Your New Year’s resolutions for free
Losing weight? Getting fit? Learning a language? Felicity Hannah says you can do it all for free
Happy New Year! If you have resolved to make 2017 the year you finally act on that good intention you’ve been sitting on then it’s time to take action.
It’s tempting to make a good start by investing some serious cash into your plans; it’s easy to misinterpret spending money on something for actually committing to it. So, we join an expensive gym or buy a pricey sewing machine or pay for a six-month diet food subscription because that makes us feel like we’re really going to do it.
But so many resolutions can be achieved, or at least started, for free. Here’s how.
Lose weight for free
Whether it’s buying recipe books, joining a dieting group or paying for a meal replacement programme, there will be a lot of organisations promising to help you lose pounds if you pay them pounds.
But it’s actually possible to get the same healthy eating support without spending a fortune or signing yourself up to a subscription for months and months. The NHS provides a 12-week weight-loss guide with week-by-week advice and tips, and a planner to stick on the fridge.
If you feel you need the support and accountability that only another human can provide then talk to your GP. Many offer a weight-loss clinic, offering regular weigh-ins and advice on diet and fitness. Some may even be able to refer you to other services such as commercial weight-loss groups with the NHS footing the bill.
You won’t know what’s available until you ask.
Get fit for free
This is a hugely popular resolution but most gyms demand members sign up to a year-long membership. If you want to avoid the extra burden on your budget or you simply can’t afford it, that doesn’t mean fitness isn’t possible.
In fact, there is a huge amount that can be done at home or outdoors, with the added bonus that you don’t need to waste time travelling to the gym. Once again the NHS is a good starting point, with a 12-week fitness plan that’s designed to be suitable and accessible for beginners. It combines running, and strength and flexibility workouts, and you can download it onto an iPod or any digital media player.
Aspiring runners can go from zero to 5km using the “Couch to 5k” programme also available on the NHS, although there’s also a range of free apps that offer running programmes that blend with your music player.
The volunteer-led organisation parkrun UK hosts free, timed, weekly 5km runs in local parks, letting you run in a group and try to improve timings week on week – all at no cost.
If you’re able to cycle to work safely then that can be a great way to fit additional fitness into your day and there’s obviously no cost, you might even save money on fuel or buses. If you don’t have a bike then try Freecycle or Freegle, or see if your employer can offer the Cycle To Work Scheme, which allows you to pay for your wheels out of your pre-tax income and save some cash.
There’s also YouTube for workout videos and yoga classes, it’s amazing how much information people are simply sharing for free.
Finally, it’s worth contacting your local authority to see what incentives it provides to encourage people to work out; often there will be free classes or a free swim on certain days of the week. If you’re under 16 or over 60, or if you receive certain benefits, then you may be able to use the leisure services for free.
Learn a language for free
Is 2017 the year you plan to learn conversational Italian or fluent French? There are so many free resources online that there is simply no need to splash out on a book or course.
You can start on the BBC website, which provides courses, phrases, activities and tests, with both audio and video resources. There are free courses and lessons available via the duolingo.com website, which uses apps to make learning fun and into an easily accessible game.
Then there’s busuu.com, a free resource that offers bite-sized 10-minute daily lessons, as well as the chance to chat to native speakers and hear the language used correctly. There’s a paid-for premium version but the free basic facilities should be enough to get you started on your path to becoming multilingual.
The internet is the accepted way to find love these days but dating websites – and dating itself – can be pricey. Research from TopCashback.co.uk found that on average singletons who are looking for a relationship spend 10 hours a week working at it and spend an average of £90 a month on dates… for 18 months before they find a special someone.
With the cost of dating so high it can be helpful to find a matching website that doesn’t charge the earth. The good news is that there are a number of free dating websites, including Flirtbox.co.uk, and LoveThing.co.uk.
Just don’t be sucked in by websites that promise ‘free’ profile views or ‘free account set-up’, after all, you’ll need to pay if you actually want to contact anyone. If you do want to pay for a more premium service then you can at least use the free introductory periods to make sure it’s worth the money before you sign up.
You could also ask friends to set you up on blind dates, which, as well as being free, is a bit more personal than an algorithm or phone screen swipe.