Focusing on healthy habits in 2016 enabled blogger Meagan McGinnes to have her best year for travel, savings, and other life goals. Here’s how you can do the same in 2017.
There are 5,280 feet in a mile. During my junior year of college, I decided, on a whim, I would run that 13 times over.
Running my first half marathon was your stereotypical New Year’s Resolution—which statistically only has a 46 percent chance of long-term success. New Year’s resolutions are usually based around the idea of less: eating less, drinking less, weighing less, spending less, and the list goes on. But I found that not only is deprivation really not fun, it also isn’t very sustainable.
In 2013, I decided to do something different. Instead of focusing on what to trim out of my life, I concentrated on what I could add. Completing my first half marathon was a marker in a long path to an overall goal of investing in my wellness and personal strength. My finisher medal hangs by my desk, and I still smile when I think about the joy and tears shed when crossing that finish line. It was a true high.
Each new year since, when I create my resolutions, I look at that medal as a reminder to focus on what I can add to my life. Then in 2016, I went a step further. I decided to apply this tactic to my finances and the results were amazing. This year I was able to travel, live, and save more than ever before.
Here’s how I invested in myself in 2016—and how you can do the same in 2017.
Prioritize Your Downtime
This was my biggest success of the year. Instead of spending money on countless going out for “only one drink” excursions or covers for clubs that I never really want to go to, I only budgeted for experiences that mattered to me. I now spend my money on road races, traveling, concerts, nice beer, and new restaurants because those things make me happy. I spread out my spending throughout the year so I’m never breaking the bank, but also feeling happy and fulfilled.
By hosting more in my own home or offering to be the designated driver, I not only feel better in the morning, but my wallet does as well. And by laying low over the winter and controlling my impulses to online shop, I’m able to save for experiences like a week-long trip to Ireland.
While I was there, I didn’t limit myself. I ate at all the hillside pubs I dreamed of. I didn’t hesitate to order a second beer. I enjoyed my time to the fullest. When I returned, I went back to spending modestly until my next big outing.
The same tactic applies to more regular spending. I’m a major foodie who always wants to explore my city’s best restaurants—but eating your money isn’t the most economical option. So, instead of buying lunch at work, I make my lunch every day. One $10 lunch out costs the same as homemade lunches for the week. I cook instead of ordering takeout for dinner. I buy snacks in bulk or make my own protein bars instead of purchasing them in single servings or out of vending machines. Being choosy with my food spending really ups my budget for those “best of” restaurant meals.
Like any goal, little mile markers are a great way to keep yourself on track. I went into this year knowing I wanted to move out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment, but to do so, I really needed to save.
I set a savings goal to hit every three months to keep me on track. One easy way to hit those marks was to take a small amount of money out of my checking account and move it over to my savings. Even if it was only $20 to $25, by the end of the month I had an extra $80 to $100.
Choose Quality over Quantity
Sticker shock can be paralyzing and lead to poor financial decisions. I used to buy more items of less-expensive clothes—which would fall apart after wearing once—instead of fewer staple outfits made to last. I used to buy cheap but impossible-to-put-together furniture for my apartment. Now I look for furniture that’s durable and sturdy.
But this isn’t always easy. Sometimes paying more upfront is hard in practice. For our apartment, instead of buying a nice vacuum, we bought the cheapest one. And instead of sucking up dirt, it spits it back out at us. So because we tried to take the cheap way out, we ended up spending double the money and double the time on one purchase. Lesson learned.
Remember: It’s More than Money
When you invest in yourself, you’re investing more than your money. You also need to invest time for yourself.
When we get lazy or careless with our time, we spend more money. I know I’m much more likely to order takeout once or twice during the week if I don’t take the time for meal prep on Sunday. That means I’ve paid for food that is going to waste in my fridge.
As a foodie, I tend to be focused on my stomach, but the same principle applies to everything from your property to your health. If you want to avoid unnecessary car expenses, then you need to take the time to get it regularly serviced. If you want to avoid doctor’s offices and their copays, you need to take care of yourself by eating right, sleeping more, and cleaning your surroundings. Caring for yourself and your belongings will save you more money—and give you fewer headaches—in the long run.
Meagan McGinnes is a freelance writer with interests in New England culture, locally sourced food, the environment, fitness, and storytelling. She’s a foodie who shares her love of snacks as a senior reporter at Project NOSH—a trade publication by BevNET that covers natural, organic, healthy, or sustainable packaged food companies and products. Follow her @meaganmcginnes.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.