Six Ways To Properly Implement Big Change In Your Life

Many time changes are necessary in our financial life.  Often times, big changes are necessary.  If you realize you’re in over your head with debt, or way behind on your retirement savings, or anything like that, change is likely in order.

Change is fine and can lead to good things, but you have to understand the true impact of your change.

Real World Example: Across The Board Cuts

My current employer is going through some actions that are designed to reduce costs.  I work in the health care industry, and the recent changes due to the Affordable Care Act seem to indicate that revenue will be flat or even shrink as some of the changes kick in.  While more people will be insured, the payouts on some standard care will go down.  This will affect the bottom line, so the changes that our organization is going through is pretty standard for just about every health care provider out there.

Our Chief Operating Officer has willingly shared a story of a similar attempt made, about fifteen years ago, that nearly put the organization out of business.  At the time, there were revenue pressures from other sources (again, government based, are we sensing a pattern?), so it became apparent that costs needed to be cut.  At that time, the organization basically did a sweeping, across the board cut.  Positions were cut, pay was cut, expense budgets were cut, all to a pretty neat 10 percent (or something like that) amount.

It was pretty cut and dry, and while the goal of cutting expenses was met with precision, the secondary effects quickly became apparent.  Across the board cuts meant that every area was affected, including growth areas, so growth pretty much stopped.  Cutting positions in every department meant that some departments that were already strapped were now unable to work.  Across the board expense cuts meant that decisions were made which started impacting quality of care, increasing wait times, and overall led to plummeting customer satisfaction ratings.  Across the board pay cuts meant that the top performers with high demand, simply left.

In short, the expenses were cut, but the after effects meant that revenues started falling, wiping out the positive effects and nearly shutting down the organization.

Luckily, they were able to reverse some of the damage before it was too late.  They restored credibility, quality, and were able to strategically focus their efforts to deliver high care, maximize revenue, and provide for years of financial stability.

Fortunately, they were able to learn their lesson on how to plan for future cost savings measures.  Now, they are being more strategic.  They are making efforts to ensure that cost cutting does not impact customer care, satisfaction, and quality. In some cases, they understand that upgraded technology or equipment will cost money, but can pay for itself and then some through reduced expenses.  All in all, they are working to make cuts so that the organization comes out stronger, not weaker.

The same concept goes if you are making big changes in your life.

Make sure that your change will pay off in the long run.  The last thing you want is for a change to ultimately cost you in the end.

Things To Watch Out For When Making Changes

  • Tradeoff Costs – In the example above, the savings were wiped out with the tradeoffs that crippled the organization.  Make sure your financial changes don’t cost you in the long run.
  • Opportunity Costs – You might decide to dedicate every extra penny toward paying down debt, and while that might be a great strategy, it should not be done in a vacuum.  Extra money you send toward debt means money you’re not investing in the market, for example.  Understanding the various opportunities you are giving up will help make a good choice.
  • Quality of Life – Just like quality of patient care suffered in my example above, make sure that your changes don’t cripple your quality of life.  Cutting all entertainment and dining out spending might be a great win on paper, but if you’re sitting at home doing nothing week in and week out, you’ll question your plan, and you may end up abandoning it altogether.  Target your choices to retain quality.

Steps To Manage Change Effectively

  • Alignment – You need to line up your change strategy with the overall vision you have for your life.  Make sure what you’re doing fits into the bigger picture, including your long term goals and objectives.  If your changes will help in the short term, but does not align with your long term goal, you might need some additional time spent strategizing
  • One step at a time – Make sure you are not making sweeping changes that will upheave your life.  We are creatures of habit, and too much change all at once might cause you go give up and go back to the old way.  Slow, steady implementation of major goals may mean that it takes longer to get there, but it also means you’ll have greater chances of success versus a big bang approach.
  • Ask for help -If you are making a big life change, chances are there is someone out there that’s already gone through it.  Seek out help.  If it’s not someone you know, then look for professional help.  If you’ve got big debt to pay off, it might make sense to seek the help of a financial adviser to develop a plan.  This investment can pay off quickly.
  • Quantify your goals – Big changes need a reachable goal.  Whatever your big change is, the target should be clearly defined, as well as where you are today.  If you can’t do that, your goals are too abstract.  How can you get to where you want to be if you can’t definitively say where that is.
  • Track your progress – Once you have your current state and your end goals defined, this will allow you to track progress.  Big changes take time and work to succeed.  That’s what makes them big.  By tracking progress, you will know how you’re doing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’re spinning your wheels fairly early on versus taking a lot of time before you realize change is in order.  Speaking of….
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes along the way – As I’ve said, big changes will take time.  Along the way, you might realize that tweaks are necessary.  Different priorities might come up.  Different opportunities may present themselves.  Unexpected things will happen, so make sure that as you identify your goals and track your progress, that you are also making sure that you’re still headed down the right path.  If changes are necessary that will help you get there faster or in step with other goals, then by all means, take the time to look at whether a change is in order.

Change can be daunting.  Change can be scary.  But, if done right, it can lead to great things and big successes in whatever area you are trying to change.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Staying Motivated Without Reason

This week starts a pretty big test of wills for me.  I wrote a few weeks back about what I was giving up for Lent.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, many Christians ‘give up’ something that they enjoy for the period of Lent, which extends for about 6-7 weeks between Ash Wednesday and ending with the arrival of Easter, with the reason being that giving something up acknowledges the great sacrifice made by Jesus when He died for us.

What I Gave Up For Lent This Year

History lesson aside, this year I chose to give up indulging in things on my own.  It was a new approach, but instead of just giving up one thing, I gave up a variety of things, with the stipulation that I could only ‘indulge’ when others were indulging.  This was big for me, as the occasional ‘alone indulgence’ is big for me.  I’ll think nothing of going to the cupboard and grabbing a snack.  If I walk by a candy jar, I’ll not think twice about grabbing a small piece.  If I want the occasional cocktail and nobody else is having one, no big deal.

The issue is that these things became almost habits.  Not so much the drinking, but the snacking and candy stuff was pretty much a daily thing. It was adding up and I was noticing that my positive effects from the gym were stalled.  I started going to the gym last September, and had lost about six pounds, half of my goal, when that just stopped.

Results From Lent

So, I made my Lenten promise, and it turns out it was a good one.  It was very difficult giving up the habits I had taken on.  I didn’t realize just how much I relied on empty calories from snacking until I no longer had it as an everyday part of my life.  I actually walked

Spring has arrived!

Hopefully now that Lent has passed, spring is here and we can see more of these!

around hungry a lot, meaning that I was snacking and having treats so much that my body was basically depending on it, although it certainly didn’t need it.

Also, by not giving any of the items up completely, it helped me enjoy them more.  If my wife and I had a treat once or twice a week, it made the enjoyment that much more than if I had one every night.

And, I definitely noticed a difference on the scale, as well.  Within the first couple of weeks of Lent, I was down an additional two pounds.  Then, I got a nasty stomach bug, and after that was over, I was at my goal weight as it stripped four pounds from me in two days!  Ha ha, but I knew that was short lived, as the stomach bug just dehydrates you.  Sure enough, within a couple of days, I had put back 2.5 pounds.  That still kept me at 9.5 total pounds, 3.5 pounds of which had come during Lent.

Can I Keep It Up?

Now that Lent is over, I don’t have the ‘rule’ over my head anymore.  So, the question is whether I’ll have the discipline and motivation to keep with it.  I hope so.  It’d be very easy to fall back into the habits, though now that I know the difference getting out of bad habits can make, it will hopefully serve as motivation to stay away from them, and also serve as inspiration should I somehow slip.

For those of you who might have given anything up for Lent, how did it go for you?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Be Jealous But Do Not Stay Jealous

My best friend is a guy that I’ve known for close to 35 years now.  We met when we were just 5 years old, and here we are about to both hit 40 this year.

He’s a great guy and probably the closest thing I will ever have to a brother.  We’ve shared a lot of happiness and a lot of not so happy times together.  Rarely have I been jealous of him, but I found myself jealous of him after a recent conversation.

We started talking about work, and he told me that he had someone contact him with serious interest about a job.  He wasn’t looking, but they found him on LinkedIn.  He told me that it was $25,000 more per year than he makes now, and then he told me what the total salary would be.  So, he basically told me what he was making now.

Both numbers are higher than what I currently make, and my first instinct was a pang of jealousy.  His current salary is about 10% more than what I make, which would put his new salary (if the job worked out) quite a bit higher.

After we got off the phone, I held the jealousy for a few minutes, and then as I started thinking about it, the jealousy started to fade, and within a few minutes, it was gone.

See, I realized a few things as I thought about them:

  • He’s worked hard – My buddy and I both did well in school throughout the years.  We both studied hard through high school, finished with honors.  We both attended college, and we both have Master’s degrees.  I know that his success is well deserved.
  • He’s sacrificed in order to get where he is – My friend has changed jobs a few times over the years, and the main reason he’s left almost every job is that he has had to travel quite extensively.  He would often travel 50-75% of the time.  He’s expressed sadness about missing chunks of times from his family.  As both of us each have two kids (his are 5 and 3, mine are 4 and 2), he knows that this time is precious.  I’ve never had to travel for my job.  His current job has actually given him a local presence, but it’s been a long road to find that.
  • He works more – While there are times that I have to work after hours, I’m pretty lucky in that I work 8-9 hours per day, 5 days a week. My friend has said that it’s not uncommon for him to work 2-3 hours per night after his kids go to sleep, in addition to the 8-9 hours he puts in.  His hourly rate, if you do the math, probably works out to slightly less, whereas I get more time to spend with my wife or on hobbies.
  • His potential opportunity is just that – The potential job that he has is no sure thing.  I don’t think he’s even had a face to face interview yet.  A lot could happen in the mean time.  They might not actually like him.  He might not like them.  They might tell him he has to to go back to traveling.  I could have been getting jealous over something that may never, in fact, come to pass.  Seems kind of silly, really.
  • It’s not worth being jealous – Above all, one thing that I’ve learned is that being mb-201403babyjealous just isn’t worth it.  You don’t get any further ahead being jealous, in fact all you do is get extra stress and less self-esteem.  I’ve learned that there’s always someone that is potentially worthy of your jealousy, whether it be money, relationships, family.  If you let it consume you, you’ll end up looking more at what others have than what you have.  And what you have shouldn’t be taken for granted.

In the end, I was able to let it go pretty easily.  He’s my friend.  I’m happy for him.  We’ve taken turns in our lives with various things that have come our way.  In other words, I’m pretty sure at various points, he’s been jealous of me for one reason or another.

Quite honestly, jealousy has never stood in the way of our friendship, because what usually ends up happening is that we realize that being happy for each other, supporting each other, and using the successes (and failures) as learning and motivational opportunities for each other has kept our friendship strong, and will continue to do so.

Long story short: Being jealous is OK.  Accept the feelings.  Process them.  Then, move on, because if you stay jealous, that will put your relationships, your self-esteem, and your happiness at risk.  And I’m pretty sure that whatever you might be jealous about, it’s not worth all that in the end.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why You Need To Tackle A Difficult Task Today

Difficult tasks.  We all hate them. We dread them.  We look at them and think of any way to get around them.

Why?

Because they’re difficult, of course!

But that has to stop, and if you’ve been putting off a difficult task for any length of time, then putting it off has to stop today!

The reason is simple.

A difficult task will not get any easier as time passes.  Instead, it will only get more and more difficult.

Think about it from a financial perspective.  If you have a credit card bill of $6,000, chancesmb-201403checkbook are for most people, the idea of coming up with a plan to pay this off is pretty difficult.  It’s probably very overwhelming.

So, if you don’t tackle it, and just make the minimum payment, where does this get you?

The answer is simple.

Nowhere!

That’s right, you will get absolutely nowhere by not tackling your problem.  In fact, the reality of the situation is that you’ll likely end up in a worse situation.  You might add to the balance.  Even if you don’t, the stress of having it hang over your head will cause you angst and grief.

It won’t work out for you.  Your debt won’t get paid down by itself.  A plan won’t appear out of thin air.  You’re not going to win the lottery and have it magically go away.  Sorry, these things are not the solution to your problem.

The solution is simple.

Get started today.  That’s right, today.  Not tomorrow, today.

Find a difficult task, identify it, and get to work.

Does this mean that you’ll have the task completed tomorrow?  No.  There’ s very little chance of that happening, and in most cases, if you’re that quick, chances are you didn’t really tackle the difficult task you have out there.

But, if you get started today, you will start making progress.  In many cases, getting started is the hard part, because with something that’s large and difficult and overwhelming, you don’t even know where to start!

Getting started is simple.

  1. Write down the task – Whatever it is, just write down what the task is.  Keep it high level.  Just a few words.  This step alone can start pulling the focus in tighter.
  2. Write down the goal – If you accomplish the task, what do you want to end up with after having it done?  This step helps you visualize the completion of the problem.
  3. Write down what you need to do – Just start writing down steps.  They don’t even have to be in order.  You can go back and re-order them later if you need to.  This step will start breaking your task down into meaningful achievements.
  4. Estimate how long your steps will take – Whether it’s a small task that will take a few days, and you just need to estimate your time by hours, or a large task that will take months to complete, putting some dates and times will really reign it in for you.
  5. Re-organize everything – Now, you’ve got a plan laid out, so go back and re-organize it.  Write it down again with things in order.  Chances are, as you’re writing it down, you’ll come up with some further refinements.  Now you’ve got the hang of it.
  6. Marvel at your plan – Look how easy that was. You started off with something big and overwhelming, you identified the problem, identified the goal, and started working through steps to get to the end goal.
  7. Get working – After you take a few minutes to bask in the glory, stop basking.  Take a look at your list of things to do, and get started on the first one.  You’re on your way.

This may be rather oversimplified, but I bet that if you really take a look at something you don’t want to do because it’s too hard, too overwhelming, or will take too much time, this will get you going down the right road.  The steps here may not be the exact ones you follow, but one thing I can guarantee is that if you don’t at least start somewhere, you will get nothing done, and your difficult task will just sit there, getting more and more difficult.

So, what do you say?  Let’s get started today.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Switching Gyms

I’ve been doing pretty well with my exercise.  It’s been about six months since I joined a gym.  I pretty much stick to cardio and I don’t do anything that intense.  I’m not in it to get ripped or run a marathon.  I just want to stay in shape, keep my weight at a comfortable level, and stay active.

Which is why I’m thinking about switching gyms.

I joined my gym as it was one of the only ones around that fit some of my needs: Cardio, Reasonable Price, Good Location, Early Morning Hours.

I’ve been happy where I’m at, but I just found out that a new gym is opening that I think will meet my needs even more.  Planet Fitness is coming.  Yes, they of the “I lift things up and put them down” hilarious commercials.

Looking at my list

Cardio

I do a mix of cardio machines.  The treadmill, the elliptical, and the bike are my big three, though I’ll do a stair machine every once in a while.  My current gym has 31 total machines.  I can always get on any kind that I want, though at least 10% of the machines seem to be ‘out of order’ at any one time.

Planet Fitness is opening and will have around 100 machines.  I stopped into the sales Find the right gym and right exercise program for you.office and while the gym space is under construction, they have aisles of cardio.  It’s their main focus, so it would be good.  I’ve read reviews of other locations all part of the same franchise, and everybody is happy with the quality and durability.  It seems like it’d be a step up to go Planet Fitness.

Reasonable Price

Right now, I’m a little over halfway through a $99 for 6 months deal, which works out to $16.50 per month.  There are no signup or annual fees.  My current gym changes their promos all the time, so if I were to renew when my membership expires, I’d probably pay $75 for another four months, or $18.75.

Planet Fitness is pretty slick.  They charge $10 per month.  There is normally a $29 startup fee, but they are knocking it down to $1 as part of the pre-grand opening.  They also charge $29 per year as an administrative fee, but they’re not charging that until June 2015, as they’d waive the first year.  Even with the $29 fee, a year averages to just under $11 per month.  So, I’d be saving money.

Location

My current gym is a 2 mile drive from my house.  Planet Fitness would be 2.5 miles.  An extra mile round trip per day? I think I could stomach that.

Hours

I get up and am there at opening time, which is 5:30.  With Planet Fitness, that would never happen, as it’s open 24 hours a day.  Other locations show that they may cut this back, but even when they do, they usually stay open 24 hours on the weekdays and scale back on the weekends, which is fine.  I’m an early bird and I like the 24 hour thing.  There are times where if I wake up early, I’d love get up and go.  With Planet Fitness, I could.

Am I Going To Do It?

I think I’m going to do it.  The only thing holding me back is that I’m paid up until July, so if I signed up, I’d have about 6-8 weeks of overlapping membership, as I have to sign up by April 30 to take advantage of the cost breaks I outlined above.  Still, I think that it would pay for itself with the cost savings it would present.

I think a gym like Planet Fitness is great.  They cater to people who are looking to get in shape, not bodybuilders or those looking for advanced workouts.  That pretty much defines my goals and objectives to a tee, and if I can get that and save a few bucks a month, it seems like a no-brainer.

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9 Things Your Yard Needs For A Great Spring

Spring is here!  Not only are you ready to enjoy the nice weather, but your yard is ready and waiting.  With a few steps, you can get your yard looking great for the spring season, with the added benefit that a great spring will set the stage for your yard to deliver a fantastic summer season as well.

  1. Clean out your bushes, planting beds, and vegetable gardens – If your planting areas have filled up with leaves blown around from the fall and winter, you want to clean these out.  Loosen up the soil or mulch in these areas, especially you were in areas where the snow packed everything down.
  2. Trim back grasses and perennial plants – If you have ornamental grasses or perennial plants that died off, you might want to trim them back.  Do a little research based on the plants you have to follow the recommended pruning method.  In some cases, spring is just fine to trim as long as it hasn’t started growing yet.  With some plants, fall might be better, so if you’re not sure, check.
  3. Inspect your trees, bushes and other plantings – Look for signs of disease, damage, or overgrowth.  If you have plantings which need to be trimmed or removed altogether, now is the time to start planning.  If you need to get trees trimmed, do some research and consult an expert tree trimmer to make sure that you get the mb-201404springtrimming done during the proper time of year, as trimming some things at the wrong time can make them prone to damage. With bushes, I find it’s best to wait until after they go through their spring growth period, at which point you can shape them as you wish.
  4. Mulch where needed – We mulch our planting beds every two years or so.  You want to have about two inches depth of mulch.  One trick I learned from an expert is that after you spread your mulch, give it a firm press with a rake or other tool.  This simple task will help keep the mulch firmly in place during winds or rainstorms.
  5. Rake your grass – Our grass looks like someone took a nap on it all winter.  Well, the snow sort of did.  Once the ground is a little less squishy, go out and gently rake your grass.  It will pull out the dead grass, while loosening things up for the root system to start doing its work of providing a great lawn.
  6. Fertilize your grass – In early spring (around now) you should put down a fertilizer, preferrably one that will keep crabgrass from growing (note: if you put any grass seed down, do not use this within six weeks of putting down the seed as it will stifle the growth of new seed).  Around Memorial Day, you should put down some Weed & Feed.
  7. Get your work areas ready – Chances are your garage or shed are ‘winter ready’.  Get your winter tools back in the back, and get your summer tools out and ready to go.
  8. Get your tools ready – Even though you might not need to cut your grass just yet, now is the time to get your equipment ready.  Get your mower out, change the oil, and maybe even the spark plug, sharpen the blade, and make sure everything is running smoothly.  Get your other tools ready as well, including any other yard equipment such as edgers, trimmers, or gardening tools that may have gotten damaged last year.
  9. Nip bugs in the bud – If your yard is prone to bugs, you can start work now to minimize where they are.  We have a few spots that are prone to underground yellowjackets, and I’ve learned that spraying some ‘Delta Dust’ in late fall and early spring will often cripple the hibernating queens.  I also keep an eye out for the formation of wasp nests around the eaves of our house, as it’s much easier to shut down a nest while it’s early in the building process versus once it’s established.

These are some simple yet effective methods to set your yard for a great spring and a fantastic outdoor season.

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