family.
There are many resources out there to help with end of life planning. One book I especially like is “Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To”. It’s put out by NOLO a well-trusted publisher for bringing legal topics to the those of us without law degrees. Another book that is highly recommended is ABA/AARP’s “Checklist for My Family”. I’ll be reading these and following the exercises to get ready for my “Last Hurrah.”
Move more for physical and mental health
Although one of my goals is end of life planning, I want to delay that end for as long as possible and make sure that my “golden years” are truly golden. The best way I can do that is by taking care of my physical and mental health. The research is out there that exercise is just as important for our brains as it is for our bodies. I live with Anxiety and Depression and have read study after study about how important regular exercise is in treating both of these conditions. So in order to increase my happiness, soothe anxiety and have a healthy body, I am going to start a 22-minute a day workout routine.
Why only twenty-two minutes you may ask? I recently read an article from Health Shots on NPR radio that had fitness advice from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, who developed this routine. The 22 minutes a day comes from the most recent recommendations to get at least 150 hours of exercise in each week: 150 divided by 7 days is 22 minutes a day. The routine incorporates High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Cardio, strength-building, and stretching: all into 22 minutes a day. I figure this is as good a place as any to start. Psychologically speaking, it’s hard to wimp out on something that will only take 22 minutes. Financially speaking, it won’t cost a dime because it requires no equipment or gym membership. Emotionally and physically speaking I’ve got nothing to lose…except maybe the 5 pounds I gained over the holidays!
So there you have it, my top three goals for the new year. I’ll check-in again in a few months to let you know how I’m doing.
This blog was written by LSS Financial Counselor Shannon Doyle.