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4 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Boost Your Net Worth

4 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Boost Your Net Worth

It’s that time of year, people: New Year’s resolution time. I’m not a big resolution maker, myself, but maybe I would be if I could recognize some financial benefits to making resolutions. Here’s a list of common New Year’s Resolutions that also have financial benefits you may want to consider. Please chime in in the comments with ideas for financially beneficial resolutions that I’ve overlooked.

  1. Get regular exercise.

    Not only does exercise offer an opportunity to save money on health insurance premiums and less prescriptions and other medical costs, the fact is that you’ll also have less time to spend at the mall if you’re working out every day. But the biggest reason I put “getting regular exercise” as a resolution that will help your financial picture is because of the inspirational and motivational effect that regular exercise can have on your professional life. Whenever I feel like I’m out of ideas or energy and have lost the motivation to work, I find that exercise always gives me two or three new ideas, plus a boost in energy to get those ideas executed. This is really the only reason I keep exercising, to be honest: for years, I dreaded exercising because it was all about weight loss and appearance, but now that I’ve noticed an improvement in my work ethic as a result of exercise, I’m far more committed to making it a priority. Sure, you’ll feel like crap while you’re actually doing the exercise, but once you’re done, you’ll be energized and inspired to tackle the rest of your day.
  2. Quit smoking.

    According to the American Lung Association, the number one reason people list for wanting to quit smoking is to save money. This is either really encouraging information or a really depressing commentary, depending upon your perspective, but there is no question that a pack-a-day smoker can save at least $2,000 a year by quitting today. And then there’s the added money you’ll save on breath-freshening products and Febreeze to get the smoke stink off your clothes and furniture (if you even bother with this anymore), and you’ll probably save a ton of money (as much as 25%) on health insurance and even more (as much as 50%) on life insurance. When I quit smoking (for the last time) in 2001, I saved enough to join the really expensive gym instead of the crappy one I had been going to. Sure, it would have been a better plan to bank that extra cash, but I was young and frivilous, what can I say?
  3. Quit Drinking.

    Drinking is an expensive habit: alcohol can be expensive, cabs to and from drinking establishments can be expensive, time lost from work due to drinking too much is the most expensive of all. Do you ever wonder why waiters ask you for your drink order right after you sit down at a restaurant? Because alcohol is how they make all their money. (Trust me: I know what I’m talking about after 8 years of saying, “Diet Coke, please.”) Now, I almost always hesitate to add in a thought on the cost of drinking given my history, but the fact remains that if you drink with any kind of regularity, you’re spending a big chunk of change on it. And, if you’re looking to save some money, this might be the place to cut back.
  4. Watch less TV.

    Not only does TV encourage you to spend more money via direct advertising, there have been some studies that indicate that you can spend as much as $200 more per year for every additional hour of TV you watch per week.

    According to Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor, “Television viewing results in an upscaling of desire. And that in turn leads people to buy.” Her study found that every additional hour of TV viewing per week boosts spending by roughly $200 a year. So a handful of sitcoms and a reality series or two can cost you more than a grand a year. Forget keeping up with the Joneses; now people are struggling to keep up with the Kardashians. (Source: Money Magazine via Consciously Frugal via: Fiscal Fizzle.)

    So watch less: it shouldn’t be hard, since Heroes has gone so far south this season that even I’m not watching it anymore, all of the Law & Order episodes are recycled from sixteen seasons ago that I still remember, and the producers of Survivor have managed to chisel out any originality from the show as finely as Jeff Probst’s dimples. One interesting tidbit from the above article: you are more likely to see drastic increases in spending when you find yourself watching shows that focus on an affluent lifestyle (whether “real” or fictional). In other words, if you’re watching TV, you’re probably going to do better watching a documentary about people in India than you will watching Desperate Housewives, because the documentary is not going to spur your desire to conspicuously consume.

Comments (11)

  1. weezy
    Jan 4, 2010

    I guess my TV watching habits make me less inclined to spend — I watch shows where people declutter and sell their junk at a yard sale, Biggest Loser (less money spent on food & fashion as everyone wears the same tired T-shirts week after week), and Top Gear where the cars they’re testing are so ridiculously expensive I could never afford one, or so appallingly cheap I don’t want one. Maybe if I gave up cable…..nah, not going to happen.

  2. Jan 5, 2010

    Thanks for linking to my post! TV can be a good thing, but too much of a good thing seems to kick us where it hurts most–lack of time, lack of money, and lack of exercise. 🙂

  3. Jan 5, 2010

    Thanks for the link! My jaw is on the floor over this site. Beautifully designed, hilariously written…oy! My TV viewing may be down, but I am going to lose hours in this place!

  4. Jan 5, 2010

    I totally agree, though Tivo does cut down on some of those. Thanks for directing my attention to some really interesting research!

  5. Jan 5, 2010

    Oh, you are too kind! Thanks for your post on such interesting research! I never would have found it myself.

  6. Andrew Stevens
    Jan 6, 2010

    but there is no question that a pack-a-day smoker can save at least $2,000 a year by quitting today

    This is probably right in California and the rest of the West Coast, but flatly false in most of the rest of the country. On average, a pack of cigarettes in the U.S. costs $5.12 per pack. This is $1868.80 per year and that assumes that you smoke premium brands by the pack. If you buy generic by the carton, it’s probably more like $1300 per year and if you live in South Carolina (which still has the same 7 cent per pack excise tax they’ve had since 1977), far less than that.

    I’ll leave aside for now my deep skepticism on the relationship between television and spending except to say that even Ms. Schor does not actually go so far as to assert a direct causal link.

  7. Jan 6, 2010

    Weezy, I can definitely see why watching those particular shows would keep you from spending money. Although I do think the Biggest Loser has a lot of business from workout gear and books, etc.

  8. Jan 6, 2010

    Andrew, it would probably be more accurate to assert over a $1000 a year. I am too biased by living (and smoking) in a state with very high taxes on tobacco. You’re correct.

  9. Snakey
    Jan 7, 2010

    Well gee, take all the fun out of life, will you?!

    How about you add one more and kill the sacred cow: spend less time online! When you aren’t constantly checking your email (with all your favorite stores sending you reminders about sales, free shipping, discount coupon), you are less likely to visit a link and buy something. Or, you know, go to some “Commodity Fetishism” blog and be tempted by, oh, goose-shaped measuring cups?

    OK, on a more positive note–put catalogs directly in the recycling bin as they arrive if you don’t have a shopping “to do.” Catalogs are evil because they give you (dirty word alert): IDEAS and next thing you know, you are dreaming of how you need a new this or that. Best to remain blissfully stuck in an unimaginative rut (says the wallet).

    Oh, and I think home insurers also give you a discount for being a non-smoker (more accurately, charge you more if you smoke and and tell them about it).

  10. Jan 7, 2010

    @Snakey, LOL! Of course spending less time online would save you money, but I cannot get behind that particular piece of advice — it’s against my best interest! Bear in mind these are all things I have done, even the TV one, I don’t watch even 1/4 of the TV I used to. Of course, my internet time has skyrocketed, but since I can write that off as “work” I pretend like it’s not affecting my spending, which I’m sure it has. And you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with having fun.

    The catalog thing is very good advice, thanks for reminding me of that. This is something I do automatically now, which kind of annoys Mr. Right-Click. I do really more from a decluttering standpoint — I cannot stand having that stuff pile up, but it’s good frugal advice as well to throw them away on your way into the house.

  11. Mar 26, 2010

    The only safe way to watch television these days if via Tivo or a similar device. I think I’ve become allergic to advertising – in a movie theatre I feel like vomiting when I sit through the ads, or I burst into laughter and wonder why nobody else is!

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