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 helpful. In fact, here are five resolutions that we should all keep (check those out!).
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 week through January yet. Within these first three 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, 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 don't want to micro-manage anyone's lives, 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 interest rate. If you reduce your monthly credit finance charges, then you 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 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 general from the Fool's School, the discussion boards, or something in depth and complete from a Foolish seminar (you have just three days remaining to enroll in the newest seminar!) or from a crash course, surfing around Fooldom, I learn something new every day. Just so I don't sound too self-serving, allow me to suggest another website where long-term investors can learn a thing or two:
Yep, this is the place where everyday investors like us can peer inside the brain of Warren Buffett. 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 archived reports is time well spent.
Finally, if you're looking for a great way to learn where industries stand as we roll into 2002, and if you want to see which stocks Fool analysts like best, consider the Fool's popular Industry Focus 2002.
3.) Share your investing knowledge with others whenever you can. Jeff touches on this frequently, but it still bears repeating. 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 as 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 to long-term investors, since they will fail to see the investment opportunities presented to them day-in and day-out by Mr. Market.
Fool on in 2002!
Brian Graney is a former Fool news and Drip Port writer who continues to work in the investment industry on the Eastern seaboard. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.