Tag Archives: goals

I’m almost a real runner

My big New Year’s Resolution is to run a half marathon this year, but my first goal is a 5K in the middle of March. Last weekend I finished up week 3 of the Couch to 5K training plan.

Guys. Seriously. Running is HARD. I was hoping it would be a lot easier since I’ve been working out consistently for a year now, and it was … at first. But week 3 kind of kicked my butt, and I’m scared about tonight’s work out because I’m starting week 4.

It really shouldn’t be this hard. The longest stretch of running without stopping last week was only 3 minutes at 5 miles per hour. It should be much easier than it is. But like I said, I’ve never been a runner. I kind of hate it. But each week starts out much harder than it ends up, so at least I’m making progress.

I’m still afraid to weigh myself because I know I put on a few pounds over the holidays, and I don’t think I’m losing. My clothes aren’t fitting any better yet. But I’m sticking with it because I really want to run that 5K.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned that are making my training a little easier.

Couch to 5K iPhone app

This thing has been indispensable in my training. If you have an iPhone or an Android and you’re training for a 5K, I highly recommend it. I can listen to music and forget about the time, and a voice pops in when it’s time to change pace. If you don’t have a smart phone, there are many C25K podcasts that follow the same general idea. You could easily track your time with a stop-watch or on a treadmill timer, but something about forgetting about the time and focusing on my music makes it a lot easier for me to follow the program. Which leads me to my next tip …

Focus on anything but time.

I still catch myself staring at the clock, waiting for the run to end. But the more I focus on how much time I have left, the slower time seems to go. Instead, focus on the music, focus on how powerful you feel running, focus on why you’re doing this for yourself. Think about your to-do list or what you’re having for dinner. Honestly, if I’m thinking about other things, the time flies by, the run seems easier, and my time is better.

Remember that food is fuel.

I started training in December, and I learned the hard way that what you eat has a direct effect on how your workout will feel. The day after Christmas was torture, because I’d spent the day eating nothing but crap. Since I’m also trying to eat healthier, I’ve become very conscious about what’s on my plate, but I also consider how rough that run will be tonight if I spring for the french fries at lunch. Food is fuel, and if you eat healthy, you will feel healthier during your workout.

Listen to your body.

It’s okay to push yourself to increase your time and speed. It shouldn’t be easy. But you should always pay attention to your body’s limits. I try to bump up my speed a little bit with each workout, but if I slept poorly the night before or I’m not feeling at my best, there are times when I think I might die before I reach the end of a run. It’s okay to slow down a little if this happens to you. You’ll feel better at the end of the workout, and you’ll be less likely to skip working out the next day if you’re not dreading it.

Since I’m so new at this, now I want some tips from you. How do you stay motivated to run? And how do you improve your time and endurance?

Photo by lgh75

Tech tools to help you stick to your resolutions

New Year’s Day is over, and now begins the slow decline in motivation for my New Year’s resolutions. It’s just so much easier to commit time and energy to self improvement when I’m on vacation. Once I get back to work and back to my to-do list, finding the time becomes a lot more difficult, and resolutions are the first thing to go.

Luckily, we live in the age of information technology. If you can make it work for you, technology can make sticking to your resolutions a lot easier. Here are my favorite tools for simplifying some of the most common resolutions.

Exercise more.

This year, my main resolution is to run a half marathon. But I’m not a runner. At all. And I’ve never really trained for a race. So I’m taking the age old advice of breaking my goal into smaller pieces to make it easier to attain.

My first step is training for a 5K in March, and I found a 5K training program called “Couch to 5K” that makes it incredibly easy. By using interval training and breaking it down week by week, this program builds up stamina without burning you out. It promises to prepare you for your first 5K in 9 weeks flat.

To make it even easier, I downloaded the Couch to 5K iPhone app. This is the first application for my smart phone that I’ve actually purchased (I usually only download the free ones), and it’s so worth it. The app tracks your progress and links a timer to your iTunes playlist so you can listen to music while keeping with the program. If you’re hoping to run more in the New Year, I absolutely recommend it.

Lose weight.

There are a ton of websites out there that make tracking diet and exercise a lot easier. Two of my favorites are FitDay and the Daily Plate. They’re both free, and they offer food diaries, fitness tracking, and a community for support. Simple calorie trackers make it easy to identify your diet downfalls, and fitness tracking helps you determine how many calories you’re burning with your daily exercise.

Read more.

I love my busy life, but I really miss having the time to read for leisure. Lately I’ve been using Shelfari to motivate me to keep up with my reading list. In the past, I would see tons of books that looked interesting, but I never had a place to keep a list. Shelfari’s visual bookshelf gives you a place to list what you’ve read, what you want to read, and find recommendations for new books from readers like you. You can see my last 10 reads in the widget on the right sidebar. The rating and reviews feature lets you keep track of your favorites. By making reading a fun challenge, this website may be the motivation you need to become well read.

Manage your money better.

If you’re not using Mint.com to track your spending, this should be your first priority. Mint automatically syncs with your bank accounts and credit cards to give you a full picture of where your money is going. It also allows you to create budgets and automatically track spending based on categories. The free iPhone app lets you keep track of your spending on the go. When it comes to managing your money, this is 75% of the battle.

Get organized.

If you’re looking for a better way to manage your to-do list, try Remember the Milk or Evernote. Both of these free programs allow you to keep an electronic to-do list, sync it with your smart phone or home computer, and stay on top of what needs to get done.

What did I miss? How are you using technology to accomplish your goals?

Photo by dmachiavello

It’s not failure; it’s an opportunity to learn

writer's blockNovember is half over. I should be halfway through my novel. Many of you might have assumed this was coming, but I’m nowhere near halfway through a novel. In fact, I haven’t made it past 5,000 words.

When I started the National Novel Writing Month project, I said it was an experiment. Unfortunately, it hasn’t bee a successful one.

I don’t want to give excuses, but I can give an explanation. I was very ill for the first week of November, which put me way behind. Then, well, I got lazy. Every night I came home from work, finished my to-do list for this blog (which remained my top writing priority), and then I just couldn’t bring myself to write 1,500 more words after sitting in front of a computer writing all day for work.

I was pretty down about it at first. As much as I wanted to “win” NaNoWriMo, I just didn’t have the energy. I’m still coughing a little, and I’m still recovering from the virus I picked up Halloween weekend. A lot of my interests and responsibilities have been on the back burner for the past couple weeks as I continued to recover. I haven’t been to the gym or taken any real photographs for this entire month. It’s been all I could do to keep up with this blog and my job.

I said I wouldn’t give excuses, but I won’t let myself feel bad about it either. Instead, I choose to see it as a learning opportunity. I did learn some things, even if I didn’t write the novel I wanted to write.

Just because you want to do it doesn’t mean you have the time.

A long time ago I had to learn to say no when I didn’t want to do something or take on more responsibility. But I never considered the fact that I could be my own worst enemy. I have to learn to recognize my own limitations and acknowledge that a 50 hour work week, daily blog, photography hobby, exercise, husband and household are already a lot of work. This year just wasn’t the right time to add on another responsibility, no matter how much I wanted it. I was setting myself up for failure.

Not right now doesn’t mean never.

I love to set goals for myself and accomplish them. But I have a now or never mentality that holds me back. Just because I have too much going on right now doesn’t mean I’ll never write my 50,000 word novel. Just because it can’t happen this November doesn’t mean it won’t happen next November (or even next July). There is no time limit. There are no rules. If I want to accomplish something, I will do it. I just need to learn that it doesn’t always have to be right this second.

Acknowledge your own accomplishments.

The whole point of participating in NaNoWriMo was to force myself to write creatively every day. But just because I pushed the project aside for now doesn’t mean I failed. The volume of writing I do for this blog is nothing to sniff at. So many blogs are started and abandoned (I’ve done it myself too many times to count). I should be proud of myself for maintaining a blog for over a year, and publishing about 3,000 words a week on top of who knows how many words I write for work every week.

The point is, if there’s a goal you’ve missed or an accomplishment you gave up, it doesn’t mean it’s over. Learn to accept your limitations, find the right time to pursue your goals, and never give up. But don’t waste time and energy being mad at yourself for putting things on hold.

Photo by samflinn

Countdown to our move: 6 months

It’s now November, which means I’m beginning my 6-month countdown to our cross-country move. Since I’m planning both the move and our trip to Europe simultaneously, I’m getting organized early. I’ve decided to keep you posted with monthly updates of how we’re preparing.

moving box

Here’s what lies ahead in the next month as we prepare to move back home:

Start clearing clutter now.

Getting rid of things takes time, especially if you want to try to sell them. We’re starting to downsize now to ensure that we’ll have less to pack, move, and store this May.

Get your resume in order.

We’re undecided about whether or not I’ll be going back to work full time. It will really depend on how much Tony earns in his job. I’ll most likely be working part time until I have a baby, and who knows how long that will be. Tony, on the other hand, is looking for full time work immediately. He’s focusing now on updating his resume, scoping out opportunities, and networking. It’s a little early to start aggressively applying for jobs, but he may send out some resumes with interest letters in the month ahead to companies with which he’s interested in pursuing a job.

Start thinking about housing.

If you’re planning to buy a home in your new city, now is the time to start looking at real estate. If you haven’t put your own home on the market, it’s definitely time to do so.

If you plan on renting, now is a good time to scope out neighborhoods or apartment complexes. Ask around if you have connections in your new city to find out which neighborhoods are safest with the best education and transportation options. If you don’t have connections, a little research online can tell you a lot about apartment complexes and neighborhoods.

We’ve already decided we want to live in the Indianapolis area. We also won’t be looking for housing right away. We might stay with family an hour outside the city. My best friend and her fiance have also offered us the opportunity to stay with them in Indianapolis for the summer. We might end up doing that so I can start working immediately, and it’ll be easier for Tony to get to interviews and look for job opportunities.

Make a moving budget, and save, save, save.

Even if you already have some money saved, you can never have too much in savings when you move to a new city. Start putting together a rough estimate for what it will cost to move your things, get situated in a new place, and cover basic living expenses until you find a job or start getting paid.

Cut your expenses now to save as much as possible in the coming months. The more money you have in savings, the less stressful your financial situation will be when it’s time to move.

What do you suggest we do to start preparing now?

Photo by ahhyeah

Are you up for a challenge?

nanowrimoIt happens every few months or so. I get restless. I start feeling unfulfilled and bored. I want some excitement, something new, but I don’t really know what that something might be.

We all get in a rut sometimes. The question is, what do you do about it? Do you complain? Wallow in unhappiness? Or do you try something new? Take on a challenge and see where it takes you?

I’m constantly challenging myself to try new things and explore new interests. Most of them don’t stick. A lot of them end up being unfinished projects or even unstarted projects. But you’ll never discover new interests if you don’t challenge yourself with new things.

Quilting, photography, this blog … all of my hobbies started out with a trial run. And it’s time for me to take on yet another challenge.

This year, I’ll be participating in National Novel Writing Month. I will write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30. I already have an idea and a rough plot outline.

The purpose isn’t to write a great piece of literature. In fact, it’s likely that the finished project will be total crap. It will be rushed, unedited, and hastily written. But it will be a novel, and it will force me to write creatively every day for a month.

I haven’t written fiction since junior high, so I’m looking forward to this new challenge. At the end of the month, I may decide that I’m better off sticking with nonfiction for the rest of my life. Or I may discover a new passion for fiction. Who knows where this new challenge will lead me, but that’s part of the fun of it.

I’m going to try very hard not to let this new project interfere with my writing here, but the fact is, I might be a little pressed for time in the coming month. If I miss a day here or there, you’ll know why.

So how about you? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Are you hungry for a new challenge? Have you always wanted to run a marathon or make a scrapbook? There’s no better time than now to make it happen. Let’s make November the month of new beginnings!

Photo by olivander

Another change in plans, but this time it’s good news!

for rentI’ve been pretty open about my struggles with homesickness. Last week, we had a change of plans that will bring us home sooner than we planned.

Last spring we decided to stay in North Carolina until December 2010 so that Tony could pursue a high school teaching license in addition to his master’s degree. A problem with his scheduling brought on by some crummy advice from the education school has made it impossible for him to finish his high school teaching certification any sooner than May 2011 now. So we have made the decision for him to drop the high school teaching certification so we can move in May 2010. That means we’re moving back to Indiana in as soon as 7 months!

This is a big change of plans. We thought we had 15 whole months before we’d be picking up and moving again, but this means we’ll have to start making plans now. How does this change our financial plans? Well, luckily, not a lot.

Tony will finish his master’s degree in May 2010. At that point, he will stop receiving his monthly teaching stipend. Student teaching is a full time job, so he wouldn’t have been able to work while finishing the licensure program. That means we would have had to live on my salary alone. It would have been extremely tight for 8 months. We may have been able to get through it without spending any of our savings, but I doubt we could have saved much money between May and December 2010.

Now that we’re moving early, Tony will be able to find a full time job right away. I may decide to find a job, too, so that we’ll be able to save more for a new house in Indiana.

Right now, we’re hoping we’ll be able to move in the beginning of May, and then we’ll celebrate our new start with our trip to Europe. If it works out that way, the move could take as much as $1,000 off the cost of our trip to Europe. We’ll save $400 on kennel costs by leaving Howie with family, and we’ll also save $200-$600 on air fare because it’s so much cheaper to fly out of Chicago.

The only problem is that the lease on our apartment won’t end until July. I’m hoping we’ll have some options for early termination, but if not, we may have to stay for the extra two months so I can continue working and pay the rent without dipping into our savings.

As far as long term plans go, Tony has decided to continue his education so he’ll be qualified to teach at the university level. Except this time, he’ll be attending school part-time while working full-time so that we can start a family.

This is all very exciting for us. We can’t wait to move back to the Midwest, closer to our families, and begin the next chapter of our lives. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on our moving plans!

Photo by thetruthabout

Necessity is the mother of frugality

money jarTony will finish graduate school in May 2010, but after that he’ll have a semester of student teaching before he’s certified to teach. Right now he receives a stipend for teaching undergraduate classes, which he won’t receive while student teaching. Unfortunately, this means we’ll have to live on my income alone for about 7 months. The student teaching program is full time, and we’re hoping he’ll be able to work nights and weekends, but I don’t want to count on that considering the trouble he’s had searching for part time jobs in the past.

We’re also preparing ourselves for after the move. I’ve done a little research, and in the area where we’re moving, it looks like we can expect Tony to start somewhere between $32,000 and $35,000 as a high school teacher (according to what I read, he’ll be paid slightly more than a normal first year teacher because of his master’s degree and experience). Of course, this number is just an estimate. If you have any information about what starting teachers in the Indianapolis metro area make, by all means please pass it along!

I will continue to generate freelance income, but I won’t be working full time since we’re planning to start a family shortly after Tony finds a teaching job. Freelancing is feast or famine, so we don’t want to factor my income into our normal budget. That means we need to start planning now for a reduced income with a baby.

On top of all this, our savings goal has increased since we’d like to buy a house sooner rather than later.

To help us reach these goals, we’ve decided to reduce our monthly spending by about 5% and increase our total monthly savings amount by 25%. Put simply, that means we’re cutting about $150 from our monthly spending and adding it to our monthly savings.

I spent some time pouring over the budget. I determined that if we continue living on a cash budget, cut our weekly spending by $25 a week and make some minor adjustments in other areas, this is totally doable. If we hadn’t spent the summer on such a tight budget, I never would have thought this was possible. I thought we were saving as much as we possibly could, but after a summer of tight expenses, instead of feeling like we need more, I only see where we can cut.

In real terms, this means we’re cutting our grocery budget from $50-$60 a week to $40-$50. Our “shopping” budget, which covers household expenses like cleaning products and other miscellaneous items, is being cut from $20 per week to $15.

As we move into fall, we’ll increase our additional savings by another $50 when our electric bill drops from $100+ during the summer to $40-$60 a month during the cool winter months.

Over the next 8 months, this will increase our total savings by about $1500. More importantly, it will better prepare us for next summer and fall when we lose 1/3 of our total income. It will also make it easier for us to transition into a single income home in spring 2011 when I’m no longer working full time.

My point is this: if you’re looking ahead to a lower income, now is the time to make cuts. It’s always easier to transition slowly than it is to jump into the cold water. Don’t wait until you lose your income. Learn to live on less now so you can bank the extra money for the future.

Photo by jayd

Searching for a place called home

This month marks the two-year anniversary of our move to North Carolina. We’ve managed to thrive in our relationship and in our finances, but our social life is still at a standstill. We haven’t made many friends, and we really just don’t feel like we fit here. Being home last week only made that clearer to me.

I miss having a place to go for Sunday dinner. I miss getting together with friends for dinner or drinks. I miss having a support network of friends and family close by to help us through the tough times. Being with so many people who love us last week made it clear to me just how hard it’s been for us to get through the last two years alone.

Tony and I are blessed with a wonderful, supportive relationship, and for a long time I thought that we were enough for each other. But the closer we get to starting a family of our own, the more sure I become that we can’t do it alone. We want our kids to know the kind of childhood that we did — surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends.

I’ve written before about our tentative plans to move back to Indiana when Tony graduates in December 2010. Last week pretty much cemented our plans. Even though it’s been two whole years, I’m more homesick than ever. I can’t imagine going through a pregnancy and my first year with a newborn without my mom, sisters and best friend there to hold my hand.

Every time I come home, my nieces and nephews have grown into entirely new life stages. The tiny infants I left behind two years ago are walking and talking and looking at me suspiciously because they don’t know me. It breaks my heart.

We’ve struggled with this decision since we began planning our lives together three years ago. We’ve dreamed of living as ex-pats in Europe for a few years or trying life in a new part of the country. But the older we get and the closer we get to starting a family, the more I know we need to be closer to ours. I’m craving a place to call home.

Between college and grad school and the time in between the two, we’ve been living in transition for seven years with another year and a half to go. We’re ready to find a home of our own.

A year of the frugal life

I can’t believe it’s been one year since I started Living Well on Less!

So much has happened in the past year, and yet it feels like it’s flown by. Looking back on my initial goals when I started this blog, I’m thrilled to see that we’ve already accomplished two out of three of our main goals and then some. We’re still working on that student loan debt, but this is only the beginning!

We’ve accomplished so much more than I ever through we could. This blog has been so encouraging to me, and reading about other people’s financial journeys has helped me think up new ways to save and grow.

As I head into my second year of blogging, I’ll be changing the direction of my blog just a bit and focusing more on living well than just finance.

To those of you who read me every day, or even just once a week or once a month, thank you! Your encouragement and ideas have been so important to us as we struggle to start our lives together.

Any suggestions for me as I start out my second year? What would you like to read about on Living Well on Less?