An Open Letter to My Incredible Wife

My Love,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

It’s hard to believe that counting today, between the two of us, we have celebrated a total of TWENTY birthdays together.  While it seems as though we have been together our entire lives, it feels like only a fraction of a moment ago we were meeting for the first time.  We have come a long way in our relationship and, while I know that I have not always been the greatest or most deserving of you, I wholeheartedly believe we have something special.  Through the muck of the early years, we have emerged with a stronger, happier, and healthier relationship than I honestly believe I deserve.  I thank God every single day that you have chosen to stand by me through all these years, as we were blessed with the greatest achievement of our lives, our amazing and wonderful son.  While I believe we were truly happy before he came along, he has forged our love even stronger.

When I watch you with him, it fills my heart with pride.  The love and sheer joy that exudes from his spirit makes me excited every day as we continue to shape and mold him into the amazing person that he will forever be.  You are, without question, the greatest Mama I could ever hope to have the privilege of raising our son with.

With you two by my side, I feel that there is no limit to what we can achieve.  You have supported me in every way and, without you, I would most certainly not be where I am today.  You have always pushed me to be better than I ever thought possible.  Likewise, you have never shied away from being honest with me, however brutal the truth may be, and calling me out on poor decisions…and for that, I am eternally grateful, as it has brought us to where we stand today.

We have evolved in so many ways throughout the years that we have been together.  Our desires, dreams, and goals have matured right along with us and I am so happy that we share a common vision for our future.  While I enjoy the planning, I also enjoy our spontaneity and adaptability to not be afraid in the face of challenges to our goals.  Prior to our son’s birth, we shared many fun times together; now that he is here, I look forward to, and can hardly fathom, the many exciting adventures that await us as a family.

Knowing you is a privilege.  Loving you is an honor.

I am so thankful to have you in my, and our son’s, life and I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays together.  May your day be filled with love and happiness!

 

With every fiber of my being…I love you!

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A New Class of Heroes

Dear Son,

Growing up in southern Illinois, in the world of Major League Baseball, you were either a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs or the St. Louis Cardinals.  I grew up bleeding red.  Born in the 80s and growing up in the 90s, I remember watching the likes of Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith, Mark McGwire, and countless others captivate me with their talents, all the while dreaming of being as great as they were at the sport I loved.

I think it’s perfectly natural as children, and even as adults, to look up to individuals in positions of prestige that so few reach.  Turning 30 later this year, I realize that my chance of making it to the pros is long gone…but it doesn’t mean I don’t dream.  My aspirations have simply shifted toward a new class of heroes.  Toward a group of individuals that are also in a position that so few in this country reach…individuals who are Financially Independent with the means to Retire Early.

When I was a child, I was overweight and lacked the understanding of the drive and work ethic that it took to make it to the pros.  Now, as an adult, I am working on shedding the pounds, both in the form of excess body weight and the crushing weight of debt.

Since beginning this journey toward financial independence, I have been inspired by “Hall of Famers” such as Mr. Money Mustache, jlcollinsnh, Go Curry Cracker1500 Days to Freedom, The Mad Fientist, and countless others.  As many of my fellow bloggers are on their own similar paths, I look forward to my future induction into “The Hall.”

As you continue to grow, I have no doubt that you will love the Cardinals, just like your dear old mom and dad.  In your first year alone, you have already been to two games, first in Denver and again in Houston.  Thankfully, your God-parents and best buddy, who we went to the game in Houston with, are Cards fans too!  While you were too young to truly enjoy the experience, more will come and your love of the game will grow.

However, the inspiration behind this post actually came from a different sport…football.  A recent Wall Street Journal article, Why the Redskins’ Players Are So Frugal, caught my attention and got me wondering…why don’t we hear more stories about professional athletes with a grasp on personal finance?  The average playing career in Major League Baseball is 5.6 years, the NFL’s average is a mere 3.5, and, according to Forbes, roughly 80% of retired NFL players go bankrupt!

If you develop a love for a particular sport and want to take a serious shot at going pro…and as your dad, of course I’m rooting for that…it is my sincere hope that you will follow in the footsteps of these frugal athletes who understand that money is finite and, in the world of sports where an injury can end a career, tomorrow is never a guarantee.  Living beyond your means, no matter how small or large the paycheck (and no matter in what career you ultimately choose), is a surefire path toward financial disaster.  A big house, fancy cars, and the like, will not fund your retirement.  So, again no matter what career you are in, pay yourself first, learn to live on less, decline to take on debt whenever possible…and join me in “The Hall” even earlier than I intend to get there.  Play ball!

 

Love,

Dad

Walking Home

Six days.  That’s what stood between us and MUCH warmer weather in Houston, TX.  We were packed up, had the U-Haul reserved, and I even had a job waiting for me.  Before we ever graduated, we had decided Houston was where we wanted to live (unless I landed a job with Indian Health Service somewhere else – there are no IHS facilities in Texas.)  Due to the fact that I couldn’t even begin the application process for my Texas nursing license until after passing my boards, we temporarily moved back in with my parents until all the logistics of our eventual move was squared away.  Anyway…all of our stuff was packed, just awaiting the day to be loaded up.  And then my phone rang.

I was standing in my parents’ living room, my fiance (now wife) was sitting on the couch, and we were surrounded by all of our earthly possessions.  When the guy told me where he was calling from, I began to panic and I nearly turned down the offer of an interview, as I had already accepted a job in Houston.  Thankfully, my level-headed wife was there and shot me a look telling me that I would be insane to not hear them out.  So I interviewed over the phone the next day and was offered a job the following morning.  It has been one of the smartest decisions I have ever made, with my wife’s help of course, in my life.

I snapped the above picture last week on one of my morning walks home from work.  The picture doesn’t do the scene justice…the sparkling ice covering every inch of branches glistened in the lights of the parking lot.  It was negative ten with additional wind chill but I have become rather acclimated to the weather here so, oddly enough, it didn’t seem that bad to be honest.  While planning our move to Texas, during the winter of 2012 we often joked that it was going to be our last “bad” winter.  Boy, were we wrong…and I’m so thankful we were.

I love walking to and from work, something that I would never have been able to do where we were moving in Texas.  The surrounding morning silence on my walk is beautiful.  The soft glow of an impending sunrise, painting the sky with swaths of orange, reds, and purples; or the immense darkness and wide open skies of South Dakota, allowing for incredible views of the moon and stars.  I enjoy the sound of crunching ice and snow under my boots, the chill of the wind on my cheeks, and then the wonderful warmth of home, where I will soon see my loving wife and son.

I find it hard to understand why everyone I work with doesn’t share in my love of walking.  For those of us who live right near the hospital, what is affectionately known as “the compound,” I find it nauseating to see how many people actually DRIVE to work.  Don’t get me wrong…if someone has a specific reason why they are unable, then that’s totally understandable.  But…and I kid you not that every house near the hospital is within two hundred yards of the place…when I see vehicles idling in driveways so they can warm up, and people outside scraping ice off their windows, I can’t help but wonder what they’re thinking.  So much wasted time and energy; if the snow isn’t too deep that I can’t walk through my backyard and I have to walk around the block, I can walk in a straight line to work in under 3 minutes.  In nearly two years, I’ve driven to work a total of two or three times…all of which snow was shin deep and ice was pelting me in the face as I walked out my front door.  Even that doesn’t stop me from walking anymore.

What about you?  What’s your climate like?  How do you get to work?  If you’re not already, is there anything stopping you from walking or riding a bike?

-Frugal RN

Ugly…but Practical

image

This image, now wrinkled and ruined, was the backing of a glass cutting board given to us as a Christmas gift before we moved away to college in 2010.  Ugly or not, we did what any decent people would do…smiled, said we loved it, and expressed our appreciation and gratitude.  While I have always found it to be rather hideous, the cutting board itself was and remains practical, functional, and an oft used piece of our kitchen ware.  It has served us well over the past 5+ years; however, it met its demise today while going through the dishwasher.  I had noticed the image starting to peel on one corner about a week or two ago…if this would’ve happened shortly after we got the thing, I would have rejoiced and quickly finished peeling it off.  Over the years, however, I have developed a fondness for it and, while grinning from ear-to-ear, pressed the sticky image back on as best as I could.

While temporarily repairing it, I couldn’t help but think about how, in today’s society, it is so easy to simply throw things away and run out and buy something new to replace it with.  Why are we so quick to do this?  While I don’t really like the idea of attaching feelings to inanimate objects, when I first discovered that this was starting to peel away, I couldn’t help but identify and attach a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality as I realized that this cutting board had traveled with my wife and I on three moves, from our first apartment together to our now-home that we share with our son.

While the cutting board, itself, remains functional and will continue on with us, tonight we say goodbye to our “deer friend” (pun, unashamedly, intended :-D.)

So, I’m curious…do you own anything hideous, while also finding it charming, useful, and practical?  Please tell me about it below…and pictures would also be awesome! 🙂

 

-Frugal RN

Our 5-Year Plan

I grew up with the notion that, due to the immense (please drip that word in sarcasm) expenses of daily life, I would essentially never retire and, therefore, work until I drop dead.  This idea was fueled by a lack of knowledge of everything regarding personal finance.  I was raised in the average-American two-parent home by blue-collar parents who pay their bills on time and sock away a portion of their money to their employers retirement plan (and state pension plan for my dad.)  Although we never had any deep conversations regarding my financial future, my dad would always try to get through to me the importance of saving.  However, I still remember believing that I wouldn’t be able to retire even if I had a million dollars saved, which always seemed like some inconceivable number anyway.  Also, Social Security would be non-existent (I don’t really know that but I’m still not counting on it.)  It wasn’t until around the time of our son’s birth, in September of 2014, that my wife and I had the epiphany that our financial decisions needed a serious overhaul.  We have been fortunate to have never struggled financially or ever miss a payment on anything we owe but the fact of the matter was…we knew that “normal” was no longer cool for us anymore.

So, although later in my life than I should have, I did what any sane person suffering from a lack of knowledge would do…I learned.  While I do not pretend to know even a fraction of what I would like to, I believe I now have a solid foundation on which to continue building.  The Mr. Money Mustache article I linked to in my last post, titled The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, in all its simplicity, was truly life altering for me.  I had been planning to work my whole life, but now here is a common sense solution to not only retire, but retire early!  So that is exactly what we intend to do.

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I just turned 29 last month.  Our current debt snowball has us on a roughly estimated track to be debt free in 30 months…quite likely even sooner.  Thirty months will put us in the summer of 2018.  I’m locked into a contract with my current job position for another year-and-a-half for getting my student loans repaid; I love my job, where we live, and couldn’t be happier to be getting that weight off our shoulders.  As a federal employee, a portion of my check is paid into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS,) which is the pension fund.  If I stay in my position for at least five years, I have the option of leaving my paid-in portion in place for a deferred retirement and, once I reach the “minimum retirement age” of fifty-nine-and-a-half, I would qualify for a monthly pension based on my five years of service.  If I leave before five years, my paid-in portion is returned to me and I can do with it as I wish.  I would like to stick around for the five year mark so I can leave the money in place because, if I ever rejoin government service, I do not want to have to “buy back” my previous service time.  Long story short, my five year anniversary will be in March of 2019, so it’s quite likely we’ll stick around until at least that time.

So here’s where we’ll stand at my five-year anniversary:  1) debt free for at least six months; 2) six (or more) months worth of stacking up G-bars in our Emergency Fund; and 3) hammering out the details our next great adventure.  At this moment, that adventure entails my joining one, or more, nursing travel agencies (thus the reason for the “travel” part of this blog’s name) and the process of transitioning toward a new career path.  While I will continue to work as a nurse in the same fashion I do now, we will have the opportunity to essentially go anywhere in the country that we want.  Additionally, one of the greatest perks of travel nursing is FREE HOUSING!  We will be debt free, owing only our monthly cell phone payment, car insurance, and buying food.  Topping our list of destinations is Hawaii and Alaska.  We’ve actually been thinking that we could quiet likely fall in love with Alaska and never leave; also, we are hoping to take a trip there sometime in the next year or two, so that may only further solidify that possibility.

While traveling with essentially zero expenses, we will have ample opportunity to continue saving up cash reserves, while also maxing out our Traditional IRAs and whatever employer plan I have available at the time.  Following our time in Hawaii and Alaska, assuming we ever leave, we have been seriously considering the idea of purchasing a Silverado and an Airstream and living on the road while traveling cross-country.  Having the ability to make these purchases outright without financing is the ideal goal and here’s why…

The subtitle of my blog is “Our Path to Early Semi-Retirement.”  The “semi” part refers to what traveling in an Airstream would allow us to do.  If we pull this part of our plan off, we will travel and I will continue to work either one or two travel nursing assignments per year, typically lasting three months each, while some may be as short as 7 days.  Having made more than enough money to live on for the remainder of the year, we will then travel around this beautiful country and give our son the greatest education and experience that we possibly can.

This semi-early retirement, at the ripe old age of THIRTY TWO, is essentially sustainable forever, barring any catastrophe preventing me from being able to work, and will allow us to continue socking away retirement investments, catapulting us towards our Financial Independence Day (cue the fireworks, please!)  However, we don’t know exactly how long we will do it.  That will depend on a multitude of factors; namely, how well our son enjoys the lifestyle of travel.  In the utopian version that plays out in my head, we, including our son, meet many friends along our journeys, affording him the opportunity to make friends with individuals from all walks of life spanning the continent.  As we plan to homeschool him, we are aware of many towns and cities with groups of home-schooling families who often get together for interaction and activities, as well.  This concern, among others, will be the ultimate deciding factor in how long this plan lasts.  There’s also nothing saying that we won’t skip the Airstream all together, continue traveling around for nursing agencies with no expenses, and reach our FIRE goal even quicker.

I am a rather firm believer that attitude and adaptability has a major impact on your happiness in most situations.  And the beautiful part is, if we all of sudden come to the decision one day that we want to stop traveling and “settle down” somewhere, then that’s what we’ll do.  Nothing is set in stone.  Who knows?  Three years from now, our minds may have changed completely…but I doubt itSmile.

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

 

-Frugal RN

Maslow’s Guide to Personal Finance

Abraham Maslow was a twentieth century Jewish-American psychologist who, unlike other psychologists of his time, studied happy and healthy people in order to learn what it is that pushes us towards achieving our full potential, what he called “self-actualization.”  He developed what is known as the Hierarchy of Needs, ranging from our most basic survival needs of food, water, air, etcetera to the ultimate goal of self-actualization, whereby an individual, in Maslow’s own words, “become(s) everything that one is capable of becoming.”

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs[1]

While Maslow realized that we do not follow this hierarchy in a rigid manner, whereby we may be working on multiple levels at once and/or finding ourselves more highly motivated to fulfill certain needs before others, I believe that this provides an excellent framework from which we can talk about personal finance.  Specifically, I believe that if we view our financial situation with this information in mind, it can go a long way to getting us on track to achieving our (personally) ultimate self-fulfilling goal…financial independence and the resultant freedom.

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Backstory…I started thinking about this article over the past few days after my wife plugged my site in a post she had written on Facebook that brought about my best day of traffic yet.  She recently started a blog of her own, Love, Laughter, & a Splash of Lunacy, and frequently participates on a stay-at-home mothers’ Facebook group; a new member, who is now a stay-at-home mom due to reasons beyond her control, asked how others survive on only one income.  Most responses we read offered advice regarding making extra income doing things such as selling Scentsy candles and the like.  While I hope that visitors to my site from that day took away some piece of helpful information from the few articles I have published, I wish that THIS one would have been written already.  Here’s why…

One of the most powerful things I have come to learn is that decreasing our expenses has a far greater impact on our financial situation than increasing our income to match our expenses.  Decreasing our “needs,” and the subsequent decrease in the amount of money we have to shell out every month for those purported needs, decreases not only the income that we need NOW, but also shortens the timeline and decreases the nest egg we must have in order to reach financial independence.  For a perfect explanation of this concept, please refer to this article by Mr. Money Mustache; it was one of the first pieces of information I read when I began researching personal finance…it has literally changed my life and shapes my family’s path going forward with regards to our goals and how we are working toward achieving them.

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When you’re just starting out, developing your very first budget, and (hopefully not) having the horrid realization that you’re spending every dime (or more) you bring home, the first thing you must ask yourself is:  what truly qualifies as a need in my life?  At our most basic biological level, we need food, water, and oxygen to keep our bodies functioning.  Sleep and sex are great, as well, and we need some general form of covering/shelter to help regulate our core temperature in conjunction with our environment.  However, as difficult as most people in modern-day society would find it, human beings have survived for centuries without cars, central air, cable TV, and the internet.  Hell, even I remember before cell phones came into existence.  The earliest device I personally remember seeing was a bag phone that my uncle had bought – analog, mainly static and, best I can remember, it cost about $1500 at the time!

Did you know?  I just learned about something called the Universal Service Fund, a fee that phone companies tack on in order to make phone service affordable to all Americans.  This isn’t anything new and, while it’s all good and well, according to FactCheck.org, the funds are now being used to provide free cell phones to eligible individuals, as well.  I am most decidedly not some cold-hearted person who thinks we should all just be left to fend for ourselves, but I honestly find the idea of free cell phones to be ridiculous.  While I do not know or speak for the legitimacy of the following site, check out freegovernmentcellphones.net; if you make it past the first paragraph without losing your lunch, you’re doing better than me.  The first paragraph starts as follows…

“It’s 2015, seven years since the great recession, and times are still tough. Among all your other expenses, you might be faced with choosing whether or not you can continue paying for your mobile phone, if you even have one. Cell phones have become a necessary part of your day-to-day survival, and to be without one is unthinkable. But there is help.” (emphasis added by me)

Are you kidding me?  Part of your day-to-day survival?!?  They make it sound like you are literally going to die without a cell phone.  Maslow died in 1970…pretty sure cell phones weren’t on his hierarchy of needs.

The point is, when you’re making out your budget and figuring out how to survive on one income, how you can more quickly reach financial independence, or whatever other financial situation your may find yourself in, think of Maslow.  You NEED:  food, water, and shelter…every other thing is just fluff.  You may (as I admit I would) be inconvenienced without your cell phone, or sad that you’re not watching the live finale of Big Brother (honestly, my wife and I grew to love that show but we don’t watch it anymore because we cancelled cable months ago – and couldn’t be happier,) but when it comes down to it, you must prioritize where your dollars are going.  Even if it means that you can no longer read (and subscribe!Smile) to my blog, I promise I’ll understand.  As a society, we have become so ingrained with the idea that to attain a sense of achievement and respect of others requires us to follow some preordained path of consumption, prompting us to sell ourselves into financial slavery by having to one-up everybody else with a bigger house, flashier car, or latest device, while financing it all in the process.  I have been guilty of this my entire life thus far.  The good news?  It’s never too late to change.

From a personal standpoint, with regards to Maslow’s hierarchy, I find myself reaching closer and closer towards self-actualization every day.  Our family has a ways to go until we are free from debt (end of 2017-ish), and then a considerable ways further until we reach our ultimate goal of financial independence; doing some rough calculations, I’m thinking that should be somewhere around the time I’m 45 by the waySmile.  However, at this time, my family’s physiological and safety needs are in place, we share immense love for one another and find true happiness in each other’s company.  Spending time with my family and working on areas of personal self-improvement increases my self esteem on a daily basis.  I am fortunate to have discovered a career that I find exceptionally fulfilling and I feel respected by my peers and colleagues.  I have accepted many facts in life, one of which, with regards to the subject of personal finance, is that the entire pyramid could come crashing down at any moment…

While I certainly do not foresee it happening, just like anyone, I could wake up tomorrow to find myself without a job, a pivotal aspect of my capability to provide for my family’s physiological and safety needs, while also holding a key component surrounding my self esteem and identity.  But the fact of the matter is, if that worst case scenario were to play out, I know, without a doubt, that we would be fine.  No doubt, it would be a temporary struggle as we transitioned to a new chapter in our lives, but the essential components of our happiness would remain unchanged.

While I know that I went off on a bit of a tangent with the cell phone issue, I hope that the key takeaway from this post is an understanding of how our perceptions have been manipulated, leading us to classify our wants and non-life-sustaining things in our lives as needs.  We each have a choice to make.  We choose what we spend our money on and each and every choice we make has an ongoing effect on our finances for the rest of our lives.  Every dollar spent today is one dollar, or presumably more if invested, that we can’t spend tomorrow or ten years from now.  Positioning ourselves to need less-and-less stuff allows us to focus on our true needs and what we find important in our lives…each other.

 

Where do you see yourself in Maslow’s hierarchy?

 

-Frugal RN

 

P.S. – Here’s my twist on Maslow’s pyramid for Personal Finance with the pinnacle being Financial Independence, Retire Early:

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*Be kind in your critique of my artistic abilities…remember, I’m a nurse, not an artistSmile.

Goals for 2016: Financial, Personal, & Professional

“We are what we repeatedly do.”

– Aristotle

While my wife and I are not much for “resolutions,” we have reached that time of year again where we all tend to reflect on changes we would like to make in our lives.  Whether you want to start doing something, like lose weight or pay off a debt, or stop doing something, like smoking, forming new habits in one’s life can be difficult.  The oft touted length of time it takes to change or form a habit is 21 days.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Statistic Brain reports that, while 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving it.  I would argue that this is due, in large part, to a lack of planning and the setting of unrealistic goals.  The number one resolution for 2015 was reportedly to lose weight.  It’s simple enough to say “I’m going to eat better and lose weight this year;” however, speaking in such generalities and not developing an action plan and going through the process of implementing it is going to keep you spinning your wheels.

Psychology Today has an excellent article, from 2010, on this very concept.  Setting realistic, specific, and achievable goals, while having someone to help hold us accountable (#thank you blogosphere and, even more importantly, my incredible wife!) is the most surefire way to ensure success with implementing changes in our lives.

There are several changes we intend to make in our lives, in 2016 and beyond, that will help us to live longer, happier, healthier, and more financially sound lives.  If you would like to skip the specifics and just see my bulleted list, feel free to skip to the end;  however, if you’re interested in greater depth, please read on.

My goals fall into three categories:  professional, financial, and personal.

Professional

I have been a Registered Nurse for the past two-and-a-half years and I intend to work toward obtaining nationally-recognized certifications as a Medical-Surgical nurse and as an OB nurse (the generality of the goal.)  I have already purchased the books and study materials for the exams and it is now time to get more serious about it.  The hospital I work for does not have separate departments for M&S and OB so, therefore, we all work on both sides of aisle to one degree or another.  I have a moderate amount of experience in caring for post-partum mothers and as a “baby nurse,” meaning I care for newborns immediately after birth; however, I have not had the opportunity to become fully trained in the facets of care provided to the laboring mother.  My supervisor is working on arranging opportunities for us to attend training sessions at an outside facility a few hours away and I am looking forward to the chance to further my skill set, which will only benefit me when we hit the road to travel in a few short years.

Due to a lack of experience in this particular area, my primary focus in 2016 will be to obtain the M&S certification first, as I am more proficient in that area of nursing.  Therefore, it is my goal to add the credentials of CMSRN to the end of my name by the end of 2016 (the specific goal!)

After completing this, then I will begin the process of studying for the OB certification.  Stating this as specifically as I can allows for realizing the achievability of the goal and provides for a measurable outcome.  Additionally, I have the support of my wife and, now that this is posted online for all to see, I will provide updates along the way…and look back and reflect on my successes and/or failures as 2016 draws to a close.

Financial

To stay within the realm of reality, I will not even pretend to think we can be debt free by the end of 2016.  While we are doing quite well here in the end of 2015, since backing up our investments in exchange for getting back on the Debt Snowball($3,000 of debt gone in 44 days!,) even keeping up with that would not rid us of my wife’s student loans and Jeep payment.  Within the past several months, I made some poor decisions that, while they are in no way detrimental to our livelihood, resulted in some credit card debt.  However, this debt is at 0% through the end of 2016 and resulted in a nice chunk of cash-back reward for making the purchases with the card.  I know…shame shame shame…but oh well; it will be paid off before a penny of interest is ever tacked on to the account.  So…if we are able to keep up with our recent debt payments, we will be able to pay off $25,000 worth of debt in 2016.

While this is doable, I feel that it may be a bit ambitious and, for the sake of being realistic, I am saying that we will pay off at least $20,000 in 2016.  We pay $500/month to the Jeep so that is $6,000 that I automated from my paycheck.  Our regular budget allocates $450/month to my wife’s loans, knocking out $5,400.  I feel that, without a doubt, an additional $8,600 toward our debt is easily doable.  Quite likely, we will be able to pay even more…especially if I pick up any extra overtime.  I’m really looking forward to discussing updates on this goal throughout the year and continue to watch as we get closer and closer to debt freedom.

Personal

My personal goals for this year are rather cliché.  Number 1 is that I want to lose weight; I’m currently sitting at 215 pounds.  I’m 6’1” so my BMI is 28, landing me in the “overweight” category.  BMI is not a perfect metric, as it does not take into account body composition (i.e. a bodybuilder with six-pack abs who is the same height and weight as me would have the same BMI…trust me, I’m not a bodybuilder.)  My stomach currently measures 41” and that is just not acceptable.  I have a child who I intend to be increasingly active and outdoorsy with and, if I can’t even get myself into appropriate shape, then how can I expect to be active with him as he grows and we begin to desire exploring the great outdoors?

Carrying excessive amounts of fat around my midsection increases my risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Mayo Clinic reports that, “for every 2 inches of greater circumference, mortality risk went up about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women.”  Back at the end of 2011, I weighed right around 200 pounds and had a 38” waist.  My wife (fiancé at the time) and I began following the Weight Watcher’s Point System, which is an excellent tool for learning portion control, and I was getting cardio exercise on a Bowflex Treadclimber.  Over the course of several months, I dropped to 170 and had a waist size of about 35” and it was the healthiest I had ever been in my life.  I don’t know where, when, or why we got off track…but I truly miss feeling as good as I felt then.  So, therefore, my goal is to ultimately get back to 170 pounds with a 35” waist…but let’s break it into manageable chunks.

We are planning a trip to Montana sometime in late spring, where it is our hope to do some hiking for the first time in our lives.  For the sake of my weight loss being a measurable goal, let’s say we are going to go at the end of April/beginning of May.  Four months = 16 weeks = average healthy loss of two pounds per week = 32 pounds of potential weight loss.  That would put me at about 185 by the time we go on our trip.  Therefore, by the end of February, I will be down to 200 pounds, making my way toward 185 by the end of April.  I won’t specify a waist-line goal for now, as losing the weight alone will result in a subsequent drop in waist circumference; however, updated measurements will be taken and recorded.

Changes I/we will implement in order to make this goal achievable:

1.  Our closest eating-out joint is about 50 minutes away so we eat 99% of our meals at home.  Meal planning, utilizing our subscription to eMeals, will help to avoid the ongoing monotony of eating the same foods over and over, which often result in our overindulgence of junk/processed foods.  Meal plans will allow for a greater use of vegetables, while helping to ensure a more well-rounded diet.  With eMeals, we have the ability to vary the recipes that we receive, from vegetarian (which we are not) to low carb/calorie to crock pot meals for easy preparation.

2.  Decreased snacking on junk food, e.g. cookies and donuts.  This will come about by simply not buying them.  Easier said than done when my brain starts telling me that I’m craving a donut but, if I can look at it on a month-to-month challenge, I believe I can rewire my brain and overcome this thought pattern.  Like I said, it supposedly takes 21 days to form a new habit.  If I can challenge myself to not buy any cookies/donuts/etcetera for the month of January…and not actually die!…then it stands to reason that I can continue to not buy that garbage in February and beyond.

3.  Similarly with the junk food, I need to drastically decrease my consumption of soda.  Albeit, I drink diet and couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a sugared soda, the fact is that the stuff is still not good for me and not to mention a complete waste of perfectly good debt-crushing money.  Right now, I drink an average of about 5 cans per day.  I love Coke Zero!  A 24 pack costs about $8 and, according the basic math I just did, for the first time actuallyDisappointed smile, I’m spending about $600 per year on soda!  Wow, I actually had no idea…that’s depressing.  But let’s fix that.  While I don’t anticipate quitting soda cold turkey, I can certainly work my way to quitting and dropping to a budgetary restraint of, let’s say $24 per month = 3 cases.  That comes out to about 2.5 cans per day on average.  Let me get to that point for a month and then maybe I can implement a no soda monthly challenge in FebruarySmile.

4.  Increased activity via utilization of our coat rack treadmill and increased outdoor activities, especially walks around our neighborhood when we feel it is safe for our son to be out for a more extended period of time (current temps have been in the zero-to-five degree range, with snow up to my shins, so it hasn’t been feasible.)  Also, while I have never been the running type, I would like to ease into the idea by putting to use the C25K (Couch to 5K) app that I have had downloaded on my phone for the past few years and have yet to actually fire it up.  To begin, I will start using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work – the most ideal time to do this is after our son goes to bed in the evening so, due to working nights, I can’t do this very well on nights that I work.  As a nurse, I generally get a good deal of walking in most nights but perhaps I can make a point of making extra trips up-and-down the stairs during down time.  Having tried it in the past, and having the appropriate supplies already, I would also like to begin doing yoga, as well, as often as possible.

5.  Weekly weigh-ins to maintain accountability and a point of reference to ensure progress is being made towards my ultimate goals.

The whole point of these life changes, as with everything we do in our lives now, is for our son.  He has been a Gerber baby since he began eating solid foods, giving him a well-balanced and nutritious diet of meats, fruits, and vegetables in a multitude of varieties.  The fact is, he’s 15 months old now and he has been increasingly eating more and more of what mommy and daddy eat.  It’s a real gut check when you realize that you don’t want your child to be eating the foods that you do.  So the real question is, if we don’t want him eating the crap that we eat, why the hell are we eating it?!?!?Disappointed smile

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Personal goal number 2 involves having a better garden than this past year.  The summer of 2014 was the first time we had ever planted a garden.  We have a nice yard where we live and, trying out our green thumb, we borrowed a tiller and planted a small patch of green beens, corn, tomatoes, and green bell peppers.  We had several good pickings of beans and a handful of yummy tomatoes, but only about four tiny ears of corn and a bell pepper that was about the size of cherry tomato.  For 2015, I bought a tiller and broke up a larger chunk of ground in our back yard.  I was incredibly over zealous, planting more than we had the opportunity to care for (even without an infant in the house) and, therefore, weeds took over and things were more-or-less a wash.  We had a few Walmart-type bags full of beans and we picked the SIX most delicious strawberries I have ever had in my life.  The tomato plants got large but the tomatoes themselves weren’t any good and we didn’t get a single bell pepper.  Likewise, we didn’t have any corn either.  I rushed through the process of planting due to time constraints between work and our son and, without proper planning, I planned for failure (and succeeded at said failure.)  2016 will make for a better year in the garden:  more detailed planning with regards to plant layout and spacing will be utilized, as we will decrease the number and variety of crops we will focus on.  Also, we will better plan our approach to weeding, committing a small chunk of time every/every other evening, as opposed to trying to tackle the whole thing in one day per week.  I also plan to utilize lawn clippings as mulch to help keep the weeds at bay, as well.

Additionally, I am hoping that our son will be able to develop a love and appreciation for gardening, providing for a learning experience that we can share and develop together over the course of many years.  This will help guide us to be more self sufficient and foster a deeper love of the outdoors, while also providing a source of good, clean, nutritious food.

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Goal number 3 is that I would like to read more.  We read to/with our son for an average of about an hour-and-a-half every day – 30-45 minutes prior to each of his naps at 11:00 and 15:00, and then prior to his bedtime at 21:00.  Minor fluctuations in his schedule/routine account for variations in reading times.  However, this precious time with our son does not count toward my desire to read more.  Also, I do not wish to count my reading/studying for nursing certifications either.  Therefore, it is my goal to read a minimum of 5 books during 2016.  I’m not certain what these will be yet but I will be sure to provide updates along the way.

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My final personal goal that I have come up with at this time point in time involves making more “me” time for my incredible wife.  She is the glue that holds our family together, as she carries an incredible amount of the responsibilities for maintaining our home in the functioning order it runs in.  Seriously, I cook but she literally does so much that I can’t even begin to detail all the things she takes care of on a daily basis, on top of being an incredible momma to our amazing son.  The majority of our day is spent playing, interacting with, reading to, and teaching our son things.  Between that time and the time spent doing all the daily chores, there is minimal minutes free for down-time.  Once our son goes to bed, that is typically when we veg out on the couch for a little R&R with each other.  I would like to make it a mission to allow for my wife to have some well-deserved personal time.  While it is easy enough to say I could do something like take her out for a spa day, it is not always feasible to do something like that due to the fact that the closest spa is three hours away.  I’m not sure yet exactly what things will be implemented to reach this goal.  Obviously, most of these actions will be without her prior knowledge but I will be having a talk about this with her to see if she has any specific thoughts or desires in mind.  While I have some ideas in mind (which I will keep to myself because my wife is my proof-reader), any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!Smile

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GOALS FOR 2016

1.  CMSRN credential

2.  Pay off at least $20,000 of debt.

3.  Weight loss:  weigh 200 pounds by the end of February and 185 by the end of April – monitoring with weekly weigh-ins

4.  Increased meal planning with eMeals

5.  Month-to-month junk food buying ban

6.  Decreased soda :  $24 = 3 cases/month to ZERO

7.  Using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work

8.  Improved planning and crop yield from the garden

9.  Read a minimum of 5 books in 2016

10.  Increased personal time and appreciation for my wonderful and loving wife, who is the greatest momma I could ever hope to have for our amazing son.

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So…there you have it…my/our family goals for 2016.  With some determination and holding myself accountable, I believe that they are, without a doubt, realistically achievable.  I hope that you have developed some goals for the coming year; furthermore, I wish you the very best of luck in achieving your goals and I look forward to sharing our progress and following along with yours, as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Frugal RN