Instead Of My Desk Job

I’m pretty comfortable at my desk job.  I’ve always been more of an office guy.  I’m definitely not what you’d consider rough and tough, and while I enjoy working on things and getting things done, there are very few things I’ve thought of as potential jobs outside of going to work and sitting behind a desk.

I figured I might as well play a game of ‘What if?’ and ask what if I were to step outside of my desk and take on a different job.

I guess the qualifications for this would be pretty straightforward:

  1. I’d have to enjoy it
  2. I’d have to be good at it

There’s always the whole factor of could I realistically make a living at it, but since this is just hypothetical, I figured I’d throw that out for the time being.

There are a couple of things that I could see myself doing:

Cleaning Carpets

Last week, I had the house to myself for around 24 hours, and I decided that I wanted to get some carpet cleaning done.  I had purchased a small steam cleaner a few months ago, more to fill in times between getting them professionally cleaned, but since it’s been a while, I wanted to get a few rooms done.

mb-2015-01-carpetI set about doing some of the highly used rooms in our house, and with the time constraints and all, I didn’t spend time moving furniture or what not, I just did the main traffic and open areas.

I had figured each room might take an hour, but given the amount of dirty water I was dumping out, I just kept going until the water was relatively clean, and it took about 2-3 hours per room.  And, the thing was, the extra time didn’t bother me!

Many times I would be doing such a task and would either simply stop after the time I had allocated, or would be checking my watch to track the time and thinking of things that I could get done instead.  For some reason, the extra time didn’t bother me.

Cutting Lawns

I have my dad to thank for getting me into the practice of cutting grass, as I would help him cut the lawn at my parents house while growing up.  He taught me a lot of the various nuances and tricks to make sure that you’re not just cutting the grass, but doing so in a way to keep it looking good, and I’ve enjoyed taking that knowledge with me as I now have my own home.

Of course, it’s the dead of winter so I haven’t cut the grass in a few months, but when the season rolls around, it’s something that again, I don’t mind doing at all.  In fact, if anybody gets annoyed, it’s my wife, because sometimes I’ll set out to do it just a couple of days after having done it last time.  While I’m not escaping, as she half-jokingly suggests, it is nice to be able to throw on my headphones, listen to some music, get a little fresh air, and a little exercise, all while keeping the yard looking good.

Things I Would Instantly Disqualify Myself For

Here are two tasks I definitely would not consider if it ever came down to it:

  • Painting – I’m pretty good at painting but generally only in short stretches.  After a couple of hours, I start to get sloppy and I’ll end up yelling at the paintbrush as I go over drips or wipe wall paint off of the ceiling.
  • Shoveling Snow – I do our snow with either the shovel or snow blower, and will help out with others, but I had two hernia surgeries years back, and for some reason the snow aggravates the areas where I’ve had them.  While I’ve been assured that there’s little risk of giving myself another hernia, that it’s probably just pulling on tight scar tissue, the feeling is bothersome enough that I would not want to do it regularly.

Readers, have you ever considered, without truly considering, what types of things you would do if you decided to completely change your career approach?  Have you or anybody you know ever traded in your desk job for something else (or vice-versa)?

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.

Set Your Debt Free Date And Stick To It!

When I started catching up on e-mails that piled up over the holidays last month, one of the first ones I opened was from Jackie at The Debt Myth, a fantastic personal blog that tackles debt in real and sensible ways.  She had a great idea to get as many bloggers as possible to write a blog post centered around the theme “Debt Is Not Forever”.

The Debt Is Not Forever Idea

The idea behind her theme is so simple that the words really speak for themselves.  It’s basically to acknowledge that debt is something that is temporary, even though many people have made it a permanent part of their lives.

Think about it.  We have car loans, mortgages, credit card bills, home improvement loans, student loans, and the list can go on and on and on.  Looking at the list as well as the figures that many people have attached to them, it can seem like debt is constant.

Although it may seem like that, it really isn’t.

How To Think of Debt As Temporary

mb-201402creditcard400For the last couple of years, I’ve had Jackie’s principle of ‘Debt Is Not Forever’ in my head, but in a more abstract way.  Reading her e-mail which asked me to write this post, gave me the a-ha moment, and put some framework around my approach.  So, what is my approach, you ask?  It’s pretty simple.

  1. Gather a list of all of your debts
  2. Find the debt that is set to be paid off last
  3. Set that date as your debt free date.
  4. Manage your debts within that time frame.
  5. Stick to it!

Sounds pretty simple, right?  It is!  A little too simple?  No, not if you plan and work.

Applying Our Plan To Get Debt Free

So, let me put our plan in action.

Gather a list of our debts
Right now, we only have two debts.

  • Student Loan
  • Mortgage

List created.  See, this is easy.

Find the debt that is set to be paid off last
The mortgage is the debt that is scheduled to be around the longest out of all of our debts, in October 2026.  The student loan will be paid off in 2018 with normal payments.

Second item, done.

Set that date as your debt free date

I just said that October 2026 is the date that the last payment on our current debt is scheduled, so I guess October 2026 it is.

Third item, done!  We’re flying right now.

Manage your debts within that time frame

OK, here’s where it probably gets a bit tricky.  Here it is just January 2015, and we have to figure out our debt situation for the next eleven and a half years?   I knew this would get tough.

Or is it?

Not really.  Actually, planning your debt is pretty basic if you give yourself only two options.

  • Take on no new debt during that time – This is the ideal situation, and if you can pull this off, you’ll be assured to hit your mark on or before the current date of your final payment.  That’s simple, cool, and will work 100% of the time.  Unforunately, it isn’t always practical, which leads to the second option….
  • Manage any new debt within your schedule – Let’s face it, you may have to take on debt between now and the time your last debt is scheduled to be paid off.  Ideally, you wouldn’t have to take out a loan for a car, but you might.  In a perfect world, all home improvements and such can be paid for up front, but maybe that can’t happen.  The winning strategy here is to make your debt payment date a priority.  If you willingly take on any new debt, make sure it’s done so in a fashion where all new debts will be paid off within the date you just set above.  Period.  So, if you have to get a car loan (or multiple car loans within the time), fine, or you want to take out a home equity loan to pay for some upgrades, no problem, just so long as you can commit to having that new debt paid off before your debt is scheduled to end.  If you’re unable to commit to that, then the solution is simple: Don’t take on the new debt!

Stick To It!

Again, this part will get tricky, and you may have to go back a few times, especially depending on how long it is before your debt is scheduled to be gone.  But, if you establish that date, write it down, remind yourself of it, get a calendar popup on a regular basis.

Start Thinking Of Debt As Temporary Today!

Whatever it takes, ingrain that date in your head.  Whether your debt free date is a month from now or thirty years from now, it really doesn’t matter.  Just so long as you establish it and stick to it, you’ll get there.  And, once you do, you’ll realize that debt is not forever!

Readers, please share your strategy on ending debt, or your story of how you did it if you’ve already hit this goal.  In addition, please visit Jackie’s page on this important topic over at The Debt Myth.  

Many thanks to Jackie for organizing this topic and including Money Beagle.  I’m proud to share!

 

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.

Take Your Time To Achieve Better Results

One of my favorite sayings is the one that goes “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always enough time to do it over.”  I love it because it’s so true!  It applies in so many areas in life, but it’s a lesson we often forget.

Teaching The Value Of Taking Your Time

Our five year old son is now in kindergarten, and they’re concentrating a lot on writing out their letters and simple words.  Each month they get a homework packet, each with a few sheets that focuses on one letter per sheet.  It has them trace the letter a few times, then leaves space for them to do it on their own.

My son can do the writing very well if he takes his time, but there are times when he tries to rush through it, and when he does the work is sloppy.

We encourage him to do the work, and remind him at the beginning to take his time.  He’s already learned that if he rushes through it and doesn’t do a good job, that he has to use his eraser and start over.

His teacher sent back last month’s homework and was very impressed with the results, as we really concentrated on having him take his time.  She even saw one page where we made him erase an entire row of P’s and re-do them, and wrote that she was ‘glad’ he did those over.  We sat down with him and showed him the things that his teacher wrote, and used the positive notes as encouragement to take his time and do the work right the first time.

We can tell that he is taking more time, even on his own, as he has learned the lesson the hard way that quick work leads to being sloppy, and sloppy work means that he has to do it again.

Honestly, my son knows his letters very well, and outside of a few that he writes backwards (those silly S’s), he can write them well.  The biggest lesson he’s actually getting from doing that is the lesson of doing it right the first time, by taking his time.

When Rushing Leads To Sloppy Work

This lesson doesn’t apply just to kindergartners doing their writing lessons, this applies to many areas in life.  Rushing through things can lead to sloppy work in many areas:

  • Work – We’ve all seen the results when you try to rush through something at work. mb-2015-01-watch Poor quality of a product can result, or if you’re writing an e-mail or proposal, a costly spelling or grammar mistake from being rushed can lead to big problems.
  • Money – Trying to skip over doing a budget the right way will likely lead to a budget that isn’t accurate or doesn’t help properly lead to making better money choices.
  • Parenting – I’ve learned my lesson more than a few times that the best way to teach a child is to take your time with them.  Trying to rush through any part of being a parent will often lead to missed opportunities or more.
  • Painting - If you’ve ever painted a room and tried to rush through it, you learn very quickly that there is no fooling a paintbrush and roller when it comes to trying to rush through it.

The list can go on and on, because as the initial quote I posted sort of suggests, it can apply to just about anything.

How To Avoid Rushing Through Things

Taking your time is easier said than done.  So, how best to go about it?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. State your goal – This one may sound unnecessary, but it’s really quite the opposite.  If you state your goal, whether it be writing it down, communicating it, or even just thinking it in your head, you’ll have an end result that your mind can picture.
  2. Focus – Once you have that goal stated, keep referring back to it in whatever form you have it, and know that you’re working toward that goal.
  3. Set milestones – If you have a big room to paint, break it down to various tasks or walls.  Same goes with just about anything.  With our son, when he sees his work as daunting, we tell him to work on one line, and not worry about the rest.  This provides the ability to concentrate more and get better results.
  4. Budget time properly – If you know that taking your time to do something will take 30 minutes, then don’t give yourself just 20 minutes to complete the task.  Make sure you’re allocating enough time to actually complete the work.  Who needs to be rushed when it’s not necessary?
  5. Visualize the work beforehand- When I got started on re-painting last year, I first walked through the room and looked at each area I wanted to paint.  What did this do?  It set each task that I had to do in my head, and it also provided me some reminders on materials that I might need or things that I would need to do.  This helped so that I wasn’t rushing around looking for items that I might not have otherwise thought of.

It’s always tempting to rush through a task, especially one that isn’t fun or that you don’t have the desire to complete.  However, there’s always going to be those things in everybody’s life, so by making sure to take your time, you can actually end up spending less time on them t than if you tried to rush through them.

Readers, what are your techniques to avoid rushing through things?  What are some examples you’ve had or witnessed where rushing through things has actually led to having to spend more time on something in the long run?

 

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 I Purchased A Fitbit Flex

I’d heard about Fitbit, the activity tracking devices that are used to promote health and track exercise, but I didn’t really know much about them until a few weeks ago.  I work for a health care organization, and they worked out some deal where employees could buy one for half price.  Intrigued, I did a little digging online and talked to a friend of the family that I had heard used one, and decided to make the purchase.

Choosing My Fitbit Model

I looked at the various options and decided to go with the Fitbit Flex. The Flex is a device that is wearable, in that it goes on your wrist, similar to a wristwatch.  This is fine for me because I stopped wearing my watch regularly a few months ago after getting tired of how fast the battery wore out, and realizing that I didn’t really use it anymore, something that I’m sure many smartphone users realize.

They have other options, both more and less expensive.  The more affordable models seemed to require the device to be clipped on to your clothing somewhere, which I did not like at all.  I knew that I would either regularly forget to clip it on, or eventually lose it…and realistically, probably both would eventually happen.  The more expensive options have additional tracking options that the Flex doesn’t have, but as I was really looking for something just to track activity, none of them stood out enough to warrant spending extra.

My Cost

The retail cost of a Flex is $99.  When I looked around, the typical cost seemed to be around $95.  I was able to purchase mine for $53.  I believe they factor in shipping costs, which is why it’s slightly over the 50% advertised price.  Still, it’s a great deal that I could not find anywhere.

Fitbit Flex Features

The Flex has a few features that are noteworthy.

  • Step Tracking – The main point of a Fitbit is to track your activity, and that’s my main usage as well.  I did not default from the standard goal of 10,000 steps.  By tapping the device, it will show you dots corresponding to 20% increments of reaching your goal, and when you hit your goal, it will buzz to let you know you’ve reached it.
  • Sleep Tracking – You can tap your Fitbit a few times before you go to sleep and again in the morning to let it know that you’re sleeping, and it will track your movements to let you know how often you woke up and how often you had restless sleep.  If you forget to tap it to let it know you’re sleeping or have woken up, you can enter your sleep time manually on the dashboard.
  • Dashboard – Speaking of the dashboard, this is where you interface on a computer to see your progress.  There’s a small USB dongle that you plug in, and just have to the software to sync your device when you’re nearby, after which you can log in to see your steps and sleep information.  You can also manually enter what you’ve eaten and drank to have it calculate your total net calories based on eating and exercise, though I have not taken advantage of this yet.
  • Mobile Sync – Your Fitbit can sync with your phone or tablet with a free app that can be downloaded.  You just need to enable Bluetooth, and your device will sync on a regular basis, or when you tell it to.  It’s cool to have the app running and walk around and see your step count update in real time.
  • Accuracy – I’ve seen varying reports on the accuracy of the Fitbit.  My intention is to use it for high level information, and I don’t expect that the usage is anywhere near 100%.  Still, when I watch it real time during a live phone sync or just look at the activities I’ve done during the day and the corresponding steps, my gut feel tells me that it’s definitely in the range to add value and provide good information.
  • Battery Charging – The Fitbit I have is advertised as holding a charge for five days. If you have it synced to a phone, you’ll get an alert when the battery is low.  It takes about 2-3 hours plugged into a USB port to recharge the device.
  • Waterproof – The device is advertised as waterproof.  So far I’ve only taken it off to charge it, and it’s had no issues.
  • Skin Compatibility – Fitbit has had issues with some devices causing reported skin rashes.  I worried about this, as I suffer from eczema and certain areas do seem prone to getting rashes more if something is touching them, but so far there have not been any changes to my wrist or surrounding areas.

Fitbit Flex Results

I’ve been getting in some good workouts at the gym, and I pretty much exclusively run on the treadmill for my workouts.  As such, I’ve been routinely hitting my 10,000 step daily goal which is the default.  In fact, if I get a good workout, and I workout first thing in the morning (which I often do), I can count on getting my Fitbit completion buzz as early as 7:00am or so.  That’s a nice start to the day!mb-2015-01-treadmill

So far, I’m very pleased with my Fitbit purchase.  I especially love it because of the great deal that I was able to get through my employer.  If I had to pay the going price, I’m not sure it’d be on my wrist right now, but if you feel the price is worth it, I would have no problems at all recommending the Fitbit Flex.

Readers, do you have any wearable technology such as a fitness tracker, Smart Watch, or otherwise? Do you have any plans to bring this technology to your life?

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.