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Hacking Your New Years Resolution: A Guide to Changing Habits On the Cheap

Dave Whelan / Flickr

Dave Whelan / Flickr

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who look at every January as a chance to start anew, you’re probably making a plan right now. Maybe you’re planning to get active, eat better, or be a more organized person.

But here’s the rub: most people don’t stick to the plan. While 40 percent of Americans make a New Years resolution, only about eight percent succeed in keeping them.

For some people it’s a matter of willpower, but for many it’s about cost. Gym memberships tend to start around $40 a month, with add-on fees for perks like personal training. Fitness clothing carries hefty price tags, as does top-shelf health food. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the self-improvement fantasy and end up with a lighter wallet, but a just-as-heavy figure.

But don’t worry, there’s an escape route. You don’t need to spend the big bucks to change your life. Just stay focused, and try these tips and tricks.

Find the Free Fitness

Your local libraries, community centers and parks are ripe with opportunities to get moving. Check your nearest facility for free classes. Here are a few to get you started:


Vinyasa-style Yoga at Colonial Heights Library

Mondays, 6 p.m. to 7:15pm

4799 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento


Tai Chi in Night Ridge Park

Daily (beginning Jan. 2),  8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

6299 Night Ridge Way, Rocklin

More info here


Community Class at Solfire Yoga

Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Studio at 2613 J St, Sacramento (Oct. to Apr.) or Marshall Park at 915 27th St (May to Sept.)


Laughter Yoga at the Sacramento LGBT Center

2nd and 4th Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

1027 L St, Sacramento

Contact laughteryoga@saccenter.org with questions

Also, try getting a workout at your local park. Many of them have ‘adult playground’ structures designed for pull-ups, rowing motions and other exercises, often including instructions. And if you want to make new friends while you get your workout fix, there are dozens of cost-free walking, biking and dancing groups at Meetup.com

Eat Smart For Less

It’s tempting to go for cold-pressed juices, all-organic staples and protein supplements galore. But nutrition experts say basic, whole foods with no processed sugar and not too much fat are the key to a balanced and healthy diet. Think legumes, vegetables, whole grains and greek yogurt. Health and fitness site Greatist put together this nifty list of 44 healthy foods under $1.

Another trick: skip the sticker shock at the specialty health food store and hit your local farmers’ market instead. Save a few dollars, and put money right in the pockets of local growers. Can’t get to the market? There are lots of local farms that will deliver weekly or monthly shipments of veggies right to your door. It’s called a “community supported agriculture” box, and it’s generally cheaper than meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.

Learn a New Skill

Not everything is physical. Mental health experts say picking up a new skill or dipping into a hobby helps keep your brain sharp for the long-haul. While some activities have high cost barriers, others are fairly cheap to start.

Here are a few ideas:

Knitting and crocheting. These hand-crafts are good for the joints and the mind, and most public libraries have a free knitting and crocheting circle you can join

Journaling or reading. It’s important to let your thoughts wander. Achieve a little mental freedom by scribbling a daily journal entry (writing on paper is better than typing) or sitting down with the perfect book

Embracing music. Studies show that playing an instrument has long-term benefits for focus and memory, as does dancing. Most community centers offer low-cost dance classes for any skill level. The Arcade Library in Sacramento has free ukuleles, guitars and keyboards that you can borrow through the Library of Things program.

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