Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
It’s New Year’s 2013 and I am inundated with advice about resolutions
to make, most of which I need to listen to. Baseline information: I
could stand to lose twenty pounds. Thirty would be better. I have a
small savings account and a small retirement fund. But I tend to use
my credit card freely each month and when the time comes for big
non-monthly expenses like car or home insurance I have to take it out
of savings or as an advance. I don’t drink a lot but I also have been
known to have more than one and then drive myself home (if I’ve
been out with the girls after work). I have more “stuff” than I know
what to do with but still don’t know how to pass up a great sale or
bargain. I’m not a hoarder but my drawers and closets are full. Some
things, blush, still have tags on and are too small for me. I like my job
but haven’t thought about a career change in years. I go to synagogue
for the High Holidays but rarely in between unless there’s a B’nai
Mitzvah among my friends or family. I do have a loving partner and a
beautiful home that I love to use to entertain those I love. Can you
help me put the best foot forward in 2013?
You sound like you have a very clear sense of whom you are and how
you like to live. I’ll tell you what I see from here: someone comfortably
middle class, used to taking good care of her needs and extra good
care of her wants. You sound comfortably middle class, though that
could change in the future if you don’t pay more attention to your
retirement savings. Here’s some suggestions for how to start the year
– Clip all the resolution articles you see in the next week out of the
paper and put them in a file (including this one). Read them on the
first Sunday of each month with a good cup of coffee to remind
yourself that you do want to make changes, not in the big thrust of
your life but in all the margins.
– Dedicate January to cleaning your closets and drawers. Set some
very clear criteria, like tossing anything with stains. And by tossing I
mean to put in a donation bag labeled marginal. Also start a bag of
better things, especially work clothing. Most women’s shelters are
hungry for interview clothing. Keep a decent wardrobe in your current
size and one lower but make sure there’s room between the hangers.
– Do the same thing for your food pantry, your freezer, your bathroom
cupboards, your garage, and anywhere that you cannot see the walls
and floor. Call around to local non-profits to see whom you can donate
what to. Lots of people with much less than you can benefit.
– Set some weight loss criteria that you can keep to consistently.
Going meat free one day a week is good for the waistline and the
planet. Make sure you have a salad for lunch and for dinner. Try going
without carbs for one of those meals (i.e. no bread, potatoes, rice,
etc). Ditto for desserts and alcohol. Weigh yourself at least once a
– Walk more. Start with a 10-minute walk each day and up the time
and/or distance at least weekly, though daily would be better. If you
can work your way up to an hour a day you will benefit your long-run
health in very solid ways.
-When you get your paycheck, put $50 extra into in the savings
account. Also start an annual expenses fund. The math is easy: add up
all the annual expenses and divide by12. Put that amount in each
month. That’ll force you to cut back on small expenses like daily lattes,
or whatever you spend money on without blinking. Use only your
checking account debit card, and lock your credit card away.
– Rewrite your resume. You may never choose to apply for a different
job, but this will give you perspective on your strengths and
weaknesses. Have a sit-down with your boss. Say you are happy with
your organization but want to challenge yourself to grow more. Ask
what will help both of you.
– Go to services more often. Or take a community ed class in
something you care about. Go to music recitals or talks at the library.
Start meditating or volunteer at a non-profit you care about. Push the
boundaries of your life beyond whatever you’ve been doing with your
– Never drink and drive. You’ll live longer and so will the rest of us.