Careful Resolutions: Promises You Can Keep

Resolution for 2015: To keep our grocery bills under $150 per week.

DD1 = Dear First Daughter

DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

New Year’s Resolutions

“This is the first year I feel nothing,” said a friend of mine as we brought in the New Year with a small (and fun and loud) group of people. No New Year’s resolution for her. She wasn’t sad about it – she spent much of the evening laughing hysterically – she was just saying it like it was. In general, the New Year’s resolution is regarded as fluffy. Many people declare their good intentions for the year with genuine enthusiasm, but the stereotype of the resolution broken is so often supported by personal experience that we learn to consider our own resolve as temporary and bound for failure. A harmless thing? I don’t think so.

Golden eggs and bank accounts

This morning, I picked up The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the first time in a long time. Throughout his book, Stephen Covey uses the analogy of the goose that produces golden eggs, and he makes the point that in order to keep up an effective production of “golden eggs” – whatever that might represent in our lives – we have to take care of the “goose” – ourselves and our relationships with others. Clearly big on analogies, Covey also writes of the “emotional bank account” and outlines six major “deposits” that we must make to have strong relationships. Keeping commitments is one of them. “Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal. In fact, there’s probably not a more massive withdrawal than to make a promise that’s important to someone and then not to come through” (Covey, 193).

Breaking resolution = sabotaging golden egg production

If I think about the attitude with which I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, I have to acknowledge that they were important to me – whether it was to get more organized, to get in better shape, to make a career move, or to pay off debt. By extension, if I follow Covey’s metaphor, the last time I broke a New Year’s resolution, I made a “major withdrawal” from the integrity of my own emotional bank account – compromising the “goose” and sabotaging the production of “golden eggs”.

A promise I can keep: my grocery resolution

“I’ve tried to adopt a philosophy,” says Covey  “. . . never to make a promise I don’t keep. I therefore make them very carefully, very sparingly . . .” (Covey, 193). Smart advice for those of us making New Year’s resolutions, and I think that mine is a promise I can keep: To reduce our grocery bill by $25 per week – from $175 to $150. So far, so good! For the first week of January, our bill came to $146.46. I made the grocery list yesterday, armed with frugal recipes: beans, pulled pork, fish, chicken, chicken soup . . . To me, it all sounds like a menu from another time, and I’m feeling a bit of a thrill for being so awfully clever.

“It’s not really that much,” said DD1 as we walked the dog today. “I mean, it’s a good resolution, but it won’t make a big difference in your overall budget.” In a sense she’s right – but then, when it comes to a budget, it’s all about the little differences. And there’s more than addition and subtraction going on here. I can already foresee a ripple effect. DD3 wanted me to buy power bars for her, and I found myself thinking, There’s probably a recipe for power bars. We can make them next week-end. I promise that I would never have had the confidence necessary for this thought to enter my head if I hadn’t already pried open the channels of frugal home-cooking in my brain. Furthermore, if I can set a goal and see it through all of 2015, I’ll be “making a deposit”. Keeping the goose strong. Setting the stage for golden eggs.


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