Is Your Budget Doing More Harm Than Good?

Do you stress over your money?

Is your spouse under the impression that you are constantly fighting over money?

Are you constantly fighting over money?

Have you completely eliminated your quality of life?

Do you spend hours each week analyzing where your money has gone?

A total budget can have a negative effect on the other parts of your life. If your spouse isn’t 100% on board, maybe he/she needs some “blow money” that doesn’t need to be tracked.¬† If you aren’t spending enough time with your children because you are tracking expenses and adjusting your budget every day, you need to automate something, or at least loosen your standards.¬† Maybe tracking every penny isn’t the right method of budgeting for you.

Don’t let the perfect budget destroy the rest of your life. If money is still a fight, you’re going to need to compromise on something, now, or you’ll end up compromising with the help of a divorce attorney.

Don’t forget, you are living now, not in the future.¬†¬† Plan for the future, but live in the present.¬† There is a balance there, somewhere. Find it, or you and your loved ones won’t be happy.

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

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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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