My 2016 Progress Report: How My Money Resolutions Are Actually Going
Though most people roll their eyes when I bring them up, I, for one, have been sort of obsessed with New Year’s resolutions for the past few years. While I understand not taking them too seriously, if your only impressions of New Year’s resolutions are wasted gym memberships and wilting salad greens, I think you’re missing out. A new year is as good an excuse as any to step back and take inventory of your life and the people in it. My best friend and I actually make a date where we discuss, draft, and finalize our resolutions, and we even go so far as to email them to ourselves for easy access. Still, the one thing we usually forget to do is check in with each other (and with ourselves, for that matter) to make sure we are continuously working towards those goals once all the champagne is out of our systems.
So, this year I’m implementing a NYR check-in schedule, and I wanted to share the progress I’ve made between January and April. Over the last few years, I’ve learned it’s best to have a good mix of resolutions. Some are items on a to-do list to be checked off once (like getting new head shots taken), and others are new habits I want to adopt (like getting up early enough to make a good breakfast every day). I find that having a mix gives you both the satisfaction of completing a task and the challenge of adapting your lifestyle. That said, here are my top three money resolutions for 2016, and honest assessments of whether I’m hitting or missing the mark.
1. This year, I wanted no surprises where my finances are concerned. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, I want to see my whole financial picture and know where I stand. So far this year, I am (FINALLY!) tackling my massive student loan debt, and I am working with the department of education to get my monthly payments down to something I can afford. I also paid off an old credit card that I had mostly neglected since opening it at age 20.
Hit or Miss?: Hit! Both of these are actually huge accomplishments for me given the fact that, up until very recently, I viewed debt of any kind as The Boogie Man. (Side note: TFD has helped tremendously with taking the fear out of getting my shit together!) I also started transferring a small amount automatically from my checkings to savings at the end of each week. The biggest victory here, though, is learning to ask for help. A close friend, who I’ll call Leigh, took time out of her very busy schedule to sit down with me and go over everything financial in my life. All the things that I had been too afraid and ashamed to face myself, let alone show to someone else, went from terrifying to manageable. She even helped me set money goals for each month!
Looking ahead: Over the next nine months, I would like to work on repairing my credit, and I want to start contributing more regularly to my Roth IRA. Leigh also got me set up with Mint.com, which is probably my single most essential tool for staying on top of my finances. I realize, of course, that it will likely take more than a year to make this happen, but I’m getting myself on the right track.
2. I wanted to tackle all of my goals (financial and otherwise) with a #StartNow approach. (Yes, sometimes my resolutions materialize in the form of a hashtag.) The idea is this: no matter what it is you want to change, learn, or implement, take one tiny action right away to get you headed in the right general direction. I came up with #StartNow as a remedy for a self-diagnosed disease I like to call Analysis Paralysis. The symptoms include, but are certainly not limited to: planning everything in my head beforehand to the point of getting overwhelmed, engaging in said planning as a way to avoid taking action, and getting so freaked out about the possibility of making the wrong choice that I freeze and just do nothing.
Hit or Miss?: Hit-ish. I decided to employ #StartNow to find the best spots for affordable yoga in my city. Naturally, I asked the Facebook universe. Unfortunately though, over a month later, I have yet to actually use the Groupon I bought, or use any of the other suggestions I got from Facebook friends. Clearly, I could do better with this one.
Looking ahead: I have a few days off work coming up, so my plan is to go do yoga at least two days in a row. The weather in my city is beautiful right now, so I’m a lot more likely to get out and try something new. I think the key is tricking myself into thinking that I’m not really doing anything. That way, I don’t get trapped in A.P. and chicken out. Thankfully, everything from understanding investments to learning how to make killer mac-and-cheese can be tackled with the right attitude and a little bit of bravery. For me, my first step is usually a Google search. Just typing “investing for beginners” or “homemade mac-and-cheese recipe” into the search box turns into cause for a tiny victory dance. So make that phone call, send that email, or Google that term to get the ball rolling!
3. Finally, this year, I really just want to find activities that make me happy. As a multi-faceted artist, it’s easy to view any and every creative activity as another potential line on your résumé. Every movie you watch, article you read, and even conversation you have, can turn into a way to earn points toward developing your craft. But I’m tired of keeping score! This doesn’t mean I plan to slow down or take a break from becoming a mogul and taking over the world. But I want some activities to be completely off limits from my plans for world domination. I want to participate in new things just for the sake of making myself happy, rather than furthering my career.
Hit or Miss?: Another hit-ish. But it’s not entirely my fault, I swear! I love to read, so I’ve been finding park benches and coffee shops all over town to read books, newspapers, etc. I even joined a new feminist book club with a coworker! But I use the word “joined” lightly, as the book club never really got off the ground and has yet to have a single meeting. I also love to cook. I’m still brainstorming ways to create community around that, though. I’ve offered to cook for friends, and asked them to cook for me. That also has yet to happen. I keep throwing around the term “Supper Club,” though I’m not exactly sure how to get one up and running. My writers’ group, however, is a huge success! I wish I could take credit for it, but one of my best friends started it last year, and we are still going strong. We meet weekly to go over projects we’re working on, encourage each other, and drink wine.
Looking ahead: It’s so important to me to have affordable art in my life strictly for my own enjoyment. The more clearly I can draw the line between creativity as a business and creativity for pleasure, the better. Like #StartNow, this resolution benefits from sunny days and warm breezes. I’m much more motivated to find activities (and their related communities) when it’s nice enough to walk around, explore new venues, and spend long periods of time outside.
Overall, I think 2016 is shaping up to be quite the healthy, happy, savvy, proactive, fun, fearless year. And even though, for me, the year started with too much champagne and wearing cute-but-painful shoes, it’s nice to know that I can actually celebrate the new year whenever I choose. I hope you also find inspiration in the goodness of springtime. It’s never too late to start fresh.
Reanna Osler is an actor-writer-director-
Image via Unsplash