Self-help is one of those things that always sounds really great in theory, but rarely works out the way we envision it. We read about these great ways to make our lives a little better – to become healthier, or wealthier, or simply happier – and get excited about the possibility of positive change. But then reality kicks in. We don’t follow through. The end result doesn’t live up to the anticipation.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you aim for the moon and miss, whatever the reason. I would never suggest not aiming for the moon – big dreams are some of the best dreams – but there’s something to be said for low-hanging fruit. Instead of major alterations, maybe this year you can try reaching for a few smaller changes?
Here are nine easy ways to make positive steps towards improving your life and your money.
Check employment listings once a month
No matter how much you love your current job, there’s no reason to not stay connected to the changes in your job market. You should always know what’s out there; if not specifically, then at least generally. And maybe, just maybe, something great will come along. Even if it doesn’t, just understanding the state of your job market makes you better equipped to make smart choices regarding your career.
Say “no” once a week
A lot of our most persistent problems with debt or health or personal relationships begin and end with our inability to simply say “no.” Saying no to our friends, our family, our coworkers, and ourselves can be surprisingly difficult. If you struggle with no, challenge yourself to put your foot down at least once a week. You can start slow. Try saying no to a craving or even an assumption you find yourself making. A well-timed “no” can make a huge difference in your personal wellbeing.
Clean out the cupboards
We’re all guilty of having a cupboard full of things earmarked for a “just in case” that never manages to come. Canned goods last a long time, but nothing (not even Twinkies) lasts forever. At least once or twice this year dip into the darkest corners of your pantry and actually use those “just in case” supplies before they go bad.
No credit cards for a month
Pick a month and go cash only. This is especially helpful if you struggle with credit card overreliance. Just spending a month away from credit can help you forge better long-term money habits.
Use an irregular coupon
There are coupons for literally everything you would ever want to buy, but when we use coupons we tend to stick to the same genre of coupons. I know that I’ve felt uncomfortable with the idea of using coupons at a restaurant or other service industries, but there’s really no reason for it. Businesses provide coupons to promote their business. You’re supposed to use them! So this year try to use a few “irregular” coupons and save money in new ways.
Carpool for one week
If you’re like most working Americans, you drive to and from work alone. That solitary drive time might be a crucial part of your day, but consider what carpooling might do for your wallet (not to mention the environment). It’s a lot to ask to suddenly become a designated carpooler, so consider trying out carpooling for just one week. See how it goes. You might just like it.
Make a double payment on one major bill
Big savings goals can be a little wearying, especially the ones that take years to reach. So try this smaller money goal out: this year make at least one double payment on one of your larger monthly bills. For one month, make a double-sized car payment or mortgage payment. It’s a manageable goal that will save you money in the long run.
Give up one vice a month
For many folks, Lent is (among other things) an annual time of abstaining from certain vices. People give up things like ice cream or smoking, which they then resume once Lent is over. We all love our vices, but we’re more than capable of setting those habits aside for a time when we choose to, so why not harness that self-control all year long? Give up one vice every month. If you prove you can live without it for a month, maybe you don’t need it as much as you think you do?
Step out of your comfort zone
Discomfort keeps us from doing a lot of things we would otherwise enjoy doing. This year try being a little uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t need to do something wildly out of character, just something that you might otherwise have avoided. Little by little, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, and you’ll find you don’t limit yourself quite so much.
Never stop dreaming big, but while those big dreams are in the works give yourself some nice, small wins along the way. A little change can go long way.