February 30 Day Project #1: Romantic Gestures

For the month of February, I had two 30 Day Projects: Do 100 pushups in a single set and another, that I haven’t posted.   Until now.

The reason I haven’t posted anything about the second project is because it would have ruined it.   I set a goal to do something nice for my wife every single day.   It’s really a much harder goal than it sounds.   Between juggling wrestling practice, crabby kids, the usual winter illnesses and deadlines at work, finding time to arrange for anything special presents a challenge, and I wanted it to be a surprise.

This morning, the last day of the month, I made breakfast in bed.  While she was eating, I handed her a letter and set a present on the floor next to the bed.  The present was one of our wedding invitations, framed, and the closing of our wedding ceremony in a matching frame.

The letter reads:

Dearest,

As you know, I’ve been working on a series of thirty-day projects.   In January, I got up at 5 every day and read to the girls almost every day.   If February, my project has been to get to 100 pushups in a single set.   Almost.

I worked at that and accomplished it, but it was really a cover project.  I love you and wanted a way to express that.  So, my main project has been you.

In the first week of the month, we had two snowstorms, do you remember?  For each one, I made sure to get your truck cleaned off before you were ready to go to work, with fresh coffee.   At the beginning of the week, you got a full 30 minute backrub, with absolutely no hidden motive.   At the end of the week, I sent you a letter expressing my feelings.  Over the weekend, you had no diapers to do–I think you ended up with one–and I let you sleep in as late as you wanted on Sunday.   It was a good first week.

The second week, there was another snowstorm on Monday.  Combining that with the grocery shopping kept me from having time to do anything on Monday, but Tuesday, you woke up to a clean truck again.  Wednesday, there were flowers.  Thursday, dinner.   Game night at [friend’s house]?  That was planned, by me, 3 weeks in advance.   Over the weekend, I watched the kids so you could go to [cousin’s] to relax, and you got breakfast in bed on Sunday.  I may have missed a day, but the week was still a success, I think.

The following week, while you were getting ready for bed, you saw me go outside and asked about it.  Thankfully, the girls woke up, because I had just put a note in your truck telling you 10 things I love about you.   I also took all of the kids to wrestling–twice–to give you some sanity time and gave you another long backrub.  This was also the week you got sick, which meant a day in bed for you, instead of me being able to plan something nice.

This week, the last week of the month, I took all of the kids to wrestling again, giving you a chance to take a nice, relaxing bath.  Those were originally planned to be two separate nights.   Instead, it was combined into one night.   I also managed to go shopping to buy the components of the present I am giving you, put the present together, and write this letter.  Last night, our date was a part of this, and today, so is breakfast.

My goal has been to do something nice for you, every day. So now, for an entire month, you have been the focus of my dedicated attention, nearly every single day.  I’ve felt closer to you, than I have in a while.   Have you enjoyed the attention?

Happy Valentine’s Month.

The actual expenses were the flowers, the frames, dinner and a movie, and a buy-in for Texas Hold ‘Em at her cousin’s house. Everything else was done with what we have, gifts of time and energy instead of money.

Total cost: $159 for an entire month of romantic gestures. Money well-spent, for sure.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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March 30 Day Project

For March, my 30 Day Project is to do 100 sit-ups in a single set.

Based on the results of my February project, I will be doing 5 sets, morning and night, as follows:

Set 1:  Half of my maximum amount.

Sets 2-4: 3/4 of my max.

Set 5: Do sit-ups until my abs start to cramp, thus setting my max for the next session.

This month, I only have one project.

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Avoiding the Downside of Saving

Like all good silver linings, saving often comes with a storm cloud. Too often, people fall into the trap of forgetting to live while they are digging out of debt. Once you get into the habit of spending every spare cent to pay down debt, retirement, or a college fund, it gets easy to ignore the present in favor of the future. The downside–or potential downside–to saving, debt repayment, and frugality is a deferred life. Whether it’s deferred fun, deferred education, or deferred personal development, it can be detrimental to you and your relationships.

Changing Reality

Changing Reality

My wife and I have had this conversation. We’re in the groove on our debt repayment. We are making excellent progress right now. Since we’ve got it all automated, it leaves us time to plan, dream and consider our options. We’ve been looking at converting a hobby into a business venture. Doing so will involve a $1-2000 investment. If we can make it work, my wife will be able to quit her tolerable, comfortable, soul-sucking job within a couple of years. If we can’t, she will still have moved her hobby into an advanced–and more fun–level. That’s a win either way, but our initial reaction is to postpone. We already know we’ll have to postpone the purchases until we’ve saved for it, because we refuse debt in all forms. Our initial reaction has been to postpone saving, effectively deferring development with long-term potential to improve our lives until our debt is completely gone.

We’ve been discussing this, off and on, for months. We have finally decided to start saving, but only when we have money that is purely extra and we’ve tucked money into all of our other savings goals. It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to be an acceptable compromise given our situation and values.

Regardless of your situation, it is important to remember not to defer your life while you tackle your debt or savings goals.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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30 Day Project Update

My first 30 Day Project for the month of February has been to work my way up to doing 100 pushups in a single set. At the end of January, I did a test to find my baseline, my starting point. I could do 20 pushups, but there was no way 21 would happen.

My plan, based purely on the math, was to start from there, doing 5 sets in the morning and 5 more at night, adding a set number to each set every day. That lasted a day.

The problem with starting a new exercise routine at my max level and progressing from there is the pain. Holy wow, that hurt on the second day. I was doing sets of 5, then. Ow.

The new plan has worked much better. It is an aggressive, self-correcting progression that automatically correct for over-extending myself.

I do 5 sets. Each set is based on the maximum set in my previous session. My first set is half of my max. The next 3 sets are 3/4 of my max, and the final set ends when my abs are cramping and I want to cry, establishing my max for the next session. If I over-extended myself in the previous session, this set either shrinks or stays the same. If the final set stagnates for a couple of days, I take a day off to rest. When I come back, the sets improve drastically.

How well has this worked? Last night, at the halfway point for the month, I ended with a set of 75 pushups and noticable muscle growth. Next month, I’m doing situps and I will be using the same plan.

Plan #2 is also coming along well. Details in 2 weeks.

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