Tag Archives: 20 goals for 2011

A day off from my to-do list

relaxOne of the easiest goals I set when I came up with The List was taking a day off for no reason. At least it should have been easy. Unfortunately, taking time off has always been tough for me.

Like a lot of women, I’m always juggling a million things at once. I’m a wife, an employee, a blogger, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a dog owner, CFO of our household … and my responsibilities continue to grow. With so many things to do, it’s hard to take a break. Even on vacations, I have a long list of what we want to do and see. There’s never time to just sit and be.

My point isn’t to whine. To be honest, I don’t know that I could live any other way. I enjoy being busy, taking on responsibility, crossing things off my to-do list. There’s nothing more satisfying for me, and I wouldn’t continue to add to my list if I didn’t relish in getting it all done. If I had to sit still more than a few minutes at a time, I’d probably go crazy.

I’ve gotten so used to being so busy all the time, though, that I forget sometimes that taking a day off is an option. My days are spent with one to-do list after another, which is fine most of the time, but I need to remember that it’s okay if I don’t get everything done sometimes. It’s okay if I take a little time off.

Last Monday morning after my parents left, I was feeling overwhelmed. We had such a great time with them, but I had a long list of to-dos, and not enough time to finish them. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. So I talked myself into doing something I’ve never done: I called off work.

I’ve never taken an unplanned day off from any job. I’ve worked through fevers, personal crises, and any number of other events when I really just wanted to stay home.

After debating with myself for an hour, I finally called my boss and told him I wouldn’t be coming in. I was stressed about his reaction, but I wasn’t surprised that he was supportive. I’ve been there for a whole year, and this is the first time I’ve called off without requesting the time off at least a week in advance.

In order for this to be a true day off, though, I couldn’t treat it like another busy weekend. I spent a little time writing, but other than that I didn’t cross anything off my to-do list. I didn’t do my laundry. I let the dishes pile up. I watched movies, took an afternoon nap, and spent the day doing nothing.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel guilty at the end of the day. I’d taken a full day off, and nothing was done. But it was a wonderful reminder that doing nothing can be an option occasionally. It’s okay to take a day off every now and then. On Tuesday, everything on my to-do list was still there. Slowly but surely throughout the week I was able to catch up.

If you’re like me and you can’t remember your last real day off from your to-do list, I urge you to take one. Call off work if you can. Ask your spouse or babysitter to take the kids for the day or even for just a few hours, and take some time for yourself to do nothing. We all need a mental health day every once in a while.

Photo by fd

A Mother’s Day meal fit for a queen — the frugal way

lobsterThis weekend, my parents are coming to visit. I haven’t seen them since Christmas, and I can’t wait.

Last weekend my mom celebrated her birthday. And of course, this weekend we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day with her. We really want to do something special for her, so we started brainstorming super luxurious meals we could cook.

Since one of our goals for 2011 is cooking lobster at home and it’s one of her favorite foods, we decided surf and turf would be the perfect Mother’s Day feast.

Steak and lobster meals typically cost about $25 in chain restaurants, and even more than that in gourmet establishments. We figured by cooking it at home we could keep it healthier and save a little money. I was surprised to find out just how much this meal can cost even at home.

Tony really wanted to cook live lobster. At $14.99 a pound and roughly 1.5 pounds per lobster, we would have spent about $90 on lobster alone if we each ate a whole one. The most economical option is buying two whole lobsters, which would probably yield plenty of meat for the four of us. But that would cut down on the amount of tail meat that each person gets, and the lobster tail is the best part. Not only that, but I wasn’t too excited about the gruesome reality of cooking a live lobster. I’m a little squeamish about eating anything with eyes. Yuck.

We decided to go for frozen lobster tails instead. Our grocery store typically sells frozen lobster tails at $9.99 each for about 4.5 ounces. That’s about $35.50/pound. I had no idea lobster was so pricey!

In a tremendous stroke of luck, it turns out frozen lobster tails are half price this week at our grocery store. So we’re buying 4 frozen lobster tails for $20, or about $17 a pound. It’s more expensive per pound, but we’re not paying for the inedible waste we’d have with whole lobsters. I have a feeling that when you weigh only the edible parts of the whole lobster, the per pound price would probably be more than $14.99.

We were prepared to serve any type of steak, but after shopping around we discovered that we could get beautiful cuts of filet mignon for $7.99 a pound at Costco. We normally wouldn’t spring for a pricier cut of meat like that, but this is my mom’s birthday/Mother’s Day meal after all.

For side dishes, we’re serving creamed spinach and baked potatoes. All together, this feast for four people will cost less than $60, or about $15 per person, including a nice bottle of wine. That’s a pretty pricey home-cooked meal, but when you consider what we’d spend at a restaurant, I’d say it’s a steal.

Tony says lobster tails don’t count and he still wants to cook a live lobster, but I’m still going to cross that one off the list anyway. :)

Photo by tangaroo

The List: Fun goals to accomplish before 2011

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Just generally kind of blah. It’s taken me some time to figure out what could be causing it, especially since everything is going so well for us right now.

I’ve always had a tendency to be preoccupied with the future. Instead of enjoying what I have right now, I’m looking ahead to a new home, a baby, and everything else that’s coming up in the next stage of our lives.

Unfortunately, all this looking ahead is a good way to miss out on what’s good about right now. We have almost two years before we close this chapter in our lives and move on to the next. It’s two years of time together to experience new things and enjoy each other’s undivided attention. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Lately we’ve been talking about ways to make the most of this time. There are so many things we want to do and see before we settle down and start a family, but we’ve been so focused on lofty financial goals and day-to-day life that we’ve lost sight of those things.

We’re in a good place financially. We’re debt-free except for our student loans, and we’ll be paying off that debt for quite some time no matter how I crunch the numbers. That’s okay with me. We’re on track to complete our emergency fund in about a year, and we should have the money saved for our trip to Europe in a little under a year.

When we decided to plan our trip to Europe, it was partly because we realized this is the best time in our lives to do it. With no children and few financial obligations, we have more freedom now than we’ll have for quite some time after we have a baby and buy a house.

Acknowledging this freedom made us start to think about other things we’d like to do. We may not be able to accomplish them all, but focusing on the list will be a nice diversion for me in the coming year and a half while I count down to the next chapter of our lives.

Some of the things on The List won’t cost us a thing; others are quite expensive. We’re still committed to our other financial goals (living debt free, saving for retirement, and completing our emergency fund) and we don’t want this list to distract us too much from those goals. By setting priorities and being more frugal in other aspects of our lives, we should be able to focus a little money on travel and other things we’ve always wanted to do without detracting from our other goals.

I put up a rough draft of The List on a separate page where I can track what we’ve accomplished and add to it. We have about 20 months to do as much as we can before Tony graduates. These are fun things, so you won’t find any financial goals here.

The challenge is to accomplish them frugally without getting into debt or affecting our savings too much. We may discover that some of these things aren’t possible at this point in our lives. We’ll have to examine our priorities and plan ahead to make some of them happen. Whether we’re able to do it all or not, I’m really looking forward to trying and sharing our experiences with you as we cross things off.

What do you think we should do before we settle down? Take a look at The List, and let me know if you have any suggestions!