The New Year brings a whole host of new wishes and heightened expectations. Not to mention exercise equipment, travel brochures, self-improvement books, and tons of other bric-a-brac that ultimately end up collecting dust. Making new year’s resolutions can sometimes only lead to a letdown.
Fortunately, getting your year off to a good start doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Here are 15 easy, inexpensive ways to make 2015 your best year yet.
15 new year’s resolutions to improve your year
1. Plan a “daycation”
You survived last year, so how about a little fun? Get some R & R without breaking the bank.
- Use your local visitors center or convention and visitors bureau. They may offer information about cool, affordable events in your area.
- Visit a nearby state park. A hike is a great way to pass the time without spending a fortune. (And the exercise is a nice perk.)
- Avoid overthinking it. Taking time to read a book might be all you need.
2. Start networking
Many find themselves contemplating their career goals in January. If you haven’t thought of networking as a way to get jobs or promotions, think again. Roughly 42 percent of large companies use referrals to fill positions, which is why networking’s so vital.
- Set a goal. Going into a social situation knowing what you’re trying to achieve will ensure greater success. For example, a realistic goal is to make 3 new contacts per networking event.
- Establish an online presence. Although social media sites are becoming a casual part of our everyday lives, creating a professional profile on LinkedIn or setting up an online portfolio can boost the networking process.
- Stay in touch with your contacts periodically. That way, when you’d like to ask them for a reference, referral, or introduction, it’ll seem more natural.
3. Perfect your résumé
Hopefully after all that networking, you’ll be sending out the ol’ résumé. Now’s the perfect time to revamp!
- Avoid crazy formatting. Employers see tons of these, and they’re ultimately looking for something easy on the eyes.
- Stick with active, straightforward sentences. Although the tendency is to cram in as many fancy words as possible, this’ll help convey confidence and professionalism. Less is more.
- Update your contact information. It might sound like one of those “no duh” tasks. But if you’ve moved in the last year, it’s easy to forget such a small detail.
4. Clean out the closets
Who says you have to save the cleaning for spring? It’s better to get a jump on it now. Finally purging things you no longer use will feel great.
- Start with things you’re holding onto “just in case,” like that magazine from 5 years ago. Chances are, if it hasn’t been useful in the last year, it’s probably safe to toss or donate.
- Keep in mind that while it can be difficult to get rid of things, donating your stuff can help someone in need. Picturing someone actually using that old hula hoop makes it easier to let go.
5. Stay on top of cleaning
Thanks to everyday life, things can get out of control. Fortunately, getting things back in order — or maybe in better order — doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
- Use the “quick” method for clutter removal. Clutter has a way of looking like an all-devouring black hole, but it can be easy to remedy. Use a laundry basket to gather things in disarray from each room. Then, carry the basket around and distribute those items to their rightful places.
- Divide and conquer. Cleaning an entire house all at once can lead to an existential crisis. Set a timer for one hour and really focus on one or 2 rooms during that time. When you hear the ding, take a 10-minute break before resetting the timer. It makes time fly by! (Drinking wine while cleaning doesn’t hurt either.)
6. Go ergo!
Setting up an ergonomic workstation at home or work can help promote an easier, pain-free year.
- Make sure your monitor’s at eye level. You can buy risers for laptops or desktop monitors, but a stack of books will work too. You won’t have to look down so much, which can help to prevent neck strain.
- Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle when using your computer. This maintains a nice neutral position for your wrists and forearms, minimizing strain on your tendons. Adjusting your desk chair is key.
- Try a standing desk. This can improve blood flow and core strength. You might even feel a better sense of clarity after standing for a few hours.
7. Do some basic car stuff
Because a little preventive car care can minimize car-related stress and exasperation down the line.
- Put air in your tires, and check the levels every month. Typically, the yellow sticker in the doorjamb on the driver’s side will display the required pressure. Most gas stations provide an air hose with a pressure gage as well.
- Check your oil. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it off, and then re-dip. If it’s under the “fill” line, add the amount recommended for your car. You’ll be grateful for your engine’s longevity.
- Make sure your battery’s in good shape. Clean off the corrosion with some baking soda, water, and a steel wool scrubber. Then rinse.
8. Take care of your body
Your body’s kind of like a car — it performs a lot of tasks and gets a lot of mileage. It’s important to keep your muscles happy.
- Conquer any fear of needles! Acupuncture can provide effective relief for aches and pains. Plus it’s a great excuse to lay down and zone out for a bit. Community acupuncture clinics sometimes operate on a sliding pay scale, which means more bang for your buck.
- Search for massage deals. Massage can be a great way to target and release tight muscles, manage pain, and reduce stress.
9. Find your inner sanctum
A little bit of meditation can do wonders for stress, and you don’t need a Tibetan monastery to do it. A simple 20-minute session might get you hooked.
- Find a comfy place. You don’t have to be a lifelong yoga master to meditate. It can be done from your couch.
- Find your “center.” The most common technique is to focus on the movements of your abdomen as you breathe deeply. If distracting thoughts come up, just return to your breath. It takes practice, but the payoff can be well worth the time.
10. Get your diet on track
The holidays are a veritable nightmare for anyone trying to stay healthy, so what better time to get back to basics?
- Ask your doctor before trying any change in diet. Juice fasts and the like, especially while not under the right supervision, can be extremely unhealthy.
- Check out the glycemic index. Foods that are dense in carbohydrates can throw your insulin levels out of whack, which might lead to weight gain and other body weirdness.
- Look into the 30:30:40 ratio. Put simply, it’s a method for keeping your protein, fat, and carbs in proportion. “Eyeballing” your plate can help you figure out what you need.
11. Move it (or gain it)
This might be the most frequent new year’s resolution. You can exercise in a variety of ways and in multiple environments.
- Search through the plethora of free workout videos online.
- Take a real-time class. Classes can make your workout fun. Sometimes buying classes in bulk’s less expensive.
- Get a gym buddy. Working out with a partner could help ensure that you work harder, stay motivated, and even enjoy your workouts. Consider asking a friend or coworker to partner up.
12. Start saving
Unless you’re an accountant by trade, the idea of budgeting probably sounds like as much fun as a root canal.
- Figure out how much you make per month, including any odd jobs or other sources of income. For multiple jobs, this might take a little more time.
- List your fixed expenses. These are regular payments you make every month, such as rent, utilities, or student loan payments. Having this set amount will make it easier to flex spending in other areas.
- Establish a savings goal. The standard recommendation is to transfer about 10 percent of your monthly income into a savings account, either for retirement or otherwise. Setting up automatic transfers can make this process even easier.
Related: 4 steps to achieve financial fitness
13. Get that creative project going (really!)
With busy schedules, it’s easy to let creative projects fall to the wayside. It’s time to make some real progress on your masterpiece.
- Go little by little. John Steinbeck advised writers to “just write one page for each day.” Finishing one small bit at a time takes the pressure off and ensures your continued momentum.
- Join a group of like-minded people. Having a regular commitment to meet and critique other people’s work is a great motivator. It can also help get the creative juices flowing.
14. Take a class
Education of any kind can boost your job-related skills, expand your professional or personal network, and just make you feel good.
- Consider taking classes at your local junior college. While rates vary widely, you might find courses that are more affordable than classes at larger universities.
- Check out local retailers. Craft stores usually offer various workshops in painting, knitting, or even cake decorating. Specialty cookware stores sometimes host culinary courses.
15. Give back
It may seem tricky to fit more into your schedule, but the benefits of volunteering are astounding. Many report an increased feeling of purpose, positivity, and self-esteem. Plus, it’s free.
- Find a cause that interests you or something you’re passionate about.
- Use volunteering as an opportunity to meet new friends or business partners. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Many organizations will be happy to see you, even if it’s just a couple of hours per month.