Times of renewal come to us twice every year. There's spring, of course. Snow melts, plants grow, and pitchers and catchers report to spring training to prepare for another baseball season.
But before that, there's Jan. 1. New Year's Day brings with it the hope that we can erase our worst decisions from years past. "I'll do better this time," we say to ourselves and anyone else who'll listen.
Don't sound so cynical, pal
If I seem down on the idea, it's because I've made and broken many promises to myself. But I've also used the new year to change behavior that needed changing.
For example, in 2000, I sold all of the stock we owned and vowed to leave the proceeds in cash till I knew the basics of investing. I made good on that promise for three years, and I studied the works of the masters in the interim. But you can thank my Foolish wife for pushing me to hold fast when my inner demons screamed for attention.
What Fools have planned
So, yeah, the new year can provide the kick in the pants that some of us sorely need. That's why I asked my fellow writers and our Foolish community about their own resolutions. Here's a sampling of what they had to say.
Let's start with the simplest one, from Foolish colleague Rich Smith, whose elegant prose I envy: "More thinking, less buying." Surely there would be no argument from those who've invested in this year's largest losers -- including Natural Health Trends (Nasdaq: BHIP ) , NeoPharm (Nasdaq: NEOL ) , and Eagle Broadband (AMEX: EAG ) , all of which are down more than 80%.
Others, like Tom Taulli, simply want to cut costs: "I plan to save a bundle by using VOIP for my phone. With Vonage, I will pay a flat rate of $24.99 per month. But to maintain my cost savings, I'm not buying the stock!" Smart.
Still others said savings was a priority. From Steven Mallas: "I am addicted to stock investing -- as addictions go, it's not a bad one to have -- [but] I realize I have to focus and increase the amount of cash I have on hand for emergencies. Right now, I have too little of the green stuff, since most of my savings is working in the market."
Similarly, Anders Bylund singled out his kids' college savings: "[I need to] open a Coverdell or 529 for each of my kids." Newly independent Fool Rich Duprey, meanwhile, is focused on retirement and says that he plans to fully fund a SEP IRA and increase his life, disability, and long-term care insurance coverage.
Taking a sword to the debt dragon
On the boards, our Foolish community wrote of an intense desire to reduce credit card debt. (I can sympathize.) Others referred to paying for vacations with cash, or fully funding a Roth IRA account. Both are wonderful ideas.
But I was most inspired by two other ideas. First was this creative plan from Fool Community member kaudrey: "Sell, give away, or donate one thing each week for the whole year -- 52 things. This could be done on eBay, Freecyle, Craigslist, or through donations to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, or whatever." How Foolish, and how in spirit with our annual Foolanthropy campaign!
Second was this simple take that we all would do better to follow, especially yours truly: "Waste little resources on crap I don't need or really want. Waste only a bit more on crap I don't need but DO really want. Keep waste to a minimum even for crap I do need. Rinse and repeat as necessary." Thanks for that reminder from Fool Community member xtn.
Follow the money
The New Year's holiday is a time of renewal. That's appropriate. Just remember that it's never too early or too late to resolve to do better financially. Only a fool (notice the small "f") would think otherwise.
Want advice for how to get started? Try this thread at our Credit Cards and Consumer Debt discussion board. Or, if you're in the market for more hands-on money management, consider Motley Fool GreenLight. It's tailor-made for Fools like you who aim to take control of their financial destiny. Click here to learn more.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 1,355 out of more than 18,600 in Motley Fool CAPS, is grateful for the Fools at the Credit Cards discussion board. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get a peek at everything he's invested in by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy resolves to remain Foolish all year long.