I make New Year’s resolutions because I find they’re a healthy way to guide me through a calendar year, a healthy way to tackle what I’m feeling and how I want to see myself improve. But it’s never too late to start doing better. You don’t have to wait until January 1st, the first day of a new week, or until some cataclysmic event forces your hand. You just have to hold yourself accountable for your own successes and put in the work to make it happen. If you want to get healthy, then don’t wait to make diet and exercise changes. If you want to learn a skill, then don’t wait to start asking around for instruction or reading up with books from the library. All you have to do is try and you can start right now.
That said, here are my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions.
REDUCE FINANCIAL STRESSORS
A couple of articles I’ve read recently have posited that approximately half of all millennials (people born between 1980-2000) have less than $1,000 in savings. I find that a little hard to believe since almost half of all millennials are now into their thirties, but if it’s even a little bit true then I find myself reassured. Because I am not one of those millennials. I definitely have more than $1,000 in savings, even if it’s still not as comfortable an emergency fund as I would like. So despite how anxious I often feel about my finances, I’m probably in a better position than many of my fellow millennials. Still, my anxiety levels have been high the last few years and in 2018 I want to make significant progress to reduce financial stressors. I’ll be tackling this in two ways:
1. Read fewer articles about financial advice. I know that sounds kind of backwards, but 98% of the time I read an article, I either don’t learn anything new or I’m given advice that doesn’t apply to me, like “save money by living at home” or “split expenses with a partner.” Do I wish I could save the $20,000 I’ll pay in rent/utilities/internet this year and put it towards my loan? Sure. But moving in with my parents genuinely isn’t an option for me, and I should stop reading articles that make me feel like I’m not working hard enough or sacrificing enough and accept my situation for what it is.
2. I’m going to start making extra payments on my student loans this year. I haven’t been able to do this for the last three years, but I know that I can now. It doesn’t have to be large, lump sum payments, but anything extra I can do is going to make me feel better in the long run. At best, I’d like to make one additional payment every month, but if I do so even once a quarter I’ll have made a noticeable improvement.
MAKE A POLITICAL DONATION**
Did you know that women are, as a whole, less likely to make political donations than men? I didn’t, but it makes a lot of sense. Women tend to put family needs and charitable causes above extraneous expenses and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But we also can’t deny the fact that the source of a campaign’s donations affect both its priorities and it’s rate of success. So if men are making the donations, then it’s men who are disproportionately choosing our candidates before they even reach a ballot box. We can’t vote for candidates who don’t make it to a primary right?
2017 was a hard year for women, but it’s also been a wake up call for some of the most courageous among us. Many women are speaking out about key issues and even more are running for office. In 2018 I want to do my part to help lift their voices into positions of power. I’ve never been comfortable giving campaign contributions in the past because I’ve always felt that I would be heartbroken if a candidate broke my trust down the line. Look at all the elected officials who’ve already lost their seats due to sexual harassment allegations; what if I donated to someone who turned out like that? I would feel responsible for helping to get them on a ballot. So I started doing some research and I found a national organization called Emily’s List that supports pro-choice, democratic female candidates for office.* And what’s great about Emily’s List is that not only are they vetting and funding national candidates, but state and local candidates, too.
So this year I want to make at least one donation to Emily’s List. We need more women in Congress, but we need them in state houses and governorships and mayor’s offices and on school boards, too. I want to be a part of lifting female voices into positions of power all over the country and in order to be proactive about that, I need to do what I can to help ensure they reach a ballot.
I read an article in the New York Times recently about two women who had undergone a No Shopping Year as part of their New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t know if their terms are for me exactly (they didn’t allow themselves room to purchase gifts for others), but it reinforces the idea of intentional shopping, of buying just what you need or only the things you really, really want and have put thought into. It probably depends on where you start, but if you’re not a shopaholic then this won’t be as challenging as you think; you’ll get used to it very quickly.
I started this process in 2017, so I’m already buying less than I used to and being more careful with my purchases. I’m making sure that I’m spending my money on things that I really need and keeping excess junk from moving into my new space. It was difficult at first, but the more I removed temptation – avoiding malls, unsubscribing from email newsletters and coupons, etc. – the easier it became. Very frequently, I find that I don’t even touch my wallet on weekdays now except to pay bills, and I know that most of the clothes and books I bought this year were intentional purchases and replacement staples.
Still, sustainability is a journey for a reason. It takes time, and there’s definitely room for improvement in my life. So I’m making it an official priority for 2018. I don’t think I overspent in 2017, but I know that this is something I can do well if I really apply myself. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
KILL THE SWEET TOOTH
Countless studies have shown the negative effects of sugar on the human body. It’s addictive, readily available, and hidden behind many synthetic names, but ultimately the effects are the same. It makes us lethargic, fat, and rots our teeth. Our bodies were never meant to process as much of it as we now consume and so, by setting our digestive systems into overdrive, it’s slowly killing us.
I’ve gone through several sugar detoxes over the last couple of years, but I’ve never managed to fully kick the habit. And I think that’s because I’ve been trying to quit cold turkey instead of moderating and slowly reducing the intake over time. Each time I’ve detoxed, I’ve felt good at the end of it and less attracted to specific sugary items like sodas and frostings. But even though I still mostly avoid those things, I’ve got a lot more work to do. So I’m giving myself two rules that I think will target my strongest temptations and help moderate my sugar intake.
1. No sweets before 12:00 PM. This may sound easy, but when your coworkers frequently bring kryptonite like donuts into the office, it becomes a lot harder to resist. It’s also easier to justify eating leftover brownies after a night out when no one is there to see you do it. So I frequently give in to this temptation, but it’s a terrible way to start the day and something I really need to overcome.
2. No snacks after 8:00 PM. Even if I’ve just eaten a hearty dinner at 7:00pm, I will find myself reaching for something to munch on while I watch TV. My distracted watching translates to distracted eating and I know this because on the nights when I read after 8:00pm, I don’t snack. The busier my brain is (and my hands are), the less likely I am to munch.
So those are my Resolutions for 2018. Ultimately I’ve chosen things that are both concrete and achievable in order to help reduce my stress and make me feel better. There’s a bit of sacrifice upfront, but that will dissipate over time as I build up the habit. I expect there will be setbacks, or times where I’ve not been my best self, but if I hold myself accountable and remember why I’m choosing these goals then I believe I will be able to achieve them.
Do’s: Make extra student loan payments (at least once a quarter), donate to Emily’s List (at least once), and shop only with intention.
Don’ts: Read financial advice articles, eat sweets before 12:00pm, or snack after 8:00pm.
*Author’s Note: I recognize that not all of my readers are democrats or pro-choice advocates, but this is my personal opinion expressed on my personal blog. I’m an advocate of female representation across the board and aisle, but the fact that Emily’s List is pro-choice and democratic is a bonus in my book. I am in no way sponsored by Emily’s List.
**Update: According to the FEC, I fit the definition of a federal contractor so I’m not legally allowed to make campaign contributions, even as an individual. So I’ll be donating to some other cause.