Starting off right

Well, Happy New Year, y’all! Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and that you’re starting to get back into every-day reality. Did you make any resolutions for 2017?

I definitely had some plans, and tried to give myself a little leeway, since we didn’t have to go back to work until January 3rd. But then I got sick, and am now right in the middle of a really nasty wintertime cold. I don’t know about you, but when I get a cold, I am ravenous. And not for like oranges and chicken soup – nope, I want big, disgusting cheeseburgers and ALLLLL the Oreos.

My plan was to take the month of January off from:

  • Facebook
  • White carbs
  • Spending $$$
  • Drinking much on the weeknights

But that’s kind of already off the tracks. I’m doing OK with Facebook, other than reading some comments on pictures I posted over the weekend. White carbs, well, Jack made some chicken & veggie stew, and then proceeded to dump a box of bowtie pasta in it. GRRR. I’ve done a decent job eating around them, but a few made it onto my spoon. Plus he brought home Oreos, which was just plain evil. I’m proud to say I’ve only eaten two, and that was at night, when I was exhausted and feeling especially miserable. In terms of spending, I forgot we have 4 birthdays this month, so I did get some gifts from Amazon. We also keep having unexpected expenses for the kitchen reno. Good news is I’m not really drinking since I’m sick 🙂

I don’t want to feel like a failure just 5 days into the new year, but I also don’t want to start making excuses. We also have a ton of food in our pantry (like pasta) that I should use before I go out and buy low carb alternatives. Plus I’ve done some other good things, like re-start my 401(k) and start a new Instagram account (blog to follow) that I’ve been posting on daily.

With this in mind, below are my edited January goals:

  • No Facebook
  • No sugar (except for one small piece of dark chocolate allowed at night)
  • No buying any clothes, books, meals/drinks out
  • No more than 2 drinks on weeknights (and only wine then)

 

Did you make any resolutions? How are you going to stay on track? Are you a fan of baby steps or cold turkey?

Where’s my Inspiration?

After a flurry of activity in January and the beginning of February, I’ve fallen silent. I know a lot has to do with this cold I’ve had for more than a week now. All I’ve really had the energy to is to go to work, take care of my dogs, and go to bed. Not fun, and certainly not motivating! I wouldn’t say I’m feeling sorry for myself, at least I’m trying hard not to, but I really miss all my exercise endorphins. Yesterday, I found myself resorting to an old security blanket – shopping. For as long as I’ve had the money to do so, whenever I’ve been down or feeling bad about myself, I’ve gone shopping. I completely avoided it last month with the exception of one blouse for a work event. But yesterday, I was just like, I need this; it’s the only thing that will make me feel better.. I was surprised how quickly I reverted to that and how little interest I had in stopping myself. The only good thing i can think to say is that I was super selective about what I bought, and I got some really cute stuff.

In opposite news, I went to an Investing 101 workshop last night at my credit union. It was very informative and easily digestible, and made me more excited about beginning to invest more of our income. Plus, there was free Chick fil A for dinner, lol!

We also had our second dance lesson this week, and we both enjoyed it. I can’t believe how quickly they help you to learn new steps and to progress. I was still feeling crappy, so I don’t feel like I did my best, but I’m looking forward to practicing this weekend.

Tomorrow is supposed to be an 8 mile run, as part of the half-marathon training. I haven’t run since last Saturday, which was a great run but then probably caused me to get way sicker. Jury’s out on whether I’ll be up for tomorrow or not. I so hope my chest is feeling clearer and I’ll be able to get out there. Need that runner’s high!

January Check-In

The first month of 2015 is almost over! On the one hand, I would say I can’t believe it’s almost February. But on the other, this month was so full and busy that it seems like a lot has happened.

Writing this blog has really helped me to be thoughtful about what I want to accomplish this year. I’ve enjoyed “getting into the details” about each of my resolutions. It’s required a lot of soul searching, some of which has been uncomfortable, but all of which has been valuable.

  1. Handstand: I’m trying to build up strength in my wrists and shoulders. I have a hardcore planking workout once a week and sneak in some shorter planks here and there. I need to increase this to a one-minute plank daily.
  2. Debt: We started January with four zero-interest credit card balances. We paid off the smallest ($800) this month. I’m hoping to pay off one of two personal loans in February.
  3. Being anal: I’m making a concerted effort to be more go-with-the-flow and less of a planner/perfectionist. But dude, it is in my blood. This will be a tough challenge to say the least. I have been better about saying yes to things though. My husband scheduled us for dance lessons and I didn’t even try to argue 🙂 It’s something we’ve talked about forever and I love that he took the initiative to schedule it on his own.
  4. Half-marathon: This is probably my biggest success this month. After tomorrow’s 7-miler, that will be 59 miles for January. This does not count all the extra steps I’m taking to meet my daily Fitbit goal or twice-a-week gym sessions.
  5. Downsize: In preparation to put our house on the market, I cleaned out the big storage closet in the garage and the downstairs coat closet. I threw out a huge trashcan-ful of old Christmas stuff and tons of “memory” kind of stuff, including all my yearbooks but senior year. I sent another big bag to Thred Up. I also started a “sell” pile in the garage and a “donate” pile in the office. Not as much as I’d hoped to get done this month, but not a bad start.
  6. Meditate: Not so much of a success. I used the Headspace app all of one entire time. It was nice but I haven’t felt motivated to do it again. I will though!
  7. Booze: Also not so much of a success. I made it four whole days without a drink, when I’d wanted to skip alcohol for the entire month. I haven’t been drinking on Mondays, and I’m only having a glass of wine or two most other days. Last Friday night was probably the worst, when we were lucky enough to get free tickets to the Hawks game, in a suite that included lots of free drinks. But it was a very spontaneous night, so that’s sort of a point for me being less anal, right? Anyway, I’m thinking a lot about alcohol and whether I have a dependence on it or I just enjoy relaxing with it. Work in progress.
  8. Counseling: My husband has started anger-management therapy. We’ve had a couple of good, honest conversations as a result of what he’s learning. No, this is not couples’ therapy, but it’s opening a dialogue between us that is really positive. We’ll look into counseling together later in the year.
  9. Write: This blog has been great in getting me to write! I’m enjoying putting my thoughts down, and love the feedback from readers. I’m also loving this little blogging community, which is something I wasn’t expecting. I think it would be easy for this blog to take up a lot more of my time, which makes me feel stressed. Ultimately, I’m writing this for myself, so for now, I don’t need to worry about how many pageviews I have (spoiler: not many).
  10. Eating: I think this has been a good month. I’m definitely not focused on weightloss at all right now. I want to be healthy and feel good and give my body the fuel it needs for running. Most of the month I was avoiding gluten, but that’s changed as I’m needing more carbs. Not having any dietary restrictions is a crazy feeling. I’m currently eating meat, which I don’t love, but I’m really craving it. I spent most of the fall on a keto diet, so it’s liberating to eat some bread now and then. The past two nights we’ve had homemade beef pot pie, which is breaking so many rules I don’t even know what to do 🙂
  11. Minimalism: This goes along with my downsizing goal. I’m focused on getting rid of a lot of our stuff. Right now, I’m going through my clothes and getting rid of things that I don’t totally love. I’m going to try Tradesy which I just learned about yesterday, to sell some of my nicer things. Looking towards that capsule wardrobe!
  12. Empathy: I have been focused on two people with this goal this month: my husband and one of my co-workers. I’ll be honest, this is tough for me. Less so with my husband; I love the changes he’s working towards right now. As much as he has triggers with anger, I’m learning that I do too, and that’s helping me be less defensive when we’re about to argue. Don’t get me wrong, I have a loooong way to go, but being more aware is really helping. With my co-worker, it’s different. I don’t understand my lack of patience with her. I don’t know why I feel so judgy with her. We did have one really good conversation this month, in which I really listened to her point of view and realized I was misjudging some of her actions. But on the other hand, I still think she’s so lazy and self-delusional. Oof. Another work in progress.
  13. Volunteering: I tried to do good deeds on MLK Day but wasn’t so successful. I do have volunteer orientation on Monday for an animal rescue group, and I’m scheduled for another blood drive the Monday after that. February will be a more successful month 🙂
  14. Travel: I’m surprised how hard it’s been to remember my goal of traveling less, but more memorably. I’m looking at hotels all day at work (since I work for a hotel company), so the temptation is constant! I booked a super cute cabin in Asheville for our anniversary in May, and I think we’re going camping in March. So far, those are the only trips we’ve planned. But I keep checking for employee rates for little getaways, and I’m all over VRBO thinking about next fall. I think the planning part of me drives a lot of this, so I’ve been trying to find other things to plan (like getting out of debt!).
  15. Job: It’s been a relatively bad week at work, so this is really on my mind. I do want to stick around for the next few months though. We have a fun conference in February; I think I’m going to Portland in April; and we’ll *hopefully* be getting our bonuses in the spring as well. But this week has been a reminder that there are things I can’t change about my current role, the most important of which is the lack of development and growth opportunities. I do want to stay in my company, but if that doesn’t work, I’m open to leaving. I’m going to start seriously looking for some interesting roles in the spring/summer.

Looking back over this month, there have been failures and successes. Overall, I’m feeling so good about 2015 🙂

What about you? Are you making progress on your resolutions?

Getting Into the Details: Resolution #5

5. Downsize.

My husband and I have moved a lot in our 14 years together. The first four years together, we lived in about 11 different places. Since then, we’ve still moved more than most people. We bought what we thought was our “dream house” in 2009, but it was 90 years old and, while incredibly charming, ended up being a nightmare. We were thrilled when we were able to sell it four years later. We then bought a lovely, large, almost-new townhouse. We generally make our home choices based on it being the opposite of where we’ve been living: intown loft >>> suburban apartment; historic home >>> cookie-cutter townhouse (with a ton of closets).

Anyway, we do love our townhouse. It’s spacious and has been problem-free. And while the purchase price was nearly twice that of our previous home, the fact that we aren’t constantly pouring money into it means we’re pretty much paying the same thing to live here that we did to live in our little bungalow.

So it’s not like we’re dying to leave here or anything like that. We really like it here, but we’ve come to realize it’s a waste of money and space for us. We don’t need so many bedrooms, and we certainly don’t need four toilets for two people! It was important for us to experience this, living in a nice home in a nice neighborhood with all our fancy neighbors. We’ve really enjoyed it here. But we’re done keeping up with the Joneses. This conversation started with wanting to buy a small mountain home. We began to look for a condo-and-cabin combination that would end up costing just a bit more than our current mortgage. I’ve long wanted to live in a more walkable area. I’d love to be able to walk to buy groceries, to get coffee, to grab a couple of drinks with my husband. Plus it’s been bothering us both that we’ve accumulated SO MUCH STUFF.

Downsizing will mean some sacrifices, we know. We’ll lose the luxury of all this space. We’ll be forced to get rid of more than we’re probably comfortable with. We won’t have an office, and a guest room, and workout space, and a garage. We won’t have a bajillion kitchen cabinets and so many closets that some are empty.

But it will also be wonderful. We’ll only keep what matters to us, what we really need and use on a regular basis. We won’t buy things just because a space looks empty and “needs something there.” After the spending frenzy that was 2014, it will feel cathartic to sell stuff and donate stuff and just throw stuff away.

And then there’s the walkability factor. I’m very excited about this. When we travel, my favorite thing is exploring a new place by foot. I always come home with the renewed desire to have this on a daily basis. The first place I lived on my own was New York City, and I think the day-to-day aspect of living there was ingrained in me. I love just having enough in the fridge to eat that day, and to be able to run out and get what I want right then. I love walking as transportation, because I don’t have to worry about traffic or anyone else’s slowness/rudeness/stupidity. Atlanta is a tough city for this kind of lifestyle, which really limits our options. But I’m committed to making it happen, even if it means sacrificing an extra closet 🙂

Obviously, we need to sell our townhouse. Since it’s not like we’re miserable here, we don’t have the same motivation we did when selling our old house, We have three dogs, which makes showing the place a little more challenging. We’re considering moving into corporate housing for a couple of months, but I’m not sure if the extra expense is worth it. This is up for debate. I think our first step is being diligent about going through our closets, the attic, the cabinets, the garage, and selling as much of our stuff as we can. We plan to spend the next few weekends doing this. Not much fun, but since we’re not going out and we’re pretty much not drinking, I don’t think it will be the worst thing in the world.

Getting Into the Details: Resolution #2

2. Pay off debt.

I don’t intend this to be a blog about frugality or being debt-free. Don’t get me wrong, this topic is something I could spend forever on, but it’s really not what I want to focus on. That being said, it is January, and one of my resolutions is to pay off our credit cards ($11k at 0%) and our personal loans (about $6k at 11%). Bonus points for paying off my car ($4500 at 4%). We’re lucky that we are finally making good money, so in theory, paying off $22k in a year should really be no big deal.

Our problem is that we have participated in lifestyle creep. With every raise/promotion/new job, we’ve increased our expenses. We used to rent a 900sf apartment for a mere $750/month. We now “own” a 2400sf townhouse, for which we pay about $1600 a month including HOA fees. We have an entire floor that we don’t even use! We have purchased furniture to fill up each room, and our once-empty closets (there are 10 in this house, plus an attic and a pantry!) are beginning to fill up as well. We’ve always considered our style to be minimalist, but all this unfocused (and uncontrolled) spending coupled with a house that’s way too big for us means we are anything but minimalists. Modern furniture does not a minimalist make.

We really went big in 2014. We took a ton of vacations, bought a (cheap) car for one stepdaughter and paid for half of the wedding of the other, took our families to the beach for a week over the holidays. We had emergency vet bills, a car accident, unexpected medical expenses. We bought nice watches and expensive coats and I don’t know how many pairs of new shoes. We even got a dog walker, who we also paid to dog sit during all those vacations. And we’d usually use the night the dog walker came for a date night, spending even more $$$!

So, yeah, it’s time to rein things in. Luckily, my husband came to this same conclusion on his own, which is great since we generally aren’t on the same page about things. We both started to feel guilty about the excess spending, especially when we weren’t really putting anything into savings at all (excluding 401k’s). We also started to feel like we had too much space, and too much stuff to fill the space, and just too much stuff period. And finally, I think we fulfilled whatever deep-seated psychological need/issue we each had (since money had been tight for most of our lives) to actually afford nice clothes and great trips.

I think I’ve mentioned that neither of us do well with extreme restrictions, and like diet and exercise, we’ve had a lot of practice making rules for ourselves, only to fail within a few weeks. Last year, we were intense budgeters for January and February, but that ended up just making us crazier the rest of the year.

What I’ll be doing differently this time:

Be mindful about my spending. Know that buying a new shirt isn’t going to make me happy. Know that going to a new (or old, for that matter) restaurant isn’t going to make me happy. Realize that I already have more than what I need.

Avoid spending triggers. Stop checking all the lifestyle blogs and read simplicity-focused blogs instead. Stay off Pinterest. Immediately throw away the Gap coupon and the Athleta catalog.

Understand that not spending extra money is better for my health. Not eating out = healthier food we make at home. Not going to lunch = time to go to the gym. Not going to bars or buying a nice bottle of wine = sticking to my sober January plan.

Continue to have open and honest (aka tough) conversations with my husband about money. For now, we both want the same thing. We want to be rid of our consumer debt and we want to downsize. But. We both waffle a lot on our decisions, and tend to change our minds often (hello, ADD!). We’re also both very impulsive. Like every other change we’ve made for the better in our time together, this is a process and a journey, but we’re committed to improvement.

Try a spending diet. But don’t beat myself up if I make a mistake. And certainly don’t say to hell with all of it if I make a mistake!