Treat Yourself

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We had some friends for lunch yesterday. They were passing through on their way to a week’s holiday with family and stopped by to say hello. Their suggestion was to go out for lunch, but I kept to our current frugal principles and offered to make lunch at home. We have a lovely house and a fairly nice, albeit very much ‘in progress’, garden. A much better place to eat than a dark pub on a bright spring day, and much cheaper.

During lunch Mr Simple surprised me. When I talk about FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) I don’t always think that he is listening, but yesterday he mentioned it to our friends and asked me to explain it to them. We talked about our staycation in March and how we had found pleasure in being at home. We also talked about changes that we have made to save money. One of them being that since we have become more frugal we are cooking much less fish (I am pescatarian and Mr Simple is a meat eater), so our meals are mainly vegetarian.

Our friends, who live in London, invited us down to stay and we talked about the great variety of restaurants there are in the capital, as compared to where we live. As well as economising on our home cooked food, we don’t go out to eat very often and that is when Mr Simple gets to eat meat. One would expect that he has been missing it, as now he only gets ham or chicken sandwiches, but never meat for a main meal. Some months, we don’t go out to eat at all, therefore his meat consumption at dinner is zero.  Surprisingly, Mr Simple shared than going out less often means that he enjoys it more when we do. He said that it feels like a treat.

So how do you define a treat? According to my little Oxford dictionary it is something that gives great pleasure. So, what makes it a ‘great’ pleasure? Back to the dictionary and one possible definition of ‘great’ is ‘more than ordinary’.

And that’s it isn’t it? It’s not something that you have every day. It is something that is out of the ordinary or extraordinary – unusual or remarkable; out of the usual course of everyday life. When you have your treat every day, or at least several times a week, that event doesn’t stand out anymore and therefore it’s not something to look forward to with anticipation.

Pleasures have become the mundane, the every day.

Having things less often means that you take more pleasure in them. In this day and age, we have forgotten what a treat is, as we treat ourselves every day.

In some ways I feel sorry for those who treat themselves every day. Their pleasures have lost their sparkle, their thrill. Maybe they have to spend more and more money to get that same feeling that I get when I buy a latte from a coffee shop once a month.

So, what treats do you have in your life? Or are there things that used to be treats, but aren’t anymore? How about giving them up for a bit and then just letting yourself have them occasionally? Try it for a little while and see how you feel when you do finally get that treat. You might just enjoy it all the more.

Rich Habit Number One

Are you aware of your daily habits? Are they the habits of a rich person or a poor person?

In his book Rich Habits Poor Habits, Tom Corley describes how before you begin to develop good habits you need to assess the habits that you already have, good or bad.

Keep a record of your daily habits

He recommends that for three days you carry around a notepad or make notes on your phone, of every activity, thought or decision, that is a daily habit. You will know that something is a habit as you will find yourself repeating it every day.

Once you have your list decide whether each one is a positive or a negative habit. When you have done this, take your list of negative habits and invert them i.e. turn them into good habits that you can foster.

For example, ‘I watch too much TV’ becomes ‘I limit myself to one hour of TV per day’.

For 30 days try to follow your new good daily habits. Review them in the morning, at lunch time and at bedtime in order to remind yourself of them and assess how you are doing.

I would suggest setting up a habit tracker, i.e. a calendar with the habits listed and then each day you can tick off the ones that you have achieved. It’s good to look back over the tracker at the end of the month to review your progress. If you manage to do something every day for a month it will probably have become a habit by then.

So what are my poor habits?

The first one is watching too much TV with Mr Simple. He will sit in front of the box for over three hours every evening. Often I slope off to my study to plan or write for the blog (which he doesn’t know about). I think he wonders what I spend time doing. If I did tell him at least he would know why I like to sit in front of my computer most weekday evening, but I am afraid that he will think that it is a waste of time.

Consuming too many carbs on the weekend e.g. toast and marmalade, crisps, drinking lager (albeit it alcohol-free). In the week I am much more disciplined with my diet.

We probably all spend too much time on one of these

Getting lost on the internet – don’t we all do that sometimes? The trouble is when I spend too much time on the computer, added on top of my work, I get problems with my shoulder.

So how could I invert these poor habits into rich habits?

Watch only one hour of TV per day Monday to Thursday. I must admit that on the weekend I quite like to watch a film together after dinner.

I am not overweight, so at the moment I am getting away with eating more carbs at the weekend. I am not sure that I want to change it.

Do my physio exercises every day to strengthen the muscles in my shoulders. According to my physio this will stop them getting so tight. This is one that I definitely need to work on. It has been on my habit tracker in past months, but has fallen off. I will certainly get richer if I do it as physio appointments are currently costing me a pretty penny.

I’m sure that I’ve got lots more bad habits, but I need to put Tom Corley’s recommendation into practice and spend time assessing them.

How about you? What are your poor habits?

Are you brave enough to share them? How could you change them into rich habits?

Creating a Morning Routine

According to Laura Vanderkam, learning to use mornings well is what separates achievement from madness. Before the rest of the world is eating breakfast, the most successful people have already scored daily victories that are advancing them towards the lives they want. Successful people have priorities they want to tackle or things they like to do with their lives and early mornings are the time when they have the most control of their schedules.

Not all hours of the day are created equal

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In her research Laura Vanderkam found that people who were serious about exercise did it in the mornings. At that point emergencies had yet to happen and they would only have to shower once. New research into willpower is apparently showing that tasks that require self-discipline are simply easier to do when the day is young. When you’re on a diet it’s unlikely that you will tuck into that packet of biscuits for breakfast, but come the afternoon your willpower may be waning and you may struggle to resist them. For successful people regular activities develop into habits. Getting things down to routines and habits takes willpower at first, but in the long run conserves willpower.

Five Steps

From studying people’s morning habits, Laura Vanderkam has learnt that getting the most out of this time involves a five-step process:

Track your time

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Part of spending your time better is knowing exactly how you’re spending it now. Write down what you’re doing as often as you can and in as much detail as you think will be helpful. While you may be thinking specifically about your mornings, try tracking a whole week. The reason to do this is that the solution to morning dilemmas often lies at other times of the day. You may be too tired in the mornings because you’re staying up late. But if you look at how you’re spending your nights, you’ll notice that you’re not doing anything urgent or particularly enjoyable. A TV programme can be recorded and watched later – possibly while you’re on the treadmill at 6.30am.

I have worked out how much time each activity takes so that I know what I can fit into my routine. When you can be confident that you have enough time to do what you want to do, you don’t need to rush and can relax and enjoy your morning.

Picture the perfect morning

After you know how you’re spending your time, ask yourself what a great morning would look like for you.

Think through the logistics

Map out a morning schedule. What would have to happen to make this schedule work? What time would you have to get up and what time do you need to go to bed in order to get enough sleep? Can you get to bed by that time?

Build the habit

This is the most important step. Turning a desire into a ritual requires a lot of initial willpower and not just for the first few days. Start slowly. Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier and wake up fifteen minutes earlier for a few days until this new schedule seems doable. Choose one new habit at a time to introduce. Chart your progress. Habits takes several weeks to establish, so keep track of how you’re doing for at least 30 days. Once skipping a day feels like you forgot something you’ll know you’ve got a habit and can take your ritual up a notch.

Tune up as necessary

Life changes and so can your morning routine. Tune it as you need.

Ms Vanderkam’s takeaway message  – the hours before most people eat breakfast are far too precious to be blown on semiconscious activities. Make yours meaningful.

So have you got a morning routine? If not and you try this out, I’d love to know how you get on.

Habits Not Resolutions

My advice for today is to be the tortoise rather than the hare – small steps, not big leaps. In this way you are more likely to arrive at your chosen destination.

This is the time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions – get fit, lose weight, give up smoking, save money – but as we all know many people fail to see these through despite all of their good intentions. Now if you have made some resolutions, that’s great, you have some long-term goals to work towards in 2019. The next step is to translate each resolution into something that you are going to do at least several times a week, if not every day, in order to achieve that goal. The key is to start small. If at the moment you don’t do any exercise at all don’t commit yourself to going to the gym for an hour five mornings a week. Start with say a fifteen-minute walk three times a week and if you achieve that and can keep it up for six weeks, then increase it.

In order to monitor your progress a habit tracker may be useful. These are a popular tool with those in the bullet journaling community. Basically, it is a star chart for adults. Draw out a table with the days of the month across the top and the habits that you want to cultivate down the side. At the end of each day look at which habits you have achieved and put a tick (or a star!) in the box. Then, at the end of the month you can assess your progress and adjust next month’s habit tracker accordingly.

One of my trackers from last year – it can be as simple or as fancy as you want to make it

The good thing about a habit tracker is that you can see your progress and hopefully, if there are lots of ticks, you will be spurred on by your positive progress. Even though the initial changes may be small, you have to start somewhere and over time they can grow and help you move towards your big goal. As the saying goes, ‘Every journey begins with a single step’. Every day you will take one step and eventually you will arrive at your destination. Good luck on your journey!

Why I missed driving

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Some of my days are spent sitting in front of a computer, but others are spent travelling around, which means a lot of time in my car. Usually it’s an hour there and an hour back and maybe some shorter journeys during the day. Those such as Mr Money Mustache or Jacob Lund Fisker of Early Retirement Extreme would say that we should ditch the car and walk everywhere, but unfortunately my job doesn’t allow me to do that. Therefore I have found a way to enjoy my time in the car and put it to good use. It initially started with a friend reminding me about audiobooks which are available in the library, but then one day when I was watching You Tube whilst jogging I found the Afford Anything podcast http://www.affordanything.com and I was hooked. Watching a static picture on You Tube whilst listening to whoever Paula Pant, the host of the Afford Anything podcast, was interviewing was rather boring, but a quick hop over to her website and I found over 150 podcasts to download on to my phone and play in the car, all about financial independence.

Over the Christmas period I have mostly been working at home and it just doesn’t seem right to spend time sitting and listening to podcasts. I suppose that I could do it whilst doing some housework, but if I’m partly concentrating on something else then I often lose concentration and miss bits. In the car I am able to just completely focus on listening to podcasts; obviously whilst having my full concentration on the road as well.

That is why I have missed driving. I now actually look forward to getting in the car some days; planning what to listen to, downloading it to my phone. It is like a treasure trove of information out there just waiting to be discovered and it is completely free. It may not fit the ideal picture of someone working towards financial independence, but without my car, I couldn’t do my job and without my job there wouldn’t be any money to save for the future and therefore no chance of achieving FI. And, as well as making the journey more interesting I have learnt a great deal about financial independence from all of the podcasts that I have listened to.