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  • Week in Review: 2012 Week 3


    Here’s an update on how things went with my resolutions last week:

    My healthy habit to master this month is exercise – and to make it a habit, I’m adding a mile to each day by using my rowing machine or treadmill. So far, it’s going great, though admittedly I haven’t been pushing myself (that’s the habit I will build next month). Mentally, exercise is becoming much less of an obstacle, so I think focusing on building one healthy habit at a time is really working for me.

    My weekly projects last week were tackling the box of papers that needed to be shredded, and filing the stack of papers on my desk. I was able to shred the box of papers in just one afternoon, thanks to my new Fellowes shredder. I can shred so many more papers at once and the machine is much faster, so what used to be a multi-day project now only takes a little over an hour. Yay! (And that just goes to show the value of having the right tools for a job.)

    I did the filing yesterday evening, and I doubt I would have gotten to it if it hadn’t been one of my projects this past week. So this weekly projects thing is working well for me too.

    The housecleaning is also turning into a habit, which is fabulous. My Weekly Home Blessing Hour, which I do on Fridays, ensures the house looks great at least once during the week. And doing one small cleaning task each day, like cleaning one bathroom, is really making maintenance manageable. In fact, I hosted a playdate last week and all I had to do was get the toys off the floor. The cleaning was otherwise done. This is just something I have to keep up and really make a habit of.

    For the coming week, my weekly project is going to be decluttering some bags and boxes I have sitting around. It feels really good to get rid of stuff we don’t need!

    Week in Review: 2012 Week 2


    Here’s an update on how things went with my resolutions last week:

    My healthy habit this month – exercise – is still going strong. I really like focusing on one thing, and one thing only. In fact, I’m not even pushing myself to work out hard. That will be a goal for another month. Right now, I just want to work out for 31 straight days and so far, so good.

    Instead of one project for the week, I tackled two projects since both were fairly small. The first was doing the ironing – it’s something I don’t have to do often, but clothing had piled up and I kept putting it off. So, it got done last week. I also went through an area where clutter accumulates and emptied it out. Again, it feels to good to get rid of stuff!

    My housecleaning strategy is still very much a work in progress. But I’m seeing improvement. As I said last week, when I actually do the day’s cleaning task, it’s not that bad and doesn’t take that long. It’s becoming a little more habitual, which is what I need.

    For this coming week, my projects are shredding (I have 1.5 boxes worth of papers waiting) and filing (there’s a hefty stack waiting for me, as it’s been a few months – I really need to go paperless on more accounts).

    How’s your year going so far?

    Week in Review: 1st week of 2012


    I think this might become a weekly recurring series, or at least, I wanted to share how things went with my resolutions last week.

    As you might recall, I am establishing one healthy habit each month this year, and this month’s habit is exercise, in the form of an extra mile each day. Since it doesn’t take that long – about 20 minutes – so far, so good.

    I’m also doing 52 projects this year – one per week. Since school didn’t resume until this week, I had my first-grader home with me all last week (I took my younger son to preschool every day so I only had one at home for most of the day). Since I wasn’t alone, I wanted to keep the week’s project fairly small. All I did was itemize our donation items and drop them off at the Salvation Army on Friday. (I would have liked to have done this before the end of last year, but December was a huge whirlwind that started and ended with me being sick so that kind of thing just didn’t get done.) It feels really good to have all of that clutter out of the house.

    As for my housecleaning strategy, I had a couple of days when I didn’t do my cleaning task for the day. So this strategy is obviously a work in progress. But I still think it can work for me, as part of the problem is that I dread doing the task – and yet, when I actually do it, it’s not that bad and doesn’t take that long. As with my healthy habits, I just need to establish housecleaning habits so that it gets done without much thought.

    2012 Goals and Resolutions


    Every year, I make about ten resolutions, and every year, I achieve some of them and have to admit failure at others. My successes are usually financial; my failures are usually weight-loss related.

    So in 2012, I’m going to try two new strategies:

    1. I’m going to master a new healthy habit each month.

    2. I’m going to tackle 52 projects during the year – one each week.

    On my monthly habits:

    I’ve read that it takes 30 days of doing something to make it a habit, so I’m going to make gradual changes. My healthy habit for January is exercise. Since getting plantar fasciitis nearly two years ago, my workouts have been severely limited. It doesn’t affect my everyday activities much anymore, but exercise is a different story. We recently bought a rowing machine for me, and I am going to make the most of it this month. I’ll add an additional mile to my life every day, either by rowing or using the treadmill (for a change of pace, since I can’t do it every day). Future habits will include smaller portions, eating 5 servings of fresh fruit and veggies, and quiet meditation.

    On my 52 projects:

    I’m building my list of 52 projects, which I hope will help me accomplish a myriad of tasks I’d like to get done. They range from things like cleaning out the closet to getting a new filter for the kitchen stove to making some changes to the blog (nothing major, like the switch to WordPress was last year). By the end of the year, I hope I will have accomplished many things by doing them one at a time.

    Other goals:

    My big financial goal for 2012 is the same as it was last year: to save lots of money so we can pay off the mortgage and/or pay for private school in a few years.

    Some of my goals are the same each year: to be the best wife, mother, daughter, and friend I can be; to improve and grow Chief Family Officer so it continues to be a place where you can find tips for improving your life; and my constant, overriding goal in life, to continue to grow as a person and be the best me I can be.

    What are your goals for 2012?

    Saving Money vs. Being Debt-Free


    Our public school district is in serious dire straits, so I’ve been thinking about life five years from now. While I feel reasonably confident our current elementary school will be okay, in five years, our oldest will be heading into sixth grade and off to a middle school. The problem is that I’m finding it difficult to find a really desirable public middle school. I’ve had my eye on the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, which has a great academic reputation and goes from fourth through twelfth grade, but it’s incredibly difficult to get into. Even if I did everything possible to maximize priority magnet points, our odds of getting in will still be slim because of the lottery system.

    So we would really like to have private school on the table as an option in five years. But that will require money, and a lot of it.

    At the beginning of the year, I said that I wouldn’t have any financial resolutions for this year and that I just wanted to get used to living on one income. But we seem to have done that, and I couldn’t help taking a closer look at our mortgage, which is our only remaining debt.

    Ever since we became otherwise debt-free in 2009, I’ve toyed with the idea of paying off the mortgage. We pay a little extra every month, but only enough to accelerate the payoff by a couple of years. But. We could pay off the mortgage in five years if we save aggressively.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict the future. Is it better to pay off the mortgage and free up the mortgage payment in our cash flow in five years? Or would we be better off saving the money and having a huge cash cushion that we can use to pay for tuition?

    I don’t think there’s a right answer, at least not at the moment when there are so many unknowns, like how much tuition would be. My projected calculations show that if tuition at the top schools continues to rise at the same rate it has been, it’s going to be in the neighborhood of $40,000 per year at the most expensive schools. I’m not sure we would opt for a school like that, even assuming we got in, because it’s so expensive. But even a moderately priced school is going to be around $20,000 per year, and we’ll have to pay twice that for two kids for five years (and then there’s college).

    So for now, we’re going to play it safe. It’ll be like last year, when we were aggressively saving so I could quit my job, only we’ll be saving for five years instead of one now. I’ve got a spreadsheet set up to track our progress, just as I did last year. And just like last year, we’ll have to be diligent about doing all of the things I recommend in the Ways to Make & Save Money series. My goal last year was ambitious but we did it – hopefully, we can do it again!

    Financial New Year’s Resolutions


    I’ve already mentioned my theme for 2011: Health & Acceptance. But normally, when we start a new year, I’m writing about my financial goals. In 2010, I wanted to save a substantial cash cushion. In 2009, I wanted to pay off all of our non-mortgage debt. In 2008, I wanted to pay cash for a new car.

    All of those previous goals, though, were aimed at getting me where I am today: a work-at-home mom no longer making a substantial salary as a lawyer.

    We definitely have new financial goals, primarily centered on being able to afford private school when the boys move into middle and high school. As we did with elementary school, we’ll explore all of our options, and we want to have the maximum number of options possible.

    But for 2011, I feel drawn away from making financial goals my primary focus. In fact, my main financial goal is simply to live well on our reduced income, by continuing to live below our means and save every month.

    And that will leave me free to focus on Health & Acceptance.