The hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and 2018 is upon us. Many people use the beginning of the new year to have a fresh start and make some positive changes in their life.
Whether that means losing weight, exercising more, quitting an addiction, getting your finances in order, spending more time with loved ones, spending less time in front of distractions like television, electronic games or social media, or devoting more time or money to your favourite charitable cause, it's important to have a strategy. Breaking it down into bite-size steps can prevent that feeling of overwhelm and analysis paralysis.
Many of us have had a lifetime of collecting "stuff" either due to our own personal shopping habits or being gifted or inheriting items from loved ones. With the current craze of tiny homes and leading a minimalist lifestyle, many folks are feeling crushed under the weight of all their possessions. What to do? My own strategy last year was to get rid of 5 items per day. It's manageable and doesn't take a lot of time. You can often find those items in the time it takes to brew your coffee in the morning. If counting items doesn't work for you, try setting a timer for just 5 or 10 minutes a day and pick up as many items as you can. If your items are still in good usable condition, don't forget to donate them to your local thrift store so that your items can do good within our community.
If you've resolved to save money, even if you don't have a lot to spare, small amounts can give you great results at the end of the year. Try setting aside just 1% of your income into a separate savings account. If you find a cheaper insurance plan, cell phone plan, or a cheaper place to buy groceries, you can take those extra funds and pop that right into your savings account. Did you cash in some of your loyalty rewards at the checkout? Put that amount in your account too. Did you quit smoking or cut back on your daily takeout coffee or fast food? That saved money can go in there too. You may be surprised how quickly it adds up.
If reducing debt is on your list, try the snowball method of repayment. List all your outstanding debts then choose one to focus on (usually the one with the smallest balance to see quick results). Paying the minimum on the other debts, throw all the extra money you can at the focused debt (see above for some thoughts on where to find a little extra cash) . Once that debt is paid, move onto the next one, and keep going until you slay them all. The sense of relief you will feel is beyond belief.
If losing weight is what you strive for, there are lots of tools at your disposal. Memberships to fitness studios and weight loss groups typically spike at this time of year, along with the purchase of fitness trackers and equipment for the home. You don't need to spend a ton of money, though. Many people credit support and accountability with their success, so grab a buddy or two to stay motivated and boost your chance of success.
Your local libraries, continuing education facilities and community centres have a wide selection of free and inexpensive programs relating to all aspects of your life. Stop in or pick up one of their brochures to see how they can help you meet your objectives.
No matter what your goals are, tracking your progress will help keep you motivated. This can be as simple as a small notebook, or find an app on your phone or tablet if that's more your style.
Decide what's important to you in 2018 and design a plan so you can make that happen. In 2018 there are more tools available than ever before, so get busy designing the life of your dreams.
This year as I reflected on my life and the intense gratitude I feel, I was inspired to give other women a helping hand so they can better their lives. I turned to Kiva.org.
I made a pledge to myself that each month of this year I will make a $25 Kiva loan to someone whose story touches me. If all goes well the loans will be paid back over time. If not, then I am not out a large sum of money.
Unfamiliar with Kiva? Basically lenders can browse potential borrowers that include people looking to build a business, get an education, obtain clean drinking water, and more. Loans can be made safely and securely through PayPal and although Kiva does not guarantee repayment, about 97% are honoured.
When a borrower applies for a loan it goes through an underwriting and approval process before it's posted to Kiva's website for lenders to see. Loans are crowdfund so that goals can be met quicker. As the loan is repaid, funds are returned to the lenders' accounts and can be cashed out, donated to Kiva to help with costs, or loaned to someone else.
Kiva does not collect interest on loans, so 100% of the loaned monies go to the borrower. Lenders don't receive interest payments, but many borrowers do pay interest to local field partners to help cover the many expenses incurred including training, health services and financial education. This interest is often given in the form of community service.
Kiva ensures that any interest charges charged by field partners are reasonable and rates are fully disclosed. All partnered financial institutions and organizations are on a mission to provide safe and fair credit to the underserved population in 84 countries who would not otherwise have access to banking services. Field partners can be microfinance institutions, schools, non-government organizations or social enterprises.
Kiva.org has earned the top 4 star rating on Charity Navigator. Two thirds of its operating costs are funded by voluntary donations made by lenders, with grants and donations from supporters and foundations funding the remainder.
Each month I choose a borrower whose story reaches me deeply. For instance in March, in honour of my mother who was both hatched and dispatched that month, I chose a borrower who is raising her three children while working a sewing business. My mother was a talented seamstress with three children so it seemed fitting.
There is no requirement to make multiple loans, but monthly loans are a goal I have set for myself this year. I love the feeling it gives me knowing that I'm helping someone reach their dreams and improve their life.
Check it out for yourself and see how great it makes you feel!