30 Day Project – February

My 30 Day Project for February is to be able to do 100 push-ups in a single set.   The most common reaction when I talk about it?  “You’re nuts!”

Is it ambitious to the point of being aggressive?  You bet.   30 Day Projects aren’t supposed to be easy.   This is going to be a difficult painful month.

On the other hand, I have five fingers.   How many people do you know able to do 100 pushups?  I don’t know any.  In 4 weeks, I will know one.

What have I done to prepare?  Nada.  Nothing.  Zip.  Zilch.  I am starting this from scratch.

Here’s my plan:

At this moment, I can d0 20 pushups.  I am going to start with 5 sets of 2/3 of my max(14) with a one minute break in between sets .  That will happen in the morning and before bed.   Each session will involve more pushups.  I need to add about 3 to a set each day to get to 100 by the end of the month.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I won’t be able to manage 5 sets of 14, or that my progression is unmanageable.  That’s ok.  I refuse to test my endurance on this, and I’ve done no research.  I’m flexible and willing to adjust my plan to match reality.

Aggressive and painful.  Wish me luck.

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10 Things to do on a Cheap Vacation.

This summer, my family  took a six-day cheap vacation.  Technically, it was a “stay-cation”, but I hate that word.  Our goal was a fun time, on a budget, for 3 kids–one, two, and nine–without driving the adults nuts.   Obviously, if you’re not herding small children, some of these choices may not be for you.

  1. Zoo.  In St. Paul, there is a free zoo that is more fun than the paid zoo in the area.  There’s a small amusement park, a playground,  lots of picnic benches, and even animals.  We packed a cooler full of food and drinks and hauled the kids to Como Zoo for a day.  If there isn’t a free zoo near you, find a local petting zoo.  They are good for a few hours.
  2. Go Antiquing. Make sure you stay on a budget.  It can be more fun to feel the history in antique stores than to feel the fleeting thrill of an off-budget purchase.  This isn’t much fun for small children.
  3. Children’s Museums. We have access to a “Museum Adventure Pass“.   We used one to go to The Works Museum, which is a hands-on science exhibit not far from our home.  It wasn’t busy and the kids had a blast.  Most metropolitan areas have a wide variety of childre-friendly museums.
  4. Municipal Pool. We spent an afternoon at the city pool.  Aside from gas, this was one of the most expensive events for our vacation.   Residents get a discount, but it was still $30.   I discovered that my two-year-old loves big waterslides.  She comes out of them with a death-grip on the inner tube and a huge smile on her face.  It was a double tube and she sat in my lap.
  5. Game Day. Spend a day with the TV off and games on the table.  Make some snacks and prepare for some of the best quality time you can have as a family.
  6. Picnic. Pack a lunch and go somewhere quiet.   Go to the park.  Go to the country.  Grab a bench on a sidewalk somewhere.  Just have a leisurely lunch and take the opportunity to connect with your family.
  7. Hike. Find a trail somewhere and just walk.  I’ve found that it easy to have deep or sometimes even awkward conversations while walking.  You may find out things you never would have guessed.
  8. Visit Family. Hotel on the go?  My parents live more than 2 hours away, so they are always thrilled to have us visit with the grandchildren.   Be nice, bring some food to help out.
  9. Bike. The final day of our vacation, my wife and I left the kids in daycare and kept the day to ourselves.  We had breakfast in a nice little cafe.  We went antiquing.  Then we went out to the park where we were married, had a picnic lunch and went for a bike ride together.  It was our anniversary.
  10. Apple Orchard.  Around here, they are everywhere.  Pick-you-own apples, a petting zoo, pony rides.  If you go in the fall, there is usually a corn maze.  You can by real apple cider and any number of baked goods.
  11. University Exhibits.  Check your local colleges, especially the public universities.  Most of them have a PR program to maintain public interest and funding.  Even the private schools will usually have fund-raisers for some programs.  We recently attended the raptor show at the University of Minnesota for free with our Adventure Pass.

Vacations don’t have to be expensive to be fun.  Counting gas, food, and the occasional souvenir, we took a 6 day cheap vacation packed with activities for well under $400, possibly even under $300.

How do you save money on a vacation?

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

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Future Dreams

While jogging with my wife a few days ago, we had a conversation that we haven’t had in years. We discussed our dreams.

It’s an important conversation for couples to have. What are your hopes? What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in 10 years? In 20? In 50? Planning for the future gives you a map for the present.

My wife and I hadn’t had this conversation in years. A few days ago, we did. Our life-goals are simple and achievable.

I want to leave the corporate world and support my family with writing and the training classes I do. I want a chunk of land outside of any major metropolitan area, but close enough for the entertainment and shopping. I want enough land to expand my classes on my own property, relying on no one.

My wife wants enough land to have some horses. It was unspoken, but I think she wants my goals to take off so they can support her goals, too.

We want a comfortable retirement and we want to help the kids with college.

We’re a bit behind the game for college funding. That’s ok, though. There is nothing wrong with a kid working his way through college and learning those life lessons.

We are also behind on the retirement. But, if I can support us doing the things I love, I don’t need $X million. Retirement isn’t a cessation of activity, it is taking the time to do the things you love on your own schedule. If writing a book while sitting on my private range is enough to fund our life, that’s the perfect retirement.

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The Value of Hiding Money From Your Spouse

I have a confession, but it’s probably not going to be a big shocker if you read the title of this post.

Acceptance marks displayed on top left of this...

Acceptance marks displayed on top left of this sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hide money from my wife.

Some of you just started screaming at your monitor that I’m a horrible person.

That’s cool.

You’re wrong, but the fact that I got that reaction out of you makes me smile.

Ok, I might be a little bit horrible, but not because I hide money.

My wife has an admitted shopping problem.  If she thinks we’re broke, she shops less.  That’s a win and allows me to save up for our long-term goals and provide for our financial security.

I don’t lie about it.  If she asks how we’re doing, I tell her.  At least in general terms.

But I didn’t tell her about my annual bonus, until we had a bunch of car repairs come up that would have swamped our emergency fund.

I also haven’t told her about the cash I’ve been stockpiling.

A couple of years ago, the power went out here for four days.  It wasn’t just our house, it was 75% of everything within 5 miles of our house.

When the power came on in some places after a day or two, the phone lines were still down, which meant gas stations couldn’t process credit cards.

Quick, look in your wallet and tell me how much cash you have on you….

Most people live on their credit or debit cards.

Could you buy food or water if your plastic was gone?

I could that week, but not for long, so I started taking the cash payments from my side hustle and putting it aside.  I’d come home, give my wife a little cash, keep a little cash for myself, and put at least 80% of it away.  I absolutely refuse to touch that money for anything.

Part of the “set it aside and forget about” means not revealing its existence.  It would be too easy to dip into it to pay the pizza guy or when we go to Rennfest.

So I don’t talk about, and it gets to sit all by itself in the safe, comfy and warm.  It’s my security blanket, and nobody gets to touch my binky.

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