Friday Finances – The End

Well that was a quick jump from the “middle” to the end…

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 66/66 days of tracking our daily spending
  • DONE – 3/3 TED Talks about personal finance watched
  • DONE – Created a Pinterest inspiration board
  • DONE – 2/2 books read on personal finance
  • DONE – Determined best investment tool to save money (Vanguard)
  • DONE – Analyzed online budgeting tools (we plan on using a spending plan)
  • 5/10 weekly posts on Fridays about my progress

Grade: B

Incentive: We have a meeting scheduled with a financial planner next week. Even though The Little Book of Common Sense Investing has convinced me we don’t need a financial planner for investing we still have some tax related questions that I am excited to get answered!

Lessons Learned: I missed a lot of posts, but I was still able to meet the other items on my action plan. You’ve got to focus on the wins. This habit has given us the wonderful opportunity of getting feedback from friends and family about the tools they use to keep their family budget. We’ve had some fantastic conversations about what works and what doesn’t.

Clayton and I are going to keep up with the tracking until we are settled after our move. Once we get into a new routine we’ll set up our new spending plan.

Our sabbatical year will be here before you know it. If you have any inspiring memes/pictures/charts that keep you motivated to make good financial decisions please share them in the comments!

Book Breakdowns: A Twofer

The title of Bogle’s book struck me as I was reviewing The Essential Warren Buffet Reading List. Judging this book by its cover worked out really well!

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing opens with Buffet’s “Gotrocks Family” parable which sets the tone for the entire book. Investing carries inherent risk, but the average investor exacerbates the problem by trying to beat the market. Bogle asserts that index funds let the market work for you.

The facts, figures, and math are easy to follow and lend credibility to the argument rather than bogging it down. I especially like the “Don’t Take My Word For It” sections that show how other top financial minds are interpreting the data and investing.

I’ve always been intimidated by the stock market, and even though I have investments I haven’t felt comfortable with my portfolio decisions. I am not sure if this is my confirmation bias, but I love that this book made me feel comfortable with a set it and forget it strategy.

It’s a fantastic book that will make you feel empowered to start investing. I would highly recommend it to anyone!

Judging this book by it’s cover did not work out so well…

This book reads like a blog, because Brooke is a blogger. Each chapter is a day in the month and has a series of challenges at the end. I read it straight through even though it is intended to be read one day/chapter at a time. Each section isn’t applicable to everyone so you can certainly skip around and focus on the parts that will help you the most.

It is nice to have a lot of helpful advice all in one book with logical categorization. If nothing else I was turned on to Amazon’s Subscribe & Save so that’s a plus. The fact that she gives advice in areas that she admits to not being an expert in (like recommending homeopathy in the name of saving money) made me to give this book a lower grade.

It’s good for anyone just starting their financial journey. However, a lot of the information can be found on her Creative Savings blog.

If you’re still interested after my lukewarm review, the first person to request it in the comments will get my copy of 31 Days to Radically Reduce Your Expenses: Less Stress. More Savings.!

Friday Finances – The Middle(ish)

One way to improve your financial outlook is to find a new job that offers a higher salary. That has been my primary focus, and I started my new job this week. Things have finally started to settle down, but I am woefully behind on my weekly posts. The good news is even though I haven’t been posting we have been sticking to the plan, so lets look at the stats.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 3/3 TED Talks about personal finance watched
  • DONE – Created a Pinterest inspiration board
  • 51/66 days of tracking our daily spending
  • 1/2 books read on personal finance
  • 3/10 weekly posts on Fridays about my progress
  • Analyze online budgeting tools
  • Determine best investment tools to save money with

Grade: C

Lessons Learned: Not great, but we have stuck with the daily habit and that is the ultimate goal. It has been enlightening to see where we are spending all of our money. After the first month Clayton thought it was important to add a Travel category to our tracking sheet.

We have yet to analyze our spending, but at the end of the 66 days we will have two months of data to review. From there we will decide between a monthly budget or a spending plan.

Do you have any experience with a spending plan? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

TED Talks on Finances

I find most TED Talks inspiring, and after perusing their catalog I found these gems.

“Student debt is profitable”

How college loans exploit students for profit – Sajay Samuel

Last month I was in a training class and my table mate was encouraging me to go back to school to get an MBA. After watching this video I totally agree that higher education is a consumer product and status symbol.

Student loans from our undergrad degrees have been the largest portion of our debt over the last seven years. If this is our new reality, we need to become better consumers. Clayton and I have tried to help our nieces and nephews make smart choices about higher education so they don’t end up in the same position we have been in. This talk is a little disheartening, but knowing is half the battle!

“You are connected to … this future self. Your decisions today will determine its well being.” 

The battle between your present and future self – Daniel Goldstein

This talk has a fun twist in that Goldstein is trying to use simulations to overcome our present bias by simulating your future self and your future income. It’s not the best talk of the group, but he does a great job of showing how we can better motivate ourselves to save without relying on commitment devices.

“Why did you take my apple?!”

Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow – Shlomo Benartzi

It is encouraging to hear that we are already following a lot of the steps Benartzi laid out in this talk. My mom made sure I knew how important retirement saving was by constantly reminding me that her 401K was going to fund her Cocoon retirement plan. Clayton and I have been increasing our retirement savings every year and will continue to do so until we reach our 14% savings goal.

I would highly recommend any of these videos if you’re looking for a little financial motivation.

If you have a favorite finance video please share it in the comments!

Friday Finances – The Start

3 years ago Clayton and I formulated a 10 year plan. Our ultimate goal is to save enough money to take a year sabbatical and travel the world.

The first phase of our plan was to pay off all of our unsecured debt. It seemed easier to manage our finances when we had clear goals of what debt we wanted to pay off, when. I’d like to validate our current budget to maximize our savings.

Habit: Track spending every day for 66 days

Start Date: Wednesday, 03/01/2017

Projected End Date: Saturday, 05/06/2017

Action Plan:

  • Read 2 books on personal finance
  • Watch 3 TED Talks about personal finance
  • Analyze online budgeting tools
  • Determine best investment tools to save money with
  • Create a Pinterest inspiration board
  • Post weekly on Fridays about my progress

Incentive: Meet with a financial planner. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it really excites me!

Lofty Goal: Being healthy (financial health is a type of health!)

After we have built this habit we will know where we are spending our money. We have a budget but have never validated that we are adhering to our spending limits. I want to make sure we are saving as much as we can to reach our goal!

What tools do you use to stay on budget? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments!

Planned Preoccupation Check In

Happy New Year!

The new year is always a time for reflection, so let’s have a check in. I started this blog in the summer of 2015 and have cultivated 6 new habits and achieved 2 specific goals.

Writing

I have not been as strict about daily writing as I was with my initial habit. There was a point where the weekly posts were starting to cause me some anxiety so I took a few breaks over the course of the year. I want my energy focused on the habits themselves, not on this blog which should support the habits.

Meditation

Even though I don’t sit and meditate intentionally everyday this habit has helped me to manage my stress more effectively. I often focus on my breathing and clear my mind before I go into a meeting, or respond to a contentious email.

I have also completed 2 Headspace packs since I started this habit, and have the Motivation pack teed up as we dive into 2017!

Smoothies

I’ve got a freezer full of smoothie packs. It’s difficult to start the morning with a frozen drink when it is below freezing outside, but it’s still our quickest breakfast option. I also learned that if I freeze my ingredients on a baking sheet before I put them in the freezer bags they don’t turn into a big hunk of ice and are much easier to blend. So I’ve got that going for me.

8WW Meals

I have not kept up with this habit very well at all. I am often reminded of the Sharma quote, “knowing what to do and not doing it is the same as not knowing what to do.” Here’s to better food choices in 2017!

Spanish

This was the only habit I failed at during the initial 66 days, but it is the one I have kept up with the best since then. My mom started using Duolingo to learn Italian, and it is fun to check in with each other on our progress. I also have so many friends who try to engage my new found Spanish skills that I feel compelled to keep going!

Random Acts of Kindness

A great thing that came from this habit was learning about the generosity of my friends and family. Once I started talking more about philanthropy more people started sharing their good deeds with me. It has been a wonderful learning experience.

The structure this blog provides also helped me to organize our move to Red Wing and to get my Project Management Professional certification. Action planning focused my efforts and I was able to achieve my goals.

The support, suggestions, and encouragement you have provided in the comments have been invaluable! I am excited to continue on this journey of personal development, and know that 2017 will bring great things.

Here is a sneak peak of my next habit…

guessagain

Care to hazard a guess?!

Smoothie Sunday Check In

It’s been 6 months since I finished the first 66 days of my green smoothie habit. These breakfast drinks are fully integrated in our morning routine.

6 Month Goals:

  • Read 1 new book on food science
  • Try 1 new vegetarian restaurant

Book Breakdown:

The section where Openshaw listed all the different types of greens she uses in her smoothies and what parts of the plant to use was excellent. This week I left the ribs of most of my leafy greens in and I’m excited to try my radicchio and dandelion greens smoothies. I wish there had been a similar breakdown for the fruits and to that end there was not nearly enough of the content that I wanted. Anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims abound. I also thought her recipes had too much going on. I would not recommend this book, but I’m glad I read it.

Vegetarian Restaurant:Tonic

Tonic is a local kitchen and juice bar located in Rochester, MN. Clayton and I stopped in at the start of a road trip and they had a great selection of fresh juices and smoothies. I went with the Coastal Sunshine: orange, lemon, lime, and carrot. It was good, if a little heavy on the carrots.

For dinner I ordered the Market Vegetable Wrap and Clayton ordered the Midwest Mac. I ate more of Clayton’s meal than my own even though I was pleasantly surprised by the kale chips.

Our smoothie consumption stayed steady after I stopped tracking this habit daily. Of all the habits I have featured on this blog, this one has been the most successful. I feel comfortable moving forward without an additional check in!

Please stay tuned for a new habit as I continue my journey of personal development.

Meditation Monday Check In

It’s been a little over 6 months since I finished tracking my meditation habit. Now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the progress I have made.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • DONE – Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Aborted – Attend a Tai Chi class
  • BONUS – Practice Tai Chi on the Xbox One

Headspace:

Self-Esteem

The were 30 sessions in this pack and it was broken into 3 parts. In the first part we focused visualizing a calm blue sky, in the second part we visualized a bright light filling us, and in the third part we focused on letting our mind be free. I liked the last section because I experienced such a feeling of weightlessness and calm when he would say “let your mind be free and do whatever it wants.” It was more about creating a sense of calm and contentedness rather than trying to counter negative self-talk with positive self-talk. A neutral outlook is really what you are going for. Clayton seems that way naturally and I am trying to emulate him.

Focus

Another 30 sessions broken down into 3 parts. The exercises help you to practice focused flow by honing in on different parts of your body throughout the sit. You are supposed to carry the practice throughout the day and it is easy to pick up at random intervals.

Generosity will be my next pack. That will round out the series options, with Relationships since I have done one from Health and Performance.

Book Breakdown:

This book is broken down into 3 parts. Breathe! You Are Alive focuses on mindfulness and awareness in the small acts of life. The idea of smiling through out the day hit home with me, and I have made an effort to smile more to myself.

Transformation and Healing is about the benefits of mindfulness in healing difficult states. And Peace is Every Step is about the connection between inner peace and peace on earth. This book is short and sweet and full of wisdom. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Tai Chi:

After our move I discovered there are no Tai Chi classes in our small town. Rather than making a special trip up to the cities just to meet this goal, I decided to find something else that would allow me to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis. BodyWisdom is available thru Xbox Fitness and it tracks your movements with the Kinnect. I think this is a great alternative to an actual class, and as I learn the poses I plan to practice in a more serene area.

As I continue to practice meditation I find setting goals toward it is not in the spirit of the habit. I want to lessen my stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful state, not feel pressure to get it done. That is why I will not be setting an future action items. I plan to just enjoy the serenity that comes with a sit.

I’ll leave you with a one time use code for a free month of access to Headspace for the first person to enter it!

Gift Code: REW15-469237

Food Friday – The End

I’ve accomplished another habit! Now to take a step back and reflect on the last 2 months.

Action Plan Progress:8WWCover

  • DONE – 3/2 recipes from SparksRecipes attempted
  • DONE – 3/2 recipes from the 8WW workbook attempted
  • BONUS – 3 recipes from Mayo Clinic attempted
  • DONE – Photo journal on Instagram
  • DONE – Down 10.2 pounds!
  • DONE – 10/10 weekly progress updates about developing better eating habits posted

Grade: A+

Incentive: We did it! Not only did we eat an 8 Weeks to Wellness approved meal every day for 66 days, but both Clayton and I lost over 10 pounds! This is a cause for celebration. Good thing Clayton already bought our tickets to the Cubs home opener in April!

Lessons Learned: This change wasn’t nearly as hard as taking on a whole new diet. Transitioning from day 66 of tracking to day 1 of not tracking was a non-event. I still had a side salad and chicken noodle soup for lunch. I didn’t feel the need to rebel against the diet or overly celebrate. Clayton had a great call out. “I don’t have to eat everything I want all the time to feel satisfied.” Words to live by, indeed.

Another benefit to planning at least one meal a day is that I am better able to cope with my hectic work schedule. Over the last few months I have been able to eat a good lunch more often than not.

Having a secondary goal of weight loss definitely helped keep me motivated. Watching the weight steadily come off gave me renewed vigor at the start of each week. And I am excited to keep it up.

6 Month Goals:

  • Try 2 new Mayo Clinic recipes
  • Continue to use 8WW as a guide for portion control and food selection

Please be on the look out for my next healthy habit!

Inspiration & Implementation: Food Friday

My Food Friday inspiration board is starting to take shape. Take a look at my top resources.

InspirationBoard_8WWMealDay

1. Recipes Galore

We all know that Pinterest excels at food inspiration. There is no better place to round up all the great recipes I’ve tried over the last two months and the ones I still want to try.

2. Mason Jar Salad

My friend Kami made me my first jar salad a few weeks ago. I have been excitedly pinning great ideas for other more salad recipes. I’ll have to purchase some mason jars, but I think it will be a great investment.

3.  Nutrition Advice from Experts

I often try to seek out expert advice when trying to form a new habit. There are a lot of conflicting voices on the internet as it relates to nutrition, and it’s good to have resources available to feel confident in. I was glad to find healthy eating resources on the CDC and Mayo Clinic websites.

As I am nearing the end of my first 66 days of this 8WW meal a day habit I hope compiling these resources will help me sustain this habit going forward.

Please share your favorite healthy living resources in the comments!