Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 150 - Lessons Learned from Duke

March 13, 2011

Day 150 - Lessons Learned from Duke
Josh Herrington | www.bokehbooth.com

As many of you know, Duke has been my furry best friend for almost ten years.  He has spent countless hours traveling the country as I roamed from state to state.  He greets me at the front door every single day as if he hasn't seen me in months.  He barks at the mailman every single day.  He eats his dinner in 60 seconds flat every single day.  He is definitely a creature of habit who has nothing but love and protection to share with me and the rest of the world.  Sometimes this dog is the only thing that can get me through a rough day - especially these past six months.  Animals can provide significant insight about living life if you just take the time to listen to them.  I have been in an almost constant state of reflection about my life since my Dad passed in August.  Here are a few things Duke has helped me learn:

Express your love every time you leave and every time you come home.  Every time I leave, I tell Duke to be a good boy and guard the house.  In return, he greets me with a wagging tail and a goofy smile as soon as the door is open more than three inches.  Someone once told me I needed to ignore him when I walked in the door so he would stop his "nonsense" every time we came home.  I feel for this person who can't recognize this tremendous and consistent act of love and devotion.  We should all aspire to be like Duke when it comes to important people in your life.  You never know if someone will actually walk back through that door at the end of the day so use every opportunity to remind that person how much you love and appreciate them.

Sometimes you just need to stop and take it all in.  A few months ago, Duke started to lay down in a particularly sunny area of our neighborhood during our walks.  Considering his stubborn attitude and 115 pound stature, there is not much I can do when he goes down.  At first, I would just stand there slightly annoyed waiting for the opportunity to coax him home with promises of treats.  But one day I decided to just sit down next to him and see what the big deal was.  I noticed that Duke didn't particularly want to do anything except watch what was going on - cars driving by, people taking walks, breezes slightly rattling the tree leaves.  I began to realize that this is not something I tend to do.  Often I am so wrapped up in my thoughts that I don't even notice the beauty surrounding me.  Me, me, me is all I can think about.  Forty five minutes later I stood up and Duke immediately followed.  I felt a sense of calm and clarity just from sitting in the grass with my dog - nothing to accomplish or learn from it, just a need to fully be there at that moment.  Duke and I now make this a regular occurrence providing both of us time to just take it all in and be in the moment with each other.

If you want something, ask!  I often wake up to Duke shaking his collar and grunting in the morning because he is ready to go on a walk.  During the day, he walks right up to me and puts his head in my lap if he wants to be pet.  Although he can't speak to me, his actions and needs are surprisingly more clear to me than most human beings I know.  Don't beat around the bush - if something is important to you then let people know.  Don't just assume they will figure it out. 

Get plenty of sleep and exercise.  Duke is a champion sleeper (he's laying next to my desk chair as I write) and in his younger days I had to set him loose in the dog park for a few hours to exhaust him.  At least three walks a day combined with good sleeping habits (as all dogs have) has helped him stay active even though he is approaching ten years old.  Don't underestimate the importance of sleep - studies show that making up the lack of sleep during the week by sleeping late on the weekends is impossible.  You never get that missed sleep back.  And stay active if you want to continue to be mobile into your golden years. 

If you show affection to others, you will be rewarded with the same.  The only people Duke barks at are anyone who comes to our front door.  If he meets that same person out on the street (including the mailman), he acts like he just found his long lost owner.  There are many people in our neighborhood who can't get enough of him.  As a result, Duke has many people walking around with treats in their pockets at all times just in case they see him.  Smart dog.  His ridiculous affection is always rewarded with attention, love or food - the three most important things in his life.  Set a goal tomorrow of zero negativity and focus on the goal of helping others.  Pay it forward is a simple rule that can make all the difference in your life.  You may even be rewarded for it even if that is not your intention.

Focus on the present rather than worrying about what was or shall be.  The only time I see a hint of worry in Duke's face is when I drag out the suitcase.  Other than that, he seems to take every moment as it comes and does what feels right at the time.  Because we have more developed thought patterns (at least most of us), people tend to get stuck in their head playing certain thoughts over and over like a broken record.  What if.....?  I should have done.....  What do you accomplish by worrying about something that might happen?  Pretty much a waste of energy.  Instead, acknowledge your worry, allow yourself to really feel the emotion resulting from your thoughts, and then just let it go.  There is nothing you can do about it right now.  By sitting and worrying about something for a week you have not only wasted energy but also a week of time that you can never get back.  Even if the worst does end up happening, are you a better person because you sat and worried about it? Most likely not.  Try to quiet those thoughts and just get a sense of what is going on right now in this very moment.  Staring at your dog might help.

Stay tuned,
Sarah

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 149 - Gas is $3.91 and Climbing - Ways to Save

March 12, 2011

Day 149 - Gas is $3.91 and Climbing - Ways to Save

Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Gas prices are climbing faster than Charlie Sheen's Twitter fanbase.  What's a girl to do?  I am very fortunate to have the option to work at home - and have been doing so almost exclusively since I saw the price board at the 76 station near our house changing twice a day.  Otherwise, I would be using at least a gallon of gas a day getting to the office and back.  And although my boyfriend has a gas guzzling Jeep Wrangler, his commute to work is literally six miles round trip - lucky again since he refuses to be seen driving my "dorky" (his words) Subaru Forester.  For those of you in less fortunate situations, here are some tips if you need help cutting back on the petrol.


1. Use the Internet: There are websites set up that track the cheapest and most expensive gas prices in major cities.  Gasbuddy.com (which also has a free iphone app) and gasprices.mapquest.com - to name a few - can help you find the closest and cheapest gas in your area.  Some of these sites rely on website users posting the prices so pay it forward if you find a hidden gem.

2. Avoid areas near airports and freeways: There is a station ten minutes away from our home where the gas prices are always at least fifty cents more than most other stations.  This is because it's also the last station before you hit the airport.  Another station in Pacific Beach similarly gouges people who are unaware just because it is located on a main road that heads to the beach.  Be aware - drive a block or two further and you could realize significant savings.

3. Plan your outings: This weekend you will probably have some errands to run as well as squeezing in some social activities.  Before heading out, plan a route for yourself and try to limit the number of trips out and back.  Hit the grocery store, pharmacy and library all at once.  Finish an errand on your way to dinner Saturday night.  Go shopping for the week so you won't have to go to the store multiple times over the next 7 days.

4. Stay local: Set a personal goal to park your car for the entire weekend. Use your bike or walk the neighborhood when trying to figure out your weekend destinations.  We did this one weekend and figured out we had more options for food and entertainment than we originally thought.  Give it a shot.

5. Don't drive like a maniac: Yes, I'm talking to you San Diego!!  Pushing the accelerator all the way down to the floor only to slam your brakes as you approach the car in front of you is just plain ridiculous.  I'm not sure where Californians learned this method but it drives me absolutely crazy, not to mention the danger factor.  By putting the pedal to the metal, you are sabotaging any chance of getting decent gas mileage.  A car consumes most of its gas while accelerating.  If you constantly accelerate, brake, accelerate, brake, you are using too much gas.  How about easing off the accelerator pedal and coasting when the traffic gets heavy?  You can control your speed - and gas consumption - pretty well using this method, and less brakes means less need to push that accelerator pedal back to the floor (and less money spent on replacing those brake pads and rotors!!).

What other money saving ideas do you have when it comes to rising gas prices?  Leave a comment below.

Stay tuned,
Sarah 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 146 - Best Personal Finance Sites??

March 9, 2011

Day 146 - Best Personal Finance Sites??
nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net  
It bothers me that on many news websites I have to go through the business section to find anything about personal finance.  It shouldn't bother me but it does.  Although personal finance relates to handling money and managing family finances, the mentality is completely different when compared to business.  Or is it?  A publicly traded company has an obligation to maximize profits for its shareholders.  A family, in theory, could also be thought of as maximizing profits (savings, retirement, etc.) for the family.  But the approach to doing so (IMHO) is completely different than a corporation increasing sales of widgets in order to make more money.

So back to my original groan - why do I have to click on the business section of many websites - CNN, MSNBC, NY Times, - before I find anything geared towards personal finance?  And generally it's a few articles that stick around for weeks lacking updated content.  Do you have any ideas for better places to search for articles, advice, anything more focused on people working on improving their financial situation?  A site for the average Joe or Jane who doesn't necessarily know what dollar cost averaging means.

Post your comments here - I could use some advice.

Stay tuned,
Sarah

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 145 - Pay Off Student Loans with SponsorChange.org

March 8, 2011

Day 145 - Pay Off Student Loans with SponsorChange.org

Logo Image: www.sponsorchange.org

I am so inspired by people who not only think of an amazing new idea that is potentially a game-changer, but who also have the courage and skill to actually bring this idea to life.  I think I may have found one of those game-changers today while browsing the CNN's Personal Finance section online.  The headline "Work for Credit to Pay Off Student Loan Debt" immediately caught my eye since, as most of you know, my remaining debts are all student loans.  A video shows a recent college graduate volunteering her time at a non-profit organization in exchange for an amount to be paid by a third-party sponsor towards her student loan debt.  As a result, the organization obtains a skilled professional to assist with a community project and the recent grad obtains skills and experience to add to her resume.  Win-win.

According to SponsorChange.org's Mission Statement, "non-profits can easily recruit skilled college graduates to complete service projects and raise funds from sponsors to reward their work with student loan payments, helping both non-profits and college graduates reach their full potential."  SponsorChange.org is the driving force behind this matchmaking endeavor.  According to the website, SponsorChange.org is currently located in Pittsburgh, PA but is looking to expand to additional cities.  I have a feeling the expansion process will happen quickly once people are aware and catch on.  So spread the word!

Social entrepreneurship at it's best.  If you are a non-profit in need of a skilled professional, a skilled college graduate paying off student loan debt, or someone who just likes to support their community then check out the SponsorChange.org website and see for yourself.

Hopefully this organization will be coming to San Diego very soon!!
Stay tuned,
Sarah

Note:  I am in no way affiliated with SponsorChange.org and have not been paid for this post - I just think this sounds like a great idea and wanted to write about it!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 141 - Step 12: Celebrate Your Victories

March 4, 2011

I have developed a guide to help you (and me!) achieve the mindset and principles required to successfully become debt free.  This is the twelfth (and final!) in a series of posts about my Twelve Steps to Debt Freedom.

Step 12: Celebrate Your Victories or..
Winning With Charlie Sheen.

"I'm bi-winning. I win here, and I win there."
graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
All right, it's time to stop for a moment, take a page out of Charlie's Chicken Soup for the Soul and tell yourself how absolutely bitchin' you are for making it to step 12.  This is not an easy feat - only those who are descendants of Adonis and who are filled with the coveted Tiger Blood can make it this far.

Seriously, this is a key moment in your debt free plan - reflection.  What did you accomplish with Steps 1 through 11?  What type of progress did you make? How much debt did you pay off? Many people (myself included) short change themselves when it comes to complimenting yourself. If your good friend had accomplished what you have, what would your response be? Apathy or excitement? Lack of interest or a willingness to hear about these successes? Treat yourself with the same respect you would have with any of your friends or family on the same path. Shout it to the mountaintops!!

"I'm so tired of pretending my life is not perfect and bitchin'." 

Now take this momentum that you have created and go with it. Do a quick review of the steps you accomplished and see if you can expand on that success. My biggest success? Sticking with my plan for 141 days so far and building confidence that I can keep successfully paying down debt for another 141. 

We all need a little Charlie Sheen in our lives every once in a while (minus the hookers and blow). Share your success stories with me.

"Most of the time, and this includes naps, I'm an F-18 bro, and I will destroy you in the air and deploy my ordnance to the ground."

I said A LITTLE.

"Winning."
 
That's better. Stay tuned,
Sarah
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