Monday, June 30, 2008

Sample Goals - Financial "Easy" Goals

Earlier I wrote a post about my new body/exercise goal setting philosophy.

I'm happy with it so far, about a week into the process. I can't guarantee it will work long term or for anyone else. Right now it seems to be much more manageable than the high-pressure goals I'd set in the past. List-making is fun for me, you see, and I oftentimes get so involved in making a great list that I forget that I'm the one that has to check everything off of it! Whether it's a to-do list or a goal list or a marketing project, I'm often over ambitious and get burnt out or discouraged too quickly.

Here is my rough draft of the financial goals. This fits the first two parts of my new goal philosophy. I'm setting a large number of goals, many of which are easy to checkoff even though they are important.

"Easy" Goals:

These goals are ongoing that I can check off monthly:

- Pay each bill on time.

We do this anyway so it's one of the "freebie" checkoffs. Yet, if we didn't do it, then financial disaster would occur.

- Track bill paid date and bill amount in spreadsheet.

An easy step, barely takes any time since I pay all bills via computer anyway. I also have my excel spreadsheets already set up. I'm not happy with them yet but I can track what's been paid and what's coming up fairly easily. (Haven't switched to Quicken yet... maybe in July once I see how busy I'll be.)

Goals that I can set on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis that are also easy:

- Call (Service Provider) and ask what discounts are available.

Variations of this goal would be, "Shop for auto insurance and find the best deal," "call credit card company and ask for lower interest rate," and even, "look online and check for rebates on recent purchases." I obviously can't call Comcast or Chase once a week to ask for a discount, but I can call each of them once every six months or so. We saved hundreds of dollars by doing this recently and it took me less than three hours to do so.

- Review Credit Report.

I could do this three times a year for free. Checking for inaccurate information is very important. If I track who I asked for a report for an when I can do this indefinitely and easily at no cost to me.

Setting Goals

I have some goals. They aren't related to wealth-building, though I do have those goals as well, but they are "new" goals and I'm very proud of them. I decided that I was going to work on my body. I'm not concerned about losing weight. Certainly that does play a part in the overall picture. What I want is a body that I can enjoy and move around effortlessly in. I want to be able to do martial arts, dance, even circus stuff if I'd like!

I remember the first time I ran a mile and what an amazing feeling that was. There was much panting and sweating and effort that went into that first mile. It was hardly effortless. But I did it. I did what so many other people brag about being able to do. Something that I had always pictured as being off limits, or too hard, or simply impossible for an out-of-shape asthmatic. It was a lovely high.

Right now I couldn't run a mile if I was running from Godzilla. I couldn't run a mile to save the life of my child. I don't know that I could run three straight blocks.

This is an overview of my thought process/system for goal setting. Over the next few weeks I'm going to apply it to my finances as well.

Goal Setting #1: Set more than one goal

I find that if I only have one goal to look forward to, and I fail to meet it, I feel like an overall failure. Having multiple goals allows me to feel that I have succeeded and made progress even if I didn't cross everything off the list. After all, how do I know how much and what exactly I'm going to be able to do right now?

Goal Setting #2: Set goals that are easily achievable

I find that in my list of goals I need some that are easily achievable. These are either things that are a part of my regular routine anyway (only if they reinforce my goal) or are simply easy to do.

This week, for example, among many goals, my goal list included:
- Drink one bottle of water upon waking up before any food is consumed.
- Stop eating lunch when full.
- Stop eating dinner when full.

These are very easy to do things that can have big results. Yet they don't cause any kind of hardship. And it's simply lovely to be able to go to my goal paper, which is taped on a kitchen cupboard, and check off goals several times a day. Then, in the spirit of having "done something" those slightly more difficult goals seem less threatening.

Goal Setting #3: Modify goals frequently to fit

I've broken down goals week by week. For example I eat oatmeal most days of the week for breakfast. Not only is oatmeal healthy, it's extremely cheap. My husband and I can eat breakfast for a full week for about a dollar. Incredible. He makes his with plain water whereas I currently can't stand it being that plain. I use almond milk. Almond milk is fairly expensive. (I hate regular milk and it doesn't like me all that much.) This week I'm reducing the amount of almond milk I put in each bowl by 1/3 cup. My goal reads, "2/3 cup almond milk in oatmeal" and the column for check-offs reads, "2/3 cup," to remind me what it is. Next week it will be 1/2 cup, the following week, 1/3, then 1/4, then none. By making my goal into little goals I am more able to achieve watery goodness than by going cold turkey with it.

I'm also modifying my exercise goals. This week I've done one set of squats and two of pushups. I have one more set of squats this week and then I've met my strength training goals. I set a goal of two walks for cardio. Yes, it's a slow start, but that's what's recommended by most experts. Next week I'll add something else like tricep dips or lunges. By the end of the month I'll be doing two sets of a number of exercises twice a week. I may also add in some of my VHS tapes and so forth, but not until I know what I can do and stick with.

Goal Setting #4: Pick an irregular week

For some reason Sunday-Saturday or Monday-Sunday weeks just don't work for me for goal setting. I've known this for quite some time. This is why my "weeks" are Tuesday-Monday. Starting a day late doesn't make an impact, however having that Monday to catch up really helps. Today is the last day of my first week. It's a purely psychological thing for me that might not work for anyone else. I know that it's made a big difference to me.

My next step? Making a list of financial goals, similar to my body goals, and working on those.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another tasty night

Yesterday afternoon I spent several hours in the kitchen with my mom. I love spending time cooking. The baby was being an absolute doll and was entertaining herself quietly in the playpen. (Except for one much-needed bottle fuss, which was right on time for her new schedule. Yay, schedules!)

I made pita bread from scratch. I've discovered it's incredibly easy and I love working with the dough, feeling it change as the yeast starts to interact, feeling the gluten strands start to stretch and become elastic and... it's fabulous. I love the smell as it starts to rise and then simply go into nose heaven as it bakes. *happy sigh*

I had made batches of hummus the night before, so that was taken care of. Mom found a recipe for tziki sauce (I have no idea how to spell that and don't feel like looking it up, so sorry). I hate yogurt, always have, and it amazes me that I love this sauce so much. It's simply yogurt, cucumbers, onions, garlic, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Fabulous!

Our salad consisted of romaine hearts, a cucumber, two tomatoes (the seeds of which I removed and ate greedily), artichoke hearts, black and green olives, roasted red peppers, sweet onions, green onions, feta cheese (of course!) and some of those sour sandwich peppers that I adore. My Greek dressing turned out wonderful as well.

Mom made a black olive, green olive, garlic, and olive oil spread for the bread as well. Yummo, as RR would say.

I love cooking things from scratch. There is something so satisfying about it. Not to mention, of course, that doing things from scratch is tremendously cheaper than buying things premade.

We realized the other night that we don't ingest a single item that has high fructose corn syrup in it. We occasionally have a soda. Maybe once a month. Other than that everything we make at home is pretty much free of all that crap. Isn't that fabulous?

The dinner was a big hit for all three of us. I enjoyed it as much as the gyro platter we get from a local restaurant and didn't even miss the meat. Especially since my Greek salad was so big!

This week, so far

We did our shopping on Sunday. This is pretty normal for us. The day starts with a scoping out of deals at CVS, Walgreens, Kmart, Target, Walmart, BabiesRUs, and Publix using online sales flyers. (We get Sweetbay and Albertsons in the mail.) I keep a list throughout the week of "must haves" that we are out of or will need to purchase. These include things like toilet paper, baby formula, diapers, sugar, flour, etc. I also have a list of things that we use all the time that we are down to our last one or two on. These are "look for good deals" items.

Then I make my list based on store and category. I used to make my list based on the aisles at Publix but our home store recently got reorganized. Now I just do it by category. This saves me a lot of time in the store itself.

Finally I get together all my coupons for the things that are on sale, paper clip the lot together, and off we go. We always hit Publix last because of the cold foods. The rest of the stores we go to based on a route designed to save miles. There are many times we'll have to go to more than one Walgreens or CVS. This isn't a big deal as there are many within a couple of miles.

Our budget is $100 for the week for all of our groceries. We also have an $80/month "household and baby" budget. I usually just say "$120/week" to make it easier on us, but that's not always possible. Some weeks we don't use any, others we use $40.

This was an "overage" week. We spent about $130.00 even though the household budget was drained the week before. Summer always has excellent deals. The money is in the account (from selling stuff over the past month) and I would much rather save a ton of money by going $30.00 over this week than to wait until next week and miss the deals.

An example would be that I managed to get two cans of formula, usually $25.00 each, for just over $30.00. This will do us for two weeks. I also got us a month's worth of TP (for under a quarter a roll, which is good for Charmin) and ended up being able to get us four things of ALL for $0.55. (That's just over $0.10 each for a normally $5-$7 item.) I love CVS. Love it, love it, love it. Baby food was also a need item this week and I got a lot of it. Usually we pay about $0.50 a jar. This week I got some for just over $0.10. (It was 3/$1 and I had a buy four get $1 off Q, for example.)

We stocked up on some essentials. We spent a little more money. All in all, we spent just over $130 and we "got" over $250 worth of food and items by combining sales and coupons. Go team!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Goal: Find and purchase a queen-sized bed without it costing us any money from our regular income.

Part I: We found out that a friend and her husband were selling their Queen-sized bed. We expressed interest. After some bargaining we agreed on $180.00. The original price was $200.00, but as none of us have a truck they took off $20.00 to help pay for us to rent one.

Part II: Money

To rent the truck (including gas, etc.) was $71.91. I can't believe it. We were thinking it would be around $40.00. Crazy! We applied the unexpected 44.65 that we got back from the car dealership (for the tag) to this and ended up with a difference of 27.26.

In an earlier post I described how I sold our twin bed, which we bought for $50.00, for $60.00 awhile ago and I sold my table cart to a student for $50.00. I gave the couple this $110.00 when we picked up the bed. This means we owe them $70.00 when they come this Sunday.

I transferred 69.87 from my paypal account to my bank account. This was all from selling stuff from around the house. Go me!

And, to top it all off, I sold our double bed, which we bought for $150.00 for $175.00 this morning.

Maybe I should get into the mattress business?

Part III: Where's the rest going?

This month has sucked for me business-wise. The good thing about selling things around the house is that it has raised funds not only to cover the very comfy queen mattress but also to cover some of the appointments that I missed because clients were on vacation or dealing with kids just out on summer break.

Part IV: Was it worth it?

You may say that a mattress upgrade was not necessary. I disagree. To picture this: my husband is 6'4". He's rather trim, but even then he's got a very large chest and wide shoulders. I'm 5'10" and about forty lbs overweight. Neither of us could stretch out on the bed on our back and have our feet be on the bed! We were barely making a double bed work and frankly weren't getting good sleep. We were beating each other up in the middle of the night. Our sleep quality has increased tremendously since picking up the bed last Tuesday. In the past week I've had less headaches and back pain and I feel much more refreshed. He's reported similar results. It was totally worth it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Free Fun

I love board games. I absolutely adore sitting around with my friends, laughing and competing, moving stupid plastic pieces over a stupid cardboard game board... all of it. I just love it. And yet we rarely do it. (I also love to play cards.)

We played Trivial Pursuit the other night with some friends. Between the two families I think we have about forty board games. (They have five kids.) I usually don't like Trivial Pursuit because it makes me feel stupid. Turns out it helps if you're using an edition that has questions from your actual lifetime! We played a version that was 1982-2002. The older versions went up to mid-80's. I was born in 1980 so I've always lost, badly, and felt like a moron after games. I enjoyed this one, however.
I'm hoping to implement a board game night soon, probably at our house. With the five-kid-friends we'd go up there, but for all our friends that are closer to us, we're the only ones with a kid so they can come here. We've also gotten an invite to go play cards at another friend's house. I think we're going to do that once a month or so.

I highly recommend looking at Goodwill for board games, by the way. Some of our friends have bought a bunch of them, almost new. Unfortunately we found out that most of them were just stupid, but it sure beats paying full price for stupid. Right?

Life or Debt

I just finished reading Life or Debt and I really enjoyed it. It was a quick read, unlike some other financial advice books. There wasn't a lot of new information. However, I find that a lot of my "a ha!" moments come from old information that's presented in a slightly different way. I had several "A HA!"s:

  • The way the author not only addressed the cost of buying things on credit, as most do, he also dealt with the opportunity costs of buying anything. It doesn't matter if it's cash or credit. He gave a formula to figure out exactly how much of your life you're trading by spending a certain amount of money. Wow.
  • I really enjoyed the way that the author used example people. Even though they were fake, had fake lives, and so forth, it was a lot easier to read about "someone else" figuring out their budget, finances, etc. than trying to picture myself in the book. I was able to relax and take in the information, process it, and then apply it. Usually I'm too busy trying to mentally interact with the book and that makes it harder to get it the first time around.
  • The author gave standard tips for saving money. This was an added feature and I'm sure that some of those tips will hit readers as new. It was an expected part of the book that didn't impress me all that much. What did impress me, however, was how he used those tips with his example people. He needed to find "debt destroyer" funds in the budget. He went through a category-by-category budget search to find the amount and showed how it can be easier than one thinks to free up 10% of the income. He really stresses making saving money painless so that it's not about deprivation.
  • The thing I like the most was the way that he continually stressed that you can either make the same minimum payments for dozens of years, pay thousands more in interest, and end up with very little or nothing OR you can do 10% of your income now towards debt, get out in a matter of years, and end up a millionaire. That really hit home with me. Normally I don't like repetitive things, but this was one I needed to hear.

Father's Day

Yesterday was my hubby's first father's day. We broke a few rules, but overall we had a lot of fun.

The Card: I handmade my husband's card. It's one of my favorites that I've ever made; I learned a really cool new technique that I've been experimenting since. I wrote a very sweet little inscription in the flap about how I always thought he'd be a good dad--but I was wrong. I had underestimated him; he's a GREAT dad. He got very teary. It was beautiful to watch. (side note: I admit it, scrapbooking and cardmaking are on the top 10 list of "hobbies that people trying to increase their wealth should get addicted to". There's always something new and exciting to buy!)

The Gifts: Mom and I had gone to WalMart earlier in the week. They had coffee beans on sale. I got him a pound of extra bold beans and some espresso truffles in dark chocolate. One of the ways we've saved money is that we don't get him coffee or beer every week. We save those things for special occasions. It really has turned an every-day item into a decadent treat (speaking coffee, not beer). He was very excited about both, especially, I think, the chocolate. Usually I'm the one trying to make a bag of excellent chocolate last for weeks, and I admit I'm not all that great at sharing!

The Time: We had a good friend come over and babysit. She's been asking a lot lately and even though mom was going to be home for most of the time we'd be gone I went ahead and invited her over to sit. She and babygirl adore each other. We decided to hit a matinée movie (The Incredible Hulk--he wanted to see it, I didn't really, but I did end up enjoying it!) to save some money and avoid the larger evening crowds. We avoided $3.00 parking by saving our ticket stub. We had also stopped at Walgreen's and gotten a few favorite candies. I don't see the point in paying concession stand prices: $4.50 for a small soda! So yes, we broke the rules by sneaking in our own stuff, shame on us. For supper we went to Longhorn. He got a Coke and I got sweet tea. (This was a splurge for us.) We split a 9 oz fillet and he got the baked potato and I got the salad. Between the sides, the bread, the drinks, and the 9 oz of meat, both of us were full. I can't imagine paying for two plates when one does the trick. Very yummy. After babygirl went to bed we did as well. (Free entertainment and free exercise, who can beat that?)

I forgot to have him write a few things for the Father's Day scrapbook page I want to do, but he agreed to do that tonight. All in all it was a great day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

June thus far

June is always a slow month for me business-wise. This year has not been an exception. I'm hoping things pick up, otherwise the lovely bonus that hubby brought home is going to make up for my lack of income.

I was offered a sideline of income yesterday. I had a nice conversation with some ladies at the craft store (yes, I stayed within my budget and yes, everything I bought was on sale, and yes, the purchase was planned) and they asked me to come out and teach them basic techniques. "We'll pay you, of course!" And of course I agreed! We've been emailing back and forth. Not sure what will come of it, but I'm excited. I love crafts and would love to teach for money.

This makes me kick myself for not going ahead and signing up as a Stampin'Up demonstrator during SaleABration. I am not a MLM type girl. I wanted it for the discount and the fact that their products really are lovely and high-quality. During the celebration it was 20% off the kit (which is already a huge value) plus an additional $50 towards any one stamp set. *sighs* I may still go ahead with it. That's a whole other post.

Meanwhile we got $44 back from the dealership in the form of a check. They refunded the difference between what the registration cost and what we had paid them for it. That was a happy surprise.

Hubby rented a uhaul last night and took off with our best guy-friend to go pick up a bed that we bought from another couple. By selling some household items that we weren't using I managed to get $110/$180 that we agreed on. We'll sell the bed we have now for between $150 and $175 quite easily. I'm surprised the truck rental is going to be close to $60 (including the gas he put in it). They charge $0.70/mile now! I hate that we don't have any friends with trucks anymore.

We managed to stock up on chicken and beef at $1.88 lb for cuts that are normally quite a bit more. I'm so glad to have meat stockpiled. I can cook really well, and I love doing it, but it's hard to go to the pantry and make a meal out of the things we'd scored on before. With meat the possibilities are almost endless. I have 11 meals of chicken and at least six of beef at my fingertips. And, considering that we eat many, many vegetarian meals during the week, our stockpile should last us for quite some time. Yay!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

So much going on!

There's been a lot of things happening over the past two weeks. I'm definitely going to continue posting regularly; it's just been hectic and I haven't had a chance to do so. (Yes yes yes, I should be writing posts for times when I get caught up; great blogging advice to live by... as soon as I have time to set that up...)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quicken Versus Money  

This is a good link to get a general overview of many ratings. I'd explain more, but I'm too busy reading it myself.


So Mint was interesting but clearly does not meet our needs. I keep thinking that if I "just tweak" a few of the spreadsheets I've been messing with I'll have the perfect system for us. But damnit, why I am I trying to reinvent the wheel?

I'm going to go ahead and do some research on Quicken versus Money. Yes, it's about $29.00. But then again, I "lost" 29.00 because I paid fees for having insufficient funds in an account because my system was not adequate.


I'm trying out a new website called Mint. It keeps track of all your online banking accounts for free, allows you to set up budgets, track trends, and then offers you suggestions on how to save money, albeit usually by offering a different credit card or online investment.

I'm in process of setting it up now. I'll let you know how it works out!

First impressions:
- It's useful to have all of my accounts in one place and set up categories so I can see spreadsheets quickly.
- Categories are predefined and don't go along with our current budget.
- Budget setup is very clunky and needs much improvement; don't think I'll be using this feature much.
- Excellent variety of alerts.
- Ability to "hide" accounts from Mint; this is great since I'm on my mom's accounts but don't want her info showing up in the list.
- Ability to add any accounts you have login for; this allows me to add hubby's accounts too (with permission, of course).
- Participants include PayPal, which is great.

Monday, June 2, 2008

6 words

Lise tagged me again: the goal is to take six words that sum up your life and post them.

learning to dance in the rain

It's very similar to hers, actually.

The woman who I split an office with was responsible for decorating it. It's quite lovely, actually. Perfect for a massage room. The colors are rich cream, red, and brown. She put up several framed pieces of art as well as several quote plaques. One of them reads, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain."

I hadn't heard that quote before and it struck me so profoundly that I still, even three full months later, stare at it and feel instantly grounded and centered while I'm working.

Recently I've realized it also sums up my financial life; no matter what is happening, breaking, needing replaced, or coming unexpectedly, it's not about "getting through this" so that we can "finally _________". It's about _________ing even though things didn't go as scripted. It's about finding ways to enjoy life and rising above the thought that we are only as great as our pocketbook. (Suggested fill in the blanks: live/living, be happy/being happy, get ahead/making progress...)