4 Tips for New Years Resolutions That Stick!

Happy New Year!

It’s the last day of 2018 and while most people are thinking about the parties they’ll be attending tonight, tomorrow will bring a new year and new resolutions. Why is it that resolutions seem to last all of 45 minutes and then they’re forgotten? We’re back to our previous habits and disappointment in our lack of willpower quickly sets in. Resolution burnout combined with post-holiday blues makes January seem like a dismal month.

A quick web search for top resolutions of 2018 was very illuminating on how generic people get with their goals. Is it any wonder they don’t last? Why not change that this year? Below I list my favorite tips for setting resolutions in a way that they’ll last more than the first week of January.

Tips:
1. Set SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive and is a very popular tool used in business. The problem most people have with goal-setting is not making them specific enough. Example: “I want to exercise more”. Ok… more than what? If you set a goal that has specific criteria and constraints, then you will know when you’re achieving it. How do you know you’re exercising more? If you change that to “I want to exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time” then you will know once you hit day 3 that you’re succeeding at your goal. The idea here is to remove any possible ambiguity that provides a “way out” of the goal.

2. Have an end goal in mind but set small goals that will eventually lead there. “I want to lose 50 pounds this year”. While a good goal, it’s also a large one and very daunting. Instead of focusing on this large of an objective, set smaller, achievable goals that create a road map to where you eventually want to be. “For the month of January,  I will work on removing sugary drinks from my diet. For the month of February, I will add vegetables to every meal.” Small goals that are less intimidating and easier to achieve but eventually add up to the overall goal.

3. Positive, not Negative. Most resolutions people set require giving up things. Weight loss requires giving up tasty foods; spending less money requires giving up frivolous spending like gourmet coffee; and so on. It’s very easy to get caught up on the things we have to give up to achieve our goals, which we then start to rationalize as too constricting and then the resolutions fizzle out. Instead of thinking about what we have to give up, focus more on the positive aspects. Spending less money also gives you a chance to get creative with budgeting. Losing weight gives you a chance to try new food and experiment with unfamiliar ingredients. The more positive you are, the more likely you are to stick to your goals.

4. Ask for help if you get stuck. We all need a helping hand now and then. Sticking with the weight loss resolution, if you find yourself eating the same things because they’re tried and true recipes, ask your friends for their favorite healthy options. Search online or Pinterest for new things to try. Keep it fresh and exciting and you won’t suffer burn out.

New Year’s Resolutions are a chance to start over and make improvements we’ve been thinking about but you don’t have to wait for a new year to implement any type of change. You can always choose to reinvent yourself in a new way. The first step is always the hardest, but it gets easier.

Happy New Year and Happy Resolution Setting!

Living with Autism

This post actually took me a really long time to write because this is so close to my heart.

My son was placed on the spectrum over the summer and while I was not at all surprised, I was very annoyed that it took this long for the diagnosis to happen. Several times, teachers recommended visiting the doctor about my son’s classroom behaviors and each time, I was told they do not test based on the recommendation of teachers.

Fast forward to 5th grade… I had to take my son for booster shots in April for middle school and the doctor we saw pulled me aside and asked if he’d ever been tested. I was so angry and she could see it. She responded by apologizing over and over. My only thought was “all this time he could’ve been receiving the help he needs instead of struggling”.

I’m writing this post now to encourage all parents out there – if you have any suspicion about your child, push the doctor until they agree to help. Even if the evaluations determine your child is not on the spectrum, it is better to know than to feel how I felt – that all this time your child could’ve been receiving help and accommodations at school but wasn’t.

Its easy to say “find a new doctor” but as any parent of an autistic child can tell you, it is anything but easy to change anything in their “normal”. Whether its food, or the person who cuts their hair, or the doctor they see – routines are very difficult to change.

This actually happened earlier today – something about my son’s normal changed and it took over an hour to get his mood to stabilize. He was angry, crying, confused and we spent almost 30 minutes sitting in the car at Target talking through all the things swimming around his mind. The only way I’ve found to work through these times is to list a solution or two for each item bothering him. Usually, it’s a landslide – one trigger opens up a storeroom of problems he’s been holding onto.

I’m very new at this and feel very alone – as I’m sure most parents do. However, I’ve realized that what needs to change is my approach to parenting. I have to keep reminding myself that he processes things differently than everyone else and how we work through the problems he’s having has to be different as well. I’m always on the lookout for tips on how to do this because some days, I will try anything.

For other parents out there going through this – I wish you the best. It is a daily struggle for me sometimes, but I know with God’s help, I can be an amazing mom.

All the Holidays!

In a previous post, I mentioned celebrating all the holidays with Kiddo for the month of December: Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa… Hanukkah is over and Yule is the next one on the list. Here’s what we did/plan to do:

Hanukkah

  • Lit the menorah every night
  • Listed, starting on day 1, something we’re grateful for and kept adding to the list, so on the 8th day, there were 8 things to be grateful for
  • Said a thankful prayer after listing our gratefuls

Yule

  • I found a Yule prayer that Kiddo recites
  • We light as many candles as we have around the house
  • We exchange a homemade gift
  • We make bird feeders out of oranges and hang them in trees
  • We decorate with greenery

Yule prayer:
I am grateful for that which I have.
I am not sorrowful for that which I do not.

I have more than others, less than some,
but regardless, I am blessed with what is mine.

First, I am thankful for my health.
Second, I am thankful for my family.
Third, I am thankful for my warm home.
Fourth, I am thankful for the abundance in my life.

Christmas is pretty standard around here with the usual gift fest. Last year, we didn’t do much for Kwanzaa – I think we were both exhausted by that point, but we did exchange homemade gifts, do crafts, and talked about the seven principles & the importance of Kwanzaa.

We also donate to as many charities as we can during the holiday season and talk about why its important to give back to the community and help those who are not in a position to help themselves.

For New Years, we tend to do a full cleaning of our home. It’s a fresh start, so we get everything scrubbed and decluttered in prep for the new year.

So that’s how we spend our December. Leave a comment how you spend your holidays.

Homemade Christmas

It’s that time of year again! The air is cold, there are no more leaves on the tress, and my couch always seems to be covered in blankets. I love winter. I grew up in south Louisiana with perpetual summer so living in Pennsylvania, where the seasons actually change, is amazing to me. There’s something to enjoy about all of them.

Last year, Kiddo and I decided to try and celebrate a little bit of every December holiday: Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa.. all ending with New Years. We also added in sending out Christmas cards, something we had never done before. This year, however, we decided to do a more traditional route for the holidays that focus more on making gifts instead of buying them. I have a hidden Pinterest board (peeking eyes are everywhere!) that I will unhide after Christmas full of ideas for homemade gifts.

Today, I made a cardboard fireplace. I’ve done this before for hanging stockings. This time I sort of took the lazy way out and used a brown sheet to cover everything. Yeah, it’s not as authentic as the one I did last time, but its holding the stockings. The picture was taken at an angle so its crooked but it’s the best I could do.

I’m loving how my cat has claimed this thing for himself. Up until I put everything together, he’d been sleeping in the fake fireplace.

I will try to get better pictures of some of the homemade gifts I’m making. Stay tuned!

Forgiving

I’m sure at some point I’ll need to sort my posts because I can already tell they will cover a variety of topics, mostly in response to something I’ve seen or read.

This one is about forgiveness. I saw on my Facebook feed something that said “you can’t forgive someone who isn’t sorry”. I think people have this forgiveness thing backwards. It isn’t a reward for remorse. The purpose of forgiveness is to close a door for yourself so you don’t keep letting in something hurtful.

As someone who has had to forgive a lot of people for a lot of things, I can honestly say the following:

  • There is no right path to forgiveness.
  • The deeper the hurt, the longer it takes to forgive.
  • The goal is to get to a point where the thought of the other person or their actions no longer affects your current mood or emotional state.
  • It could very likely require therapy.
  • It will require changing yourself.

Read more

We ate what?!

Lol… almost to the end of week 4. My remaining funds are very small so all meals are whatever I can scrape together.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had plenty of food left in the freezer. Unfortunately, I’m not really a fan of reheated meat. I typically have to cook it for a long time for it to taste ok. Tonight I had a bag of leftover pork roast. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, to be honest. At the same time that was cooking, I was baking biscuits for breakfast tomorrow.

I decided to take a chance on something new and I’m really glad I did! A popular dish in this area is pulled pork sandwiches. I decided to use some of the biscuits to make pulled pork biscuit sandwiches. Wow! It was really freaking good. I will definitely be adding this to my future recipes database.

Just goes to show that unexpected things can turn out better than we imagine. I never would’ve tried this if my budget hadn’t forced me to.

Budget update

The home stretch…

So we’re about to enter the 4th week of my first budget month. There were quite a few slip-ups in the beginning but things got much easier by week 2…

1. Overspent on the fun budget. This was 100% my fault, but as I said, by week 2 it was much easier to stick to the plan. Tracking every single purchase helped immensely. I kept every receipt from my purchases this month for all categories so I could easily see where my money went. 

2. No savings. This was unavoidable. Kiddo and I both needed haircuts which is one of the few things I actually believe in spending money on. Because of Kiddo’s Autism, he is not interested in change and he’s gotten very comfortable with the girl who does our hair. This is not something I want to switch up just to save a few pennies. I also had some unexpected expenses – things I didn’t plan for – so the Savings budget covered it. 

Those were the two major slip-ups, but the good news is going from Starbucks & breakfast out every morning to just Starbucks twice a week and breakfast at home every day was an easier transition than I thought it would be. It’s become second nature now. 

There was another slip-up that actually wasn’t much of an issue in the grand scheme. The first three weeks, I did my normal+ grocery shopping but always had extra food that I put in the freezer. Example: I bought a pork roast that cost $13. This is a luxury item I normally don’t buy. However, I’m at week 4 now and my grocery budget after buying KitKat’s necessities is $34. Normally, this would be a freakout moment if not for all that food sitting in my freezer. I realized when I sat down to make my grocery list that I don’t need to buy meat for the week because there’s a ton in my freezer that I can use in meals. I also have a bag of marinated, uncooked chicken breasts that I can defrost and batch cook for my lunches. I have enough hamburger buns left from week 3 that I can just turn them into sandwiches. As tempting as freshly cooked chicken would be for week 4’s dinners, not completely blowing my budget is more tempting. 

Lessons Learned…

1. Staying on budget is an amazing feeling. I never thought I would say this, but every time I had the opportunity to save money and made that choice, I felt so proud of myself. I woke up this morning dreading having to cook my biscuits and sausage but knowing how very little money is left until the next paycheck forced me to realize that I need to stay in my means. That phrase took on a whole new meaning for me and now I realize how wasteful I was. 

2. Tracking expenses = major wake up call. Want to know where all your money is going? Write it down! Write down every little expense. Nothing makes you take notice than a list of wasteful expenses staring you in the face. Example: Buying a $2 soda in my office building’s market that I never finished. I changed that up and invested in a 6 pack of 16 ounce bottles. Each bottle lasts me 2 to 3 days.

3. Deals can be found anywhere. I was at Target picking up a prescription and noticed some things marked down. I got 3 tubes of toothpaste for Kiddo and 1 for me all for $5. I also got two bottles of pure oils I can use in homemade beauty products for $3 each. When I got my prescription, I was handed a coupon for $5 off any purchase. Talk about racking up! We’re stocked on toothpaste for a while and my DIY list just got longer. I also scored major savings on Amazon for KitKat’s canned food and litter needs by signing up for auto-delivery. I saved 50% over buying these things at the store. This is something I’ll need to figure into my monthly budget going forward. 

4. Waste not, want not. I know some people will hate me for this, but at the end of the week, I used to just throw things out. Sticking to my budget planning forced me to change my attitude about this and put things in the freezer for later. Sure glad I did now that I have a whopping $34 to spend on food for a whole week. I used up all the meat I bought for this week except bacon and sausage. Our tummies are full and my fridge is empty with no waste. Yes, it means I’m eating the same thing for lunch and dinner today but guess what? I’m satisfied, not hungry, and not wasting money. I also have a fall-back plan for next week when my budget is super tight. 

I’m excited to see how I do for Month 2. There will likely be no savings again thanks to Kiddo’s birthday but I think by week 4, I’ll be in a better situation than I am now. 

Budget updates

First attempt at the new budget planning…  

After doing a lot of research, I decided that planning out my finances on a monthly basis was the best way to go. I went with mid-month to mid-month because I would prefer my major expense (rent) to be the last thing out before the new cycle starts.  

I went with the cash envelope system where each envelope has its own dedicated budget and planned out exactly how much goes in from each check. Some groups, like groceries, got their lump sum right up front.  

I also decided the best way to keep track of money is to see exactly where it’s going so I started writing down every expense and keeping all the receipts. A pain, yes, but it keeps me accountable for what I’m spending. In most cases, the expenses came from an envelope with its own budget, but there were some one-offs here and there. I noticed these one-offs were less likely to happen now that I had to write them down somewhere. Accountability was key for me.  

I started carrying my budget notebook around everywhere to keep track of receipts and spending. I also use it to hold coupons and make my grocery lists along with tracking my monthly budget.  

Once I started keeping track of everything, it actually became kinda fun to see how well I could do with sticking to my budget. I thought it would be harder, honestly, but it wasn’t. I thought I get tired of doing this, but I didn’t. The more I did it, the easier it became because it was a habit to write down everything.  

I’m excited to see where this leads me. 

Aha!

I was browsing through internet memes as I often do when I need a laugh and stumbled across an excerpt from a book. It listed all the things we as women need to stop so we can take control of our lives… basically excuses and procrastination.

I realized that’s all I had in my arsenal: excuses and procrastination. So I started I thinking about all the things I’ve thought of doing but haven’t done anything about. And there were a lot! This led to more questions, really hard questions, about my life and what I’m doing with it.

Am I happy? Not really.
Do I like what I’ve become? Again, not really.
What am I putting off for no real reason? A lot!
What behaviors am I accepting from others that I shouldn’t? Too many to list.

Yes, definitely an aha moment here. It was hard to examine myself in this way but it was necessary. It was time to make some changes.

I realized I hadn’t been taking very good care of my health.
>Step 1: Stop the excuses and get my ass to the gym!

I realized social media was making too much noise in my life.
>Step 2: Kill Facebook for a while. Anyone who really needs to get in touch with me knows how to find me in other ways.

I realized I have no real friends (only acquaintances) or hobbies to fill free time.
>Step 3: Get a friend, a hobby, a something! To be honest, a hobby would be easier only because I’m an introvert and prefer to be on my own. So, I decided to look into the things offered by the community center. Gotta start somewhere. I may meet people or I may not but either way it would get me out of my house and comfort zone.

What about my job? This had been playing around the edges of my mind already, mostly because of expected org changes I was not excited about. I decided my job was ok for now but probably wouldn’t be a permanent thing.

As explained in a previous post, I’ve already taken steps to get my finances under control. I figure this is just one more piece of the puzzle that will eventually lead me to where I want to be instead of sitting around thinking about it.

I realized that I was letting people treat me in ways I shouldn’t. I deserve better.
>Step 4: No more apologizing or trying to keep peace or make other people feel better. Get with the program and treat me right or get lost. Sure, it’ll hurt to lose people, but it’s happened before and I’ve survived. I’ll survive again.

Cheesy but true: I will survive.

The mountain is mine

Oh boy. Debt debt debt… I know I’m not alone. Many people have their own mountains to defeat. Mine happens to be debt… in an amount that shall not be named. Let’s just say it’s enormous. Yes, I’m including my school loans in this because it’s the only way it works. Credit cards and grad school loans. Nuff said.

When I stopped working, I hung on as long as I could but I eventually could not pay on my credit cards anymore. It’s been a year and a half – my credit is once again in the toilet but it is what it is. I can only take steps now to undo the damage that is already done.

Step 1: Budget!
I’ve spent the last couple weeks working on a budget. I’ve done some reading about the experiences of others; I’ve looked for tips; I’ve found budgeting templates… I’ve done my homework. I came up with a workable budget that will work if I can only stick to it! My downfall? Starbucks! (coffee fraps are my weakness) Unfortunately, it is almost completely out of my budget. One of the tips I read said to account for everything, including fun money. My fun money will cover my occasional SB indulgence. It won’t be the same, but I can certainly do without the sugar, so bonus there. If you completely restrict yourself, you will totally fail. Budgets are very much like diets. Keep some indulgences in there and you have a better chance of succeeding.

Step 2: Cut the dead weight
TOO MUCH STUFF. I am drowning in stuff. Mostly kiddo’s stuff but it’s still too much. Downsizing eliminates the dead weight and makes it obvious what you can do without. Going through my, for lack of a better word, transformation (definitely need a better word lol), I found out I was using stuff to fill space so I didn’t have to focus on fixing what was emotionally wrong with me. Once I came to terms with what I was avoiding, I realized I didn’t want all this stuff around anymore. I wanted simplicity and a decluttered home. Now… easier said than done with a kiddo in the mix. He is NOT a fan of decluttering (but has gotten better lol) and wants to keep holding on to things. I’ve slowly started taking things out that he hasn’t played with in a long time and so far, he has not noticed. Fingers crossed this continues.

Step 3: Do I really need that?
As many others have said…. when I am very conscientious of my budget and what I’m buying, I tend to not really buy as much. Every purchase becomes a question of how much I need it and can I live without it. I think this will be more of a challenge for kiddo but in the long run, I know it will help teach him life-long money skills. Anything you can do without is not something you should spend money on. Keep focusing on the long-term goal: defeating the mountain!

Step 4: Convenience vs Saving Money
I think a huge trend right now is DIY everything. Beauty products, cleaning products…. you name it, someone’s tried to make it from scratch instead of paying for convenience. In the long run, you need to decide what convenience means to you and what products you absolutely don’t care to make yourself. I am focusing on cleaning products and some beauty stuff as my DIY’ers. Sorry, not sorry – toothpaste and deodorant will never be homemade in my house unless I am living in a tent and have no other option.

Step 5: Is there a cheaper option for this?
One of the first things I had to give up when I stopped working was my expensive mineral makeup. I simply could not afford it. It was more important to pay the electric bill than buy some fancy bronzer. I went out and found cheaper options (MUCH CHEAPER) that still accomplished the same thing without the heavy price tag. We all have these vices – things we’ve been treating ourselves to without realizing it that we can replace with less expensive options. it sucks in the beginning but the end result is worth it.

Step 6: Shop Around
I am now in the habit every week of going to multiple grocery stores to get the best deals. I still work part time at the grocery store so I get a discount on store brand items (yay!). It’s a pain in the ass but necessary to go to multiple places. Why pay more when you can go around the corner and save a buck? Those bucks add up! Use coupons; pay attention to things that are discontinued (big savings to be found when you combine coupons with discontinued markdowns – can you say 5 cans of  biscuits for $.50?!); and plan your trips ahead of time. Spend that hour or so planning your grocery trips. It’s completely worth it. I also recommend using Ibotta & Checkout51. Get money back on your purchases! It might take a while to build up your account but think of it as a savings account. It’s slowly building and before you know it, you have a good amount in there that you can spend! Finally – only buy what you really need. Some people go for the freezer meal stuff – I simply don’t have the room for that. I am also totally comfortable eating the same thing every night. I do not require a lot of food variety – it’s just food. Thankfully, kiddo is very much the same. We are creatures of habit so meal planning isn’t really a requirement.

Step 7: Pinterest is your friend!
Pin pin pin!!! I found sooo many useful tips and tricks on Pinterest. DIY recipes; cheap ideas for holidays; amazing recipes.. go look for it and pin it! I have tried several things so far that I’m hoping I can incorporate into my money-saving strategies permanently.

I am starting things rolling this week so we’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep posting updates on my progress. Stay tuned!