New year, new you: 15 ideas for 2015


New Year, New You

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The holidays are done — you survived, congratulations. Now it’s time to focus on you. Some may call it a “resolution,” but that term can be intimidating. Instead, let’s call it a to-do list of tweaks that can help improve our lives — whether it’s today, tomorrow or 22 Tuesdays from now.

So feel free to pick a few items and knock ‘em out of the park, or go gung-ho and take on the entire list. 


1. Fix up your finances

If you’re dreading the onslaught of holiday bills, consider how a financial planner can help you devise a budget for the future. “Get a holistic financial plan that covers every situation in your life,” advises certified financial planner A.W. Abel, owner of highly rated Abel Financial Strategies in Powell, Ohio. “Getting net cash flow, managing assets, retirement planning, college planning, long-term care, tax planning, survivor planning — all of these are a part of holistic planning.”

Make sure you seek the services of a CFP, indicating he or she has passed the industry exam, meets continuing education requirements and adheres to a strict code of ethics. “I think the primary reason people struggle with a financial plan is they’ve never done it before and don’t know who to trust and don’t know who to hire to help them,” Abel says. “Angie’s List is a great way to find a financial planner.”


2. Organize your house

You don’t need a Type A personality to recognize the importance of keeping your home organized. But knowing and doing are two different things. “Start small,” says Jennifer Finch, owner of highly rated Ultimately Organized in California, Kentucky. “Pick out one room in your home that makes you the most anxious. Focus on one corner of that room first. Once that’s done, move on to the next. Don’t get inundated by the enormity of the project.”

After you set your goals, be sure to schedule enough time to accomplish them, says Katherine Trezise, owner of highly rated Absolutely Organized in Cockeysville, Maryland. “If you have trouble making decisions about what to do with your things, you may find yourself looking at the same items over and over and mixing trash with treasures,” she says. “Having a supportive person with you gives you a sounding board for decision-making and keeps you motivated to stick with the project.”


3. Plan your dream remodel

Are you champing at the bit to finish your basement or build that new family room? A few things to consider: Whatever your budget may be, you’ll most likely exceed it. Meet with an architect, structural engineer or interior designer to determine the scope of your plan and develop a realistic budget and timeline. Revisit your financial plan to make sure you have the funds to see the project through to completion. Financing a remodel is also an option, but depending on your current financial situation, it may or may not make sense to do so.


4. Give your house a checkup

Just like your body, your house needs a once-over at least once a year. Look for obvious signs of damage or distress, but take note of the little things that might lead to bigger issues down the road. “In general, a homeowner’s worst enemy is moisture,” says Alan Chase, owner of highly rated Chase Home Inspections in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Outside, all roof shingles should be examined periodically for any signs of loose, damaged or missing shingles that could produce a leak. All siding should be examined for signs of moisture intrusion that will develop into rot. All gutters and downspouts should be examined to assure adequate roof drainage away from the foundation. All surface cracks on driveways, sidewalks and patios should remain well-sealed to eliminate moisture.”

Embrace the carrot. Or, dice it super fine and mix it in with your mac-n-cheese. Either way, put eating healthier on your menu this year. (Photo by Ashton Hansen)


5. Eat healthy

The word “diet” triggers thoughts of deprivation, and who wants to endure that? Instead, let’s resolve to eat a little bit healthier this year. Take the time to plan a weekly menu, read labels when you grocery shop (you’ll be surprised at how many items contain sugar!) and make the healthier items easily accessible in the kitchen. Want a fun challenge? Just shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the freshest items are sold, and avoid the aisles of processed food. Then brainstorm with your family for tasty meal ideas.


6. Pick a color, paint a room

A little paint goes a long way, doesn’t cost a lot of money, and can give your house some pizazz. If you don’t want to make a total color commitment, select one wall as an accent wall to display your favorite hue. If you’re unsure how to get started, you can always select a color based on your personality (really!), or one that will complement what you already have displayed in the room. Grab some smaller, sample-sized cans of paint for a trial run and see what excites you.

Spend a weekend jazzing up the walls with a new paint color. 


7. Evaluate your insurance needs

Did you get engaged? Buy a boat? Build a pool? It might not be the sexiest task to tackle, but reviewing your current homeowners policy is critical for optimum coverage. “It is important to assess your insurance needs annually because your needs continually evolve and change,” says Archie Litaker, owner of highly rated Litaker Insurance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Insurance products also continually evolve and change as well. The most common thing that people omit in their insurance planning is an umbrella liability policy. We always recommend an umbrella liability policy to expand your limits and fill in possible gaps in coverage.”