I’ve decided to change the expression “Happy New Year” to “Victorious New Year”.
There’s been a battle waging in my part of town for three years now against a proposal for massive radio towers in a densely populated area. I was late to the game as a new resident to the area, but last year I joined on in for the international fight. Just to give you a slight idea of what we’ve been up against – our town wasn’t even on the map of the proposal of the towers – we were considered to be a forested land with no inhabitants for miles and therefore we couldn’t possibly have been concerned about real estate value, health effects, or electromagnetic radiation if we 20,000 plus didn’t even exist.
Except we did, and still do, exist. And after three rounds of legal battles, progressing higher up the chain, and $200,000 in fees, we stand victorious. Phew.
As one of my things is writing songs, I decided to write one for the fight. It started with the tiniest of seeds – two words to be exact – “power” and “tower”. From there, the chorus grew and evolved into a full song called “Together We’ll Go Far”, and with help I made my first real music video, showing us winning against the bad guy, with our t-shirts claiming “victory”. (You can check it out at youtube.com/watch?v=KMYPkqZIE_c).
So let’s take that theme into other areas of life and claim victory in big and small ways, and with much greater ease than our challenging three year battle. And speaking of “ease”, let’s go with the theme of “e’s”.
1) Environment: A great place to start in the New Year is with tidier surroundings, knowing what’s where, what you have and don’t need more of. E.g. I’ve tidied the food cupboards/pantry and assessed supplies (why hello, forgotten bag of dates and sad looking almonds) to see how much is waiting to still be consumed. The dresser drawers have also been reorganized, with a focus on finally tossing socks far past their time to make way for the new recruits. The closet has been visited to assess how many grey sweaters I already have before I go and spend my holiday gift cards, with the aim to get things I at least sort of “need”. And while my office may look like it’s still somewhat in a state of disarray, I promise, it has been creatively organized for a fresh year of writing.
Clarity in surroundings can help us in many ways, including being more efficient with our funds.
2) Energy: Of course there are obvious ways to save energy, like not keeping the holiday lights ablaze inside and outside until Groundhog Day, but there are also modest things to look at for energy efficiency and safety. Though we’ve been at our new house for almost two years now, I just finally checked the refrigerator coils and cleaned out mounds of dust which affect efficiency and can also be hazardous. This is something that should be done annually (or more if you have pets) as opposed to the previous home owners who obviously did this on a schedule of never ever.
And don’t forget to check the build up of lint in your dryer’s vent (as opposed to just cleaning the lint filter after each use). You can check online for advice on this kind of simple home maintenance (e.g. wikiHow.com), and be sure to unplug all appliances before getting to work so you won’t be zapped into the New Year.
This is also a perfect time to change the furnace filter and write the date on it. And sneeze less.
3)Education: Learning is a never ending thing in life, thankfully, and there are some really affordable ways to do so. For example, I’ve taken two free courses (guitar and songwriting) through Coursera.org that covers a wide range of subjects. The only “expenses” are occasional resources that are recommended (but I got my course book at the library and just took mega notes). Grading is partially through peer evaluations, which can be a bit challenging at times, but along with video teaching it’s the way they are able to offer the courses for free. The extra great part of this type of course is that there’s no commuting and you can lounge and learn in your pj’s if you like.
In addition to online courses you can also check out local community colleges and school boards for affordable courses, or good old DVDs and books at the library to learn whatever catches your fancy.
4)Exercise: This is often at the forefront of many New Year plans. For myself, I walked quite a lot less this past year than usual so my goal is to increase that amount manageably. Even just a modest additional three miles a week will add up to over 150 miles in a year, giving me greater chocolate eating leeway next Christmas. I’m sorry arteries, we just have a couple of more weeks to get through and then it will be break time. Until Valentine’s.
Can you think of affordable options for exercise that you can fit into your life fairly seamlessly, so your favorite jeans won’t have bursting seams? How about starting with what’s manageable for you – e.g. twenty minutes of walking three times a week, and two rides a week on your neglected stationary bike while you watch the evening news. Interval training is all the talk these days and it’s pretty manageable and time efficient – e.g. walk a bit, run for thirty seconds, walk a bit more, etc. (Check out doctoroz.com/topic/fitness for ideas).
I know…after you’ve fed the family, helped the kids with homework, done the laundry and the dishes… It’s tough, but like on a plane if it’s going down, you need to put your own mask on first in order to help the others around you. You can do things like lifting five pound weights, and butt clenches, while you sit watching your favourite show late at night. How about making a little chart documenting your exercise accomplishments and giving yourself a happy face or a star sticker every time you reach a goal – e.g. ten miles walked in a week. Because hasn’t it been far too long since someone gave you a star sticker?
5)Extended Health: If you have extended health coverage, now is the time to gather all unclaimed receipts from the past year and fill out forms and send them in to get your refunds before the deadlines. The great thing with these refunds is that they can almost feel like bonus money when you get them (sort of like a tax refund of your own money!). My goal is to always spend it wisely and the few hundred we’ll get back will go to round two of our kitchen renovation. (Check out my last year’s blog about the kitchen compromise: artofdollarstretching.com/buying-what-you-can-afford-aka-the-kitchen-compromise/).
6)Expenses: The New Year is a good time to review where your monthly expenses are at to get clarity on what goes out and what comes in, making sure the in exceeds the out. If like us, you have increased deductions starting again in the New Year, you’ll want to be aware of the variations that can occur paycheque to paycheque (e.g. union dues, etc.), and where the extra belt tightening may need to happen. Not literally, thank Heavens.
Do you have a clear list of definite expenses and dates and do you play it safe with the range of timing when deductions may come out? E.g. a bill ranging from being due on the 14th to the 16th can cover two different pay periods so I prefer to assume it will come out sooner than later.
I don’t use anything fancy like Excel, or any budget apps, but find the deductions on our online bank account of bills and expenditures show just about everything (except for hubby’s cash coffees and what not). Unfortunately though, the account only shows six months’ worth, so I’ve started copying and pasting twice a year to an external document in case I ever want to revisit a bill paid three years ago, for some reason, or see how amounts coming out has changed over time.
That, along with my old fashioned lined notebook where I write down what we have to live on after each payday, after expenses are deducted, and a visit to the online account once a week or so, seems to do the job rather nicely.
Whatever route you take, try to overestimate uncertain amounts, like energy bills after the heater has been endlessly on and the lights of Christmas have shone brightly.
I think that’s enough of the E’s. And time for more easing into the chocolate eating New Year, actively, victoriously, and financially stably.
Don’t forget how a small bit of a hope can help a cause grow and conquer enemies, internally and externally, of all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the power within to make significant changes in life, one step at a time.
And like Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Kudos to the Cross Border Coalition to Stop the Radio Towers!!