Monday, January 2, 2012

Shaping Up...with a plan

Now that we've watched the Badgers lose in a valiant effort to Oregon, Chris and I had time to talk about what it is we want to accomplish.

Of course, in shaping our plan, there are some important things to consider in creating goals (as I've said before).

A good goal should be realistic. It should be measurable. It should have a timeline, and a method of how to make it happen.

To that end, Chris and I began our discussion with the health and wellness aspect. In our minds, health and wellness is an issue of food and exercise. Ironically, food and exercise are often intertwined with the financial aspect of our lives--living healthy can be EXPENSIVE (unless you're one of those Mother Nature types that grows your own vegetables--I was never that woman).

We already have invested for the past two years in a family YMCA membership. We use it as a family, and I consider it a form of entertainment as well as a health supporting part of our budget. It's nice to know that, if we want to do an activity as a family, I can take the kids skating, to the Prime Time, or swimming, and spend no additional money to do it. I also like the access to inexpensive classes and activities, like swimming lessons, etc. It's been great for our family...when we can make it fit our life and schedule.

So, we discussed that we want to begin with exercise. True change cannot happen if you're changing everything all at the same time, so we decided to pick just ONE thing--exercise. Chris and I decided that, for the month of January, we're going to exercise no less than four times per week. A workout is at least 30-40 minutes of sustained physical activity that raises the cardio rate to a healthy workout level (as dictated by professionals). What will we be doing? Well, we agreed we're going to take turns each night taking Flash for a walk (one of us has to be home for therapy, so we can't go together), and the other will work out at the Y or at home. Y workouts are obvious (we've both done the fitness orientations, so we have routines), or we will workout with the Wii--Zumba, Biggest Loser workout, Just Dance, etc. Sweating is, of course, required. :)

So, let's check: Is it measurable? Yes. It's 30 days, it's trackable. Is it realistic? Yes. It'll be a focus, but we're shaping the plan around things we already have or need to do. Is there a timeline? Absolutely. The method? Y, Wii, Flash....pick your poison.

Notice I didn't pick to lose a certain number of pounds, just looking to improve a behavior. And in so doing, it'll likely bring the weight down anyway, or at least replace fat with muscle--always a plus.

On a side note, tomorrow begins the "Choose to Lose" challenge at school as part of our wellness program, and I enrolled. My first behavior change for that is to cut down to one soda a day and replace with water. It's just one thing, one change, one improvement...and when I'm ready, I'll take on the next hurdle.

As for financial goals, we decided to hit it hard in a place where we spend a lot of money: we're cutting out eating out. For the next month (until the end of January), we will only be eating at home. Man, this is going to be hard! However, we spend serious money on eating out, money we don't have, and that's one of the first and most obvious things we can do to improve our financial situation.

And let's be honest--if we're cooking at home and not eating out, it'll improve our health as well. Bonus!

Now, we have a Christmas party on January 28th for my work, and it's at the Roxy. I claim exemption on that one. However, no other eating out for the rest of the month! In order to be successful with this venture, Chris and I are going to make a menu once per week to plan out our groceries. We'll also be planning that menu around the weekly specials at the local grocery stores, and around what's seasonal in the produce department. And if any of you have amazing recipes, feel free to send them my way!

Chris and I will be revisiting the budget this week, and I'm hoping to be able to use the budget more closely and calculate how much money we're saving by only eating in. My hope is that we see the numbers in the bank account go up, and the numbers on the scale going down.

I'll be posting again to keep you updated. In the meantime, this is the plan for January 2012. Wish us luck!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Keeping money "Real Simple"

Happy New Year!

My dear husband is gallantly off working his second job today, so I've decided to suck it up and finally clean our room which has been abysmal for the last 8 weeks. Among the many, many loads of laundry I removed from the room (and have begun washing--oi!), I uncovered a recent copy of my favorite magazine, "Real Simple". My in-laws buy my subscription every year for my birthday (Thanks, Ken and Kay), and I absolutely adore it.

The January issue's theme is "How to Break Your Bad Habits"--absolutely fitting! Inside there's an article about debt, what causes us to get into debt (beyond the obvious--spending money we don't have), and an editor's note explaining it is the first in a series of articles the publication will be running over the course of the year to help readers address the growing debt plaguing our country.

Looking at the Real Simple website (, they also have a number of other articles and tools available to support responsible money management. I have had a number of tips roll in as of late (and I'm personally a huge Dave Ramsey fan), but I like what Real Simple has to offer as well. Among a smattering of offerings, these are the ones that piqued my interest:

Here's a link to the article:

A "Get Out of Debt" Checklist:

Seven Ways to Reach Your Financial Goals:

Your Guide to Saving Money: