It’s been said that if you can change one bad habit, you’re likely to change another. This list will show you how being responsible pays (literally). In just one year, watch how making these small investments or spending habit adjustments will implement lasting benefits in your lifestyle.
You can absolutely have a better life! Might as well start today!
17 Things to do Today That Will Make You Proud of Yourself in a Year…
1. Create a tradition with your best friends: Schedule an Annual “Girl’s Trip”
My best college friends and I have made a tradition out of spending St. Patrick’s Day together every year. This national just-for-fun holiday makes for happening festivities all over the country and is equidistant between the Christmas chaos and summer soirees. Pick whatever dates make sense for your group and plan accordingly. Buying plane tickets as early as possible alleviates sticker shock, while opting for home exchages or shared vacation rentals on websites like VRBO instead of opting for traditional hotel rooms significantly cuts travel expenses. Want another idea? Groupon even offers group getaway deals (I had no idea about these until recently.) Book now, enjoy later. No headache necessary. And, if you’re on a Spending Fast or Spending Diet look into less-expensive/free options like camping trips or Resort-style staycations at a friend’s house for the weekend. Up to 80% off LivingSocial Escapes packages!
2. Plant peonies
Peonies are just about the most stunning perennials, or annual blooms, that Mother Nature has to offer. Make a trip to the garden center this spring and pat yourself on the back for years to come. Flowers bud for about two weeks surrounding Mother’s Day, so pick a color that reminds you of her and spread the love.
3. Buy the nice winter wear off the sales rack
You’ll be happy next year when you have high quality knits, coats, and ski wear come the first snow of next year, especially since you got it for 60% off.
4. Take that bag of unwanted clothing to the consignment shop already
You know what threads from last spring and summer you’re willing to part with.Merchandise takes a while to move off the floor at consignment shops, so that’s why it’s important to make the cumbersome trip now. Put a quarterly reminder on your phone to call in and check on your profits. Greater returns are possible by exchanging profit for store credit, so why don’t you call specifically when a wardrobe update would be ideal, like near an event? (More tips: Don’t Bust the Bank on Your Spring Wardrobe)
5. Sign-up for a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a preferred way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer over the past 25 years. Participants buy a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week in return throughout the farming season.
You’ll find that you cook more and dine less if you’ve got an appropriately stocked fridge to work with. Enliven your taste buds by eating vitamin-rich fresh food and get exposed to new vegetables as well as new cooking methods. Furthermore, you can do dutch. The librarians at the University of Colorado Denver get an order right to the school and divvy up the produce to bring home for their families. Find a CSA right near you by using the search engine on the official website.
6. Set a goal to keep the car parked (at least!) one day a week
Walk when you can walk. It’s that simple. If you’re not in walking distance from your destination of choice, ride a bike or use public transit. You’ll reduce spending on gas and feeding the meter, which are both favorable options. Before I sold my car all together I elected for lazy Sundays. Enjoy the slow place. Say you make a trip to the grocery store, you’ll get only what you truly need versus what you want, saving you bucks and burning calories while you’re at it. Walking is the most painless exercise ever!
7. Get a library card
Odds are there is a library located closer than you realize. Checking out books is a low-commitment way to nurture your curiosity, and a much cheaper alternative to shopping at the bookstore. If you’re the type of person that buys at least one book per month (I tried the Kindle and just can’t give in) you’ll save hundreds of dollars per year. For those books you’ve already purchased, wipe the dust off and pass them around! Starting a book-borrowing club with friends is just as easy as a trip to the library, and it’s more social too.
8. Buy (or make) your hostess gifts in bulk
My mom gives Seda France Travel Tin candles as hostess gifts and attaches a calling card with a short, personal note. Take her trick one step further and browse discount sites like Amazon for bottom of the barrel prices, or even better, find a local company to support. Then up the quantity and hold onto them, this way there will be no last-minute splurges on the way to the party.
9. Craft up some holiday decorations that you can store and reuse annually
In 2011, I made this “Rock Out” banner out of rope and some glitter letter accessories I found on clearance. Originally a bedroom art piece, I realized that it would make for a super playful holiday decoration. I have a box designated for handmade decorations that I can reuse each year, thus enabling a custom, cost-effective look for years to come.
10. Set-up automatic bill pay for all your utilities and credit card bills
Steady progress helps these hard heads of ours stay motivated. Set reasonable expectations for yourself when it comes to your automatic payment. Then, spend responsibly throughout the month and make an additional payment at the end of your billing cycle if you can afford to.
11. Pick a friend to start a bartering system with
Read this article from the Los Angeles Times about how decorator Emily Henderson and graphic designer/blogger Bri Emery exchange talents to avoid spending big. They’re just two talented girlfriends like you and me.
12. Start brown-bagging your lunch today
Packing makes perfect. While lunch break is undoubtedly more stimulating at a bustling restaurant, this simple change could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month. Dine with your close friends and make it count, not with your smart phone at the bar counter.
13. Take up tennis
Find a racket in decent condition at the thrift shop or on Craigslist and have a friend show you the ropes of this classic summer sport. You’ll spend your free time enjoying the beautiful weather rather than inside the gym. Check out your closest park to find public courts. A super social, super sweaty activity that’ll do wonders for your bod without the monthly membership fee.
14. Go the Rdio route
We’ve all caught on to streaming music instead of buying it (i.e. Spotify) but we’re still nagged by those cheesy commercials, hence why our debit card is still synced to our iTunes account. Rdio allows you to create collaborative playlists for free like other streaming websites. The difference is that only once your playlist is over will you hear any sort of interruption, which comes in the form of a promoted song instead of a promoted product. This is a concept I can get behind. (Check out: Free Radio Stations I’m Currently Obsessed With)
15. Contribute to your 401K
Let’s just do it, okay? We’ll be smirking next year and grinning in our 60s.
16. Don’t just brew your coffee, ditch your clunky coffee maker for the cone
Fresher coffee, fewer debit card swipes. Win win. Boil just enough water to fill your own cup of coffee and pour it over this cone that holds a filter of coffee grinds. If you want more than one cup, boil more water. Easy.
17. Pick a color, any color: start painting your own nails
Just like you use a signature perfume, select a signature color your nails. In college my friends knew me for having ballet-pink nails. This simple gesture customizes your look, making you look both fashionable and professional. (Unpainted nails are the first thing employers notice!) One bottle of nail polish versus routine manicures – you do the math.
What positive changes have resulted in your life based on decisions you made last year?
Pro-chance and fancy free, lifestyle blogger Lauren Mikus lives gratefully in the burgeoning city of Denver.