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Great habits to start in the new year

Family Health Money New Year Parenting

Towards the end of the year, I always see these great ideas that I wished I would have started at the beginning of the year. But the hustle and bustle of the season, work and school starting back seems to always blow them out of sight and out of mind. So I thought I’d give you (and myself) a gentle reminder of all the great habits you could start this new year:

Start a Positivity Jar

This idea could be used in a few different ways, but the basic idea is that every time something good happens, a family member writes it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve next year, you can open the jar and read about all the awesome things that happened that year. A twist would be to write a nice note about each family member and at the end of the year each person can read all the nice things their family wrote about them.

Health Related Goals

Rather than making specific New Year’s resolutions, your family could make a list of goals for the coming year that will benefit everyone. Here are some examples of healthy goals that the family could work towards together:

  • Drink less soda – try to leave pop and soda for special meals or occasions, and on a daily basis replace it with water (or milk). By starting your children on a water drinking habit early on you are setting them on a path to health.

  • Walk more – this goes with the general “move more” goal. Make a pact to take more family walks this year, maybe walk the kids to school (if feasible), if you have a dog commit for everyone to take turns walking him daily so that everyone gets to move – or make it a family walk! Sometimes just the same old walk around the block or to school might get boring, so don’t hesitate to go somewhere else to walk. Drive to a park, lake or hiking path for a change of scenery.

  • Less screen time – A lot of children get new videogames for Christmas, and can end up in somewhat of a ‘game-coma’ by the time holidays are over and school starts back. There are lots of positives about using electronics, it’s not all bad. But too much can be. Limiting screen time (for everyone, not just the kids) is a good way to increase family time, and if removed around bedtime – will lead to better sleep too. Read our tips on managing screen time here.

De-cluttering Goals

If you are like most families, there is just too much stuff in your house. And with Christmas, we just added a bunch more! So one goal for the New Year could be to de-clutter. I’m giving my son the challenge to not buy any more toys for the month of January, and we might extend even longer it depending on how it goes. I want to try to break that habit of “I have some money, so why not go buy something”. He really does not need anything else, in fact, he has too much, which makes it harder to really enjoy and appreciate those things. So in addition to the no-buying challenge, we are going to remove one item for every day in January. It can be something to sell on consignment, or something to donate, or something that really should be thrown away. My son has a really hard time to let go of things, so this will be a gradual process, starting with the toys that we have stored away because he outgrew/changed interest in them. 

And this certainly shouldn’t just be a challenge for your children but for you to. Pick an item a day in January to get rid of, you can focus on one room per week, or rotate the rooms every day. And of course this isn’t something that should only be done in January. But doing a challenge like this will help kick the clutter habit, and then you can go into maintenance mode and schedule regular de-clutter sessions throughout the year. For our planet (and our sanity), de-cluttering is a goal that is beneficial for everyone!

Money Habits

There are some great savings habits we can start in the new year, and many of them work great for kids too! Here are some ideas:

  • Start a change-jar: Every time you break a bill, put the change in a special jar. It can be a just-because jar, or it could be savings for something specific (a family trip? Something new that is needed but is out of your regular budget?) For kids this can be a great way to save for a special toy.

  • For parents: Start a snow-ball savings schedule. For the next year, but the amount of the week you are on in a savings account (week 1: $1, week 2: $2 and so on, until week 52: $52). It’s a slow increase, but in the course of a year, you will have put away almost $1400! You can set the transfers to happen automatically in your online banking, so that the money comes out before you even know it’s there. Some people like to do this backwards so that the smaller weeks come closer to Christmas. This works just as good, and will actually compound a bit more interest if you are putting the money into a savings account.

  • For children: make sure to use part of their allowance, or chore money, a savings deposit. 10% is usually a reasonable amount, but you can decide what is appropriate depending on the amount and age. This money should just go into a piggy, to be deposited into a long-terms savings account at a later time. This is not save-to-spend money, but simply – savings. This gets them used to the idea to always pay themselves first when they start earning a wage later. To automatically take a percentage of your pay and transfer it into an RRSP, TFSA, GIC or other long term savings account is a great habit to start early! Something I wish I had started a long, long time ago for sure!

  • Prepare for next Christmas: This is something I always wish I had started, but never get around to. But this year I really will! First figure out how much you just spent on Christmas gifts (ouch, I know, but it’s better to know, I promise!) and see if that is a reasonable budget for next Christmas. Were there extras this year that you won’t need next year? Or will you have extras next year that you didn’t have this year? Once you have a reasonable budget, break it into smaller chunks. If it makes more sense for you to save monthly, then break it into 12. If weekly works better for you, break it into 50 (you’d likely need it a couple of weeks before Christmas at the latest). Then set up an automatic transfer into a Christmas account. Set it to transfer as closely to payday as possible, so you won’t feel it as much. By next Christmas, you will be so happy you started this habit!

I hope this gives you some ideas of a few things to tweak to help you live a happier, more fulfilled life. How about we meet back here a year from now, and see how we all did? Happy New Year!

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