Goals Are Great Motivators

Marathon de New York : Verrazano Bridge

Goals can be great motivators to help you achieve! I find that when I have a specific goal it’s much easier to focus on what I want to accomplish.  For example: For me to save money is one thing but when I have something specific to save for I find that I can save up much quicker.  When I was younger I wanted a new stereo (the hand-me-down I was given still had an 8-track in it).  I made a goal of saving up for a new stereo.  When I sacrificed some expense for savings I knew i was to help me get that stereo.  When I worked extra hours in the supermarket I knew it was for the stereo.  In no time I had enough to go out and buy a new stereo, equipped with not one but two tape decks! (Have I dated myself or what?)

Let me give you some other goals I’ve set for myself and accomplished:

Ran the NYC Marathon – In 2005 I decided I wanted to run the NYC Marathon.  I knew I needed time to train and run enough races (you have to run 9 NYC RoadRunner races for guaranteed entree).  In 2006 I mapped out what races I would run to qualify for the next year’s race.  It was tough to keep up but I ran and finished all nine races for entry.  In 2007 I started a training program to get me in shape for the marathon.  In June I started my longs runs every weekend to get me ready for the distance.  The first Sunday last November I woke up at the crack of dawn and hopped on the Staten Island ferry to get to the start of the marathon.  Later that afternoon I would be able to call myself a marathon runner.  I don’t think I ever would have run the distance without a specific goal of running the marathon.

Paid off my credit cards – Some years ago I finally got fed up with how much I was paying monthly in interest for my credit cards.  I resolved to pay them off.  It started slowly but bit by bit I started to gain ground.  After an incident that led me to move back with the ‘rents I was able to turbo charge my payments and finish off my credit card debt.  I haven’t had more than a month’s charges since then (I pay my cards off in full every month).  Without resolving to pay off my credit cards once and for all I would still be idling along with minimum payments and a ton of debt piling up.

Started a personal finance blog/site – In October of 2007 I had discovered blogging via Zen Habits then Get Rich Slowly.  I was already itching to find something productive to do with my time and had healthy interest in personal finance.  I set a goal of starting up my own blog and making it successful.  I’m still in the middle of this goal but I feel like what I’ve done so far has been a success, especially when I look back at my first month of original posts on my Blogger site.  Without my goal I might be surfing fantasy baseball sites instead of writing this article.

Build up our savings – My wife and I wanted to make sure we had enough in savings for any emergency and then some.  Rather than hope to put some money away with what was left over at the end of every month we calculated a specific amount we could afford to do without and set up our ING savings to automatically withdraw money from our checking every week.  We have since achieved our emergency savings goal and exceeded it.  If we didn’t create a specific plan our savings would be considerably less and we’d be scratching our heads wondering where our money went.

The lesson here is that I was motivated to accomplish different things because I set a goal to achieve!  Having a goal in mind keeps my mind focused.  Without a goal set I would have just floated along in many cases.  My savings would be lower, my credit card debt still existing, my running much less, this site just a thought…

One way to accomplish a goal is to make it SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. (Thanks to Cash Money Life for turning me onto that concept.)

I also like to think in terms of short and long term goals. For example – The goal of saving up for a down payment on a home, while an admirable goal, may seem a bit too big to ever accomplish.  That could be a long-term goal.  To make it more achievable you can create a short-term goal of saving X dollars a month towards a down payment.  This way you see your small goals achieved which helps build up the confidence to achieve your bigger goal.

Check out this article on the science of setting goals.  When you set a goal you are actively engaging your brain to help you with your goal!

What goals have you accomplished?  What are your current goals and how will you achieve them?

Sign up with ING Direct and get a $25 bonus –  Free From Broke.

photo credit: Martineric

Dealing With Financial Problems With A Loved One

Purity

There may come a time when a financial problem comes up between you and a loved one. Maybe it’s a late payment that runs up some fees.  It could be an old debt that rears it’s ugly head again.  Perhaps someone did a little too much damage with credit card spending?  Whatever it is the issue will have to be addressed so a solution can be figured out.

Here are some things to consider when confronting your loved one about their financial management problems:

Don’t blame or accuse the other person for the problem.  Arguing and blaming doesn’t help.  When you lay blame and argue it’s like telling the other person that you’re right and they are wrong.  It may be that’s the case but nobody likes to hear that.  Start off a discussion like this and you immediately turn your loved one off to what you are saying.  Remember the situation has already happened.  The point now is to figure out how to solve it.

State the facts.  Talk about what has actually happened.  Try not to get your emotions involved.  This means no name calling.  It also means talking about the situation at hand and not bringing up any past discretion.  The facts will help you find a resolution.

Talk to your loved one about how the problem arose.  How did it get to this point?  Ask what they think can be done to solve the problem.  Offer your help.  Suggest some ideas of your own as a solution.  Assure your loved one that you are their for them and that you are in this together.  This leads us to…

Take accountability for the problem with your loved one. “But it wasn’t my fault” you might say.  Maybe not directly but by sharing in the responsibility you let your loved one know that you are there to help them.  The fact that this person is a loved one makes their pain yours as well to some extent.  Take that extra step with the olive branch and assure them that together you’ll figure out a solution.

Remember you want to open the person up to discussion. Getting into a financial mess is embarrassing for most.  Your loved one probably knows they screwed up somehow so they don’t want to be reminded of how bad a blunder it was.  Listen to them.  Work on finding a way to both fix the problem at hand and prevent it from happening in the future.

Hopefully you don’t have many financial problems with loved ones in your life.  If you come across any, these ideas should help you work things out.

photo credit: timsamoff

New York State Empire Passport – Summer Saving

Beach Chair

Summer’s here!  How are you going to spend your time? Will you go to the beach?  Maybe a pool or a lake is more your speed?  Maybe go to the park for a picnic?  How about camping?  Perhaps you’ll go for a bike ride or maybe a nice hike through the woods on a historic trail?

If you live in or near New York State then you have access to all of these activities and more in New York’s State Parks!

A great way to take advantage of all that NY State Parks have to offer is to purchase the NYS Empire Passport. For $65 you get access to most of NY State’s parks and facilities.  Consider this: parking is easily $8 for Jones beach.  That means the pass pays for itself with about 7 visits to the beach!  But what’s great is the pass can be used for so much more.  In fact it’s good from April 1st until March 30th of next year.  Using it 7 times over the year is easy!

My wife has the summer off as she works in education.  This gives her all summer to go to beaches such as Jones Beach or Robert Moses State Park.  We worked it out a couple of years ago and the Empire Passport easily saves us money!  You can also use the passport to pay for parking for concerts at the Jones Beach Theater (park in an adjacent lot and walk over, it will also be easier to leave after the concert)

Outside of summer beaches we’ve also gone to Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain State Park, Fahnestock State Park, and Valley Stream State Park.  Harriman and Bear Mountain aren’t too far from the Woodbury Commons shopping center where you can find some frugal deals.

I’ve gotta say, in putting this article together I’m seeing how much we can do and what we’ve been missing out on!  I can’t wait to get out with the family again!

You can order an Empire Passport online.  The site says it could arrive in 3-4 weeks but we got ours in a week.  You can also visit a state park office and buy it direct.  Check online to see which parks sell the pass directly.  The quicker you get yous the sooner you can enjoy all that NYS Parks have to offer!

How will you use your NYS Empire Passport?

This article is #14 of the Summer Savings Series from the Money Life Network. Check out the article on the MLN site to see how you can participate in the Summer Savings Series and possibly win a $100 Amazon gift certificate! You can see tip #13 at My Investing Blog. Article #10 will be at Milk Your Money tomorrow!

 

One Hundred Pushups For A Healthy Fit Frugal Summer

One Hundred Pushups

Ok, I’m in! I’ve been seeing a lot about the site One Hundred Pushups around the blogosphere lately.  I first heard about it from Pete at Bible Money Matters via Twitter.  Then Pete posted about starting on the program.  Then I saw Pinyo at Moolanomy mentioned it.  And also JD at Get Rich/Fit Slowly fame.  And Wazzy on Twitter.  And I’m sure many others I don’t know about yet…

So what is One Hundred Pushups? It’s a site that lists out a six week program for increasing your strength to the point where, in the final test, you do one hundred pushups!

Why Pushups? From the site:

Push ups are one of the basic and most common exercises for the human body. Push ups are not only great for your chest, but do a tremendous job of defining your abs, triceps, shoulders and torso.

Push ups can be performed no matter where you are, and best of all, they are completely free – no expensive equipment or annual gym fees required! If you’re looking to develop a great chest and shoulders, you could do much worse than follow along with the hundred push ups plan. Your core strength will also go through the roof too!

Check out that second paragraph…”they are completely free.”  How much is the average gym membership? I would guess you’re paying anywhere from $250 a year to $1200 a year.  Free is a whole lot better.

And a pushup is a great measure of your overall fitness.

I’ve been looking for a good workout program for a couple of months now.  I have some free weights but I haven’t been able to commit to a consistent plan.  I’ll workout for two weeks then stop for two weeks; I don’t keep up with it.  I even almost joined a gym about a month ago.  That would have cost me about $500 for the year.  I didn’t join since I wasn’t sure I’d use it enough to justify the cost.

But with all of the bloggers already on the One Hundred Pushup band-wagon I thought I’d give it a try.  Not only is there a framework to follow for the plan (which I need) but by putting it out here on Free From Broke I’m making myself accountable for following the plan (I hope).

I’ve already done the initial test and the first day of week one (already feeling it in my chest).  I set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs so I can track my performance.  You can follow my One Hundred Pushup progress here.  I hope you check it out and help root me on!  If fact join in and we can go through this together!

Make sure you have clearance from your doctor before you start any fitness program.

So are you up to the one hundred push up training program?

Family – Can’t Live With ‘Em…Unless It Helps Debt

I was in the hole for thousands over a few credit cards.

I was getting better at paying on time and I was managing to pay more than the minimum due. I was also transferring balances to lower and zero interest rate cards (which had it’s ups and downs). The totals were chipping away but it still felt like it would take forever to pay my credit debt off. At the time I was living on my own supporting myself with a full-time job. What I could save I did.

Then something interesting happened – I lost my apartment.

Seems my landlord wasn’t really supposed to be renting his basement out to tenants. Some funny NYC law that said he wasn’t zoned for it. Great. I had a few dollars saved but really I was still living paycheck to paycheck. If I went and found a new apartment, which would be more expensive and involve moving costs, real estate fees, etc…, I would be completely tapped out and would have to add more to my credit cards to get by.

Fortunately my parents came to the rescue.

They still had an extra room and they were ok with me moving back in with them. Now understand, I love my parents and they were great in helping me out but the last thing I wanted to do was move back into my parents’ place. But I didn’t really have many better options either. So I managed to cram all of my stuff back at their place. My original idea was to stay as long as needed to save up enough to move to a new apartment (I wasn’t paying rent now so I should have enough in a few months or so). It was not fun being back at the ‘rents. All the freedom I had grown accustomed to were gone. But I needed time to save.

After the first month I realized something – by not paying rent or electricity I was able to save a lot more than I had been. By the end of the second month, seeing how my bank account had grown, I decided to put a new apartment on the back burner. I was gonna suck it up and stay at my folks until my debt was gone!

What was the point of moving back out and being in the same debt situation?

With my new resolution I started to pay much more than the minimum on my credit cards.

Soon one card was paid off. Then another. One day I was finally able to get rid of all of my credit card debt! I felt like a slave that had just been freed!! No more of that debt monkey on my back. I was able to look at all of my bills and accounts and finally say that I had a positive net worth! This was not just a financial victory but a huge psychological victory!

I started to save for real. Not saving to pay debt but saving for me. As tough as it was living with my parents I realized what freedom really was. Sure I couldn’t live the same way under my parents’ roof as I did on my own, but freedom meant being free from debt (or free from broke)! It took me being thrown out of my apartment and moving back with my parents to realize that.

Do you have a debt story? Let me know in the comments