10 Small Changes That Can Transform Your Life

Taking these simple steps can revolutionize your health, home, finances and relationships.

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Magazines and websites just love to click-bait us into thinking big changes are possible with little to no effort.

This time, it’s different.

The following tactics are simple, yet can yield life-transforming results. Try one or more of these tips to improve your health, home, finances and relationships. Some of the results are amazing right off the bat, while others have a more cumulative effect.

Ready for a bigger and better life? Read on.

1. Observe the two-minute rule

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If a chore or the response to a problem takes two minutes or less, do it immediately. Some examples:

  • Put dishes into the dishwasher, not the sink.
  • Sort the mail immediately and throw the junk into the recycle bin or trash.
  • If you spill something, wipe or sweep it up immediately.
  • Toss clothes in the hamper rather than leaving them on the floor.

Note: This is an excellent rule to share with children.

2. Switch to a shared calendar

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Heather Schisler created a Google calendar so that she and her husband can keep track of their busy household (three kids). The calendar reminds them by text of events and obligations.

School programs, appointments, work-related travel, homework assignments — it’s all there, and then some. “Without (the calendar) I would really be lost,” she says in a post called “12 Hacks for Using Google Calendars.”

Put it all on the app, and you’ll never again pay for a missed dental appointment.

3. Get a dedicated email address for your finances

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In the past, Steven Hughes was “so trash with money,” because too often his bills wound up buried in the inbox.

He created an email account just for monthly bills, bank accounts and subscriptions. “Everything that has to do with money goes there. [It] helped me get really organized,” says Hughes, creator of the millennial-focused website Know Money.

You won’t miss that credit card bill or automatic subscription renewal notice if you always know where to look.

4. Use ‘wasted’ time to learn

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Got a long commute? Plug in a podcast or an audiobook that will help you move toward a personal goal — debt reduction, entrepreneurship, early retirement, whatever.

This works for those who exercise, too, or those who spend a lot of time waiting for kids to be finished with sports practice, music lessons or medical appointments. Instead of streaming pug videos on your smartphone, use the time to teach yourself something.

5. Get a library card

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It’s no longer a building with dusty old classics and a shushing staff, according to certified financial planner Sherrill St. Germain. In this amusing blog post she talks about all the goodies you might find in your local library, including but not limited to physical and e-books, DVDs, audiobooks, internet access, tons of info on community activities and copious magazines.

St. Germain was particularly giddy about the magazines: 167 titles on a wide variety of topics. “All of the perks of going to the dentist,” she notes, “with none of the downsides.”

6. Make some friends

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You’ve moved away from Hometown for a new career in Strange City. How does an adult find new besties?

Here’s one way: Go to MeetUp.com and look for groups in your area that enjoy the same things you do. Dog groups, trivia groups, singles groups, couples groups, movie groups, comedy groups, gaming groups …

And if you don’t see what you want? Start a group of your own.

Some other tried-and-true methods: Volunteer. Look for “First Friday” or other monthly art events in the area. Start attending a church, temple or mosque.

Take a class. Join a gym. Search for events in your area that interest you: wine tastings, say, or cooking demonstrations. Go to talks or lectures, where you’ll find people as erudite (or just plain geeky) as you are.

Your friends are out there. They might even be hiding in plain sight.

7. Pack your lunch

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Maybe you’ve got a really good reason for not brown-bagging it at least some of the time. Chances are the “reason” is just an excuse.

Consider the opportunity cost of those trips to the deli or fast-food joints. Think that the Value Menu doesn’t add up over time? See “How Slashing My Lunch Costs Saves Me $200,000” for some eye-opening numbers and also a handful of tips on reducing the noon-meal portion of your budget.

8. Cut back on (or cut out) the booze

Photo (cc) by Travis Wise

You’ll feel better. Your liver will thank you. You might even lose weight.

And, oh, the potential impact on your budget: For a post called “The Financial Case for Sobriety,” Adrienne Fuller did the math and found she and her husband had spent $11,568 on alcohol in two years — and that didn’t include cash for beers or drinks at shows and sporting events.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But if you cut back/cut out the drinks, imagine what the freed-up cash could do for the bottom line. Fuller notes:

“You could … put it toward old debt, your car loan or savings. But remember to spend a portion on yourself as a reward for the improvement you’ve made to your health and your wallet. A standing massage appointment, new appliances or a wardrobe upgrade could do a lot for your overall happiness.”

9. Leave your cellphone at the door

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Although she misses her son while at work, Chelsea Brennan initially had a hard time letting go of her job responsibilities while home.

“I was checking my email right through to his bedtime,” she says now. The easiest solution was to leave her phone at the door for half an hour after getting home.

“Allowing myself a short window to focus on him and help my husband get dinner on the table made me feel more connected with my family,” says Brennan, who blogs at Mama Fish Saves.

Consider shutting off notification sounds for the evening. Is it essential that you get every new meme as soon as your BFF sends it?

Unless you’re a physician on call, or working for a boss who demands you be reachable, or waiting for a new kidney, you might be able to get by with checking your phone once per hour until bedtime.

10. Determine how much sleep you need — and then make sure you get it

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Optimal sleep habits vary from adult to adult. But try figuring out what you need for optimal performance and then adjusting certain habits to fit it. You’ll be better rested, more productive and happier.

For more tips on getting proper sleep, check out:

Have you made any small transformations that reaped big rewards? Share them in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman @DLFreedman
A former newspaper journalist, Donna Freedman has been a staff writer for MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly, and freelanced for a wide variety of online and print publications. She got a ... More

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