I’m not usually one to make a new year’s resolution. As a Virgo, I feel like I’m always reminding myself to make changes throughout the year, so why should the new incoming year be different?! But for the New Year 2011 something just feels different to me. I had already started planning to make a few financial changes toward the end of 2010. Since the economy has contracted (i.e., we all feel a little poorer) I decided to give myself a raise by shedding some unnecessary bills, like cutting back on cable TV, phone service, etc. But when I started thinking about all the little changes that were happening in my life and the plans that I was making, it all seemed to fall into the “resolution” category.
So why do you care? Well, perhaps you don’t – and that is ok. You can stop reading here if you like. But if you are looking for some good ideas on how to give yourself a raise like I did, then read on. Please feel free to use my ideas to put a little extra money in your wallet and to hopefully improve overall happiness in your life. After all, if you don’t decide to take action and save yourself some money, then no one else will. Carpe diem!
Here are 5 things that I have put into action in the last 30 days. You may refer to them as resolutions if you like.
Martin’s 5 New Year 2011 Resolutions:
1. Dump your cable company! Did you know that here in Austin, Texas you can get approximately 20 free channels (some HD – higher quality than cable) on your TV set by simply using a $30 antenna? (I actually got 25 channels!) Did you also know that for a $8 flat subscription to Netflix you can stream thousands of movies/programs to your TV?! So why are you paying your cable company so much for so little.
For a small investment in equipment (antenna, coaxial cable, DVD/Blu-ray/streaming device) and a little work, I was able to wire 3 TVs in my home to free, mostly local HD TV programming this weekend. You can too! And I can’t tell you how empowering the feeling of independence is when you unplug your cable box! Exhilarating!
2. Break up with your bank! After a 14-year committed relationship with my bank, I decided to break it off. Why? Well, in hindsight I realized that my bank was bleeding me dry with constant demands of payment of fees. And the demands were increasing every year. At first our relationship was laid back. The bank was understanding and cordial, and not high maintenance. But at some point the bank took on new friends and ownership, became completely corporatized and turned cold. It became clear that it’s only intention was to take as much money from me as possible and hurt me whenever it could. So I let my bank down gently and ran into the arms of another: my local credit union! So far things have been wonderful; the credit union has hardly any fees, isn’t judgmental about my past and has even offered to help me out with lowering my interest rates on my car. I think we are a match made in credit union heaven!
3. Shop more locally. This is something that has always been important to me. But the longer I live in Austin, I realize how important it is to support the local economy and in turn, your neighbor by buying from local businesses whenever possible. When you purchase something from local businesses, you are putting money into the local economy, as opposed to when you buy something at a national chain store, which in all likelihood gets put in a bank in Delaware.
It’s also good for the environment in many cases to buy locally. Think of the example of your local farmer or rancher. Does it make sense to buy beef or produce that is shipped from South America. In some cases this might save you a few cents, but think about all the energy and pollution that goes into shipping a pound oranges or beef from Chile to Texas. It just doesn’t make sense when you can purchase those things here in Texas from Texas farmers.
4. Work smarter, not harder. I think that having this mentality of working smarter is really what got me to this blog in the first place. Is your money working harder for you? Are you saving your money and not wasting it on things like cable TV and phone services you don’t use? It’s likely that your job isn’t handing out raises this year because of the declining economy, so if you re-assess your financial standing and “cut some fat” out of the budget, then you’ll already have your money working harder for you, especially if you can take those extra dollars and invest them.
But how else can you work smarter? I look at this subject a little more holistically. My job frequently requires lots of time on a computer reviewing things that can get quite boring. If I mix things up and read something fun or interesting on my breaks, then my efficiency automatically goes up. If I get rid of bills that strain my budget, then I get rid of stress, which makes me happier, and not worried about bills. And when I shop locally I feel good about myself for helping my community, which gives one an overall sense of well being. It can also be a good way to network in your community, which can be good for recruiting future clients. The result: I work smarter, things are easier and I’m happier. It’s a win-win-win situation.
5. I want to read more. I could go on and on about the powers of reading: self education, mental exercise, remaining informed, healthy alternative to TV, etc. The problem for most people is making time. The other problem is turning off the TV (notice in a blog about reading I’ve already mentioned TV twice in the first 2 sentences). So just do it. Take 15 minutes, turn off the TV and step away from whatever you’re doing with a good book and read!
These days you have more options than ever. You can pick up the traditional book, you can go online and download a PDF of your favorite book, article, etc., you can surf the net for articles and information and now you can also read from electronic devices like your phone or new devices such as Amazon’s Kindle. So many options. So what’s your excuse for not reading? I don’t have one and I plan to read some books in 2011. I’m currently working on the classic, Crime and Punishment.