<THE DRIP PORTFOLIO>
New Year's Habits
...more Foolish than resolutions

by Brian Graney (TMFPanic@aol.com)

ALEXANDRIA, VA (Jan. 7, 1999) -- Ah, January. It's the month that symbolizes new beginnings.

It all starts with New Year's Day, which is fast becoming a dreaded, rather than celebrated, day for many Americans. Not only does the college football season wind down around this day (depressing gridiron fans throughout the U.S.), but the media also tends to force-feed everyone with the notion that it's time to reevaluate your life and set new goals for the upcoming year. Suddenly, the word resolutions reappears in everyone's vocabulary for a single fleeting day, like a guilt-ridden Santa making his annual journey down the chimney of your consciousness.

This is not to say that resolutions are not a good idea, or that they can't be Foolish. That's not true at all. For some, January 1 can serve as an artificial but necessary kick in the pants and prompt some long-overdue thinking about personal goals. But as Fools, we try to look at things differently and challenge conventional thinking 365 days a year. With this in mind, I believe January 1 should be a day for Fools to make New Year's habits, not New Year's resolutions.

What's the difference? Resolutions, by definition, are just promises. And as any politician worth his salt can tell you, promises are meant to be broken. Most of my own "New Year's promises" for this year have already been broken -- and we're not even a quarter of the way through January yet. Within these first seven days, I've managed to ditch my 200 sit-ups-every-day resolution, my feed-the-dog-every-day-resolution, and my eat-asparagus-every-day resolution. What a failure.

Habits, on the other hand, are much harder to break. Just ask any smoker, if you happen to doubt the validity of that statement. So, to continue Jeff's thoughts from yesterday on starting 1999 Foolishly, here are some good regular habits for Drippers and Fools everywhere to get into this year:

1.) Try to save a little bit of money every day. This may sound quaint or flat-out miserly, but it's really quite easy to do. We're don't want to micro-manage anyone's lives or anything, so instead of laying down "spend on this" and "don't spend on that" rules, here are a few simple, painless, and subtle ideas:

Instead of using the car for short trips, walk.
Drink a cup of water instead of a soda or a coffee during the day.
Pack a lunch every now and then.
Read the free online version of the local paper instead of buying it, if you can.
Skip dinner (Just kidding on that one).

If you haven't paid off your credit cards, then work on that first. At the very least, use the Foolish tips behind this link to get a lower rate. If you reduce your monthly credit finance charges, then your are in effect saving money every day without laying a finger on your quotidian cash flow. Instead of heading out the door and into the credit card company's bank account, that little bit of saved money can be put to work for you in a Drip account and compound over time. Tell that money you save every day to get off the couch and get to work!

2.) Learn something new about investing every day. This is pretty easy to do, too, especially if you visit the Fool each day. Whether it's something from the Fool's School, the message boards, or anywhere else around Fooldom, I learn something new around here every day. Just so I don't sound too self-serving here, allow me to suggest another website where long-term Drip investors can learn a thing or two:

http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html

Yep, this is the place where everyday investors like us can peer inside the brain of Warren Buffett for free. Mr. Buffett is one of our favorite long-term investors and his annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are jammed-packed with lessons on investing, business, and life in general. Taking a few minutes every day to read a few paragraphs of any of the reports archived here is time well spent any day of the week.

3.) Share your investing knowledge with others whenever you can. Jeff touched on this in yesterday's column, but it bears repeating here. Investing is not a competition. It is a means toward a (hopefully wealthy) end. Stocks are not poker chips; they're tools. There are probably a lot of people in your life who could use some encouragement and sound financial advice. Help them help themselves. As Fools, it's our responsibility to share with others our investment knowledge and experiences. Some of us may have discovered the Fool or gained a nugget investment knowledge through the help of a friend. Be that kind of friend to someone else.

4.) Smile more. This may sound silly, but being positive is just important as all of the other habits suggested above. Long-term Drip investing is based on a belief that things are going to improve and that the price of a well-chosen stock will rise over time thanks to the prospects of better days to come. Pessimists are at a distinct disadvantage as long-term investors, since they will fail to see the investment opportunities presented to them day-in and day-out by Mr. Market. Plus, when's the last time you saw a jester frown?

Fool on!

Call Your Boss a Fool.

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