Saturday, May 27, 2017

Why Keep a Budget

Companies keep track of every penny. Why don't we do the same in our personal finances?

Why you should budget when you're broke

Budgeting when you are living paycheck to paycheck is extremely helpful. Instead of wondering if you will have enough money to pay rent or get some gasoline or groceries, you'll know exactly how much you can allocate to each expense.

Some people probably think that keeping track of every penny is tedious and would actually feel more like they are a prisoner to their money. But actually, it gives a sense of freedom. You know that you can spend $20 on gasoline and you'll still have enough money to buy a new pair of work pants that you've been needing. Or, you will realize that you've been spending way too much money on going out to lunch so you will start packing PB&Js.

If you are broke or just over broke, budgeting can help you escape that paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. After a couple of months of keeping track of your budget and spending habits, you will see where the waste is. You might start to get motivated to slash the waste and use those funds to pay down debt or save.

Why you should budget when you have plenty

So do you stop budgeting once you've "made it"?

I wouldn't recommend it. Even when you have more than enough to cover all the basic expenses, a budget will continue to help you thrive and grow your wealth. You will be able to track how much you are saving and investing each month and a budget will also give you a plan to save up for larger purchases (vacation, new car, etc).

Like I said at the beginning of the post, businesses keep track of every penny. Companies who go under due to money problems usually have warning signs months in advance if they just took the time to look at their books. We need to do the same if we want to prosper.

If you feel that your money isn't behaving and doing what you want it to do or if you feel like you're a hamster spinning in the wheel without making any true progress on your goals, try budgeting. Seriously. Give it three months. If it doesn't help, you've only lost a little bit of your time. If it works, you'll gain a whole new sense of security.

Budget resources

You can keep track of your budget with pen and paper. But if you want something more advanced, there are a ton of budgeting resources out there and many of them are free or extremely reasonable. Here are a few that I use or am aware of which are available online and/or on Apple or Android phones:

  • Every Dollar (completely free with optional upgrades. I use the free version and love it)
  • YNAB: You Need a Budget (free trial and then $50/year. My parents use this one and have enjoyed it)
  • Mint (supposed to help you pay bills, budget, and track investments)

Do you budget?
If so, what tool(s) do you use?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Between Total Failure and True Potential

On my morning commute, I usually listen to a podcast. I have a few favorites that I rotate. This morning, one of the hosts that I have been listening to lately, Jason Stapleton, said something that I know in my head, but really hit home:

"Do you want to have a chance at a better future? If you're not willing to give everything you've got, every minute of your life, every day of your life then you will live somewhere between total failure and your true potential. Nobody can do that for you."

He was talking about how the average Joe will not be willing to sacrifice now in order to build a better future for himself. Jason said that he sacrificed 10 years of his life to build what he wanted. He said that most people will not sacrifice some time with family, some sleep, or recreation to work hard in order to rise above the mediocre life.

The episode was ending just as I was pulling into the parking lot at work. We have a parking problem at my job. More than half of the employees have to park on the street or in a nearby parking lot. It's a pain when you do not get there early enough to get a spot in the lot or at least a decently close spot on the street. I typically get a parking spot, but traffic was not cooperating this morning so I ended up on the street.

The frustration rose in my body as I thought about how unjust it was that I had to park on the street. Then I thought about what Jason had said.

Am I willing to make sacrifices now so that I don't have to come to this office building in the future? Am I willing to give it everything I have in order to never have to be told where to go, when to be there, or where I have to park?

I used to think I was. But I'm not sure. Do I have what it takes? Does it matter enough to me?

It's not that there is anything wrong with being mediocre and having a regular 8-5 job. But most of us will be in big trouble if that paycheck stops coming. Most Americans wouldn't be able to survive without their job. Most Americans have zero income except what they earn from their paycheck every week. There would be no way for most people to avoid getting behind on bills and going into debt within a week or two of losing their job.

I want to break free of that. I don't want to rely 100% on another company for my livelihood. But if I want to break free from that, I'm going to have to give it everything I have, every minute, every day to get there.

Until then, I'll be living somewhere between total failure and my true potential.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why Your House is Always Messy

The KonMari method is perhaps one of the most over-blogged about topics. However, I am a bit late in jumping on the KonMari train. The KonMari method is a way of cleaning out and organizing your home so that you can keep it tidy forever.

I have blogged in the past about getting rid of items and cleaning out my old things. I really do prefer to have a neat and organized space. Since getting married and having a baby while also working full time, it has been much harder for me to keep our 525 square foot apartment picked up and organized. No matter how often I "pick up", the apartment is always in a state of disarray by the next weekend.

Why can't I keep a tidy home?

After reading many blog posts and watching YouTube videos about the KonMari method, I finally listened to her book a couple of weeks ago. The book made everything much more clear to me than any of the posts or videos. It put me at ease about what it takes to clean house and keep a tidy home. If you feel that your personal space is much too crowded and messy, I would definitely recommend her book. The audio version was less than 5 hours long and it is well worth the time.

Here is the main reason you can't keep a tidy home: you have too much stuff.

It doesn't matter how many organization tools you buy or how many closets you have. If you can't keep your house tidy you probably have way too much stuff. It's not always even easy to remember how things entered our home, either. Party favors, hand-me-downs, shopping sprees, gifts... the list goes on. It doesn't really matter how the stuff got there, though. What matters is what you do with it now.

The KonMari method only has two steps and the first one is to get rid of the excess (anything that does not bring you joy or that you do not have to use on a regular basis). Once you get rid of the excess, then you can figure out where to put everything. When everything has a place to go, the home can remain tidy.

Marie Kondo (the author of the book) wants you to go by category, not geographic space, when cleaning things out since we often keep things going in the same category in two or more rooms. The first category is clothes and the categories get progressively more difficult from there. The last category is memorabilia as that is the most difficult and emotional area of our lives to let out. However, the momentum and practice in the other categories is supposed to help with that last step. This blog post illustrates the categories for you which helped me a lot since I listened to the book via audio instead of getting a hard copy.

I have started with clothes, the first category. I am almost finished with this one -- just have to go through bags. If you clicked on my old posts that I linked to above, I had almost 50 bags a few years ago. Now, I have about five, but I still feel like it is too much since I don't use and love them all. So, I am currently deciding which ones to let go of.

Of the rest of my clothes... I took four trash bags of clothes to Goodwill and took one trash bag to the actual dumpster (the clothes inside this bag were too old or worn out to donate). I went from eight scarves to three. I only had ten pairs of shoes but have further narrowed that down to just seven. I am also throwing away or giving away at least half of my jewelry and accessories.

I already feel more free and organized in this area of my life. I need to grab a few replacement clothing items, but I will be much more careful about what I bring into my closet going forward.

Books are next on the list for me. Although I already got rid of about 20 books of my already limited library last year, I still have about 40-50 left. This will be a tough category, but I look forward to making progress toward my ultimate goal: having and keeping a tidy home.

Is your home as tidy as you wish it was?

If it's not, do you plan to check out Marie Kondo's book?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Experience Being a Podcast Guest

Since starting my podcast, I have had the opportunity to guest on another podcast. At first, I was nervous about this experience. The goal of this podcast, called The Cross Examined Life, is to challenge unconventional ideas. The host asked me to talk about and defend an unpopular belief that I held.

Naturally, I chose to defend homebirth which makes up less than 1% of births in America.

There was one rule that the podcast host had which threw me off a bit: I was not to talk about my own personal expertise or experience when defending my belief. I had to rely completely on my arguments.

I was nervous to guest on a podcast. After all, I would have zero control over the end product. What if I sound like a moron? What if people think I don't know what I'm talking about? What if I say "umm" every two seconds and I can't edit it out?

Thankfully, the host of the Cross Examined Life podcast did an amazing job editing the conversation and adding in some of his own commentary. He did his best to make sure I sounded professional and polished. The end result is definitely something I can be proud to have people listen to for more information regarding homebirth.

The Cross Examined Life podcast is available in iTunes and Stitcher so definitely feel free to check out my episode and some of the others. There is a wide variety of unconventional views defended on the podcast so every episode is different and challenging. Overall, I had a great experience guesting on this podcast and feel blessed to have such a great podcast host who made sure to have my best interest at heart when editing the episode.

If you listen to my episode, please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Experience Starting a Podcast

When I originally started this blog back in January of 2014, my ultimate goal was to start a podcast. That's why I called this blog (a name I am considering changing because I only plan to use this site as a blogging tool...) However, my attempts at starting a podcast always failed. I was not secure in the technology side of things and I was not sure what I wanted to talk about. Not having a niche topic was probably my biggest obstacle.

After being a doula for almost a year and leaving that field, I realized that the perfect niche for me was natural pregnancy, baby care, and parenting. So, I started Another Mom Podcast last September and put out 10 episodes in four months. It was super fun and satisfying to use some of my prior knowledge and my passion for the topic to share information with others. The 10 episodes have been downloaded over 600 times combined. Unfortunately, I have not put out any new episodes in 2017, but I do want to get back to this project. Another good thing is that my episodes are fairly timeless and will be relevant for years to come. So even if I do not put out new episodes for a bit, interested listeners can catch up on the old episodes and gain some knowledge that way. Feel free to go check them out and listen to what I have available.

What I learned from starting a podcast:

  • It takes commitment. The podcasters who consistently put out an episode every week or every day are committed and I have major respect for them. It takes time to find a guest and/or a topic, record the episode, edit, and upload. It probably took me about 3-4 hours per 30 minute episode.
  • There is a learning curve. I have never considered myself a very tech-savvy person so it took me a little time to get into the groove of recording, editing, converting files, and uploading content. I still have not figured out how to get my podcast on iTunes so they are only available on my website or Stitcher at the moment. However, with the help of some other podcasting friends and the internet, I got enough information and assistance to get started.
  • People will automatically find you credible. If you have a podcast devoted to a certain topic, a lot of people will find you automatically credible on the subject. I have had a lot of people ask me if I was a midwife or wanted to become one because of my podcast. It has started a lot of conversations and given me a chance to talk about my passion with people in real life.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Daily Blogging: the key to creative genius?

As regular readers will know, I participated in the Praxis program and graduated from the program almost two years ago now. I cannot believe it has been that long and the amount of things that have happened in my life during the program and the two years that have followed is truly astounding.

I am still connected with the program through a social media website just for alumni, current participants, and Praxis leaders. I love getting inspired daily by what alumni and current participants are up to.

The two founding leaders, Isaac Morehouse and TK Coleman, are avid bloggers. I remember them encouraging us to blog throughout our Praxis experience which I did every week or so. You can look back on this blog and read those posts if you'd like. Now, part of the program for participants is a writing module which includes 30 consecutive days of blogging.

Of all the art forms, writing is one thing that everyone who knows a language can do. You may not know how to paint or draw or play a musical instrument, but you can write. Even if you're no good at it, you can do it. And you can do it every single day. And you can share that work with the world around you, for free, through a blog.

Isaac and TK recently put out a video on the Praxis network site talking about how blogging every day for 1 year+ changed their lives in positive ways. They have been preaching this to me and the other Praxians for three years, but for some reason it finally clicked in my head this week as to why it works.

Other than brushing your teeth daily or eating a meal, there are few things you will do every day for a year or longer, especially something which requires at least some level of creativity. Isaac and TK admit that not every blog post is top quality, but you come to terms with that because you are in this for a long-haul. You are in it for the commitment. You are in it to become more creative, a deeper thinker, and someone who does not just consume information but produces content as well.

I can make up a lot of excuses as to why I might not be able to blog every single day. To be honest, I have not decided whether or not I want to even try it for fear of failure or fear that I am too much of a perfectionists and the challenge will drive me mad. But, it has been over a year since last blogging on this site -- why did I wait so long to pick up the electronic pen and write something? (I did start a new website/podcast last fall and put out 10 episodes (you can check that out by clicking here). But again, that project is not a daily creative endeavor.)

I imagine that just like with any challenge, you have highs and lows. There are days you feel the momentum -- the previous days and weeks of posts are cheering you on to keep going. And some days you wonder how you can get away with a three word post and still count it as a day of blogging. But according to Isaac and TK, sticking it out is worth the effort.

How do you express some sort of creativity every single day?
If you don't, what holds you back?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Delayed Gratification (Whole30)

Since publishing my ecourse is done and the bulk of the work on that project is over, I have begun a new journey for my health. I decided to participate in the Whole30. The point of this program is not necessarily to just lose weight (although that is a side-effect for most participants). The goal is to improve overall healthy, wellness, and energy by revolutionizing your diet.

So the creators of the Whole30 have a special rule -- one that I have not ever encountered on any other diet. 

You can't step on the scale during the entire 30 days. 

One of my Whole30 meals
This program is challenging for me. I turned my diet upside down by giving up sugar, bread, and dairy. Instead I fill my plate with protein, tons of veggies, a little fruit, and some healthy fats. Plus, I have to cook almost every meal as it is quite difficult to eat out. So that means lots of time in the kitchen and tons of dirty dishes. 

The first week I was fighting sugar withdrawal. I felt terrible, especially on days 3 and 4. I'm feeling better now and I'm starting to see the benefits this way of eating has on my energy, but that first week was particularly tough. 

There was more than one morning that I desperately wanted to step on the scale. If I can just see that it's working, I'll be motivated to stick to it. 

But what is the definition of "working"? Just losing weight? 

And it got me thinking. Our culture is one of instant gratification. We want specific things and we want them now. For me, I want to lose weight. Like, yesterday. 

But when it comes to long-term health, there are no shortcuts (at least, none that I can find and trust me, I've looked). The goal of the Whole30 is to break those old habits and create a new way of thinking and eating. That means taking a break from the scale and the instant gratification of losing a pound or two and rather focusing on how the food you eat makes you more or less healthy over the long-haul. 

Yes, I hope to lose weight on this program. But I also want to feel better and be healthier. And that means delaying gratification, at least for a little while.