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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A change in Pace

I've decided to change up the blog a tidge AGAIN. I want to go back to the talking about my life-type blog that I had and maybe bring Eric back into the saddle, but it seems pretty apparent that blogging won't be a full time gig for this lady. Also, it's easier to write when I'm not giving advice and when I'm just being a self-centered 20-something. Ok, maybe not self-centered. In any case, if you'd like to read about my life and maybe some tidbits of wisdom from those experiences keep reading. if you'd like advice well, read my old blogs?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Complete guide to money FOR FREE

So maybe you've been wondering who this Dave Ramsey fellow I've been talking about is. Or maybe not. However, if you have been wondering how to get started on your own debt free journey or how you can learn more about the Dave Ramsey plan I have great news for you...

The complete guide to money is now free. This book is pretty much financial peace university in book form. I loved it, it outlines the best practices to win with money. Now, this is not a cult or anythig so you don't have to follow exactly all of the minutiae but I think the general principles of being content, getting rid of debt, and saving money can work for most, if not all, people. At the very least you can learn how terrible title loans and pay day lenders are. (If you don't know me in person I'll let you know I could rant about those for days)  so just click the link below and you can get the complete guide to money for the best price: free

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A reflection on giving.

       As part of the Smart Money Smart Kids launch team, I had an opportunity to read the book ahead of time, and now I get to share it with you. I loved this book, it had a lot of no nonsense approaches to helping kids give, save, and spend wisely. What really touched me was the chapter on giving.

       During the chapter, Rachel tells about her brother giving $10,000 to a community in Peru that he had saved up for a car, but didn't use, and despite Dave asking "Are you sure about this you have college coming up soon" Daniel just explained that the money wasn't his which is why he wanted to give it.

   You read that correctly, a TEENAGER gave $10,000 to a community of people he has never met. 

Don't Underestimate Yourself

      It was August. For students in sororities at Iowa State that means one thing: recruitment. Our house was having a conversation practice, which was essentially like a mock interview. I was paired with someone that I thought I had NOTHING in common with. I was more nervous than anything, which is ridiculous since I was living with her for the next few years in the chapter house. 
     She asked about what I did for community service activities, I was bit embarrassed to say that I had ONLY volunteered by serving dinner at a local charity. I even thought that I was selfish by doing this because I did it when I was bored and was motivated by the fact that I got a free dinner. 
     I don't even think I got through my sentence before she said "OH MY GOSH.. I don't think I know anyone who does that. I don't know anyone who thinks to volunteer when they're bored. Literally no one." 
     Today I knew I wanted to write about giving (as April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, and Smart Money Smart Kids is coming out-- I tried to tie them together in a away that fits my blog and is appropriate) and I was unsure how to start. I read about some ways to start giving, and I saw things like "help people with their luggage" and "Donate blood" and "Serve at a soup kitchen" and I realized that I had done (or enlisted my husband to do) all of those things. Start small and work your way up.
    Although I don't know Daniel personally, I'm sure on some level he wished he could do more or thought that he wasn't doing enough to help. It may have took his family jumping up and down and getting excited for him to realize how big of a giving experience this was. 
   Wherever you're at, you can give or be in a giving mindset. Maybe you give your neighbor a lift, maybe you redo a website for a non-profit. To me, even that girl who talked to me during the recruitment practice gave. She gave encouragement, and without that I may not be as much of a giver as I am today. Acknowledge what you do.

Don't Overestimate Yourself

   When I was working in Domestic Violence Services I saw people who put their superhero cape on. They would get crushed about 30 minutes into their shift. If you're giving to have people kiss your feet, you're probably giving for the wrong reasons. When you give to receive praise you are using the people your giving to as a way to meet your needs. You may quit if you don't get the praise (and there will be times you don't). Giving is a big deal but it's a bigger deal when you do it automatically and without reward. In fact, the reward is giving. You realize the things you have and are able to do can make a huge difference in the world. 
     I think what touched me the most about Daniel's story is how nonchalant he was about it. Through Rachel's telling of the story it also seemed like she was impressed by how quickly and without fanfare he gave. Dave calls it a "Proud dad moment" When I read it I had to have a cry session and I have been tearing up the whole time writing this. It is really just that beautiful when someone gives humbly. 
    You aren't morally better if you have money and time to give and people aren't morally worse if they need to receive.

More is Caught Than Taught

     Want to surround yourself with people who are good givers? then give yourself. This works in two different ways, one is that through giving you will meet givers. There are plenty of organizations to get involved in, but you can also sign up to volunteer directly with non-profits themselves. Different strokes for different folks.
     Also, by being a giver yourself you encourage others to give as well. It may be that someone sees how easy it is to give, or they see the benefits of giving. Another thing that may happens is that you have friends wanting to give but they didn't want to go at it alone. By being a giver your friends may see a piece of how to be the person they want to be in you. 

If you would like to check out Smart Money Smart Kids feel free to check it out (and pre-order!) by clicking the button below. 

The Dedicated House

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Prevent Child Abuse America

I want to use my blog for today to let everyone know about a sister chapter of my sorority that lost a member. I received the following e-mail. Her campaign is linked below.
Dear Sisters in KD,

I am a CAB for the Alpha Phi Chapter at Westminster College. I want to do something really special for the Chapter to honor Emily Hilliard, the sister we lost on March 7th in a tragic car accident.

Their Shamrock is in 2 weeks so I am trying to surprise them with a gift in honor of Emily. I am going to be working overtime to raise money to give to them on March 30th. I know it would really help lift their spirits to have a successful Shamrock.

If every alumnae chapter were to give $5, I would surpass my goal of $1,000! If you are able, I would love any support that you can give.

Please feel free to share this with anyone in your network. I want to honor Emily's kind spirit and help the chapter to move forward after this great loss.

Love in AOT,
Melissa Goodfriend
Eta Iota, Pace University
Fall 2008
Alpha Phi, Westminster College

Donate to her fund now

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meatloaf Recipe

1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 egg
2/3 cup smashed Ritz Crackers
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of Ketchup
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 t. of mustard powder

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Mix together the ground beef, egg, Ritz Crackers, and Milk and put in a loaf pan. Cook for 50 minutes. Mix the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard powder and pour over meat mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to decide your wedding budget

   So now that you've decided how much money you have you have to figure out how to spend it well so you don't blow your budget.

Don't Really Listen to What Wedding Planning Books Say

Every wedding planning book has a suggested budget percentage wise. You can follow these but it probably won't fit your wedding. Remember that these planner and wedding magazine companies probably work with vendors and want you to spend TONS on your wedding. So there is plenty of reason to take their suggestions with a grain of salt. For example we looked at one that said something like 5% for transportation but we had our wedding and reception in the same place, we didn't really need a limo or a horse drawn carriage. So how do you set your budget?

Decide on Your Four Walls

When talking about personal finance Dave Ramsey talks about the "four walls" being food, transportation, shelter, and clothing. Obviously things are a little different with wedding budgeting but decide what is most important to you or rank everything. We picked photographer, reception DJ, venue and my dress as the most important things.

Find Out What the Important Things Cost

For the most important things, I would just see what it would cost from vendors around your area to get what you want. I would still go with the least expensive that seems to do what you want. Having a good reception DJ was important to us, but our guy was great and cost $550 instead of the almost $1000 that other places were charging. After you've gotten the most important things on your list look at what you have left and make it work. Side note: every vendor is likely to say that their piece of the wedding is the most important part because they do that for a living, and this isn't to say that they're just trying to sell a product. They decided to do whatever 40+ hours a week, when they got married (if they are married) they probably cared about what they sell the most. Let vendors that don't have a standard fees know that you have a certain budget, they will honor that budget. Good vendors will see that as a "make it under this" threshold. 

DIY what you can

I have seen weddings with DIY everything. People have had weddings at their house or a family member's house, TONS of people DIY decorations or invitations, and people have just relied on guests' pictures for their photography. Eric and I got invitations from Vistaprint (WAY cheaper, and in my opinion, same quality) had Eric's mom make most of the decorations and had a friend do make up and hair. We didn't really care to spend a lot of money on those things. Just remember you want to talk about how fun it was and not how much you saved. Doing some things yourself or relying on family members can make that more realistic. 

Jewish Readers: DIY or Borrow Your Judaica

Seriously, do you want to spend $70 on a glass your going to smash? Use a lightbulb instead. With the exception of Kippot, Judaica is very expensive and wedding things are expensive so by the transitive property of cha-ching Wedding Judaica is astronomically expensive. Eric and I made our own Chuppah (and if you want a canopy for your wedding, regardless of religion, I suggest you make it yourself-- renting one was going to cost us ~$80) Plus when you make things yourself then you have a cool family heirloom and who doesn't love cool family heirlooms. Also check in to what your synagogue offers with wedding services (ours offered a Ketubah) and what your family has especially since you'd hate to drop $100 on a Chuppah cover and then have your grandma want you to use hers. If you're having your wedding at a synagogue I would skip buying kippot because you will end up with roughly as many kippot as you bought. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to talk to parents about the wedding budget

    Money can be a difficult subject and asking people for money can be even harder but it's very important that everyone is on the same page right off the bat when wedding planning. Getting a clear budget is very important right off the bat for a few reasons. First off, the most expensive parts of your wedding may be the first things you do. For Eric and I, the most expensive parts were the venue, catering, and my dress. We had to pick our venue out a year ahead of time and the dress was set pretty close afterwards. Also, if you have logical family (which may be a huge if) and they hear that your total budget is $200 they won't push you to invite every single person they've ever talked to. Obviously this is an extreme case, but I'm certain that at least a few wedding budgets have been blown out of proportion by insane guest lists, and not only over the top decorations or wardrobes.

Be Clear and Direct

When you're meeting up to talk about the wedding budget, it's fine to go out to dinner, but be clear that you want to talk about the budget. Money is a sensitive subject and to blindside someone is not ok. Also if something is vague ask some follow up questions. Don't push anything though. 

If there's something that is a want for either set of parents and you just can't afford it be direct in explaining that. For example if your parents want you to have a certain dinner for the reception and you can't afford it, be clear in that. They may have ideas to work around it. I know a person who had the ceremony, dinner, and reception as three separate events where they had close friends and family at the ceremony, extended family and friends at the dinner and then everyone from their church at the reception.

Give Them Time

Your parents or future in laws may not know how much they can contribute right at the moment. Give them some time.  It may take a few weeks to figure out their home budget and get back to you on what they can contribute. They may need some time to actually contribute as well. Most things you have to pay a deposit and then the balance is due somewhere between a month and 2 weeks before the wedding so if you parents/in-laws have to contribute on a monthly or some other form of payment basis that won't derail anything in your plans. 

Show you Have Some Skin in the Game

Let your parents and in-laws know that you are contributing as well to the wedding budget. I would also suggest that you are in charge of the budget instead of one set of parents saying "I'll pay x y and z" as this will avoid some bridezilla-esque fights (watch "Say yes to the dress" if you think that paying for a certain category won't cause overspending) and it's a great practice for doing a household budget for the new couple.

Take What They Give You

This should be self-explanatory but you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. On the other hand if you have to open 7 credit cards or take out a second mortgage to invite everyone on your parent's lists then there needs to be a conversation about timeline or budget. 

Don't Count on Money You Don't Have

   Here's the thing I wish I had known/thought of before our wedding. Don't count on money you don't have. Even if someone is offering to pay for something don't order something you can't pay for out of your pocket or what is in your wedding budget. We blew our budget sky high because we just didn't have in our account or as a check in the mail. Obviously my opinion is to not use credit cards or any form of debt, but check your own comfort level and don't go further in debt than that.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cream Cheese Mints

Shout out to my mother in law for giving me this recipe. We had these at our wedding and they were AMAZING.

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 (2 lb.) package powdered sugar
paste coloring and flavorings

  Sift the powdered sugar.  Add cream cheese and mix with your hands until it's smooth.  Add flavoring (about 2 tsp. per full batch) and mix.  Add desired color and mix. Pinch off a small ball of mint dough, roll it in sugar, push it into the mold and then flip or push it out of the mold onto wax paper.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

4 things marriage is not

      Eric and I have been married almost 10 months... So that means we can give marriage advice now, right? well, probably not. However, as I start of my wedding series I wanted to make sure that my readers knew that the relationship is more important than the party. So let's dive in.

1. Marriage is not a Status Symbol

Dear women, you are not in competition with all other women and getting married is not the prize. Marriage is a blessing, an achievement and I'm happy for you, but graduating is a blessing and an achievement. So is paying off student loans, buying a house, getting a dream job, going on a mission trip, learning a new skill...
The point is marry someone you love not because you're [insert age you want to be married by] or because your friends are all getting married. If you know a singleton please stop saying "so when are you going to get married?" (Also, if you know someone who's married without kids stop asking when they're going to have kids. Patience is a virtue, yo.)

You won't be better than anyone else because you're married. You should be better than your previous self, but talking about your marriage should come from a place of joy not a place of pride.

2. Marriage is not a Burden

Don't get me wrong, Marriage is hard. Just living with someone is hard. However, it should be like a good kind of hard that's worth it at the end of the day like playing your favorite sport. Star-crossed lovers is a crock of trash and if every single day is a battle, or you have physical or emotional scars from your partner they might not be marriage material.

The other side of this is your life is not over when you get married you can still travel, you can write, you can have a career. If you dream all of these things, they are realistic things for you, and your partner is standing in the way basically "because I said so" you might want to evaluate the relationship. Marriage is a different thing to each person so staying at home, having kids and baking pies isn't necessarily you life after marriage.

3. Marriage is not a Fix-All

One of the two best pieces of advice I've ever received is "the day after your wedding is the exact same as the day before your wedding" getting married fixes nothing. If your partner was a crazy spender, they will be after your wedding. It doesn't really change the relationship or either partner.

4. Your Marriage is not For Anyone but You and Your Partner

There will be something in the wedding or in your relationship that people will give you "advice" on. Do whatever you think is best. For us, a lot of people were shocked/upset about our last name. Some dealt with it healthily and some didn't. Everyone got over it. Had Eric or I gotten caught up in everyone else's emotions I might have been stuck with a name that I didn't like forever. With your relationship's big decisions (and hopefully most of them are bigger than your last name) you and your partner have to do what's right for you. No one else is living your life.
The Dedicated House

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tip for smooth legs

    For those of who have used my sugar scrub there's a simple trick for awesomely smooth legs. 

      First. wash and shave your legs like you normally would. Though this is going to scrub away a lot of dead skin so you might want to use a cheaper disposable for this if possible.

      Next use the scrub, which is 2 cups sugar and 1/2 a cup of olive oil, on your legs and scrub thoroughly then rinse off your legs and shave again. The second shave will pull away the dead skin pulled up by the scrub.

       After you're done with your bath put a lotion of your choice on for some extra hydration and softness.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Shampoo

Another way that I save money is by making my own shampoo. Not only does it save you money you know exactly what is going into what you're washing your hair.

You need:
1 gallon of water
1/2 cup of baking soda
1/4 castile soap
3 tsp of Xantham Gum
A bottle for foaming soap or a spray bottle

First, boil the water and add baking soda.

Turn off the heat after you've added the baking soda and let the water cool off.
Then add the Xantham Gum.
 It will foam up a bit when you add the Xantham Gum.

Then pour some into your foaming soap bottle/spray bottle and pour the rest into a clean milk jug.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Grilled Cheese--Awesome Style.

Eric and I had Grilled cheese and it was AMAZING.  Seriously. The best.

For those of you scoffing and saying "are you really giving me a recipe for grilled cheese?" yes. yes, I am. Deal with it and pin it.

So the secret ingredient is powdered sugar. yep, powdered sugar. We also put shredded cheese on the outside, but we might skip that next time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Groceries for 1 month= $150

         Recently I posted on Facebook that I had bought a month's worth of groceries (including toiletries) for less than $150. Cutting down our food bill was an important next step for Eric and I to become debt free as we had gotten on a budget, cut down on overspending on things we didn't need and cut down on our utilities bill. After we posted our successes, a lot of people asked us how we did it, so here's what we did.

Part One: Some Disclaimers

There are multiple factors outside of our process of grocery shopping that contribute to our ability to keep our grocery bill pretty low. We don't really subscribe to any current food trends. We aren't paleo and we don't eat organic or gluten-free. We're okay with eating canned or frozen vegetables. We also eat out once or twice a month. We also are only feeding two people, two adult people. However, I follow a lot of mommy bloggers that use the same system and it saves them loads. 

Part Two: Meal Planning

This is the second most important part to us saving so much on our groceries. We planned out all of the dinners we were going to have for a whole month. It took about 45 minutes and most of that was searching when we had events going on for the month. I made a theme for most nights, Meatless Mondays, Leftover Night on Wednesdays, and New Recipe Night on Thursdays. Without having theme nights it can seems like a daunting and overwhelming task to plan 30 or 31 days of meals. Make sure you inventory what you already have so you have meals that make you have to buy less at the store.

Part Three: Couponing

Be skeptical all you want but coupons were a key part of getting our grocery bill down to $150 for the month. You want to match up what you buy with a place that has coupons for those items. For example if you buy a lot of produce, a Super Target might be a good choice because they have plenty of coupons on the cartwheel app for fresh produce and some coupons on their website as well. I honestly spend only an hour or two tops on couponing. Before you gasp that per month you judgey judgertons! per month! I follow coupon blogs. Check out (which is what is featured in my coupons tab), and I also have a Walgreen's app and get a weekly e-mail from CVS.

Part Four: Drugstores/Petco

This $150 also included toiletries. I'll wait while you clean your spit take off of your computer screen... Ok? done? cool. Oftentimes, you can get toiletries for free or for excitingly cheap. Walgreen's and CVS are equally awesome at this. Sometimes you get instant coupons and sometimes you get cash back for a future purchase. Toothpaste is pretty much always free between either CVS or Walgreen's. Walgreen's has an app where you can load manufacturer's coupons on to your balance rewards card and of course you can always use newspaper and printed coupons there in addition to sales and coupons in their ads.

Another phenomenon that is exciting is that Petco basically gives away pet food to their pals rewards members. You get coupons in the mail and in your inbox but sometimes you can look to coupon blogs to find better coupons. A lot of times the coupons are "Free ___" not Buy one Get one free. just free. For Funsies. Because there's cat and dog people who pay $25 for a bag of dog food because they don't coupon so Petco can stay afloat just fine. One caveat: you will never have a 0 balance at Petco because they make you pay the sales tax on everything but we paid $1.23 for a $22 7 lb bag of cat food, so I'm not really complaining. 

Part Five: Less Dining Out

Yep. The unfun part. Stop dining out. or at least limit it. For Eric and I even eating at a fast food place can mean dropping $20 on food. Just find copycat recipes and pretend you're eating at that place you love. If it's the getting home and making food part then make a bunch of meals ahead of time and heat and eat. (obviously easier said than done, but I'm assuming there's some goal that is worth the work otherwise you wouldn't be looking at this blog)

Part Six: Freeze Stuff

For those of you who are wondering about veggies, dairy, bread and fruit. I freeze most dairy products (it really works and is ok) I also freeze bread. Some people get veggies and fruit from CSAs or they eat canned or frozen varieties of produce. Eric and I do the latter. Choose what you want.
Serenity you

Monday, February 17, 2014

Recipe Monday:Ranch Bean Dip

    Starting some new things for the blog! First off, I am now an Amazon affiliate, so when I review a book or post a new (non-food) recipe, you can buy what you need by clicking the link right in my article and support the blog you have come to know and love! Second, I'm posting 3 times a week (and actually doing it for those of you who noticed that I fell off of my new year's resolution wagon) Mondays will be recipe Mondays and then I will do two other posts each week. I will be reviewing some books and post some projects I'm working on. Let's see how it goes!

For this "Recipe Monday"

Ranch Bean Dip

1 (16 ounce) can refried beans

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 package of Ranch Dressing Mix

1 cup sour cream

In a small pan, mix all of the ingredients and stir until the cheese is melted and the dip is well blended. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hit another milestone!

     We paid off a credit card today! This one was a bit of a tough battle.

       At the end of each month we make our "snowball payment" (that way if there was money left in the food or gas budget, it jumps in to pay off the debt) Well there was a mistake and Bank of America was trying to pull the payment out of a bank account we don't use. Dealt with the charges from our bank, and then Bank of America refunded our current account. We called them to try and fix it and they told us to pay our credit card twice the original payment. -Shrug- ok. Then, yesterday, we were hit with the amount we'd originally paid and $25 bank fee.

       After primal screaming for about 15 minutes, I chatted with a Bank of America representative and the bank fee was waived as a "courtesy" to me. Oh thanks for the courtesy of not making me pay for your mistake BOA.

      We have a car loan with BOA as well. We're not quite done with this BOA constrictor yet.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My favorite way to save: The bread outlet!

Eric and I  have decided to try and meal plan for a month and only go to the grocery store once in that entire month, I'll blog more on that later. However, since we ran out of bread today we went to pick up 6 weeks' worth of bread. Which brought us to my favorite place in Des Moines....

The bread outlet! This place is FANTASTIC. We got 7 loaves of bread, 2 packages of hamburger buns and a 32 oz. jar of jelly for $9.50!! For the frugal shopper, this is what dreams are made of. Even if one's not in your neighborhood (sorry, Ames readers) if you're able to freeze the bread and make it last one or two months it's still worth the trek. Since Eric and I make sandwiches for most of our lunches we love the bread outlet.

Monday, January 6, 2014

4 Ways to Make Your Financial Dreams a Reality.

    Whenever I post a Facebook status about paying off a credit card or loan, people tend to comment or message me something along the lines of "Show me your ways!" or "How do you do it?" So I've compiled some tips and tricks that I use to achieve my financial goals.

4 Ways to Make Your Financial Dreams a Reality.

Live Under Your Wage

This one is easy for me, because I just left college. However, when you get the fancy big kid job, it's easy to go out and get a fancy new car,  buy fancy expensive food, or whatever it is that is your vice. However, if you have student loans to pay off, want to buy a new house, or meet some other financial goal, you have to have leftover money to do this. Don't get me wrong, Eric and I combined make about twice the national average income, and that certainly helps us achieve our financial goals consistently, however, we don't buy brand name foods, we don't shop at expensive clothing stores and we don't go out every single weekend. So cut where you can cut, so that you can save for whatever goal you want to achieve. 

Make Some Things Yourself

Now this tip can be different for different people. I know some frugalista bloggers out there make all of their food themselves, but buy a lot of household products, and I know some bloggers that do the opposite. The only blanket recommendation is to make your own laundry soap, since it takes about an hour's worth of time and then you have cheap laundry soap that last you at least six months. For other things, think about things that you use a lot but that you don't go through that quickly. I say this, because you want to make this easy on yourself. Eric and I always balance how much we're saving with how difficult it is to make it. Right now we make our own Laundry Soap, Shampoo, Face Scrub, Lip Scrub, and Fabric Softener, because those things are the least cumbersome for us to refill. We also eat in most nights and rarely have frozen or prepped meals. 

Go In With A Plan

Budget every month. Otherwise, you will wonder where your money has gone. Anytime you make a plan you prevent yourself from overindulging and from depriving yourself too much. A budget lets you spend that much in each category so you don't over save and sets a limit so you don't overspend. Plan as much as you need for the month, including, but not limited to making a budget, a meal plan, and a schedule for other things like cleaning and date nights, etc. Going in with a plan helps make your financial goals more attainable.

Allow Some Room For Error

In your budget allow some "blow" money. Just to spend on whatever. There will be something that you want that you didn't budget for, so add a smidge of wiggle room. If you meal plan, plan some nights you will go out or use leftovers. 

Go Gradually

Don't compare your beginning to someone else's end. Start with a budget each month, and then start making some of your own things, etc. Trying to do everything at once will make feel like it's all too much. You may not buy groceries for a month in one go and pay off your student loans tomorrow but you'll get there. One step at a time. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Oh, Hey, 2014

   Welcome to the new year. Some of you may have stayed up to watch the ball drop, some of you may have been like me and fell asleep at about 9 o'clock. Either way most of you are making New Year's resolutions. However, as is the cliché a lot of people will not keep their resolutions much past MLK day. Why is that? Well, resolutions are often vague or unattainable. Some people make "New Year's Goals" but if they're vague or unattainable you're in the same situation with a different name.
    What is helpful is if your New Year's goals/resolutions are SMART goals.
     Your goals need to be specific. Instead of saying "I will lose weight" or "I will exercise more" make the goal "I will go to the gym 2-3 times a week for a half hour." However you can be too specific. For some saying "I will do twenty jumping jacks, 3 miles of running, and 20 pushups when I go to the gym 2-3 times a week" is just too detailed. Do the amount of detail that is necessary for yourself. Outline exactly what you're doing but don't limit yourself to something that you'll get bored with since these goals are for a year.
     Make a goal that you can tell whether or not you succeeded. Following the "Exercise more" example, it isn't measurable. If you go one time is that more? 20 times? If you don't set a certain amount you will automatically think you passed if you're lazy or optimistic and automatically think you failed if you're pessimistic. Having a benchmark to check off is important so that you keep with your goals and actually achieve your goals. When you hit a benchmark do something to treat yoself.

Manicures on Manicures on manicures
    Pick a goal that is important to you and fits within your lifestyle. If being fit is not important to you, you probably won't stick to an exercising goal. If writing isn't a lifelong dream of yours then there's little reward in writing a blog or working on a novel. Just because everyone else is making a certain New Year's goal doesn't mean that you have to have that goal as well. Maybe your goal is to have a weekly goal. Whatever floats your boat.
    Make your goals reasonable. If you've never hit the pavement, running a marathon by March is probably not going to happen. If you are working full time and a student you might not finish your novel this year, or maybe any time you're in school. Think about what you love, how much time you have to dedicate to the goal, and how you're likely to progress. Also, remember things like physics, biology, and other things in the universe that you cannot change. For example, no matter how hard I work towards the goal of "fly by flapping my wings" it's not going to happen.
     Obviously your "New year's goals" are likely to be a year long goal, but you should either break it into monthly or weekly parts or have something that repeats weekly or monthly. While "read 12 fiction books a year" is pretty attainable, it probably means that I would try and read 12 books the week after Christmas. Goal achieved, but I didn't actually develop as a person, which is kind of the point.

So what are my New year's goals?
1. Blog twice a week
2. Pitch a Cracked article once a month
3. Read a Young Adult Fiction novel once a month (which I'll obviously blog a review of)
4. Read a nonfiction novel once a month (again reviews will be posted here)
5. Write 300 words a day working towards a short story or novel.
6. Turn in all my assignments on time for classwork (for some reason this is very difficult for me and will only apply August-December, but eh, it can be a year long goal)

Share your goals in the comments below!

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