by Elizabeth S.
Some of you might see this headline and think, that’s rich! Elizabeth shouldn’t be preaching on this topic. But, as I’ve mentioned recently, I have turned my financial life and my personal life around in a lot of ways. I’d like to share how I got here and what’s working for me.
The Budget Calendar
I mentioned I use the exact same method as Our Debt Free Family. I use a Budget Calendar! When I was truly free-falling with money, this is what got me out of the hole. I used to borrow money while I had a full-time job from my sisters who are in college, and this method helped me figure out what I had to spend without dipping into what I owed for rent or my car payment. The concept is straightforward:
- Write your pay dates and amounts on the calendar (you can leave these out if you prefer, but I like seeing the whole picture)
- Write every single bill payment due date and amount on the calendar
- Add things you know you will need to spend money on – your mother-in-law’s birthday, kid’s field trip
I take the total income for a pay period and subtract what I need to spend money on. What’s left is what I can spend, technically.
The struggle, of course, is that I have a LOT leftover and I need to be more judicious about how that money is spent.
Saving is a serious challenge for me. This one is pretty simple – I use automatic payroll deductions to save money for retirement. I also automatically deduct a small amount to my fun investment account. I usually end up contributing more on my own each money. It’s the only way I’ve been able to throw money at my RRSP and I intend to increase that amount substantially on my next check. I want to live off of less money and automatically deduct more to savings.
Mindfulness and Fitness
Health is tied to financial prosperity for me. They all seem to go off the rails at once for me. When I am planning meals and going to bed on time, I am not spending money wastefully with my friends downtown. So what have I done to create habits in this area? I think finance and overall well-being are intrinsically entwined for me, and I bet they are for many of you as well. I’m feeling so great in all areas of my life right now, and I’d love to share what’s working for me:
- The Calm App helped me start meditating. I have been a premium member since I had panic attacks traveling for work last year. It helps me fall asleep when I can’t breathe. The emergency calm and body scan sessions are 5/5.
- I won’t renew Calm this year. I learned to seriously meditate on my own over time, and I don’t need or enjoy guided meditation any longer. At night, when I have monkey brain (moving thought to thought like a monkey swinging from branch to branch), I like to focus on the sensation of breathing out of my nose. I take a HUGE breath in, then let it out and feel my body sink into my mattress (the best feeling on earth). Then I focus on the feeling of my breath coming out of my nose on to my upper lip, or the vibration of my nostrils, and I just keep breathing slowly. When my mind wanders, I go easy on myself and let it go. I redirect my thought to my breath and I fall asleep in minutes. It took me almost a year to learn this and IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE. I am sleeping like a baby for 7-8 hours a night, every night. No more night terrors. No more panic attacks at 3am.
- Move every day. I’ve been going to the gym and running regularly, but it was next to impossible for me to form these habits with my insane work schedule. So, finally, I started being gentle on myself and accepting 10 000 steps a day instead of a “workout” when days get out of hand. I am friends with serious athletes and “just walking” felt like a failure at times. But walking is so healthy for us! I am now very happy to get those steps in on relaxing walks, knowing I will still sleep better. I used to think “well, if I can’t make it to the gym I might as well just sit on the couch.” Not anymore. Move every day, somehow.
- Stretching. I stretch all the time. If my muscles hurt, I throw on a yoga video and skip a workout. I sleep like a baby and my body feels good. You guys, have you heard of Yoga with Adriene?? She is amazing! Most of her content is free and it’s not very technical (great for beginners). But as someone who has practiced yoga pretty seriously, I still find her videos challenging in all the right ways! She is funny and offers a lot of modifications for people at different flexibility levels.
Organization is Key
I schedule social time, fitness, and work. I’m thriving right now by hacking my work schedule. I’ve started throwing gym sessions and coffee with friends in my calendar as work “meetings”…and no one knows. If they do, they don’t care. I should have done this years ago. I just leave the office at lunch and go to a 30-minute high-intensity interval training class. This is coming from a woman who struggles to find time to pee at work! If it’s in my calendar, no one questions it, so I just leave. Boom!
Here are some tools I use for scheduling bills, finance, and work:
- Evernote. I use this to track things I find and hold notes. I am fading away from this though, as my iPhone has native apps that do most of this
- Reminders! I hold the Siri button on my phone or Apple Watch and say “remind me to take the chicken out today at 4pm” or “remind me to check the grocery store flyers on Saturday at 9am”. I might see a deal for something and set a reminder for it, too. Reminders are amazing!
- My paper agenda. For work, I find this the best way to track my tasks. I like to take notes in meetings and plan my work on paper. My career is highly technical and detailed, and I retain information when I write it down.
- The spending spreadsheet that’s working so well for me. I can’t wait to share my insights from this in my next post, which will undoubtedly stir some opinions. January was the spendiest month I’ve ever had. I’m glad to be back in the world of moderation!
Do you have any tips for habit forming? What’s working for you?