Ask The Classy Frugalist: What's Your New Year's Resolution?

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends over the last few weeks and are ready for a fresh start in 2019. Still, if you’re feeling a little bloated — financially and physically — after the holiday season, check out last week’s FB Live on my Classy Frugalist FB page or YouTube for tips on how to detox financially after this spendy season.

Our first “Ask the Classy Frugalist” post of the year is all about New Year’s resolutions. There’s a lot of research about New Year’s resolutions out there. Did you know that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions? And 80% fail by February? The statistics are so discouraging it’s easy to wonder if you should even make one. Instead of creating a specific resolution for myself this year, I prefer the idea of setting an intention that can pervade all different parts of my life. As an avid yogi, I’m accustomed to setting an intention at the beginning of a practice and seeing how that intention comes to life on and off the mat.

In 2019, my intention is “listen closely.” In 2018, I spent a lot of time rushing around. It was probably my busiest year to date, both personally and professionally. I don’t know that my life will be slowing down any time soon, but I still want to be more present for myself, my loved ones, and those who seek my attention this year. When we listen closely, we gain more empathy for ourselves and others. I want to become a better active listener — listening to what someone says without judgement, listening for the larger story in what they are saying, seeking the why behind the what.

While listening closely is an intention I’m hoping to bring into all areas of my life, I think it will be especially important in my life with money. Too often we assume that money is all about action — spending, saving, giving, acquiring — but money is also about intention. It’s easy to spend, give, and even save meaninglessly without really listening to ourselves, our partner, and our values. Living well financially requires us to take a step back to see the broader financial picture before we take a step forward.

Here are a few ways I plan to listen closely in my financial life this year:

1.          Listen to my heart: It’s easy to use money mindlessly, getting stuck in old habits and neglecting time for reflection. This year, I want to take some intentional time to listen to myself. This time of reflection might help me discover a new sense of direction or rekindle a long-held belief.

Ask yourself: What do I really care about? Has that changed? Are there new directions I’m being pulled in? Where am I now, and where am I going?

2.          Listen to my partner: After getting a few years of marriage under my belt, I’ve learned this is an area where I really could use some work. Yes, I listen to my husband often, but how often do I actively listen by asking concentrated questions to get to the heart of what he is saying and not just assuming that I know all of the answers? I’ve noticed that we do a lot of talking past one another, each of us focusing on what we have to share instead of what the other person is saying. I want to take more time to stop my mental hamster wheel, put my own agenda on hold, look at my husband when he’s speaking, and listen without judgement.

Ask your partner: What do you like best about our life with money? What would you change? What new directions are you being pulled in? How can I support you best as you work toward those goals?

3.          Listen to our use of money: No matter your level of wealth, tracking the ways you use money is one of the best things you can do to keep your values and your finances in alignment. I plan to be more intentional about looking at our bank and credit card statements on a monthly basis — not just to see if we’re on budget, but to see if the ways we are using money really reflect the deep listening that I’ve done with myself and my partner.

Consider: What does our sharing, saving, and spending say about us? How does it reflect us and our goals, and how does it not? What changes will we make to create more alignment in our financial life?

4.          Listen to the companies you support: Over the last few years, my husband and I have been listening more closely to the companies that we support with our purchases. We’ve started to be more discerning about what we buy, and from whom. We want to support companies that match our values, like Patagonia. I want to do more of this type of listening this year. It certainly takes more effort to be a conscientious consumer and investor, but I think it’s a worthwhile commitment. I also want to pay more attention to the companies we are investing in. I’m grateful that my employer offers Social Purpose Funds that allow me to invest for social impact while I save for retirement.

Ask the companies you support: Are you offering me a quality product in a way that matches my values? Does the great deal you are offering me come at the cost of harming the environment, underpaying workers, or using child labor? How can my savings give me the opportunity to invest for retirement and create a positive impact on communities and the environment?

5.          Listen to my employer: It’s easy to let all of those benefit communications from your employer pass you by. But don’t get so caught up in your work that you forget to take full advantage of the benefits you already receive. Who wants to miss out on a free or reduced price service? This year, I want to sample the buffet of benefits my employer offers. I also want to listen to the messages my employer is sending me to see how they are valuing my work, my time, and my contribution to the organization’s mission.

Ask your employer: What benefits do you offer that I might not be taking advantage of? Do you value my work? Am I being compensated equitably for my work?

I’m curious: What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Take my poll below.