By Lance McCarthy
Sometime between New Year’s parties, watching the ball drop and lounging around tomorrow, check out New Year’s Resolutions on social media. They can be really strange. Here are a few of my favs:
- Be taller. Uh, I don’t think that will work
- Learn the difference between affect and effect. Just remember, the “e” makes things happen
- Not just talking about it, but doing it. I think this is what they call irony
- To finish a whole Chipotle burrito. Is this the wrong time for an e-coli joke?
Admittedly, most of us are pretty lousy at resolving things. I think this weakness leads us to make more jokes about resolutions than actually resolution-ing (or whatever the verb is).
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we should change that would make our lives better. There are lots of those. We imagine our lives better with less stress, healthier eating, more money, or whatever. We just can’t seem to change the behavior that keeps us where we are. We end up managing our lives by crisis, constantly chasing the most urgent problems, but rarely making true progress.
Charles Duhigg is the best selling author of the book Habit, and talks a lot about this. He says we need to focus less on the actual problem, and more on the source of the problem. Changing the cues to the behavior in order to change the behavior. Here is a great infographic from him that might help.
Here’s a good example: Most people manage their house by crisis. We replace the furnace when it goes out on the coldest day of the year. We don’t paint the exterior until the woodrot is so bad it costs more than the actual painting.
So, here is my humble suggestion for a New Year’s Resolution. As you are putting together your budget for the year (you do that, right?) make a transfer each month into a “Forever Home” fund. Experts recommend investing 2 to 3 percent of your home’s value into the home every year in order to properly maintain it. It may be less this year, more the next, but that is a good average.
Here are the steps:
- Figure out your home’s value (use Zillow if you need a quick rough number)
- Calculate 2 percent of that number to find your annual Forever Home fund amount
- Divide this number by 12 to know how much to transfer each month
- Ask an expert (contractor or inspector) to walk through the house with you to help put together a priority list. For example, if the roof is showing wear, plan on that in fives years. If the exterior paint is peeling, plan on that next year.
- As the fund builds up, use it to invest in the maintenance of the house according to your priority list.
You will find that you will quickly get used to that monthly transfer, and that it will improve how you make decisions about the house. You will manage less by crisis (which actually makes issues cost less).
Send me questions if you need help getting started with this. I can’t help much with the your other resolutions, but this one we can actually do.
This weekly sponsored column is written by Lance McCarthy of ReTouch, a full-service, client-based contractor specializing in home remodels. For more information about their services, or to view samples of their work, visit their website.