Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finding My Voice

Wanting to implement so many new changes into my life--- more careful spending, paring down possessions, healthy changes, budgeting, environmental consciousness, and time management--- can be tricky. I try to be aware that overloading my plate with goals can divide my energy and focus, which can inhibit my efforts. On a blog initially designed to be about finding wealth outside of income, I see my interests and passions have branched into other aspects of my life. Interestingly enough, I've learned to observe these goals as a collective rather than separately. All of these elements fall together under one common objective:


As someone who has tried to meditate, let me tell you... it's hard. I will devote twenty minutes to sitting in stillness and calm, trying to quiet my mind. Instead, I spend the entire time reminding myself to unclench my jaw, to breathe deeply, to stop thinking about various topics. I learned a meditation "trick" in college: when a thought enters your mind, visualize it as a piece of paper, then visualize crumpling up that paper and throwing it into a wastebasket. However, it seems that in my years since college I have spent more time sending mental paper balls flying all over the place and less time being in an actual meditative state. Turning my mind off and getting my body to respond to that is very difficult.

All of these goals I seek for myself are essentially asking me to be more mindful of my actions and decisions. I have been asking myself to be more present in these situations as they are happening, so they will in essence become fluid and natural reactions that don't require my constant mental attention. Though my aspirations may seem numerous, I find that I am seeing results because I have undergone a process of becoming more mindful without even realizing that's what I was doing.

For example, in the area of spending and budgeting, I have held fast to my new 2013 plan. Though I could see daily results while tallying my "play money" on my marker board, I didn't see my overall spending results until I received my recent credit card statement. When I compared it to the statement prior, I realized with my new budget that I had spent $521.54 less over a 30-day period. I'm not even on a spending fast anymore! During my time of financial fasting, I saved an average of $680 per month. I was beyond stunned that my results were so successful despite removing such an extreme limitation.

But then again, I shouldn't be stunned. My spending fasts have brought more awareness to my spending habits: how often I spend, on what, and why. I developed a mindfulness that has carried over into my budget plan. Despite my not being on a spending fast, I had actively changed my approach to money in a way that stuck.

Secondly, I've found that--- while I am more mindful of my spending--- I have also increased my awareness for what money actually means to me. When finances are strapped, it becomes a huge mental burden... one that caused a lot of stress following my divorce and my knee injury. Having the financial means to cover those expenses (plus my cost of living) means I spend less time thinking about money. I realize that, for me, having sufficient financial means does not tempt or encourage me to have excessive financial means.

I'm currently reading the book "Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better," and one of the major topics addressed in this text is that time is the new currency. The appeal of a more prestigious job and higher salary loses its value at the expense of exhausting demands and work hours. In this day and age, many people are seeking freedom and flexibility over larger paychecks. I can very much relate to this way of thinking. While I strive to do good work and to be an effective employee, I also know that I can't perform at my best if I don't have time to see loved ones, get enough sleep, or indulge in fun activities. That balance is more valuable to me than money.

I'd rather have
a balanced life of doing work I enjoy with time for healthy relationships and hobbies
instead of
a life of making a lot more money but not having the resource of time to make it worthwhile.

Lastly, I have detected a greater mindfulness in my personal health and well-being. Being more aware of what I eat (and the triggers that cause me to overeat or make poor meal choices) has resulted in a six-pound weight loss since January 1st. Now, I let my hunger trigger my decision to eat instead of the sight of food triggering a feeling of hunger. I know I have a sweet tooth, and I allow for that indulgence without going overboard. I've also become more aware of physical misalignment: when I experience pain in my lower back or shoulders, when I begin to have frequent headaches, when I feel drained. I've incorporated yoga into my exercise regimen to help lower my heart rate at the end of the day, and to stretch out some of those tightened problem areas. I find that I am largely tense in my neck, lower back, hips, and feet.

Because I am becoming more mindful of my health, my spending, and my values, it helps me to better establish my blog voice. I feel I have a better understanding of how to incorporate and intersect these various aspects of my journey into one common goal, thus making my future posts more cohesive. I've been able to see my changing body and my changing bank account... but perhaps my changing mindset is the most dynamic of all.

...Ugh, that was a cliché way to end a post. My apologies.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January Results

This post has been delayed due to personal matters, so please excuse the brevity.

I came in under budget for the month of January, despite having to spend $50 over my gas budget for additional commuting. I rather like the transparency of writing each purchase on a dry erase board in my kitchen. For me, it was better for accountability than writing it in a checkbook and then tucking it out of sight. Because of steps I've taken earlier in my journey with spending fasts (then out of necessity) it has been a smoother transition to drastically reduce spending (now willingly and voluntarily). That money has gone straight into my savings account, along with the (small) profits of selling a few more unwanted items on eBay. Something is better than nothing.

I also adhered to my modified eating and exercise habits. I've lost six pounds since January 1st, and most of it can be attributed to dietary changes. For one week at the end of the month, I was ravenous. My stomach grumbled and ached with hunger all the time. Without agonizing over numbers and calories too much, I'd eat something small or drink a little juice to stave off the pangs. My body was clearly used to consuming more (much like my wallet had) and while I was not starving, my body was certainly reacting to the adjustment.  Regarding exercise, sometimes my workout only consisted of twenty minutes of light activity. However something is better than nothing.

Again, apologies for the limited content of this post. Something is better than nothing, right?