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How to make those new year resolutions stick

You were so determined. You watched that ball drop and envisioned yourself finally keeping those resolutions. This would be the year you'd lose weight, quit smoking, save money for your dream vacation and give back to the community. Yes, 2011 would be it! So, how did that weekend treat you? If you slacked, it's not too late to get back on track. Today is Monday, a good place to start anew, right?

Whip yourself into shape

We know you didn't mean to gobble up the last of the Christmas cookies and skip the daily jog you pledged to start this year. Instead of feeling like a failure, take some time today to carve out a plan of action.

Weight Watchers offers several tips on its website, including making your weight-loss goals public so you're held accountable, breaking your goal into a series of incremental steps and stashing a bowl of fruit or vegetable hunks front-and-center in the fridge.

If you've got a smart phone, there are plenty of fitness apps to help you reach your goals. Calorie Tracker, from LIVESTRONG.com, shows you the nutritional values of thousands of foods. iMapMyRun uses your phone's GPS to track your distance, pace and speed. Then there's the tough-love-sounding 2Fat, which calculates your body fat percentage and BMI.

Quit smoking

The American Cancer Society recommends setting a specific quit date, and preparing for said date for about two weeks before taking your last puff. See? You're not off track after all.

Trained quit-smoking coaches are available through the cancer society toll-free at 1-866-784-8454. They can help you decide whether to use medications, like patches or gum, while you go cold-turkey. Experts also suggest breaking up your daily schedule or route to avoid habits that involve smoking. Or try tricking your brain with replacements, such as toothpicks or carrot sticks.

If you need an extra motivational boost, do a Google image search for "smoker's lungs." Trust us, it's a buzz kill.

Beef up your bank account

First of all, that lunch you ordered in to the office? Don't get used to it. Packing a lunch will save you oodles each week (not to mention helping you stick to your fitness goals). Also, invest in a stylish to-go coffee mug and skip the afternoon Starbucks trip. There's a reason "bucks" is in the name.

Check out money guru Dave Ramsey's web site, dave ramsey.com, to learn his seven baby steps to financial freedom that aim to help you build a safety net of savings while heading toward living debt-free. Pay off the mortgage? Save for the kids' college? Why not?

If you still have Sunday's paper lying around, grab the coupons and start clipping. A dollar here, 25 cents there may not seem like much, but with each grocery trip your savings will add up.

Volunteer

The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean you need to stop spreading goodwill. A little donated time goes a long way.

The United Way suggests choosing a charity or cause that matters to you and can benefit from your specific skills. You'll be more likely to stick to it, and it'll enrich you in the process.

If you like to cook, you might enjoy volunteering at a local soup kitchen. If you're interested in physical work, consider Habitat for Humanity. If you'd prefer something less strenuous, pledge to regularly visit a nursing home or read to an elementary school.

Schedule your volunteer work carefully so you're not overloaded, and consider making it a family effort.

Go green

After all the holiday madness, your house is now swimming in wrapping paper, festive bags, bottles and plastic packaging. It's a good time to start recycling.

All those bags could be saved for packed lunches. The ribbons would make a good addition to an arts and crafts kit. Bottles might make neat old-world candle holders. For unusable items, visit earth911.com to find your nearest recycling center. It'll show you where to drop off paper and plastic, of course, but also batteries, electronics and paint.

PlanetGreen.com offers more suggestions, including switching monthly paper bills to online only, setting up a rain barrel to water your garden, and walking or taking public transit when possible.

Spend more time with family

Wasn't it wonderful to have everybody happily together during the past couple weeks? Don't let the busy-ness of the new year get in the way of that closeness.

Talk to your family about activities they'd enjoy and plan regular dates, such as a weekly game night or bike ride around the block. Rent a funny movie, have a picnic, go to a sports game or just sit down and eat dinner together. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're savoring each other's company.

Another bustling holiday season will be here before you know it. If all other resolutions fall to the wayside, let this be the one you keep.

How to make those new year resolutions stick 01/02/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 2, 2011 5:02pm]
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