Good night holidays, good morning New Year’s resolutions

Ahh the joy of the holiday season as friends and family gather around the tree, menorah, kinara or Festivus Pole. A chance to get caught up with everyone, dust off some board games and remove the tinsel from the carpet before the cats do. Turns out that Aunt Eunice’s bunions are still troublesome and Uncle Jeffrey got turned down for the big promotion at work. On the plus side, only a couple of relatives stretched their stay beyond the New Year and your mother-in-law brought a Bundt cake this year.

And, as often happens, the holidays damaged your debit cards, expanded your effluvia, and widened the waistline.  Moods tumble. The lethargic letdown gives way to the hope of some New Year’s resolutions. Such promise they hold for that first week of January! If you have flopped on fad diets and bogged on budgeting just after previous Auld Lang Synes, maybe it’s time for some resolutions that:

  • Make a big difference to your health or wealth
  • Are easy to stick with
  • You wished you would have implemented earlier

Here they are! A 6 pack of easy New Year’s resolutions for health and wealth.

1. Drink more water

What do the carnivores, vegans, omnivores, paleos and Weight Watchers all have in common? They all agree on drinking more water. Try finding a diet regime that doesn’t advocate drinking more water. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This New Year’s resolution couldn’t be simpler to implement. Keep a glass of water on your desk. Bring a bottle to the gym. Heading out for errands or a road trip? Take along a bottle in the car.

Why bother? Because extra water fixes just about everything. And a recent study shows that improving hydration can ward off chronic disease and reduce the signs of aging. The medical details are way past my science skills. All I know is that my wife is a prodigious water drinker and she hasn’t aged a bit since I met her in 1983. Trust me. This works!

Here are some other benefits:

  • Reduces diseases
  • Lessens hangovers
  • Adds energy
  • Flushes toxins
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Can ease headaches
  • Improves mood

Easy fix. Try it. 30 days and it becomes a habit. And a great source of water is…your faucet. Most cities have lots of fresh, clean tap water. Skip the bottled water and save some of our piscine pals.

Time: 15 minutes to find a water bottle in your house and 10 minutes a day of drinking and filling. Maybe a few extra washroom trips.

On to an easy New Year’s resolution to improve your finances.

2. Put your bills on a diet

Have a peek at your bank and credit card statements. Look for all of those recurring bills and monthly subscriptions. All of them can be reduced. It just takes a bit of whining, comparing, conserving, innovating, avoiding, reducing and cancelling. Might take a phone call or a few mouse clicks. Which bills can be reduced? All of them. Here’s a list of the typical candidates and some quick thoughts on how to slash them:

  • Cell phones – do some plan optimizing with your vendor and shop the others
  • Car and home insurance – bundle them, use an independent agent, or try one of the online comparison companies
  • Internet & Cable TV – determine needs, shop for value. Consider disruptors like Hulu and YouTube TV. Can you cut or shave the cord?
  • Life insurance – see if your needs have changed and shop for the best value
  • House taxes – look into the appeals process in your area – are you paying more than your  neighbors?
  • Utility Bills – look for easy ways to conserve like washing clothes in cold water, sealing air leaks around windows and doors and insulating your attic
  • Subscriptions – easy to accumulate and easy to forget, which ones are you still using? Can you downsize any?

I know, you don’t have the time

Many people say that they don’t have the time to do this. Many of my readers have knocked off $1,000 from just this set of bills. Consider that $1,000 a month invested at 7% for 30 years is $1,226,000. Now consider that the average North American watches about 20 hours of TV a week. Guess what? You have the time!

And don’t just fritter away the savings! Get them working for you with increased investment or debt pay down.

Want the step-by step guide to crushing your finances,  saving up to $13,000 monthly, crushing your debt and accelerating your wealth? Check out Cashflow Cookbook.

Time: in 20 hours you can review and reduce all of your monthly bills. Can you find 20 hours in the 8,760 that the New Year provides us? I think so.

3. Get a health tracker and follow it

When I first got my Apple Watch, I loved getting texts on my wrist and being able to take a phone call while carrying groceries and eating a sandwich. And I missed fewer exits when my watch tickled my wrist, reminding me when to turn. The only downside was this pesky business of the health reminders. Admonishments to stand up or move, and  warnings that football Sundays weren’t helping my exercise goals. I dismissed the messages and carried on with my day. Eventually I figured out how to silence the little digital demon and live in peace.

As can happen, my khakis grew a bit snug and an upsize was in order. Darn fabrics. I checked the scale and it turned out that it wasn’t the fabrics. Time to revisit my Apple Watch settings. On went the warnings. This time I followed them, moving to close the red ring, standing every hour to satisfy the blue ring and getting in some exercise every day to keep the green ring happy. When I satisfy my three fitness overlords they put on a terrific red, blue and green fireworks display on my wrist. Success! Progress! Accomplishment! Particularly important on days when I accomplish little else.

You too can enjoy the health benefits of this little bit of guilt free gamification. Bonus, if you wear it at night, some mornings you wake up to a message like “Way to hit your sleep goal, Gordon!” Now that is overachieving!

Time: 15 minutes to buy a tracker (FitBit, Garmin, Apple), 30 minutes a day to do its bidding.

4. Check your credit rating

I know, I know. Could there be anything less appealing than checking your credit rating? Maybe vacuuming your refrigerator coils? Clipping the cats claws? That’s what I thought too.

It turns out that credit ratings can swing the cost of your loan interest by up to 70%. Wow. Getting more interesting already. Here in the US, it can also change car and home insurance premiums buy 30-50%. And here’s the kicker – credit reports often contain errors: Credit cards that you long since cancelled, debts that aren’t even yours, or loans that are actually paid off. Given the complexity of the calculations, good people can have bad reports.

You can check your score for free with your financial institution or through firms like Experian. Learn how scores work and what factors to change to improve yours. Then make sure you are getting the best rate on your loans, and insurance. Big difference. Minimal effort, minimal sacrifice.

Time: 20 minutes to hunt down your current rating. A few minutes to month to track it. 

Let’s get back to a New Year’s resolution for health.

5. Cut your sugar consumption

Over the holidays I ate a square of some festive baking from a relative. Whoa! Crazy sweet. Had to put it down after just one bite. Nothing special about the square. But I have been slashing my sugar consumption over the past year. Reading labels and exorcising anything with added sugar. Soda water in mixed drinks, sugar free ketchup, high fiber, low sugar cereal. Anything sweet now tastes too sweet. I have morphed my buds. No deserts mean no craving for deserts. Passing on ice cream became easy as my palate craved salads over sugar.

It took me about a month to start to feel the change. My energy levels are more stable over the day and I feel terrific. My A1C levels have dropped and I’ve likely added a few years to my time here on the blue rock. Once you start the change, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier. We are conditioned to believe that our habits are ourselves.

“I have a sweet tooth.”

“I hate exercising.”

“I’m not a morning person.”

Those aren’t you. They are just your habits. And they are all changeable with a bit of discipline for the first month. Unhealthy cravings switch to healthy ones.

Try it. If you order your coffee double double, switch to single, single. Then try one milk, no sugar. Eventually you can get to the nadir of coffee: Just the steaming black nectar. Take a pass on desserts, reject things with added sugar, make a few changes and see how you feel. Check out this great video of a guy who gave up sugar for a month.

Time: a few seconds to read labels and tweak some habits

6. Track your wealth

Lots of people are into budgeting. Well, maybe not into it, but they do it. It’s probably not a bad idea to see where your money is going. But it isn’t a complete picture or a complete solution. Here are a few examples of the issues:

  • Let’s say you budget $650 a month for a car payment and the car salesman stays within that by giving you a 96 month loan. No joke! That is the most popular loan term right now. Budgeting didn’t help you optimize your finances here.
  • Imagine that you carefully track to your budget every month for years. You get to retirement age and you have…nowhere near enough money. Budgeting didn’t save you.
  • Or you follow your budget but miss the fact that you have been overpaying on several categories.
  • And finally, let’s imagine that your budget includes all of your loan and credit card payments, but you haven’t taken the time to make sure you are borrowing from low-cost sources.

Your wealth tells you things that your budget misses

For all these reasons, it’s important to track your wealth on a regular basis. Some people call it Net Worth. Hate that. It seems to negate everything else that we all bring to the world! So I call it wealth. What you own, minus what you owe. Simple. What to include? Everything that you could actually sell for money. Your house, not your furniture. Your car but not your clothes. Subtract any amounts that creditors might chase you for: credit card balances, loans, mortgages, HELOCs. You can track it on a cocktail napkin or write an app. Or download my template from the Utensils section.

Track it every month for a year, then quarterly after that. Get interested in ways to reduce interest so that you can pay debts down further. Consider extra sources of income to increase monthly investment contributions. Before you buy a new car, check the difference in reduced depreciation, loan interest etc. on a used car. Could that cashflow pay down debt or increase your Roth IRA contributions or let you maximize your contribution to your company stock plans?

If you want to lose weight, watch your weight. If you want to grow wealth, watch your wealth.

Time: 5 minutes to set up your tracker, an hour a month to update it and see how you are doing.

Conclusion

There you go. 6 simple resolutions that everyone can follow. All are powerful and easy to implement. What are your thoughts on them? What are your resolutions for the New Year? Let me know in the comments.

Wishing you all the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2023.

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