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Browsing posts in: Keeping Motivated

Coffee Date

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Hi Friends! I know I said it in my last post, but I’ve really missed you guys! This has been the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken since I started blogging 3 and a half years ago (<how has it been that long?!?)

So before diving straight into fully-financial posts, I wanted to just do a casual coffee date today. It’s as if we’re buddies meeting up for a cup of Joe, catching up on each other’s’ lives. See some past coffee chats here or here.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you how much I’m looking forward to some true Fall weather. Here in Tucson it’s still over 100 degrees F every day. I’ve been working out in the 5am hour and even at that time it’s already in the low 80s. I’m ready to bust out my fall decorations, drink some homemade pumpkin spice lattes, and cuddle up on our back porch in an oversized sweater while feeling the crisp in the air.

Exercise

Speaking of exercising at 5am, I’m training for another race. Last November I did my 3rd half-marathon. This November I’m signed up to do a Ragnar relay race. For those unfamiliar with Ragnar, these are running races that last 24+ hours. The traditional style of run is a road race, but the run I’m signed up for is a trail run in McDowell, AZ. I’m on a team of 8 and we will each run 3 legs (approx. 5 miles each) over the 24-ish hour span of time. I’m starting week 5 (of 12) of training and have really been enjoying it! I’ve always been a solitary runner. I’m not very fast and have never joined any running groups, etc. But my team (consisting of members of my department at school) has been meeting up on weekends to do our trail runs together and it’s been so fun having a group to sweat with, and to help keep me accountable when I’m not wanting to roll out of bed at 5am on a Sunday morning! Ha!

What about you? Are you working toward any goals or doing any type of diet or exercise regimen right now?

Texas Family

So much has been going on with my Texas family lately! All are located in Austin, so they were inland enough to be spared of any serious Hurricane Harvey damage. Remember that my mom and stepdad both broke their arms back in early July? They have lots of physical therapy and rehab ahead, but they’re both on the mend and expected to make a full recovery! My little sister welcomed a new bundle of joy to the world in late August! The delivery was smooth and easy and the baby has been a perfect angel – sleeps and eats well and only fusses when hungry, tired, or wet. She says it’s their 3-year-old whose been the problem. Tough transition from 1 child to 2, but they’re doing well. We believe my Dad is in the process of experiencing another step-down with his dementia. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration back in August 2015 and is currently living in an assisted living memory care facility. Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) has been woefully understudied, so I can’t say anything definitive from a medical perspective, but several patients with FTD experience absolutely debilitating neurologic pain in the areas of their brain that are degenerating. I believe this corresponds with neuronal death. The pain is often associated with a “step down” in cognitive functioning. FTD is not a slow, gradual decline. Instead, it’s marked by periods of stasis, followed by rapid decline, then another period of stasis, etc. The periods of stasis can last weeks or months. The past few days have been painful ones for my Dad so we’re expecting another decline. His language has been impacted first and he’s really having a tough time with it these days. It’s hard for me because, living in Arizona with my Dad in Texas, our primary form of keeping in touch is phone conversations. I send pictures and letters, but we talk and/or text daily. It’s becoming increasingly challenging, though, as it upsets him when he doesn’t understand me (which is happening with increasing frequency).

How are your parents doing? No health issues, I hope?

Husband 

Hubs is doing well, but has had a tough time not working since his business closed down a few months ago. He used to be a flooring contractor but is now back in school for engineering and cannot sustain a full-time job. The cost of all the licenses and insurance were too much to justify renewal so he let the business come to a natural conclusion when everything came up for renewal. While he’s done well in school (last semester was his first one back full-time), I think it’s been a big transition for our entire family for him to not be working. He’s used to having his own income and additional spending money and it’s been tough to balance wants and needs within our family budget. I mentioned how my first full-time paycheck was a bit of a shock. Much lower than I’d been expecting. Budgeting is still a work in progress, and one I’ll be talking a lot more about in future posts. On the bright side of things, hubs is also in the process of obtaining his personal training certificate. He’s midway through the program and will be done in mid-October (juggling it along with his course load). He’s hoping to be able to pick up some part-time work after he receives his certification so that he can make enough money to cover his own personal effects and expenses while in school. He may be able to contribute a little to the household too, but even if he’s only able to cover his own wants and needs it will be a big help. Hubs has always been the “breadwinner” in our family, so having the roles reversed and being in a position where basically every expense is discussed (and budgeted) has been a change for him. (Edited to add: Check out this throwback post I wrote years ago about Our Financial Relationship for more background info.).

How’s your spouse, partner, girlfriend/girlfriend, significant other? Single? Are you on the dating scene? Any funny stories or interesting people you’ve met recently?

Kids

The kids (5-year old twins) are now a month-deep into kindergarten and they just got a new teacher! Yup. The old one, while kind, was having a lot of personal problems that interfered with her ability to do her best work. I was worried when I saw the stark contrast in what my kids were doing compared to the kindergarten kids in other classes (I’m friends with other moms and the curriculum is supposed to be the same for the whole grade). While I do feel bad for the old teacher and hope that she finds some peace in her life, I’m beyond relieved that my kids got their new teacher. She has been absolutely fabulous and it’s just the breath of fresh air that we needed. She jumped right into the role, hit the ground running, and I’m so impressed with how much the kids already love her! It gives me warm-fuzzies and makes me confident that they’re at the right school (we chose a charter school, as the public schools in our area don’t have the best ratings). They have been doing karate the past few months and, while I absolutely love it and all it’s done for them (boosting self-confidence, increasing independence, etc.), we’ve made the tough decision to cancel our membership for the time being, September being our last month. It was costing $150/person/month. At $300/month in total, we just can’t continue to afford it. It doesn’t fit within our budget. The girls do still participate in a gymnastics program, but it costs less than half that amount ($65/person/month; $130 for both per month). We like for them to be involved in extracurriculars, but can’t be paying nearly $500 a month for it!  At $130/month we feel comfortable. We also try to only do one activity at a time. So far they’ve done ballet, swimming, karate, and gymnastics. I’d love for them to be involved in some type of music lessons and I want them to do some team sports (like soccer!), but right now just be sticking with gymnastics.

How are your kids? Are they involved in any extracurricular activities right now? How do you find quality ones that don’t break the bank?

Work

Work is going great! I’m now only doing my one full-time job (up until a couple months ago I’d been working full-time plus a part-time job). I thought I’d have all this extra time on my hands once the part-time job ended but of course that’s never the case. I do think I have more time, I’ve just filled it with other things (like my 5am workouts – which used to be 5am emails and work). I also have more time to do my meal planning, shopping sales, and food prep. So we have less money, but I think my life has more balance. And with any luck (and a lot of planning and prep), hopefully I can save enough money to offset the loss-of-income from the part-time job. We shall see. One big area I will be targeting is FOOD costs. More info to come.

How’s your job? Things with your boss? Your co-workers?

 

I hope everyone is staying safe! My thoughts are with anyone impacted by Irma! I did my Masters degree at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (about an hour north of Miami, right on the coast) and I still have lots of friends in the area. Thinking about all of you! Also, on this Patriot’s Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all first responders and helping professions (nurses, doctors, paramedics, etc. etc.). I don’t have the gumption to do that type of work and our country would be lost without it, so thank you to those of you selfless enough to go into these professions! Thoughts with any/all who were impacted by the events on 9/11.

 

Hugs to you all! Stay safe out there!

~Ashley


Finances & Fitness

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Hubs has become quite the fitness aficionado lately. Remember back in 2015 when he lost a ton of weight? He ended up losing 60 lbs. in total. In 2016 he was really just learning to maintain his weight through having a healthier lifestyle overall. He eats pretty clean, drinks lots of water, exercises regularly, etc. This year (2017) he decided he wanted to try to build some muscle mass. Well, mission = accomplished! I think his whole year was made last month when, while on our mom-&-dad getaway, a kid at the hotel’s pool area asked him if he was a professional bodybuilder! LOL! He ate up the compliment and was floating on Cloud 9 the rest of the day!

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As a disclaimer, I gotta say his “before” picture is in a shirt that was stained, not dirty. Hubs was a flooring contractor so all his work clothes eventually had stains all over them from glue, paint, etc. Just kinda gross to see all the “gunk” – it’s not just filth! Ha!

The truth is, hubs works hard for the gains he has made. Our summer has been a little more relaxed, but during the academic year he had been waking up faithfully at 4:45am so he could be at the gym at 5am when they opened, get in 1.5-2 hours of gym time, and be home in time to help get the girls dressed and ready for school. Even on vacation he went to the hotel gym daily. On our long driving days to and from Texas, he figured out creative ways to still get in his workouts by doing youtube videos using one’s own bodyweight for resistance, etc. When the rest of us want a bowl of ice cream after dinner, he prepares a bowl of fruit for himself. He’s dedicated like that.

I’ve wanted to get back on the whole fitness wagon lately. I used to be really into fitness, and while I would describe my current body-type as “average”, I’d love to get back to a place where I could consider myself “fit.” Unfortunately, I’ve found myself lacking motivation. The other day I was talking to hubs and asked him about how he stays so motivated – how he can push himself day after day to make healthy choices, sacrifice sleep for his gym time, choose the healthier food option when a sweet treat is right in his face, etc. I wish he had some secret trick I could share (or sell for $$$), but we all know that’s not the way it works. His response, “You just have to make the decision and stick with it.”

Me:  But it’s too hot to work out!

Him:  The gym has air conditioning. And you should be sweating while you’re working out anyway.

Me: But I’m tired!

Him: You won’t be after you get your heart rate up and going.

Me: UGH!!!!! BUT I DON’T WANT TO!!!

Him: Well….that’s your problem then. : )

As we talked about it, I couldn’t help but draw the parallels between FITNESS and FINANCES.

I recently admitted to letting our finances slip a bit over the summer. I’ve slacked off on a lot of the money-saving habits I used to have. It’s been months since I’ve designed our meal plans around sales and ads, for instance. I used to do that weekly – our meals were specifically planned based on the kinds of food on sale at our local grocers. It’s been years since I’ve done the envelope system. Or since I kept a “30 Day Wish List” prior to buying household stuff.

I think I’ve just been lacking motivation. To be honest, it’s probably been going on for awhile. I’ve been able to get away with it because our income has been high enough to compensate for some poor planning and spending habits. But when our income dropped, I really never buckled down. I never started the process of really trying to cut back significantly and, instead, I continued to spend like all was normal.

I’ve wanted to change, but I didn’t really want to put in the work to make it happen. Kind of like my fitness journey. Heh.

I don’t have any grandiose conclusion right now where I can say “That’s It! I’m back on the financially-fit bandwagon!” The truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it, but not a lot of actions just yet. I really feel somewhat immobilized by our lower summer income (hub recently stopped working to go back to school and I had to leave my part-time job due to a noncompete at my full-time job). It feels like no matter what I do, I’m not sure that I can make our outflow match our inflow right now. It feels helpless. I’ve intentionally never given exact income figures (though it’s not a total surprise, as I’ve been pretty open about our budget and expenses, etc.). But just to give ballpark numbers, we went from earning a take-home salary of roughly $10,000/month….to right at $3,000/month. Practically overnight. Granted, these are take-home numbers (insurance is paid pre-tax, some of childcare and medical is paid pre-tax, mandatory 7% investment is pre-tax), so the low $3,000 number doesn’t mean we’re only making $36,000/year. We’re still making significantly more than that. But just in terms of dealing with take-home pay, we’ve experienced a huge drop over the last couple months.

My new raise goes into effect soon and as much as I am LOVING the academic freedom this summer, I can’t wait for August to roll around just so I’ll be able to experience my first full month with my new salary (remember that raise I got months ago but doesn’t go into effect until my new contract??? Can’t wait!!!).

ANYWAY…..

I just wanted to check in with you all and be honest and open about where I am in my debt journey right now. I have no doubts that we will make a full rebound. I know it. But right now I’m still just kind of limping my way through, trying to find that motivation that comes so naturally to my hubby.

Share a financial (or fitness-related, if you prefer) WIN you’ve made recently! I love hearing other’s successes!

How do you keep your motivation high when you’re not really feeling it? Fake it till you make it? Any other tips or strategies?


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