My New Year's Resolutions

I try to avoid making New Year's Resolutions. They tend to be some big life-changing or life-enhancing promises that start with really good intentions, and then fall flat within a month or two. Personally, I just can't see myself deciding to completely change my habits or lifestyle overnight. But this year, I decided there were a couple things I could do better. They aren't major issues, but at least it's something I can do and accomplish and feel like I've done something to improve.

The first is a bit of housekeeping. Our HVAC system has stainless steel air filters (rather than cheap cardboard-framed filters), and they are supposed to be cleaned out periodically. Historically, I've been very bad at cleaning those filters, going way back to when we first had the system installed. I remember cleaning them one day and then being very surprised that I actually saw curtains moving in the breeze from the air vents. Our house also tends to be very dusty, which I don't doubt is at least partially the fault of the HVAC's inability to move air through the completely clogged filters. So, I resolved this year to incorporate into my Sunday routine, cleaning out those air filters.

For the month of January, I did manage to clean the filters out every week. At least in those first couple weeks, it really needed it, as the filters were pretty well coated when I pulled them out. But by the time I got to February, the filters were still pretty clear when I went to clean them. So, I've backed off a bit on my initial resolution, instead cleaning the filters out every other week. Even then, they're not catching nearly as much dust as they were, so I feel that I'm reaching my ultimate goal of keeping them clear so the heater & A/C will work efficiently. I'm not certain it's cut down on the dust that gathers in the rest of the house, as that's pretty hard to quantify (especially when we just simply don't dust around here), but I like to think so. I was hoping to see my energy bill go down a bit as a result of the better air flow, but that, too, failed to come to pass. Still, I can at least pretend that I'm doing the right thing.

The second has to do with my church. I believe in the Law of Tithing, where I give 10% of everything I earn back to the Lord. The way I've kept track of what I should pay, on every increase, I enter a transaction in my financial software with a future date with the 10% amount. It's always there at the bottom of my register, so I always know how much I owe; and I can always make sure I don't spend too much such that there isn't enough for the tithing amount. If I forget to take a check to church one week, I just keep adding to that transaction in my register, until I get around to writing the check and giving it a real date.

I thought it was a pretty good system, but a couple things bothered me. One, I noticed in months where money was tight, I would find myself "borrowing" from that total to pay the bills. Oh, I wouldn't change the amount, but I would ignore the fact that the tithing transaction was actually making my balance negative, because it would be fine when the next paycheck showed up. But I found that it seemed to happen more frequently and with greater amounts the longer I left that transaction in there unpaid (not to mention the tithing amount was growing over time as well).

The other thing occurred to me as we discussed tithing in church one Sunday. While it's relatively easy for us to pay tithing now by just writing a check, in the past it involved real items — for example, agricultural farmers would bring food from their harvest, and livestock farmers would bring animals. They always referred to it as bringing the "firstfruits" of the harvest or the flock, because it was a sign of devotion and respect to God that we give Him the best portion of what He gave us. When I applied this to my system of reserving money in my register, I realized that what I was doing was closer to making sure everything else was paid first, and then giving God what was left over. In practice, I had it backwards.

My resolution for tithing is to pay as soon as possible. That means, on Saturday night, I check to see if I need to pay anything for tithing (since I don't really think about which weeks are the pay weeks and which aren't), and write out the check, so it's ready to turn in the very next day. It just feels like the right thing to do, and I feel better about doing it this way.

So yeah, that's it. Those are my New Year's resolutions. Nothing earth-shattering or anything, but I feel like they are realistic, attainable goals that I can actually keep. And now, here they are in writing, so I can hold myself accountable.