- Ada, Oklahoma

December 31, 2013

What's the best way to keep those New Year's resolutions?

Eric Swanson Staff Writer

Ada —

   When Dec. 31 rolls around, people vow to save money, pay down their debt, drink less and lead a happier, healthier life, but it’s harder to keep New Year’s resolutions than you might think. People have already broken some of their pledges by mid-January and never get around to starting on others. After a few months, they give up on their self-improvement plans.

   Then another New Year’s Eve arrives, and the resolutions cycle begins again.

   So what can people do to make sure they keep their resolutions in 2014?

   Here’s a list of three popular resolutions and tips for keeping them:

   1. Stop smoking.

   Many people pledge to stop smoking each year, but few are able to keep that promise without some type of support.

   Only 4 percent to 7 percent of smokers are able to give up cigarettes without the help of medicine or other assistance, according to the American Cancer Society. The ACS said studies in medical journals have reported that 25 percent of smokers who use medicines can stay smoke-free for over six months, but counseling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicine alone.

   The ACS’s website spells out a four-step approach to stopping smoking, starting with making the decision to quit. The other three steps include picking a quit day and making a plan, coping with withdrawal and staying tobacco-free.

   Three tips for keeping your pledge:

   • Avoid temptation. Stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke, especially in the early stages. Later on, you’ll be able to handle these temptations with more confidence.

   • Find new ways to reduce your stress. Exercise or find a hobby that keeps your hands busy like needlework or woodwork, which can help take your mind off your tobacco cravings. Take a hot bath, go for a long walk or read a book.

   • Breathe deeply. When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and imagine your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the advantages of being an ex-smoker.

   2. Volunteer to help others.

   One in four adults donated their time and skills to an organization in 2012, indicating that volunteering is important to millions of Americans, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. The federal agency connects Americans to volunteer opportunities through its core programs, Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund.

   Altogether, 64.5 million Americans performed nearly 7.9 billion volunteer hours in 2012, according to the CNCS. Those hours were worth roughly $175 billion, based on the indepedent sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour.

   People who do volunteer work are helping their communities, but they can also improve their own lives by learning new skills and building on their previous experience. A CNCS study found that the odds of finding a new job were 27 percent higher for volunteers than they were for non-volunteers.

   To check out volunteer opportunities in Ada, visit the Ada Regional United Way’s website at and click on “Volunteer.”

   3. Managing your debt.

   Managing debt and saving money is a perennial favorite, especially when the Christmas bills start arriving in your mailbox. But it takes discipline and commitment to develop a budget and adhere to it.

   The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma offers these suggestions for developing a successful budget:

   • Recruit your familyi. If you have kids, ask them to help you find areas where you can cut back, then identify savings goals. Their participation will make it easier when they’re tempted to spend money instead of saving for the goal.

   • Don’t forget the fun. If you eliminate your entertainment budget, you won’t be able to stick to your spending plan. Earmark some money for fun family activities at least once a week.

   • Set aside funds for a rainy day. Start an emergency fund and contribute to it regularly. Aim to have at least $1,000 on handto cover minor unexpected expenses and repairs, and work your way up to saving three to six months’ worth of living expenses.