He is like a man using a candle to look for the sun."<p>Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Never take life too seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway."<p>Author Unknown
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life."
The healthiest response to life is joy."<p>Deepak Chopra
Have the courage to be yourself. You are better than the "Cooler-Than-You" guy.
After the blizzard a couple of weeks ago I got up to scrape off my car and dig out the eight to twelve inches that was sure to be covering the wheels. Little did I know that the plow had come in the early hours and packed a comically large mountain behind my vehicle, ensuring me hours of digging. I’m sure the irony was lost on the plowman that he had cleared the parking lot by burying all the cars under the plowed snow.
Being from California, I have yet to acclimate myself to the fact that, yes, it does snow, and yes, dummy, you need a shovel to clear said snow. So I unlocked my car, successfully opened the door three inches and pulled my scraper out. I didn’t have a shovel, so that was the best I could do. Little by little, I started chipping away at the thigh-high pile.
After thirty minutes, I stepped back and looked at my work. You couldn’t even tell that I had done anything. I was like Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”: I was chipping away, bit by bit, at that giant wall [of snow] with nothing better than a spoon. It was going to take me 20 years before I dug out my car.
Then, a miracle happened (well, it was a miracle to me, at least). One of my neighbors came over with his shovel and asked if he could help me out. Within fifteen minutes, the entire job was done. I thanked him, waved goodbye, and was on my way to work. If my neighbor hadn’t come along, I probably would’ve been out in the cold for at least another hour. At. Least.
The lesson I took from this was, no matter how enthusiastic and mentally prepared we are to take on an assignment, task, or creative project, without the right tools, support, and—much of the time—teamwork, the job won’t get done properly.
One of my favorite tools we use where I work (Hallmark Cards, Inc.) is the Decision-Making Model (Frame, Debate, Decide, and Act). Using the Decision-Making Model, we are able to work as one cohesive team to create the very best for our retailers and consumers. Utilizing this model allows us to clearly, constructively, and in a timely manner, figure out what is the best product to meet the needs/wants of our consumers.
Now, the use of the Decision-Making Model doesn’t have to end at Hallmark. I find it also can work at home. In fact, had I used this model (or even a loose interpretation of the model) before the awesome blizzard we had two weeks ago, my week would’ve looking something like this:
Frame (gaining clarity by shaping the issue): Hey, Emily, we’re going to have the blizzard of the decade tomorrow. Your car will most likely be buried in feet of snow. That leads us to believe you will need something that helps dig out piles and piles of snow. Hmmm. What could that thing be?
Debate (gaining strength by discussing the options): Could that thing be my flimsy little scraper? Um…no.
Could I just use my broom and dustpan to sweep away the snow? Again, no. Seriously, where do you come up with this stuff?
Should I buy a proper shovel that was made to move giant piles of snow in a shorter amount of time? Um, hello! Blizzard of the decade! Buy the shovel.
Decide (gaining momentum by deciding with courage): Going to buy a good shovel.
Act (getting results by acting with purpose): Goes to store and buys shovel. When the snow comes I am prepared and master of my own universe. Take that, Mr. Evil Plowman! You can’t get me with your mountain of snow anymore! I show up to work on time with a big smile on my face.
See how much easier it would’ve been had I properly thought my situation through with the Decision-Making Model? Now go! Take this brilliant model and try it at home on simple questions like: What should I eat for dinner? What should my family do for entertainment on Friday night? How old should I claim to be on my birthday this year? The possibilities are endless…but for now, I’ll just go buy my shovel.
If the girl scouts and boy scouts can teach us anything, it’s to always be prepared. Too often do I have an umbrella in my car except on the day it actually rains. Okay, so getting a little wet may be the least of my problems…I’ve been trying to stick to my corset-on-too-tight budget and have barely made ends meet. It’s been hard but worth it knowing that I didn’t have to use my credit card once this month and am on the road to paying them off, as opposed to incurring more debt. However, with two days left ‘til payday and only seven cents in the bank, I was thrown a financial curveball.
I don’t know how I managed to swing it, but I’ve lived in four states that didn’t charge property taxes on cars, so I was kind of surprised to get a bill for over $500 from my financing company to pay taxes (2010 was my first full year living in Missouri). I wasn’t prepared; I have a whopping 33 cents in the savings account (I haven’t quite reached that point in my life where I can eat and have a savings account…sigh), so there was nothing to fall back on.
There are many finance gurus out there (Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey) who all give great advice. Two nuggets of wisdom I wish I had enough flow to follow are:
- Pay off all your credit cards and only pay with money you have in your bank account. If you can’t afford it NOW, you don’t need it now. Save up for it.
- Create an emergency fund of at least $1,000 and never touch it. You will be tempted, but when unexpected things come your way, like a tree falls on your roof during a storm or you get into a fender bender, you’ll have money to fall back on. Emergency fund = less stress.
My brother and I have the same parents, the same genes, the same common sense, yet in the same week I was thrown my tax curveball, his water heater, water purifier and dishwasher all broke at the same time. However, he and his wife were able to dip into their savings account and buy all new appliances. It is quite responsible that they had such a solid emergency fund hanging out in their savings account. If the same thing had happened to me, I’d be showering at my work’s gym and washing dishes by hand (not much different from college, really…).
We live and learn, and after the small, but significant curveball I was thrown threw me off course to financial freedom, I’ve learned that not only do I need to budget money for bills and expenses, but also a little bit for my emergency fund, even if it’s just $10 a week. It adds up quickly.
So check out your savings. If something happens right now, are you prepared?
For extra advice check out the following website:
We prepare our entire lives to enter the “real” world. What people fail to tell you is that the real world is extremely similar to high school…especially when it comes to lunch. Where I work, it seems that most people buy their lunch in the employee cafeteria. In high school, the cool kids always bought pizza and soda, while I brought a soggy tuna sandwich and water in a cheesy looking lunchbox. Today isn’t much different—there are such a variety of options at my work cafeteria that I’m tempted all the time to just go there and buy a $5 sandwich. What’s even worse is that I don’t even need real money to buy my food—it’s all payroll deducted! With one swipe of the ID badge, lunch can be paid for and I could be eating before you can say jack rabbit. It’s all just a little too easy, if you know what I mean. (And the money—or lack there of—is definitely noticeable when I get my paycheck.)
With the slumping economy, there is a new trend emerging: bringing your lunch to work. That’s right, it’s no longer dorky to bring your lunch from home. This works well for me, since I'm trying to save some moolah by curbing unnecessary spending. Part of this savings plan is to bring my food with me. Apparently, many of you feel the same way I do, and more and more of us are bringing our lunch (a whopping 43% of you bring lunch to work every day, while 32% bring lunch to work three or four times per week).
I know many of us are professional folk, and don’t like to be seen carrying a brown paper bag or bulky lunch box through the halls of our business. For a while, that was enough to convince me to spend my hard-earned cash on convenient, high-priced cafeteria food. However, that excuse is no longer good enough. Not only have we decided to start a lunchbox revolution, but many smart companies have decided to get on board and lead the way. There are new, much more fashionable ways to carry your lunch to work in style.
I, myself, carry a green and blue Kathy Ireland lunch bag to work every day filled with my healthy homemade choices. Many, many times has the bag been mistaken for a purse (this also comes in handy when I want to sneak in some goodies into the movies or sports arena) which makes me feel more confident that no one’s secretly chuckling at my beat up lunch box.
Things have changed a lot since we were kids. Check out the cool new ways you can carry your lunch in style:
This is a great way to meet your foodie needs with fab, not drab! The Michelle Lunch Bag by KOKO
For someone with a little more casual taste, this is a great find! Let's Do Lunch Bag from QVC.com
I love this one--black does go with everything! So stylish! Sachi Quilted Lunch Bag from amazon.com
It's vintage meets modern with this Eating Apple Sandwich Keeper from ModCloth.com
Don't worry men, I didn't forget about you! This sleek style comes in three different sizes and four colors, including azure and titanium. Tuck inside your briefcase or carry like an iPad. Rosti FLAT Lunch Box by Port Style Enterprises, Inc.
Okay, so it’s been almost a week since we all made those grandiose New Year’s resolutions. This would usually be the time where I’d forget about all those promises I’d made to myself, and continue bad habits from the previous year. It’s the easy way out, right?
To help avoid this, it helps to frame your resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. By setting this type of goal you can track your progress and stay motivated.
As an example, we’ll use one of my mother’s goals for 2011. My mom wants to be able to work out on the elliptical machine because her knees hurt on the treadmill. She tried last year a couple times, but couldn’t stay on longer than a minute because her body’s not used to using the required muscles in her legs and abs. Her ultimate goal is to be able to stay on for 20 minutes. She’s created a S.M.A.R.T. goal to track her progress toward success.
Check this out then try the method for yourself:
Specific: Be specific with your goals. If you set clear tasks for yourself, such as I want to exercise on the elliptical machine for 20 minutes by December 2011, it is easier to visualize the end result.
Measurable: It helps if you can measure the progress of your goal in some way so that you can stay motivated. In December of 2010, my mom could only walk for one minute on the elliptical. Her friend can work out on the elliptical for 40 minutes at a time. My mother was overwhelmed by the idea of staying on that long, so the notion of success seemed bleak. Once she decided on a specific amount of time to build up to, the task seemed easier as she can track her progress. Now, only a week in, she’s already up to 3.5 minutes. She’s realizing that each time she tries, she’s going a little bit farther, and that is motivating enough to try to a little more each day.
Attainable: Sometimes we self-sabotage by creating a goal that’s completely unattainable for ourselves. For instance, I want to be five-foot six inches, but there’s no way I can get there without wearing high-heeled shoes. Remember, you want to strive for something that is possible. For my mother, in her mind 40 minutes is unattainable, so she’s more likely to look at that goal and give up. The voices that say, “I can’t. Why bother?” can sometimes overpower us, causing us to fail. However, if you set a goal you think you can attain, you’ll feel more confident in tackling it.
Realistic: Getting to twenty minutes on the elliptical is a completely realistic goal. Take a cold hard look at your own goal—is it realistic? If you’ve never hiked before, it might be more realistic to say you’re going to conquer that 8-mile trail near your house rather than Mount Everest (not to say that climbing Mount Everest isn’t a great long-term goal. Just be realistic about your abilities. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk).
Timely: By creating a deadline for your goal, you have a specific date to shoot for. Be it a wedding, birthday, or—if you’re like me—a ten year high school reunion (*gulp!*), that deadline will drive you to do the best you can so you hit your goal. My mother knows that she may only be at 3.5 minutes now, but knowing that she has time to hit her goal takes a bit of the pressure off, while each new day and accomplishment motivates her to stay on the machine a little longer.
I am a creature of habit. I love my iced mocha in the morning. But at about 350 calories and $3 a pop, this one drink violates two of my New Year Resolutions: the one about consuming healthy, non-sugary foods and the one about becoming more financially sound. By not buying my daily mocha, I am saving myself about $90 and 10,500 calories a month (at 3,500 calories per pound, that’s the equivalent of 3 pounds!). My mini-goal for January is to instead only make coffee from home (5 calories and roughly 35 cents a cup).
Only four days in, it’s been difficult not going to my local café everyday, but I’m hoping that at the end of the month my bank account will thank me. Ninety dollars may seem like small change to some people (definitely not to those of us on a creative person’s salary), but added up over time, I can save $1,080 a year. Now that could definitely help kick the credit card bills to the curb!
With my current financial standings I can only budget $25 a week in groceries. Even though $25 isn’t a ton of money, spent correctly, it can buy you a solid amount of nutritious food to last a week. However, with my iced coffee habit running a tab of $21 a week, I only left myself $4 to buy food. That $4 was definitely not enough, so that led to me using my credit cards at the grocery store, and ultimately left me maxed out, poor, and hungry. I am stuck in a deep hole I never saw myself digging (did the cliché “Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” pop into anyone’s minds? Anyone?). Apparently, I felt that my daily caffeine fix was worth more than financial security and a good credit score. Wow, was I wrong. Not a fun lesson to have to learn.
I used to think that being on such a tight budget, I could only eat frozen meals or cheap fast food. I never thought that $25 could get you much healthy stuff from the store, so instead of researching to find out the truth or crunching the numbers to see how much I was really spending on food that was bad for me, I continuously bought sugary protein bars and frozen and canned meals packed with tons of sodium and artificial ingredients. In my mind I thought I was doing the right thing, but when my bank account and stomach didn’t fill up, I figured something was wrong (Um, duh!). My outlook on what I could get for my budget was totally incorrect! Check out what you can get for $20 at a grocery store versus a fast food joint:
So, for those of us on a tight budget who still want to eat right, I’m here to say that it’s possible. It requires only a tiny bit of time to plan your meals for the week, make a grocery list, and go shopping. I suggest shopping the perimeter of your grocery store. That’s where you’ll find fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat—your staples for good, healthy, filling eats. The artificial, processed, not-so-good-for-you foods tend to live on the aisles in the middle.
If you’re more of a visual learner like me, I suggest checking out the following article called “$20 Food Showdown: Fast Food vs. Healthy Food”: http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=what_20_will_buy_at_the_drivethru_and_at_the_supermarket
It may be hard for people like me who are trying to break bad habits, but it is possible to eat right on a budget. So go feel satisfied; let your stomach and bank account finally feel a little bit fuller.