As the New Year party haze clears, it's the time to turn resolutions into reality, writes Susan Edmunds.

Most of us are familiar with the "exercise more, drink less, lose weight" goals, but there are lots of other changes you can make to turn your life around this year.

Ask for a payrise

The holiday season is a good time to start plotting for a payrise. While you are off work, take stock of what you offer the company. Put together a proposal showing the work you do, the benefits you've brought your firm, how your role has grown since the time your remuneration was last set and what you think that's worth. Outline your plans that will improve company revenue. Salary guides such as on Trade Me will give you an idea whether what you are paid is fair.

Make a difference


There's no better time to think about what you can do for the community than while you are full of festive cheer. Is there a charity or cause that's close to your heart? Work out how much time you have to offer and check what roles are available. If you have business nous, are there boards you could serve on? Could your business offer pro-bono work to a charity? If you can't actively volunteer, start donating. Consider payroll giving - you'll give directly each payday and receive the 33 per cent tax credit immediately.

Spend time with family

Date nights are not just for couples. If you're having trouble finding time to spend with your partner and children, plan a regular outing together once a week. Create some family traditions: sit down for dinner and talk about your day - schedule this in at work so you'll be home in time to do it. Read to your kids before they go to sleep. If there's too much going on for everyone to catch up for an evening meal, book brunch together every Sunday. Leave your cellphone at the door when you get home so you are not constantly answering emails or taking phone calls. See if you can volunteer for something your children are involved in, so you can spend more time with them.

Get fit

Stop your fitness efforts turning into a January fad by finding something you enjoy. Don't start the year promising to go to the gym every day - aim for a good workout three or four times a week. If you're not a gym fan, find a friend who wants to walk, head to the nearest beach for a swim or just dance around your living room on a regular basis. Don't overlook the benefits of incidental exercise - the fitness you'll pick up by doing vigorous housework, getting off the bus a stop earlier and taking the stairs instead of the lift.

Get out of debt

If you have credit cards, hire purchase and other consumer debts now is the time to tackle them. Rank the debts in order of the interest charged and pay off the most expensive first, with a set amount each payday. If your debts are out of control ask your bank about a consolidation loan. Often they have a lower rate of interest and the payments can be structured to suit you.

Organise your home

Use your time off to get your home in order. First, declutter. Go through each room, one by one, working out what does not need to be there. Put things in storage, donate them to a charity shop or sell them online. Then take stock of each room. What purpose does it have, what are the problems with it and how could it be working better? Make any system you put in place easy to use. Once it's tidy and you know where everything is, draw up a routine of chores to keep it that way.

Start a vegetable garden

Save money and have better quality produce with your own garden. Head to your local nursery for tips. Even if you have only a small space to garden in there will be options. Consider square-foot gardening, where what can be grown is worked out on a per-square-foot basis, or container gardening if you have only a balcony. Grow what you like and can use. Growing from seedlings is easier than from seed, but more expensive. Check out what the neighbours are growing. Make sure the soil is right before you start. Raised beds are a good way to control this.

Go green

You don't have to go completely off the grid to make a difference to the impact your household has on the environment. Often just being a bit more environmentally friendly will help your pocket, too. Change your lights to ecobulbs, recycle as much as you can. Turn off appliances when you are not using them (don't have the TV on standby).

Turn down the thermostat on your hot-water cylinder. Take shorter showers and see if you can car pool with people who live close by. Reuse as much as you can rather than buying new - set up clothing swap nights with friends when you feel the need for a new outfit.

Live to a budget

The reason most budgets fail is they are too restrictive. Track back through your online statements to see where your money is going at the moment. From there, you will be able to work out what to trim and what can't be cut. Set realistic targets for your grocery shopping (take a calculator with you to make sure you stick to it), clothing, entertainment and general expenses. Websites such as Sorted are great for organising your budget - get all the members of your family involved. Work out how much you can save and what can be set aside for an occasional treat.

Improve your relationship

Have dates with your partner, find mutual interests that you can enjoy together or a cause you can work for as a couple. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day to check in with each other about your lives. Have fun.