Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Ways I Stopped Torturing Myself

I'm sure you've heard the expression, "You are your own worse enemy." Well this was definitely true for myself for a majority of my life. However, over the years, I've started applying the adage "life is too short" to this mentality and let me say, I love myself for it. I've realized there are just some things that you shouldn't do to yourself.

1. Never weigh myself on a Monday

For the longest time, I would start my week by stepping on the scale to see what kind of damage I had done on the weekend. Every time my eyes would bug out in disbelief and I would instantly feel heavier, both physically and spiritually. The following day, I would weigh myself again and I would be down nearly five pounds! Over time I finally got smart and decided to skip a weigh in on Monday all together. Sure enough, by Tuesday my weekend shenanigans had flushed themselves out.

2. Stop comparing my life to my friends' Facebook page

Let's face it. The use of Facebook has added a whole other dimension to our lives. It can be a great source of information about faraway loved ones, but it can also stir up the drama. When I first started using Facebook, I thought, "Wow, everyone has there life together. What's wrong with me?" It took me awhile, but I've caught on. Most people are smart. They aren't going to air their dirt laundry on Facebook, so all I will ever see is their peaks.

3. Not buying into media expectations

There has been a lot of coverage about Photoshopped photos lately. I think it's sick! Why alter the way these women look? They are already beautiful. While I love magazines, I find it appalling that these altered images are what the publishers and editors think we want to see. When I was a teenager, I didn't have the maturity to understand what these images meant. All I knew was that I looked different. No more, though. I realize I look like me and I love that. I'll never look like those covers because the models don't even look like that.

4. Keeping up with the Joneses

Listen, I have goals and a lot of them involve acquiring and doing things, but I've come to realize that the things I want aren't intended to show someone up. When I was younger there was a part of me that wanted things just to keep up with my friends. Living that way made me unhappy and broke very fast. Keeping up with the Joneses isn't sustainable and I'm not willing to go into debt for something that I don't truly want. Perhaps the greatest lesson I've learned from this is that not everyone wants the same thing. While someone I know may want a BMW, I'm sorry, I don't and I'm not going to beat myself up for not having one.

5. Allowing someone's negative attitude to affect me

This can be tough at times. When someone is negative, their energy is draining to everyone around them. It takes effort to ward it off and not become part of it. I use to take negative attitudes personally, but I've learned that I can't allow that. People act on their own accord and are solely responsible for their attitude and actions. It's unfortunate but most of the time they don't even realize how they sound and are perceived. I've also learned that it isn't my responsibility to change their mode. While I love making an attempt, I no longer take it personal if they don't cir cum to my charming ways and bodacious jokes.

How are you going to stop torturing yourself?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Doctorate of Love

Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a leadership conference that straight up hit me in the face. The conference had been on my calendar for a couple of weeks and I hadn't paid much mind to it. But let me tell you, I'm very sorry you missed it. It was jam packed with the heart wrenching and gut busting material that inspires people to be better versions of themselves. The lineup was pretty swanky too: John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market; Dick Vitale, legendary sportscaster and former basketball coach; and Christine Cashen, professional speaker. Do I have your attention now? Pretty amazing, right?

There were a number of things that hit home with me, so I'm going to do my best rehashing them for you. Dick Vitale. What a guy? I'm not much of a basketball fan so I had a vague idea of who he was but let me tell you, this man is awesome! I'm sure he did great things for basketball and sportscasting, but I just love him as a person. He reinforced my belief that people are good, people can change things, and people are an unfathomable source of love.

Doctorate of Love

"I came from humble beginnings. We didn't have much but my parents had doctorates of love." - Dick Vitale

This quote reminded me that while I may not be able to give my children everything they want, I do have love. And guess what? It's an endless source. No matter how much time or money I have, I always have love to give.

Since hearing this, I've tried to imagine what a doctorate of love means and how it looks in terms of actions. I don't have the answer, so don't get excited. But I have taken the first step - patience. When my girls test my nerve, I just take a second and approach with love and patience. I don't ever want them to associate grotesque expressions with my face. Frustration can be hard to hide but it's something I'm working on. With a little time and patience, I'll be on my way to a doctorate of love.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Our Financial Plan - Step One

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently took a hard look at our finances and realized something has to happen. The way we are currently living will never lead to the type of life we want. Knowing our exact numbers has been a viciously scary ride of excitement. I'm excited to see those numbers drop over the next couple of months and excited for the life that follows.

Where do we start? They say the hardest step is always the first step, so here it goes.

The Boof and I have devised a plan to go into survival mode. Now when I say survival mode, it may not mean the same thing to you. Our definition of survival mode: Cut all unnecessary expenses, eat from our kitchen, make frugality our middle name, and become smart about our travel. That being said, we also made a financial plan that includes the goals we are currently striving for.

Credit Card Plan

I consider myself a smart person but I also know that I don't know everything. Recently, someone I've known for awhile told me exactly how they are able to go on vacation so often. They use miles and points earned from their credit cards. I've seen a number of articles about this concept but never gave it the time of day. This time I was all ears. This person wasn't just someone talking to me through the internet, it was someone I know - in the flesh.

While we were speaking, I had an epiphany. Credit cards aren't just for spending money when you don't have it. They can be utilized as a cash floating mechanism. I know, silly that a grown woman has never thought of this before. Previously, all I ever saw credit for was a way to get what you wanted now and pay later. Once I hear the way this person used their credit cards for everyday spending in order to earn miles and points, I was bitten. 

What do you think I did next? I went home and applied for two more credit cards. This time they were cards that were going to earn me a seat on a plane to Paris.

I know what you may be thinking. Believe me, a couple of months ago, heck just a few days ago, I would have thought, "Are you kidding me? This lady wants to get out of debt so she opened more credit cards? Tell me how that makes sense." I'll tell you and in a year when we are on the plane to who knows where, you might not think I'm that crazy.

Here it is...

We currently have three credit cards with nearly maxed out balances. For the sake of keeping it simple, I'll call them CC1, CC2, and CC3.
CC1 earns us money on Amazon and has a balance of $2850 with a 22.24% APR.
CC2 earns us money at Old Navy and has a balance of $2800 with a 23.99% APR.
CC3 doesn't have any rewards and has a balance of $1700 with a 22.90% APR.

Our goals with CC1 and CC2: 
  1. Lower the balances to $1500 each. (CC2 will be the first card we put our money towards in order to lower the balance since it has the highest APR.)
  2. Transfer balance to a mileage/point earning card.
  3. Maintain a zero balance once transferred.
Our goals with CC3:
  1. Transfer balance to a mileage/point earning card. (We are transferring this balance first since it is the smallest and will still leave us cushion on our new card.)
  2. Maintain a zero balance once transferred.

Traveling Smart

Now that I have a new perspective on credit card use, we will be making all of our regular everyday purchases on the two new cards in order to earn the promotional bonus mileage/points. We spend that money anyway, so why not take advantage of what credit cards have to offer. The trick will be restraint. Paying down our balance will also be a goal of ours since we would have transferred previous balances.

Savings Plan

We are still rebuilding our savings and when I say it was depleted, I'm serious. Just to clue you in, here are our savings goals.
  1. Build draft protection savings to $200 (minimum).
  2. Build money market savings to $1000 (minimum).
While our credit card balances are high, our first goal is to build back our savings to the minimum figures. If survival mode goes according to plan, there will be no need to touch that money. Once we have reached a safe point with our credit, we will again focus on our savings.

Just having a plan makes me feel more secure. There's power in knowing where to put our money.

Do you have a financial plan?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Take a Front Seat

Remember in school when all of the smart kids took up residence in the front of the class room, monopolizing those prime learning seats? What was your impression of them?  Straight As? Nerds? Teacher's Pets? Were you one of them? I was more of a middle of the classroom kind of student and because of that my grades were average. Let me tell you something, I now know that these students knew exactly what they were doing. They were taking charge of their grades.

So what does this mean to you today? I'll tell you what it means to me. I'm sick and tired of accepting the average. I want, and am perfectly capable of, exceptional. There's one thing I couldn't dislike more and that's any form of the phrase, "I can't." Really? You can't? Did you even try or are you listening to that evil voice in your head telling you so?

A person that has chosen to take a front seat to their life knows that anything is possible. Landing that job. Obtaining a raise. Pursuing an education. Starting a business. Changing careers. Becoming debt free. Retiring early. Traveling the world. It's all possible! Regardless of your age, gender, size, or race, when you sit in the front seat you are in charge.

The front seat comes with an added bonus. It forces you to be engaged. What would happen to the student in the front row that fell asleep during class? They would be sprung awake, right? By making the decision to be in a front seat, you are also making the decision to engage in your life. No more waiting around for the promotion. You are going to decide you want it, why you deserve it and ask for it. No more talking about the trip to Europe you're going to take one day. You are going to make a plan to save the money and book the trip.

It can be scary, I know. But the one and only thing you should be scared of is regret. In the scope of life, taking four years to finish college and earn a degree is nothing. Those years will pass whether you want them to or not. So why not do something with your life? Something you've always wanted to do? Take charge. Get engaged and take a front seat!

Are you sitting in the front seat, taking control of your life? We finally took control of our life and am making our dreams come true. Check out how we finally bought our first home, ran my first 5k, and am traveling to places I've never been.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Action Plan

March Update

Well, out of the three goals I set for March, I successfully accomplished one and a half. While I didn't lose 12 pounds like I wanted, I have lost 8. Not too bad for a month of not entirely trying like I should have. As you can see, Presley's Donald Duck party was a success. I also did start some of my spring cleaning but still have quite a bit to do. So as you may guess, there are a lot of household to do items I want to cross off in April.

Main Goal: Finish Painting the Interior of our Home

When we first moved in, we painted most of the house, leaving the stairwell and the entry way. Now that we have lived here for over a year and am all settled with our newest family member, it's time to finish what we started.

Subgoal: Tape and Prepare Stairwell and Entry Way

This is going to be a tad difficult since the ceiling is unreachable in the stairwell. At least it isn't safely reachable.

Subgoal: Paint Touch ups

Since the paint is out, might as well do some paint touch ups on the areas that we already painted. I'll be honest, when we moved in we were more concerned with doing it in a timely manner than doing the best job. I recently found a pin on Pinterest that gave tips on painting a straight line when you are painting with two different colors. Wish I would have known this beforehand.

Main Goal: Cut Unnecessary Expenses

As I shared with you all a couple days ago, we are taking a hard look at our finances. The first step we decided to take, aside from writing down all our spending, was to cut unnecessary expenses. This is going to be tough but if we are going to make any headway, it's essential.

Subgoal: Cancel Netflix

It's only $13 a month but we don't use it often enough. And with a cable bill of $146, there is no need to add to our entertainment budget.

Subgoal: No Eating Out

Eating out can eat up a large chunk of our budget. While it's easy and fast, it doesn't do us any good. Usually it's something unhealthy and to feed three bellies, it can be pricy. On a normal month, I can spend anywhere from $100-150 on coffee alone. Do you know what I can do with that money? A LOT! It might be a little tough at first, but I've done it before and I can do it again. The Boof doesn't spend nearly as much but he does rack up tiny $2 purchases here and there at gas stations buying little snacks.

Subgoal: Sell Unused Items

If you are like me, there are a couple of things laying around the house that you don't use anymore. I tell myself that I'm going to use it one day but so far that day hasn't come. There are also plenty of baby things that Bird has grown out of already. Dang, they grow too fast!

Main Goal: Lose 10 pounds

Last month, I didn't quite hit my mark but still did rather well. This month I'm taking it down a notch with my expectations but amping up my effort. Let's see how this goes. Not eating out is really going to help me with this goal. Two for one - SCORE!

What do you have brewing for April?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's Time to Come Clean About Our Finances

It seems I've been in denial lately and today I was snapped out of it so fast I'm left with whiplash and in disbelief. Okay, that was a little dramatic, it's not that bad but surely a shock. Without divulging too much about our personal finances, I have to say that finding our financial balance after having our second child has been extremely difficult. I planned on writing a post that was more along the lines of a "how to," but it seems I don't know "how to." So instead, I'm dragging you along for the journey.

Here's the situation

Just before having Bird, we paid off The Boof's car, saving us $300 a month. However, since having Bird and going back to work, we've added $600 to child care expenses, $150 to groceries, and incurred $200 in monthly credit card payments. This time around we weren't as prepared to take a hit on our finances when I was on leave. We had depleted a lot of our savings when we bought our house and hadn't built it back up to the size it needed to be before I left work. As a result, to stay afloat we opened two new credit cards. For the past couple of months, The Boof has been working long hours and making good overtime/double-time money. Did we save that money like we should have? No. We just kept living the good life. Eating out more than we should have.

The truth is...

Now we are left with a very small cushion and little room for error between paychecks. 

Now what?

Is the hole going to be easy to pull ourselves out of? No, but we are willing to do the work. The best thing about the situation is that there is an end and while it is in the distance, there are small steps we can take now to help get us there faster. So in the coming months, look for updates and money saving tips we've picked up along the way. 

If you have any tips, please share. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Practice What You Preach, Vol. 1

How often have you heard yourself or someone else give a great piece of advice that they themselves cannot follow? As a young adult, I use to keep tally of all the things my parents did which didn't adhere to the wisdom they departed to me. That was wrong of me, so let's just get over that. Sorry Mom!

Lately, I've been thinking about a piece of advise that I gave to a pregnant friend - "It's all temporary. The early morning feedings. The diapers. The crying. It will all pass with time." Not so easy to remember when you are sleep deprived and have a miniature person permanently adhered to your boob. So why am I thinking about this? My smallest mini me is off the teet. Well, I've been trying to change my perspective on life. My health and finances to be more exact.

Remembering that everything (okay, most things) is temporary helped me keep a bright perspective while I was on maternity leave, so why can't it help with my lack of discipline in the health and finance arena?

The Boof and I decided to make a little wager. For a period of eight weeks, we have pledged to exercise at least 20 minutes EVERY day. It doesn't matter if it is walking or weights or dancing, it just has to be 20 consecutive minutes that elevates our heart rates. At the end of the challenge, whoever has the least amount of missed days wins. Do you know what we get? Guess.

Let me tell you something. Coming up with a non-monetary, non-food related reward was hard. So we came up with this - the loser will do whatever the winner wants for a 24 hour period. I'm totally stoked about winning this one. I love bossing people around. My mom calls me Bossy Cow. Isn't she so loving?

So what's going to get me through this challenge. Well my own sage advise, of course. Remembering that it is temporary. That there is an end in sight and while I may not want to remove my buttock from the couch, it is only 20 minutes of my life.

I'll keep you all updated. So far, we are only on day two. My eyes are focused on May 20.

It's all temporary.