For most people, New Year's resolutions are two parts good intentions, one part effort and three parts failure. So, why bother? There are plenty of ways to improve your life that don't involve spending February feeling like a loser. With the following ideas, you can take a fresh spin on the goal-setting, life-improving concept. And you can do it guilt-free.

Try something new every month

One of the biggest problems with New Year's resolutions is that a year is way too long. So what about a month? Choose to try something new this month, and each month that follows. Even if you only manage two weeks every month, or seven months out of the year, you tried, and that counts for something.

You could ride your bike to work, try rock climbing for the first time or ask your eye doctor for sample contacts. The point here is to step outside of your comfort zone and into a place where previously unknown things become possible. Who knows? Maybe at the end of the year, you'll be trying something reallyoutlandish, like skipping ice cream and eating applesauce, instead.

Your children will benefit from this project. After all, childhood is all about discovery. By continuing to discover new things, you make that a natural and beloved part of your home. You give your children the courage to try new things, along with happy memories of the crazy, fun things they did with you.

Choose a theme word for this year

Short, sweet and to the point, choosing one word to live by this year moves you in a positive direction without cluttering your life. One year, I chose the word "alacrity," which means "cheerful willingness." To me, it meant being eager to fully engage, to be completely involved in my experiences and the people around me. It was a beautiful thing that left me feeling loved, inspired and enthusiastic.

Whatever your word might be, you can also get creative in how you incorporate it into your life. Make it your desktop, make a collage, say it 10 times to yourself before you go to bed, or do whatever it takes to help keep it on your mind. Your children can join in by learning a new vocabulary word and then making an art or craft project that revolves around it. Then, hang it on your fridge to help each of you remember your word. With words like "alacrity," "steadfast," "shine," or "peacefully" woven throughout your life, this year is bound to be better than the last.

Start a savings account

If the last two ideas were a little too cheesy for your tastes, then this idea is for you. Take a good long look at your budget and cut back, just a couple of dollars, on things that you don't technically need. Then, take those couple of dollars and put them aside. You can tuck them into a subset of your savings account, put them in a jar, or mail them to a trustworthy friend.

Then, pick out something amazing that you've always wanted to do, but never had the funds. Maybe that's visiting your aunt in Spain, going to the concert of the year for your favorite band, or buying every kind of pen the local office supplies store sells so you can figure out which one really is your favorite. Whatever your dream, let it inspire you to spend a little less here and there so you can make your dream a reality. You might not have enough money for it at the end of the year, but you will be significantly closer than you are today. Isn't that encouraging all by itself?

The other plus side to this idea is that you are practicing taking your dreams seriously. No one else may approve of your addiction to office supplies, but you don't need their approval. You have a dream and a plan and a passion that you refuse to ignore. I honor you for that, and your children will too.

Clean out a closet

I like this goal because it's on such a small scale. One closet amidst a year of potential change doesn't seem like much, but it's an improvement you can make here. Now. Today. If you've been dying to clean it out for ages, you'll be glad you did. An alternative to this could be simply getting ahead on your household chores or errands. Do you think cooking meals is a huge pain? Make freezer meals. Does filing taxes make you want to move to the moon? File them now so you're not ripping your hair out in April.

Whichever way you do it, the point here is that you can set aside a little time today to make next week, next month or even next season a little less stressful. That makes you a more serene, cheerful person in the long run, and you'll be amazed how much your family benefits from that.

Call me a hipster, but I didn't bother setting New Year's resolutions this year. I find them overwhelming, unrealistic, and more a source of guilt than improvement. If this sounds familiar, hopefully, these ideas are a breath of fresh air. Even if you don't set formal "New Year's resolutions", the beginning of a new year can be a step toward a new life and a new you.

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