Monday, December 22, 2014

End of Year Goals Check-In

Towards my birthday, I wrote a post about End-of-Year/29th Birthday Goals, and shortly after, wrote about how hubby and I were going to do the Buff Dudes' Challenge.....

Well, I'll just come right out and say it: I didn't achieve any of those fitness goals. I was on track and making good progress before it got colder, but as the temperature dropped dramatically and it started raining more days than not, I struggled to keep my motivation and routine going (still struggling). I failed to account for that aspect when MAKING the goals, so maybe that aspect alone may be that my goal was less realistic than it could have been.

Or, maybe I just needed to work harder and meet  my goals instead of being a lazy butt.

Either way, I am not going to cry over it because you can't change the past, only the future. For now, between the cold and the holidays (including our anniversary on the 28th), as long as eating is decent and I am getting a walk here and there to maintain, I am ok with what it is. In January and heading into Spring, hubby and I will work as hard as we can to meet the goals.

On the bright side, I am lower in weight than I have been in a while-and definitely lower than I was this time last year, mainly due to the fitbit I have in helping me keep on track. On my birthday, I was 196-199 pounds, but I currently sit at 181, so that is a huge win for me, and I will take it.

As for the financial side of things, here's where we stand on that:

You may remember from this post that both my husband and I were going to be laid off from the same job. As I mentioned in that post, I had already got a new job so had taken my PTO and applied it to my car  payment. Husband's last day was 11/4, and once he (finally) got his first unemployment check, we took a large part of his severance and finished paying off the car. So the car is now owned free and clear! We are very excited about that, but unfortunately, the plan to SAVE that same money got wiped out by the fact that we will need to pay for ACA insurance (instead of having it come out pre-tax from our checks), and that will be about $167/month, and we got notice that our  rent is increasing $50/month starting 1/1/2015. So we were kind of bummed about that since instead of saving it, the amount, and a little more (car payment was $180 including principle payments) will be eaten up by other things. On the bright side: By getting rid of our non-working car (which we've meant to do for months), we save about $20 off the car insurance premium over what we were paying for two cars, so it all balances out and pretty much breaks even, so at least there's that. And, of course it's only temporary that we break even right now, since as soon as hubby gets a job, we SHOULD be able to save a bit more than we are now.

As for where we stand on the rest of the finances, I would say we're doing pretty well, actually. Here are some of the highlights:

-I finally have the day-to-day things fully automated and correct. Since we now have two checking accounts, one is used for "spending" money and one is used for bills money. Since I had calculated what it takes to cover all bills and have it direct deposited in the bills account, and automated, all bills get paid on time (which they were before, but sometimes would get crossed because different due dates so sometimes spending money would screw it up) and having an account for a set amount of spending money has been very helpful for us because if it's not in the account, we don't spend it. (The ultimate, can't-see-it-can't-spend-it set up.) And because of this, it has really cut back on our accidental spending and then having to rearrange/transfer money from savings to cover bills. Win, win!

-While I do still need to set up IRAs for both myself and (help) hubby, and transfer my 401k from previous employer to a new carrier, our savings themselves are slowly growing. When I first started this blog, I believe between all accounts for savings, it was ~$1800, but is now around $2200-2300 (though I do have a few small things to pay off like a medical bill from October when I had laryngitis), so there's good news that we're maintaining the same level, if not growing it very slowly while husband is still unemployed.

That's where I am at currently. I hope that by the end of 2015, I will have all previously laid out goals met, and then some. (I won't rehash them since they are in the linked info and you can see them, so don't want you to have to re-read them, again.)

How about you? Where are you at in your goals and plans? Have you had some set-backs that you're working to overcome? How is that going for you? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things With Money

In the recent past (a couple months ago), I read Bert Whitehead's Why Smart People Do Stupid Things With Money: Overcoming Financial Dysfunction, and here's some of my thoughts on it.

Whitehead, for the most part, writes in easy-to-understand language for people who may not be familiar with every concept he speaks about. He occasionally goes off into something that, to me, didn't always make sense, or sometimes left things without examples, but I guess that's to be expected sometimes.

One thing I did like about the book, was that Whitehead talked about different Money Personalities that he created by observing his clients. (That link goes to a completely different site since I could not find the personality matrix on Whitehead's own site, which you'd think would have it.) The personalities are The Bon Vivant, The Entrepreneur, The Nester and The Traveler, and each has it's own different quirks and "dysfunctions" about them. While no one thing can pinpoint any one person, the personality types are a great way to get an idea on what makes one "tick" as far as money and to start to identify ways to help direct things the way that is wanted/needed.  So that is one positive thing about the book.

However, Whitehead has some distinct things he writes about that I simply don't agree with, and would never practice in my own life or recommend  to others. For example, he talks about NOT paying your house off early if you are able to and says instead that you should keep the mortgage for the entire term and put the money into the stock market, giving an example of how much more it can grow over time, etc. While that could be true, there's no guarantee of it, and while a house is NOT an investment and also carries no guarantees, I feel that if you are able to pay off your house early, it's a good idea to do so since at least you'll have a place to live. Suze Orman agrees with me on this.

Another point that Whitehead makes that struck me as odd and I don't really agree with, is that he would like people to "upgrade" their mortgage and take on more debt at different stages of their lives, almost regardless of their need for a different house. If you're making more money, he wants you to upgrade the mortgage to a more expensive one. I don't agree with this simply for the fact that you should not take on more debt just because you may make more money or something changes in your life that DOESN'T require a different dwelling-in fact, if you make more money than when you bought your house, that's a great way to add to your retirement nest egg through your chosen method of investment or savings. If your life circumstances change and you need to upgrade or downgrade, then by all means, explore your options for changing your dwelling and/or mortgage, but not simply because your income increases.

Overall, I think there is some value in some of the information provided in the book-such as the money personalities listed above-but that many things are either so far removed from the average person that they are not entirely helpful or that things (like above) are out of the scope of reality to the point of being bad advice. If using the star rating system, I'd have to say for me, this book falls in the category of 3/5 stars.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

No Job? No Problem! (Or at least silver lining to being laid off.)

Note: I started this Thursday, and actually just forgot to post it, so the part about yesterday was referring to Wednesday. That is all. ;)

About three weeks ago (exactly three weeks ago yesterday actually), Husband and I (who work at the same place) both received "Pink Slips" informing us that our office was closing and that we'd all be laid off between November 2 and December 31. This didn't come as a surprise since the parent company closed another of our offices just before Christmas last year.

We do, however, regret not finding other jobs on our own timeline instead of a forced one that was thrust upon us by impending unemployment.  We actually both had been looking earlier in the year but didn't necessarily find things or have luck when we did, so knowing we had this job to go to, kind of became placated and stopped looking as hard as we maybe could have. But that's life. Just have to get back on track.

I would have perhaps liked the opportunity to take a few weeks of unemployment to focus on personal projects and decide what I want to do, but since our savings are not nearly sufficient to weather the storm (most experts recommend 6 months basic living expense for this very reason, and we have about 1 months worth ) since we really only started to save again this year, I did actually go get another job that I will start on Monday. It may not be a "Dream Job", necessarily, but since the idea of unemployment puts me in the "Physiological" and "Safety" tiers of the Self-Actualization Pyramid, it also means doing what's necessary for a while.  But it is a job that will pay the bills, and that I would at least be happy to go to, so that's always good.  And has a nice bonus of being a bit more money than the job I am leaving, so that when Husband also finds a job, we can save a little more.

While being laid off almost always sucks, and breeds a negative situation, there was a lot of good that came from this that I hadn't thought of before we got the letters. So it got me thinking and doing, and here are some of the most positive things that came from it (or will come from it, hubby has been laid off yet) that I can think of:

-Finally Opened a second checking account so that bills can come from one and spending money from the other, so there will be no more accidental spending of money that is meant for something else. This will also allow me to more finely tune/correct the due dates/autopay for things.

-Since I got a nice payout for accumulated/unused PTO of about $500, I am going to apply that to the Principle of my car payment. Currently, it sits around $1300 left, so this will bring it down to around $800 and make it paid off that much faster. My husband, since he is staying till the end of the company, will also get a severance that will also be applied to the car. His severance will be more than the remaining $800 by a few hundred dollars, so we'll officially be free from the car payment which will also officially make us COMPLETELY debt free! It was a goal to pay off the car by the end of this year, but due to other circumstances, we knew we weren't going to be able to. (It wouldn't have been much farther off though-we were looking at around February, which would still have put us about 20 months ahead of the contracted loan date.) But now, with severance and PTO, we will. And this frees up the $180/month ($160 contracted plus $20 for principle) for savings--which since the car payment is on Autopay,  I will just set it up to be auto-transferred on the same day it would have cleared so we don't even see it. Automation for the win!

-Since my husband will stay until the very end, unless he finds something he can't pass up, and we can maintain our finances with my job and unemployment, this will give him a chance to spend some time on personal projects and decide what he would like to do. I think this is really important for him, and had we been able to keep up with us both not working, I would have done the same for a short while.  We figure that since unemployment is for 6 months, that gives about 3 months where he can look for only things that interest him, and complete personal projects/go to the gym/etc. At the 4 month mark is when he'll start to apply more broadly, but doesn't need to accept a job for the sake of a job right away. We are both hoping this strategy will work well for us, but we will have to see where it goes.

-Technically, I gave myself a raise with the new job since I'll be making about $1/hour more.  It may not seem like a lot in the moment, but that extra $40/week is an extra $2080/year toward savings and/or retirement/investment funds, and therefore, a chance to be a millionaire that much sooner. I know what you're thinking: "But people tend to blow their money when they get raises. You won't even see that extra money." Wrong! It is important to maintain your standard of living when you get extra money, and this is where automation of finances really comes into play. If you can't SEE that extra money in your checking account because it is automatically deposited in savings, you can't SPEND that extra money.

-And finally, one more positive that I could think of was that I will finally be able to correctly automate via direct deposit so I don't have to transfer money from checking to savings. With our current company, the payroll system has been kind of messed up/complicated to make changes to for a while. So, this gives me a chance to start completely fresh with the correct amounts needed for each thing, so I am actually excited about this part.

So, how's that for a silver lining to a dark rain cloud?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buff Dudes' 12 Week Challenge

I've  been meaning to write this for a while, but as always, sometimes life gets in the way. Oh well, here we go now...

My husband recently decided to re-commit to fitness, so a couple weeks ago, on September First (convenient that a Monday is also the first day of the month!), we started The Buff Dudes' 12 Week Challenge.

Technically, this should be week three for us, but we were so sore after the first week, that we could barely do more than walk-and even that was a challenge. (I even missed Zumba last Tuesday because I was too sore. *Sniff, Sniff*) So with that, we made this week two and got our exercises with walks and whatever we could do last week.

(Side note: if you are sore after the gym or any workout, make sure to stretch and do what you can while recovering. Moderate movement like walking is actually really helpful to feel better. Don't overdo it--work within your limits and respect that your body may need to heal after an intense workout-especially if you are just starting or it's been a while. But "Don't overdo it" does NOT mean, sit around on the couch like a lump. Lack of movement is likely to make your pain worse.)

Husband and I somewhat modified the program because I have somewhat different goals than what's laid out, and we both have limitations in some exercises so we have to do others (Can't do pull ups yet, so work a lot on lat pull-downs, etc.), but this is a great program we can both do that is closest to our individual goals, that still allows us to work as a team. Which is great because we can help keep each other going and kick each other's butts, which is why we like working out together, but gets hard when people have totally different goals.

Since it is only week two for us, there's not much that we can report on in terms of progress. But I will periodically make updates on how we're doing, any changes we are making to the plan, etc. In the meantime, here are the "Before" Pictures (which are technically "progress" pictures for me):

 Until Next Time, as the Buff Dudes say: STAY BUFF, DUDES (and BUFFETTES)!*

*They call women "Grrls", but Husband came up with Buffette, and I like it way better so that's what we use. (And you can feel free to use it, Buff Dudes!)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pom-Cran-Bluberry Smoothie Recipe

Last year when I was doing a fruit and vegetable cleanse with juicing, smoothies and fruit/veggies as my only source of food/nutrition for a week, I went to Emerald City Smoothie near us, and got an all fruit version of their Eternal Energizer.  (So, no soy milk or alternatives, as their menu offers.) Since the first time I had it, I loved it, and had several more (of course) here and there.  I wanted to recreate the recipe at home, but had forgotten to look for cranberries for the longest time. I finally had some cranberries a few weeks ago,and after some experimentation, I've come up with a pretty good emulation of it, and wanted to share it with you.

-1 cup frozen blueberries
-1/2 cup frozen cranberries
-1/4 cup concentrate (100%) pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful)
-3/4 cup water (you can use less if you'd like a thicker smoothie)

Toss everything in your blender and mix until it's your desired consistency.*  Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Nutrition Info:
150 Calories, 0.4g fat, 4.3g fiber, 38.1g carbs, 5.1mg sodium, 1.1g protein

* You may need to use less or more water, depending on your preferences. I also use frozen fruit, so if you use fresh fruit, you'll probably need to forgo the water since you'll add ice.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fitbit One Review

My husband got me a Fitbit One for my birthday 2 weeks ago, and after more than a week of wearing it and debating about it, here are some of my thoughts on it.

If you're not familiar with it, Fitbit is a company that makes various body trackers. They come in various styles, including bracelets and, like mine, one you clip to yourself via a holder, and they track things like steps, stairs, calories burned, and sleep.

-Sleek, compact design makes it so I don't notice when it's clipped to me. (I keep it clipped to my bra, but you can wear it at your hip, etc.)

-It does keep me moving since I am always trying to get at least the daily goals (10k steps, etc.) or badges, and will find creative ways to do so. I have been known lately to walk around and around and around my kitchen to get more steps, or run up and down the stairs, and have also started taking walks on my breaks at work. So this is very, very good.

-The Fitbit interface makes it very easy to track calories in and out. So easy, in fact, that I actually care and remember to do so every day (so far), as opposed to my maintaining my ideal of "not counting calories, but make each calorie count". (Which, by the way, I think is very important for people who are not trying to lose weight, but maintain. You don't need to stress about every single calorie, but you should work on making the calories you consume count and be productive.) Fitbit interface keeps track of most logged food and recently logged food, so if you are a creature of habit like me and can eat the same thing every day, it is right there and easy to click on to log it. It also allows you to create meals to track multiple foods at once-for example, husband makes turkey wraps for me and after I created the meal and logged the food the first time, I no longer have to find/click every ingredient when I need to log it.

-As mentioned above, the Fitbit awards badges for activities, such as 10,000 steps or 10 flights of stairs,  and increases the amount you need to earn the badge as you keep earning them. So, if  you like to make a game of things, this is a great way to get extra movement.

-Syncs very easily, as long as all things are working correctly. It syncs approximately every 15-20 minutes when you are within 15 feet of the USB and have internet connection.  I have sometimes had to refresh the dashboard once or twice to see the new steps, but otherwise had not had problems.

Updated 09/05/2014 to add: Last night, I could not get it to sync automatically. I followed the trouble shooting steps in the help, including removing USB and reentering, etc. I was able to finally manually sync it by reopening the main platform and "Restarting" it, and then it did automatically sync on it's own after that. So I am glad for that, but it does make me a little twitchy that it had to have that done so early on. We'll see how it goes.

-It sometimes has questionable accuracy. There was an instance last week that, from 6:30pm to 8:15pm, it said I took zero steps. I knew this was inaccurate because I had just come from an hour long cardio class, and to get home required walking down stairs, to my car, out of my car, up apartment stairs, and I was walking around the apartment during that time (grabbing dinner, using bathroom, etc.) So it should have tracked at least 200-300 steps during that period.  It occasionally also goes in the opposite direction and, depending on where you wear it, may pick up extra steps than actually occurred. I mostly see it pick up less than actuality though, which is OK.  For the most part, it seems accurate within reason. (No device will ever be 100% accurate 100% of the time.) But when it's off, it seems to be off a bit, as demonstrated above.

-Stairs are not accurate. There is no way around this, at all. Since it is elevation based, and not actual stairs based, it will record flights very differently than what stairs you actually climb. In the Help/FAQ for Fitbit, it shows that it equates 1 flight to 10 feet in elevation gained. So if you are walking in a hilly area, you get credited with flights of stairs, which is awesome. But it's annoying when you spend time climbing up and down stairs over 20 times in a row, which I have done, and get credited with only one or two flights.  So, realizing that, I kind of of gave up on the stairs thing. If I see that I am close to the goal (10 flights/day), I will still go climb a few times to get those in, but don't really rely on the stairs part.

-It is very inconvenient to have to put the tracker in the bracelet it came with at night to track sleep, and then back into the carrying clip in the mornings to track steps, etc.  It requires finagling with Velcro wrist strap at night, which occasionally falls off during the night, and then fidgeting with it in the morning to get it back in the clip in the morning. This is specific to my device, but there are others, so if you get a bracelet style (which I believe is named Fitbit Force), you don't have to worry about this issue.

-Sleep tracking is not accurate. While it is kind of fun to set the timer and then see the numbers, it is not an accurate way to determine sleep patterns. Nor can it be. The Fitbit devices "track" sleep patterns by movement. So if you toss and turn in your sleep, it will track that as restless, which can be good to know, but does not actually have a way to track sleep vs. awake, since you can be wide awake but if you are lying perfectly still, it will count it as asleep.  I do not know if you stopped and restarted the timer each time you awoke, if it would count it as awake.  I was thinking that I would test this soon to find out, but is a matter of remembering to do so during the night. If I ever test this, I will update this post with that information. In the mean time, I will say it's good to get a general idea of sleep times, but would not recommend someone with sleep problems to rely solely on the information you get from the Fitbit devices.

Though it does have some things that are...quirky...about it, I did decide to go ahead and keep it.  It did, after all, get me moving more and help me track calories in a convenient way so I knew I wasn't taking in too few or too many. And because of those things, it allowed me make this exciting statement:

I finally broke my 2-month long Plateau and lost just over 5 pounds last week! Hooray!!!

So that's where I stand on the Fitbit One. I hope this helps if you are deciding if you should get one or not.  Do you  have any cool fitness tools that have been helping you? Please share below!

Friday, August 22, 2014

28th Birthday and Goals for the Upcoming Year

Today is my 28th birthday (happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me :)), and as such, I thought it would be a perfect time to come up with some goals, see where I am on current goals. So here are my current numbers and where I am hoping to be:

110 POUNDS (Doubling my recent 55 pounds)
TRICEP: 20 POUNDS (Behind Head)
50-60 POUNDS
160-170 POUNDS (Or be able to do pull-ups without weight assist)
PUSUPS: 0 PROPER (I am working off the wall currently)
Running: 3 Laps around park (without stopping), which equals ~.60 miles
10 laps without stopping, which equals ~2.1 miles

So these are my goals for the end of the year. I also started thinking last week about goals for by my 29th birthday, but all I could come up with was “Run 10 miles (or more)”.  It “bothered” me for a bit that I couldn’t think of anything else, but as I thought on it more and more, I think, maybe that’s a good thing.  I could list high  numbers for goals for weightlifting, but as I am trying to get, and maintain, lean muscle (as opposed to “bulking up”), there would not be much point to that. Plus, it’s hard to predict where one will be in a year, so by not defining anything other than a running goal (that should be achievable), it gives me leeway to define goals as I see where I’m at. It also helps to not set me up for failure or disappointment—since there are few things more disheartening than to set a goal and fail to make it.

Those are my goals for fitness, but what about finances?  Well, those numbers haven’t changed much since my starting post where I said where I was, mostly because I haven’t done anything with it  (fixing my automation, setting up an IRA, etc.)  so that will definitely be a task to take care of right away. (I can’t become a millionaire if I am not working on it!) As for actual goals, since it is hard to define, I don’t have many.  I would, however, like to see our savings at $10,000 minimum (between all accounts), or at least on a path to be there by the end of NEXT year, and to see our 401(k)/IRA and other investment accounts growing.  I can’t control how those accounts grow (other than what I put into them), so I am not even going to try to quantify it with a number, but as long as they are growing, we’re headed in the right direction.

I think these are reasonable and attainable goals, and as long as I keep chipping away at them, I should be “sitting pretty” by this time next year. I may even be a completely different person! (I’m counting on it/hoping for it.) I am taking a loss this week, though, since it IS birthday week and I will be doing/eating things I wouldn’t normally. But that is part of life, and I will get right back it as soon as possible, then… take over the WORLD! Mwahaha.  Or not.  But I will get back on track and keep getting better and better.  I am looking forward to seeing the Erin a year from now!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ALS Icebucket Challenge

I was challenged by a friend to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Unless you've been living in a cave the last week or, you know what the challenge is: Dump ice on your head for ALS.

So here's my video:

I accepted the challenge, and in return challenge:
-Arnold Schwarzenegger
-My Husband
-My Roller Derby Hero, Scald Eagle, of Portland's very own Rose City Rollers

The Rules:
-You have  24 hours to either Dump ice on yourself AND donate $10 to ALS at OR you may forgo ice and donate $100. People have been failing to mention that is is Ice AND donate, or donate a larger amount, so some people have the impression that by dumping ice over themselves, they don't need to donate, which makes it seem as if people would "rather dump ice on themselves than donate" to a good cause. Don't do that, that's terrible.  Please remember to do, and mention, both.
-You now have the privilege/responsibility to challenge OTHER people to do this task and join in on the madness. 2-4 people seems to be the ideal number. Remember to tag the people you challenge so they know. :)

That's all there is to it! Now get out there cold for a few minutes for a good cause!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Change your mind, change your life. Or, some thoughts on a Positive frame of mind.

Sometime last year, around or before my 27th birthday, my husband told me that he had a dream about me being in really great shape with a firm/toned body, wearing a Wonder Woman tank top, and completely dominating at the gym. He said he saw me in the dream doing pull-ups without any weight assistance like it was nothing at all; that he saw me benching and squatting more weight than ever, and doing many other difficult feats like a pro. (He had a very detailed dream, obviously.)  I was very inspired and said to him "By the end of the year, I will be that woman. By my 28th birthday, I will make THAT woman look weak."

Well, my 28th birthday is in a few days, and I have not officially met either of those proclaimed goals/statements. However, I am making decent progress, and am on a path to get there. I have been more consistent this year than I had been previously-in both working out and eating better- and have been getting some results here and there. Results have been frustratingly stagnant over the last two or so months-I have stayed at the same weight range the whole time despite working very hard- but at least I know I am not going BACKWARDS (gaining weight), and that helps keep me mentally on track.

The fact that I can say that I have not reached a goal, but that it is OK because I am making progress, is by far, the greatest psychological win that could be asked for. My journey is no longer defined by a number on a scale, but rather the numbers that I know matter more: Can I run longer? Can I lift more weight? Can I do something that I previously couldn't? 

Last year, if I worked out a lot but didn't see any change in the scale, I would have breakdowns and "throw a fit", for lack of better words. Now, when I see the same frustrating number on the scale for several weeks in a row, I can accept it and move on because I know what work I put in and what I am capable of and know that eventually things will turn.  I am more confident in my abilities and celebrate smaller victories, such as gaining 2 seconds when running a lap around the park or running 10 feet farther than the last time. And my attitude in general has become more positive.

But these things didn't come from wishful thinking, nor did they happen overnight. They came from constant, willful working on mental habits. (And is STILL a constant work on it.)

If I'd catch myself falling into negativity, or if my husband caught me, I would work to find something positive to say or focus on in efforts to change my attitude.  At first, this was HARD and I'd really have to think of something positive to say-which goes to show the depth of my lack of esteem or positivity, I think. As time went on, and the habit became more developed, it became easier  to find things, and more importantly, to believe them (instead of just talking the talk). I also find that being more positive helps me work harder,  and working harder helps me be more positive-it's a circle of good. 

I believe that the mental aspect is as important as everything else when making changes (to anything-not just finances or weight), if not the most important thing. There is a quote attributed to Henry Ford (whether that's true or not, I have no idea) that kind of goes along with this idea: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." I think that hits the nail on the head. People who believe they can do something, push through to do it-even if it takes a while or has to be worked up to/done in steps. People who believe they can't do something quit or procrastinate or make excuses to not do it, etc. I want to be in the first group, believing that I can do what I need to, and moving forward with mental fortitude to weather the storms.

So what can you do to make some positive changes and defeat the negative self-talk? While no list is going to be definitive or apply to everyone, here are some things that have helped me:

-Replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and be specific. Example: When I would  say or think something about being fat, I would then say out loud something that is better. "I did x better today"/"My arms are shaping up", etc.  This may be hard at first, and you may feel insincere, but that is all the more reason to keep doing it. It will become more natural as you keep doing it, and easier to find things. This doesn't just apply to one thing. ANY negative thought you have can, and should, be reframed with a more positive one.

-Count Your Blessings.  I know this sounds like a cliché thing to say, but I mean it in the most literal sense. Last year, I spent several months stating things I was grateful for,  just one (or two) a day. I started in the end of September, and by the end of the year, I had over 50 "blessings" counted, before I lost track of the number. Again, sometimes this is easier than others (I started with "1. I am Alive" if you need some inspiration), but with some thought, I am sure you will find numerous things to be grateful for or that make you happy. And it is really difficult to not start to be more positive when you are spending conscious brain power on exuding gratefulness.

-Have someone hold you accountable/hold someone else accountable.  Such a simple, yet powerful, concept. If you notice a friend/loved one saying something negative, (gently) call them out and ask them to say something positive. Ask a trusted friend/loved one to hold you to the same standards and let them know you are trying to do better.

-Question the negativity. Sometimes the best/fastest way to start to turn the negativity around and embrace a more positive outlook is to question it within yourself. Ask yourself WHY you feel that way, or where it may have come from.  This seems obvious, but many people do not do it, instead just accepting it as "the way things are". But, as the saying goes, the first step to resolving a problem, is to identify it. You may sometimes surprise yourself if you dig a little deeper in yourself and find that what you think about something, or where it came from, couldn't be further from the truth. Once you start to identify things, it helps you decide how you want to proceed and if something needs to be changed, and how. 

If you are battling your own negative self-talk, I hope these ideas help you start to find some positivity. Do you have some ideas that worked for you, or a story about how you accomplished something once you changed your attitude? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Books On Investing

For the last (several) weeks I had been reading The Warren Buffet Way (Robert Hagstrom). I should say, trying and failing. I even tried changing from the first edition (from 1995) to the third edition (from 2013) in case an updated version would be more helpful. But it wasn't, and I finally gave up the ghost.

I don't honestly know why I stuck with for as long as I did. It is definitely not in my style.  I am sure there may be some people who may get some valuable, usable information from this book. I, however, am not one of them. This book talks primarily about Buffet's methods of choosing stocks, which while that may someday be useful knowledge, I am not there yet.

It is also written in story style, where it gives a lot of information in long paragraphs and you kind of have to figure out what it means, which I find harder to retain. (And if you can't retain it, you won’t ever act on it.) I learn in easily digestible information (like bullet points) that gives me the basic groundwork and I can research further on my own to expand upon.

So I requested The Complete Idiot's Guide to Investing (Edward T. Koch and Debra Jonson) from my local library and just picked it up yesterday and browsed through it. I haven't read much yet, but so far it seems as though it will be right up my alley. Some of the information I may already know from my own instincts or research, but there is still a lot to be gleaned from it, which is why I love For Dummies and Complete Idiot's Guide type books.

But of course, before I do any actual investing, some things I need to take care of are automating my finances/fixing my automation, and setting up my IRA, all of which I will be doing ASAP. Ramit Sethi's book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, which I mentioned in this post has a 6 week guideline to get finances in order, which if you need help with that, you should definitely check out his book. It has taken me WELL OVER 6 weeks to get things taken care of, but that is more due to forgetfulness than anything else. But I need to get it taken care of because every day it's not done is one less day my money can compound and work for me. So, I will get it taken care of right away! In the meantime, I will still continue to read and absorb as much as possible. And then, on to investing!

Where are you currently at? How are you doing with your financial goals? Have you read or learned anything interesting lately? Please comment below!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Current Pictures

I said in an earlier post that I would get more current pictures this week.  Looking at them, I don't see a huge difference, which is weird because I know my clothes are fitting better and that I am looking thinner.

So I guess I will have to trust the process and trust that even though the scale AND picture are seemingly not changing, that I really am.  Which becomes really frustrating and demotivating, but all I can do is keep trying. And there are SOME small differences, if you look closely, so at least there's that.

Here are the older pictures and the ones from today, for comparison:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shin Splints and You: What You can do about these Pests

When I run, I tend to get the dreaded, god-awful lower-leg pain that plagues many runners, newbies and experienced alike. You know what I mean: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, or as normal non-medical people call it, shin splints.

Though I do have all kinds of running goals as part of being healthy (races, etc.), you will likely never hear me say I like/love running. I love the power I gain from it (getting faster, gaining endurance, etc.) and the physical benefit of helping me lose weight, but the running itself-meh. I'm sure there are many people who feel the same. This feeling only gets compacted when the elation of your hard-won victory (time or distance) is short-lived because it is followed by pain. Would I like running better if I didn't get shin splints? Maybe, maybe not.

But since it is ultimately part of my long-term goals (to run a marathon someday), and I want to do well at it even if I don't love it, I decided to do some research on ways to help shin splints. It turns out, my instincts were correct, and there a few basic moves you can do to help them (which I already do, so I will need to remember to include them more often). I will get to these in a minute, but first let's talk about shin splints themselves.

What are Shin Splints?
Most simply, shin splints are pain in the front lower leg during or after activities such as running, dancing, etc. It can be towards the sides or straight down below the knee cap. In my experience, it also sometimes includes my ankles becoming tight. Different people experience different things.

What Causes Shin Splints?
Mayo Clinic's very brief description states: "Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone." A more complete description can be found on this site, but the basic gist is that stress and pressure on your bones can cause them.

How can you help Shin Splits?
And finally, what you may have come here for: How can you take care of these irritating things? There are several ways you can help treat/prevent further shin splints. A quick internet search will show you dozens and dozens of different exercises and tricks you can use, but here are some of the most common ones:

-Stretch: It is common knowledge that stretching promotes flexibility and can help alleviate pain in muscles because it expands muscles that have been contracted by exercise. It is hotly debated and highly studied if you should stretch before or after exercise, so I'll leave that to your trainer or doctor to make recommendations for you, but the consensus is that stretching is good for you. You should be doing this even if you don't have shin splints. 

-Toe-Taps are a good way to exercise your shins to strengthen them. (I call them toe-taps, you may call them shin raises.) I find it easier to do them when seated on the edge of a chair, but you can also do them standing.  With feet flat on floor, lift toes toward legs until you feel it in your shin area, and return to flat. Think about the inverse of a calf raise. Instead of raising heels, you will raise toes.  Here is a visual--this is not my image so I don't control if it will always be there. How many times you do this depends on you and your abilities.

-Ankle Circles can help loosen and strengthen your ankles. Make sure to rotate in both directions to get the full benefit. Again, how many times you do this depends on you and your abilities. If you need extra challenge, you could always add in ankle weights. 

-Strengthen Your Calves: There is a lot of information about strengthening calves and shin splints to be found. Here is a great article that covers it better than I can condense it or explain it. 

-Rest: When experiencing symptoms, make sure to rest up. Use ice, elevation, and heat in a combination that helps you. 

-Make sure you have proper gear. What proper gear is, is relative to the individual, and it may take some experimenting to find it. At the very least, you should have well-fitting shoes that give you support where you need it most-which also varies by individual. Some people also use things like braces or wraps to help
-Change your stride/gait or form. This is a last resort option, if all else fails to work. That being said,  it is CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT that you do not attempt this on your own, and instead consult with a medical professional such as a Physical Therapist. That point cannot be emphasized enough. If you have tried everything else and still have problems, there may be something entirely different than shin splints going on. Consult with your Medical Professional to rule anything else out and/or to work on changing gait or "strike pattern" (the position your foot is in when it hits the ground).

Above all else, Listen to your Body. While a lot of pain while working out can be psychological (mind over body), only you know how much pain you can tolerate and if something doesn't feel right. Listen to those clues that your body gives you--pain included--to know what's going on and if you should do something about it.

I hope these tips help. If you have one that isn't listed, please feel free to share it in the comments!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Starting/Current Numbers

As promised in my first post, here are all the numbers that I am starting from, or are at currently. I will periodically update as things change, but for certain things, I don't expect them to change very rapidly. So maybe the updates will be infrequent for things like growing 401K, etc., but I will always be as complete as possible.   As of today, 07/29/2014, this is where I am at:

Predictable Income: ~21,000/year (Income from day job which doesn't include OT or anything from side/personal projects that I may do), or ~42,000/year if you include husband's income. (We work at the same place, and make the same.)

Checking: ~600ish-- I don't actually expect this to change that drastically because of the way savings accounts are set up and the cyclical nature of getting paid and money going to bills. But you never know...

Savings: ~1800--I actually have 3 accounts for savings, or rather, one account and 2 sub accounts. Though, this number reflects the total of all of them because since they are tied, if a big emergency happens, I could easily transfer funds to use. But let's just hope that doesn't happen.  I have one for "Life's Hassles" or the emergency fund, one for "Down Payment" and one for "Fun/Vacation Money".

Why so many? I believe, and I think many would agree,  that it's important to have REASONS that you are saving to help keep on track. It's easier to say "I am saving for Ireland" or "This will buy my house someday" than to just vaguely say "I need to save." So, if you find yourself struggling to save money, that's my first suggestion: Besides saving for a rainy day, sit down and decide/define WHY you want to save, or what you're saving for. You may just find that this step naturally makes you more conscious of your spending and saving habits, and helps you add to your savings.

401K Plan: My plan account says ~400, but it takes a while to register contributions, and my paystub says ~500, so we'll go with that./ Husband's is ~230. (We both just opened them this year, and he started after me.) We both contribute 10% each check, and receive 4% match from our employer.

Debt: Aside from my car payments (of which I should be rid of in about 7 months), and perhaps a less than $200 cell phone bill that I forgot to pay when I cancelled my previous service (which will be taken care of in the next month or so), neither I nor my husband carry any substantial debt-a fact that I am proud of, especially since at one point after having some hard times after our move between states, we were paying off a maxed out credit card of $1500. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case in about a year or more. So, for the purposes of this blog,  I say I am debt free. Hooray!

Total "Net Worth":  About $3130 between all combined accounts. So, I am a long way from a millionaire. But that's OK--Even Warren Buffett had to start somewhere! 

Current Weight: ~195-196 Pounds. Despite being consistent in working out and eating better, this number has not changed in several weeks. While I have been experimenting with various factors that could be causing it, I do realize that my body is changing and that I am getting stronger and healthier, so I TRY to not focus on the number on the scale too much. I think I will also go back to not weighing in more than once a week-that seems to be a good number as opposed to the 3-4 times a week I do now.

Pictures are always a good way to track, and husband and I had been doing about every 2 weeks for a while, but haven't been consistent in months-So that's one goal I'll be working on, to be more consistent about pictures-especially since the scale can be a trickster, and a good motivator to keep going is to SEE in a side-by-side comparison how things change.

These ones below are about a month old. I will take some more current ones this week.

So now that we know where I am currently at, let's march forward and make some progress!

Is there something you're working on? Where are you starting from/currently at? Leave a comment below and share in the journey. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

About Buff Millionaire

Hi! Welcome to my blog. This is the first entry, so I thought I'd lay my goals out and answer questions that may (or may not) come up soon:

The Buff Millionaire? What? What is that?
Well, that's me. Or, at least... it will be. Two of my goals are to be in exceptional athletic shape, and to be financially independent-or, even better, a millionaire.

Recently, it has become sort of a positive mantra in my life. "I'm going to be a buff millionaire." I say it randomly, in good moods and bad. In good moods, it's a reminder to what my future holds. In bad moods, it sometimes helps me remember the bigger picture or gives me a positive thought to try and replace other negative ones. It doesn't ALWAYS work, but then no one is perfect. More importantly, I have made  it a mantra in my life because I believe that the first step to achieving any goal, is to first declare it and believe that you can.

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?
Currently, this blog will track my progress as I work toward these goals. I don’t know how often I’ll update, or what the updates will consist of-maybe weigh-ins, things I learn about finance, etc.  It may evolve into something entirely different, but for the time being, it will be a way for me to hold myself accountable, remind me to work on things (hopefully), and will allow me to share progress with anyone who may read.  If you're currently working on your own fitness or finance goals-or anything else for that matter-I'd love to hear from you. It's always great to build community, and share journeys 

Do I have specific goals?
Well, yes and no.

As far as my weight/body goes, my first goal is to get back down to 165-170 pounds, as that is what I weighed roughly 5 years ago before moving in with my now-husband and gained a lot of weight. At my highest, I was 215 pounds, and while it has (thankfully!) been a long time since I've seen that weight, I have been gaining and losing the same several pounds and have been hovering in the same area for a while now. So I decided it's time to break the cycle and get where I need to be. Actually, I decided that a long time ago, and have already been working out regularly lately,  but now I have this blog to track where I am.

So, after I hit the 165-170 goal, this is where the non-specific comes in, I will continue to exercise, but will allow my body to get as small as it's meant to, without a number in mind.  So if I get to be a tiny 110, or 140, or 170, it doesn't matter to me, as long as I am HEALTHY. I feel like I'll know when I've reached my body's natural frame, and then from there can work on perfecting my muscle tone.

For the financial side, Well... it recently entered my mind to be a millionaire by the time I am 40. So that's actually a reasonable goal. That gives me 12 years and a few weeks to accomplish this. A lofty goal, perhaps. But I think it can be done and I will work, work, work to make it happen.

How will I meet these goals?
The most basic answer is the best one, in this case: Continuing to work out on a regular basis, and learning how to invest to grow wealth.

Where am I starting from, or where am I currently?
As far as numbers for weight and finances, I will actually make a whole post dedicated to just that. So be on the look out for that soon.

For education and development to meet the goals, well, I am starting from basically ground level and will learn as I go. Especially about investing.

While I have a background in fitness, and was actually very close to being a trainer (just needed to take the certification test), this was many years ago. I still know a lot, and the most important things, but everyone can use some polishing here and there, including me.

About Money... well, I know a lot of tricks I have employed to save money, and they do help here and there. And one thing I will be doing as soon as possible is to FULLY automate my finances (as opposed to what is now just direct deposit to savings and checking and having bills on auto pay) so that I can have that big win of not worrying about if XYZ will come out before I get paid, or if I have to lose some savings to pay off something else, etc. So this will help clear up funds for investing.

And investing itself? Well, I know basically nothing. After reading a well written book-Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Which I highly recommend as a starting point for anyone who may be confused about all the finance mumbo-jumbo that's out there- I finally understood enough to know how to get mine and my husband's 401Ks set up this year-so that's a great start! I'm learning the rest as I go along through lots of reading and searching. I fully expect I'll stumble and make mistakes here and there along the way-it's all part of the process- but the most important thing is to START, and get better as I go.


So there you go! That's what this blog is all about. Would you like to join me on my adventure? Let's Go!