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Home > Archive: January, 2016

Archive for January, 2016

Ready for February low-spend

January 31st, 2016 at 05:55 pm

My budget is all set up for February, and all of the money has been transferred to the appropriate accounts. I set my budget slightly lower than we typically use for the month. So not only will I save a little extra this month from shaving a bit off of the expenses budget, but I should also be able to keep the rest of my money in the rainy day categories to build.

Yesterday my kids and I met up with a group of friends at a nearby ski resort. I had a good time with everyone and it was a nice afternoon with the kids. The money was already set aside for that trip, always a nice feeling.

Today I spent extra time in the kitchen, prepping things for the week and making lunches for tomorrow. It got warm out today so the snow continues to melt. We return to school tomorrow, with a 2 hour delay so that the sun is up when the kids are walking and waiting for the bus. Many of the walking paths and bus stops are still obstructed, so students may end up walking on the streets to get to school or to wait for the buses. I didn't realize that our district has 40,000 walkers, that is a lot of students to look out for!

This week I will be busy getting my head back into "work space". I will also be completing my last week of one of my mandatory education courses. I plan to do my taxes as well,realistically probably not until the weekend.

12 days total home from school

January 29th, 2016 at 07:10 am

Including the weekends, by the time we return to classes Monday we will have been off from school due to the blizzard for 12 DAYS. If only I could have predicted the future, I could have found something really amazing to do for 12 days! As it turns out, I got ahead on my courses, worked out, took naps, got my house completely unpacked, and played in the snow, cooked, and hung out with my kids. I was bored at times but felt that when I kept up a routine of some sorts I was able to get a lot done. I will have lots and lots of paperwork to keep me busy when I return to the classroom, I didn't have my work computer home with me because I wasn't expecting to be off school that first day.

I got paid today, now I am just organizing the budget, quite the feat when you get paid just once a month, and the money gets split into 3 accounts. I did it that way to take advantage of the BOA offer for $300 to open a checking account. In a couple more months I will close one of the accounts and make my money more streamlined again.

Thrift-o-Rama (if I am saying that correctly!) mentioned a low-spend February on her blog. I like the idea of a set amount of cash for the spending for the month. I sort of do that now, with my Ynab budget, but I think I need to be more diligent on this, since I keep running out of cash in those accounts and pulling from my rainy day funds. If I can stick to a low-spend February (a short month, too!) then that will give me a bit of breathing room to "catch up" my rainy day fund.

I have a snow tubing trip to attend with the kids tomorrow, I'm pretty excited about it, I've never been. I have never been one to play in the snow (I like warm weather!), but this year I discovered snow pants. The kids have always had them for when they went skiing with their dad, but I never bothered. Snow pants, a good scarf and gloves really do keep you dry and warm, so you can stay outside a lot longer. Duh.

Snow Day #5, meal planning

January 27th, 2016 at 05:04 am

Once the sidewalks and bus stops get cleared the kids will be back in school. Our school district is huge so there is a lot of area that needs to be cleared for safety.

Yesterday I created a table of 30 meals that we typically make and laminated it. Out of these meals I create a weekly menu, and then jot down the grocery list next to the menu. After I choose the meal I cross it off the table for the month. The meals look kind of boring, now that I see it on paper, but it is what it is. I am realistic enough to admit that I am not going to be fixing hard core meals during the week. If it has protein and a veggie I am good. The kids both are able to cook, too, so once a week they are responsible for prepping dinner.

I am starting a running list of other meals that we decide we like, and I will add them to the table. This will hopefully make weekly menu creation simpler.

Today I will be picking up groceries for the week so I will find out if this system works...

Snow Day #4

January 26th, 2016 at 02:28 am

I have shoveled all there is to shovel. Well, there are the sidewalks on the corner of the neighborhood. But the sidewalks are untouchable right now because the plow trucks shove the snow onto the curbs and sidewalks, creating actual mountains. When there is somewhere for all of that snow to go then I can help clear the sidewalks.

I broke down 5 small boxes of "keepsake/hold onto" stuff that was in my closet. I threw some of the stuff out after deciding it wasn't worth holding onto, and some of the stuff I combined with other things. I have a much roomier closet now.

Today I will venture out to the nearby area. My gym is now open and is only 2 minutes away. It will give me a feel for what the roads are looking like.

I have avoided thinking about a "5 year plan" because things were so up in the air, but really, I need to be working towards "something". Otherwise I will continue to feel like a ping pong ball, just going wherever. So in addition to the organizing, exercising, and homework, I have been drafting ideas in my head, about what is important for my family and me.

No leaving the house, no eating out :)

January 23rd, 2016 at 08:52 am

One plus of being snowed in is that I cannot be tempted to eat out instead of eat what is in my kitchen. Eating out has always been a temptation for me, I'm kind of lazy!

I don't know how much snow has fallen so far (taking a break from local news today), but it is a lot. I am safely tucked in my home with my family, with plenty to eat, and electricity. I have been cleaning, cooking, doing homework, and, starting this morning, shoveling. I just had to shovel the front of my garage and front door. It is still snowing but I figured I would shovel throughout the day so it does not turn into one big ice pile. The kids have to do the next round!

I will go over my budget in a bit, and try to update some of by goals.

The Nicotine analysis

January 22nd, 2016 at 07:16 am

Looking at my brainstorm PIC/NIC analysis on the behavior of chewing tobacco vs. drinking water, you can see that the negatives of chewing tobacco far outweigh the one positive: relief from the nicotine craving. This means that the relief from the nicotine craving must be very powerful, instantly gratifying, and certain. That is why it seems so tough to beat an addiction. You have all of those negative consequences under chewing, but that one positive consequence trumps the negatives. Notice under “certain/uncertain”, the health consequences are “uncertain”. This is because you personally may not have a behavior history in which a health consequence has occurred. You may have a 99% chance of developing mouth cancer, but it is not “certain” because you do not have a behavior history to vouch for this.

On the other end, drinking water instead of chewing has lots of positive consequences, but you do have one powerful negative “feeling” consequence. The one negative is that waiting out a craving is very uncomfortable, may not happen instantly, and therefore is uncertain (meaning, you don’t have a strong history of obtaining nicotine relief from drinking water). You probably will overcome the craving, but that experience isn’t built up yet, so that relief isn’t considered “certain”, unlike chewing tobacco, which has always been “certain” to bring you nicotine relief.

If you just don’t chew, quit cold turkey, then you will get all of the benefits of quitting, eventually, but that also goes against a long history of reinforcement from chewing, which is why it is so tough.

In this situation one can look at the table and acknowledge that yes, the cravings are strong, but if you consistently choose an alternative behavior then the chewing behavior will become weaker as the new behavior becomes stronger. Focus on the new replacement behavior, and make that as rewarding as possible. Bob’s been successful with nicotine gum because the craving is relieved fairly quickly, unlike drinking water in my example. The longer he has success with nicotine gum, the weaker the chewing tobacco behavior will become. OR, you can focus on the antecedent, or what happens before the behavior. You can arrange the environment in ways that will make chewing tobacco less rewarding: avoid typical chewing places (for instance the garage?), a different setting with friends for a while… OR, you can focus on the consequences to make them stronger, more immediate, and certain. Someone suggested finding a use for the saved money, and that is a great way to increase the immediacy of the consequence. Start seeing that money right away, consistently, and that consequence will become more reinforcing.

Thanks for hearing me out, guys. I was really inspired by Bob’s quitting experience and found this material connected for me. It’s all about overcoming the immediate gratification, but so often the “right” thing to do feels like the “wrong” thing, which is why we often fall back to old behaviors of overeating, slacking off, or spending money. But we are smarter than that! 

Forming better habits, or behaviors

January 21st, 2016 at 05:28 pm

I read Bob's blog, where he mentioned that he was quitting tobacco and I was inspired to share some information that I learned about in one of my classes. You all may not know this about me because I try to keep some information vague online, but I am a huge behavior nerd. (That's a clue for my post grad program!).

In the field of behavior analysis, under the subfield of organization behavior management, PIC/NIC Analysis was developed to help analyze behavior consequences in order to help figure out why people do what they do, even if they know better. P/N (positive/negative consequences), I/F (immediate/future consequences aka delay of gratification), and C/U (certainty/uncertainty of receiving consequences). Basically, people will behave more consistently when consequences are PIC/NIC because in the past that behavior resulted in consequences more quickly. An example I found was regarding recycling. We all know it is important to recycle/reuse bags, and we know how bad plastic bags are for the environment. So why do people still choose to use plastic bags over reusable bags? Take a look below, if I can attach the picture correctly!

Heward,W. and Kimball,J. (2013). Sustaining Sustainability with Clueless Contingencies. Sustain, 28, 4-15.

Basically, doing the right thing feels more like work, and the consequences for doing the right thing (getting your reusable bags from the car), are far in the future. People naturally gravitate towards what behavior has given them a desired consequence immediately versus a consequence that "may" happen in the future.

Anyway, I thought that this analysis was interesting because I can place any of my unhelpful behaviors into the chart and acknowledge why I am making the choices that I make. Then I can decide for myself if the behavior is worth changing, even if I have to possibly delay gratification. I can also determine how to rearrange my environment and consequences in order to make the desired behavior either easier to achieve or more rewarding.

I can totally see how this analysis is useful in dieting and in staying within a budget!

The cold weather has found us

January 19th, 2016 at 06:26 pm

After enjoying an unseasonably mild November and December, the weather turned frigid yesterday. And windy. Oh well, weather is something I can't really complain about, as I can't do anything about it except move, and that's on me! I did appreciate every day of mild temps that we had, though.

I'm really enjoying the new place. It is much smaller than our previous house, but still roomy enough for the family. I love my master bedroom. It is so cozy! And I really love the kids' floor, with their loft area. We watched a movie there the other night, all snuggled up on their bean bag chairs.

The downside to the house is the temperature. During the day I set the house temperature to 71-72. The 2nd floor is very comfortable, and the 3rd floor is almost toasty. But the first floor is chilly. We are ground level, with no crawl space or basement or anything, so it makes sense that the first level is the coldest. Any suggestions on leveling out the heat in the house? I'm sure in the summer I will have the same issue with uneven A/C temps as well. So far I have closed off a few vents on the 3rd floor. I used a space heater downstairs on the weekend while I was down there working but I don't want to use it with the kids, I'm afraid it will get forgotten.

The move is complete!

January 17th, 2016 at 05:16 am

Fortunately the move went off without a hitch. It was actually the best move experience I've had yet. One move that I remember not fondly was the one that I had to manage by myself bc my then husband was still overseas. One of the movers was trying to flirt with me the entire day, and gave me his phone number when he left, very creepy. I was scared to go to sleep that night. Another move I had to listen to the movers whine and complain because I had "too much stuff". Yeah, that is why I was paying movers to move it.

I found that these movers were quick and professional, and the final payment was fair and close to the estimate. I will write them a good review for sure. The truck was unpacked by the time the kids arrived home from school.

The first night in her room was pretty overwhelming for my oldest daughter. She has ADD and the sight of all of those boxes to unpack, she just didn't know where to start. I helped her get started, though, and now her room is looking more like her room.

Today I will be able to cook meals and try to get back to normal: cooking, laundry, studying, the gym. DW has been here for the move, helping to unpack. Organizing and getting stuff done is a strong point of hers, and it comes in handy when moving. The tension between us has dissipated so we can get stuff done. I still don't know what I want for us in the future, so the space and time alone will be helpful for me, for us both.

Monday funday...sure

January 11th, 2016 at 01:40 pm

Work went smoothly today. I wasn't feeling super great emotionally, but it was good for me to be around my friends and focus on the students.

It feels like I have had a tension headache since, well, December. I know it is because of my situation, and that will be remedied soon enough. I've never had headaches that actually made my scalp hurt, so this is new for me. It's the same sensation/pain you feel when your hair gets pulled. Not a good feeling.

SO moved into her place today. The kids and I move Friday. The house is very quiet, but that's ok. I'll get used to it. It's just going to take time to adjust to the different living situation. I have to face the pain in order to move beyond it. Avoiding the pain has just dragged it out.

Financially, all deposits and things have been paid, so all I have to do is pick up the key Thursday. I have budgeted the new household expenses and I won't have to lower any of my retirement savings, at least not yet. The kids can continue their extracurricular activities and school trips, and we can even manage a small vacation during Spring Break. So it could have been much worse. We are ok. I am taking good care of my kids.

I will remember my affirmation: My needs are always met and my income is abundant.

January Life Updates

January 9th, 2016 at 03:00 am

We got to check out the condo yesterday for the walkthrough inspection. The kids picked out their rooms. It's not as big of a place as we have had in the past, but I think they will like it. I love the set up. The kid bedrooms are on the third floor, with a little loft area outside of their rooms, and a bathroom, so it is like their own space. My bedroom is on the second floor right under them, with a bathroom and laundry closet as well. The first floor houses the garage, kitchen, living/dining, and powder room.

I'm excited about what the changes will bring. The last few years have been so crappy emotionally, I'm ready for a new focus. I want to focus on spending time with my girls, finishing up my education, and staying on track with my goals. I want to get back to what I value.

I think that SO checked out emotionally soon after the official marriage, so she was just into herself. I was so focused on making things better, on "fixing" things, that it just made things worse. Now that I'm admitting it is time to let things go, I feel lighter.

The only lingering question is, what's next? SO wants to act like we are still married, just living separately, and she'll spend weekends hanging out with us and stop in during the week when I have class to help with the girls. That sounds dandy. It may be the ideal solution, so your significant other doesn't drive you crazy over the years. But in reality, I'm hurt. I'm hurt that we couldn't work things out while we were together, but she is all about doing this part-time.

By seeing how she reacted soon after we made our marriage official, and how she just focused on herself and disengaged from the family, I don't feel like "dating" her right now.

Welcome 2016!

January 2nd, 2016 at 05:42 am

I ended up having a fabulous New Years Eve. I went to a party hosted by a woman I met through a hiking group. There were several other members there that I knew from participation in some of the events, so I felt comfortable enough. I met a lot of other people there, who were all out just enjoying the night together. It was just what I needed.

So my new year started on a positive note. Changes are ahead, but it is okay. I am learning something from all of this.

Yesterday I took the girls to the mall so they could do some shopping with their gift cards. (It still warms my heart to watch them go off together. I'm glad that they are sisters, I always wanted a sister!). While they shopped together I did some browsing of my own. I didn't need to buy anything and didn't find anything I wanted badly, so I focused on getting in my steps.

Last night I researched my diet needs. My jeans are getting tight again, but I can probably attribute that to holiday drinking. I have my target calorie range, and my target protein/fat/carb ratios. It is higher than it has been in the past, so maybe I can actually stay under the max calories. Now I just need to be diligent about tracking everything. No way around that until I naturally start to stay in that range with my food choices.

Today I plan to get ahead on some homework, do a bit more packing, and work out.