Happy New Year! I hope that your year is already full of family, friends, faith and goals (and not the flu). This year is a big one for me – it’s a year full of milestones and life changes, but with some fun stuff along the way. This year is the last of my twenties, the year that I get married as well as a lot of learning and travel. I have consciously improved by my life sometimes in little pieces and other times with big jumps over the past few years. And, while I have never used New Years resolutions to make these changes, I am trying it out for the first time this year. I usually don’t do well forcing articial deadlines on myself, but I am willing to try to have a goal for the entire year. So, on December 31, 2018, I can look back and see what self improvement I made. So, here we go: here are my New Years resolutions for 2018 for making my current self, future self and my future family better off than we are right now.
While everyone hopes to make each year better by kicking bad habits, taking more chances and turning kale into its own food group, it’s clear that it’s easy to make New Years resolutions, but more difficult to stick with them after January. I have never been one for New Years resolutions. I’ve followed the notion that if I didn’t want do something at any other time of year that telling myself to do so come January 1 will not convince me to do it. As I get older though, I appreciate time, and its delineation – or timing – more and more. As the funeral reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 aptly puts it: there’s a time for everything – including growing and building. And so, for the first time in my life, I am making New Years resolutions that I believe can make a lasting difference, and that I hope are within my reach.
1.) Plan my wedding with my budget
I have not written much about this since becoming engaged (mostly because I have been busy doing the planning). Some parts are coming together easily, but other parts (such as the catering and rentals) are not. We are hitting up against our generous budget, which I thought was unlikely due to the generous size. BUT, since this is the case, we are going to economize where possible.
For instance, the only quotes that I have received for lighting were between $1,500 – $2,500 for bistro lighting alone. I can only say that those quotes make me feel like they look at me and only see dollar signs. This is out of our budget, and totally not worth the cost, so I am now taking matters into my own hands. I found some beautiful DIY lighting options and we plan to make our lighting suspension poles and string lights. After some geometry and hardware price shopping, I discovered that we could do all of our own lighting for just $200 – and we’d have extra string lights to spare.
As we bump up against our budget, we’ll be doing more things like this. Pinterest is becoming more and more handy each day. As I plan the wedding, I’m resolved to ask for each item “Can I do this more effectively, and if so, is the savings worth my time?” Saving money and my sanity will help not only me, but my future husband and our families supporting us.
2.) Invest more wisely
I first started investing about three years ago – way later than I should have. My fiance, who was then my boyfriend, after much prodding, made me realize that letting my money sit in my bank account was a disservice to my financial wellbeing. So, I put some money in the stock market using robo-advisor, not having a clue what I was doing, and within less than a month of my initial investment the Dow fell more than 500 points in one day and I second-guessed everything about this new venture realizing that I had no idea what kind of market volatility or risk to which I was subjecting my investment. I waited for the market to recover and I pulled some money out. I kept some in, and over time I have added to that amount, watching the stock market hit new heights and fall as well.
Overall, I have gotten better at choosing investments and diversifying my investment portfolio across stocks in different industries and countries as well investing online in peer-to-peer and real estate investments. This year, I want to learn more and more importantly – build skills to find and evaluate new investment opportunities. Ultimately, I want to understand this field, which was at first a completely foreign subject to me, with the goals of 1.) earning money outside of work income and 2.) becoming a more financially self-sufficient.
3.) Spend less money, buy less stuff, and give more away
Using Personal Capital, I learned a lot about my spending habits. While I lived in Los Angeles – in my opinion, the single best foodie city in the world – I spent quite a bit of money dining out. I didn’t each out for lunch while at work, but I tried out new Thai, Indian, ramen, sushi and other other places with my friends and boyfriend all of the time. This “experience-focused” spending added up. Experiences shouldn’t be avoided, but we want to be more reasonable timing and what we actually spend money on.
Yes, that train to New York is faster, but we we can save of $100 round-trip if we take the slower train. There’s wi-fi and plenty of learning that we could do as well. And, yes, we want to try out that restaurant, but we can wait until restaurant week when they will over a very discounted menu – so we’ll have to wait.
Additionally, when I moved from Los Angeles to Washington DC about a year and a half ago, I took very little with me, so I had to outfit my home almost from scratch. Countless expensive store trips and Amazon orders later, I had switched my “experience-focused” spending to “stuff-spending”. So, now I am focused on putting my spending on a diet. I have doing well, and it’s encouraging to know that I could cut even more.
I have also grown out of a lot of college days clothing and belongings, and I know that others could use them. I get very attached to too many objects, so I am trying this year to limit my attachment to a few truly sentimental objects and give the rest away to Salvation Army, so that those who actually things can benefit from them, rather than me getting comfort from the fact that they’re sitting in a storage container under my bed.
After my wedding, I may have extra items that I will have to force myself to part with. Rather than saying, “But that was the candleholder on our head table at the wedding!”, I’m trying to go for, “I have my wedding dress and and wedding photos of everything from that day, so I’m all set.”
4.) Eat better, and at home
As seen above in resolution number three, eating at home helps save money. And, it also helps you to eat more whole foods and avoid all of the fats, oils and salt that restaurants add to foods to make them delicious. We plan to keep a few expensive restaurant trips to celebrate milestones, but the majority of meals and desserts will be made at home this year – and hopefully going forward after that. We started transitioning to homemade food only in November and so far we’re only getting better at it.
I think that this switch will not only be doable, but also really enjoyable now that we have an Instant Pot multi-purpose pressure cooker. I have already perfected a few recipes for egg custard, chocolate cake, rotisserie-like chicken and we have only scratched the surface. I’m excited to try out Thai recipes now that we aren’t frequenting restaurants as much. If we can’t head there, we have to learn to broaden our skills in the kitchen.
4.) Share those homemade recipes
Some of our favorite recipes have been shares on the website already, but nowhere near the amount of homemade recipes that I make sometimes in a given week. I have plenty of recipes that I am dying to take the time to share, such as my healthier (and colorful) shepherd’s pie, hot chocolate, bougatsa, tzatziki and a multitude of Instant Pot recipes. Until then, you can find our tried and true recipes of crockpot chicken soup, crustless spanakopita, carrot cake balls and more. These recipes are so fun to make and talk about that I need to just take the time to enjoy doing that more often.
5.) Lose 20 pounds or 3 pant sizes
I know that this one is ambitious, and no, it’s not because I am getting married this year. I want to want to enjoy the benefits of health like I have in the past. Since moving to the east coast, I have lost the mountains that I used to hike every weekend and the beautiful year-long weather that made outdoor activities fun. I’ve also adjusted my eating habits too much to accommodate my fiance’s tastes. Both of these things have added on calories and reduced my physical activity. I’m working now to correct both.
I prefer mountains over a stair climber, but this year I am forcing myself to work out for at least 20 minutes for at least 4 days each week to get myself back to the healthier condition that I was in prior to the east coast move.
6.) Spend more time outside away from the computer
It’s true that the weather here is not as nice as it was in southern California. Even when it’s warm, it’s uncomfortably humid. So, outdoor activities can quickly turn into sweat fests that ruin dresses. I don’t want to avoid the outdoors in the cold and the heat, so I’m trying to adjust get the right wear and enjoy what I can. If the hot, humid weather makes we sweat, then I can wear a workout tank top and get a tan. And, if I need some mountains, I can take a few days off and head to the Shenandoah National Park.
7.) Travel more
We want to cut down on our spending, especially unnecessary spending, but we don’t want to lose out on experiences. This year we have a lot of travel planned, and we have not yet planned our honeymoon. This year, we are visiting a new island in Hawaii and northern Italy for the first time as well. We will also go back to California and hopefully explore new areas on the east coast. Also, travel will never be as it is now once we get married and begin a family. So, we want to enjoy the time that we have as just the two of us before life changes forever.
I’m most excited that we will get many family members to travel to a new place this year due to our wedding. The majority of my family has never been to the Washington DC area or even the east coast. I’m happy to share in a vacation with many as they explore a new area themselves.
8.) Learn statistics
In college, I mostly studied history, languages and archaeology. At times, I became so burnt out with reading and writing, I wanted to take math classes just to be able to use numbers. In my senior year, I took the only stats course that was available to me – “Probability in Texas Hold ‘Em” (Thanks, UCLA) – for that reason. With math, you did not need to demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge in long form essays or need to memorize conjugations and chronology structures. You just used your calculator and either got the correct solution or you did not. It wasn’t a matter of opinion – just simple numbers.
I’m finding statistics to be more and more useful at my job and just interesting in general. In the past when when trying to broaden my horizons with self-directed learning, I have taken on too much and ultimately learned a little about a lot of things, but never one thing well. This year, I can learn a little about other things, but I want to learn a lot about statistics. I have enrolled in a statistics class on Coursera and I am also learning R through DataCamp. I’m interested to see where this takes me for my career.
8.) Learn to support my new husband and family
Marriage will be the biggest step forward in my life that I take this year and although I am ready to take that step, I am still preparing for marriage. I’m learning how to support my future husband as a wife and how to build a strong home with him. Likewise, he is doing the same for me. We are working not only to build a marriage that supports us, but also a family once we make that next big step.
Of all of my New Year resolutions this year, this is by the most important. My goals concerning saving money, becoming more healthy and enjoying life are ultimately to serve the purpose of building a better life and this year that life will become permanently shared with this man and in future possibly our family.
So, I hope that when 2019 begins that I will be better off with more knowledge, better habits and a new marriage after a happy (and budgeted) wedding. Are you ready to make this year better than the last one? What are your New Years resolutions?