90-Day Life Challenge: Weekly Planning [Creating My Life Binder]

As promised, I am back today with the Weekly Planning installment of my quest to create my Life Binder. I mentioned this in the previous post about Monthly Planning (linked HERE), but I'll reiterate--I needed to make my planner a more portable and separate item from my all-encompassing Life Binder. I chose a simple 1/2-inch white binder that fits neatly in my satchel.

Materials I Am Using For My Weekly Planner

The "Family Weekly Planner" and the "Weekly Schedule" are both printed from Easy Life Planners (linked HERE), which cost me $19.99. To make this two-sided form, I just print two pages from the "Life Planner" section back-to-back. The second form entitled "This Week" is a FREE printable from Eliza Ellis Beautiful Printables (linked HERE). Luckily, if you are not a fan of the exact style--or the color I've chosen, for that matter--then you can select from 9 styles and 6 color options.

I've chosen these forms from -- for the following reasons:

  • As with the Monthly Planning pages, these pages are not date-specific and once owned, can be used indefinitely.
  • The "Family Weekly Planner" is used to list the main appointments, events, and work engagements for myself, DH, Wee-One, "Other" (family, etc...), and a final column for notes (babysitter-needed, switch cars, etc...).
  • The "Weekly Schedule" allows me to block off the total amount of time I'm spending on these engagements and make time for my family and friends.

I absolutely adore Irma's "This Week" form. I should mention that she has numerous FREE printable weekly and daily planners. "This Week" is a two-page document that I print as another double-sided form. The form acts as a perfect complement to the previously mentioned forms by --:

  • The front page is a 2x4 grid blocks for all seven days of the week and an extra notes block. Rather than list appointments/events/work engagements, I list all of the daily events that can't or shouldn't be scheduled, i.e. blogging tasks, special friends/family time, side income tasks, chores, fun things to do with Wee-One or DH.
    • The "notes" section allows me to list items that I have not assigned to a day yet.
  • The back page has a "To Do" list, weekly dinner planner, and additional notes section.
    • "To Do" list items are singular tasks or steps of a project that take no more than 10-20 minutes each. Ideally, I prefer to knock out 3-5 per day.
    • The weekly dinner planner is nice because it keeps me from wasting food that I have on hand and time spent trying to figure out what we are going to eat.
    • I love the additional notes section that gives me a space to list my successes with goals

*Action: The Weekly Planner will be finalized on the Sunday of the previous week, and reviewed nightly for 2-5 minutes while I am working on my Daily Planner.

Developing The Home Management Binder

The 1/2-inch binder will serve wonderfully for my Daily Planner purposes. I will store the items in order of daily, weekly, and then monthly planning forms. The reasoning being that this will be in order of most-to-least referenced forms. 

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Monthly Planning [Creating My Life Binder]

This is a rather obvious step for a person to take when he/she is trying to achieve peace and organization, so I don't know what has taken me so long. I'm such a micro-managing, OCD person by nature, and I just can't seem to settle on any one design that I like. Since I am not talented enough to create my own printables now, I will use resources that I've gathered and link all the materials I've used.

The "Creating My Life Binder" series will come in multiple parts--hopefully, culminating in a beautiful personal management system that will be completed by the end of my 90-Day Life Challenge.

Today, I am beginning with my Monthly Planning.

Materials I Am Using For My Monthly Planner

The "Month at a Glance" form (linked HERE) was purchased from SecretOwlSociety's Etsy shop. It comes as part of a larger purchase called the Ultimate Life Binder. I really appreciate this printable for several reasons:
  • It isn't date-specific. Once purchased, it can be used indefinitely.
  • The categories listed are: Top 3 Goals, To Do, Appointments & Events, Bills to Pay, Income and Savings Goals, and an End of Month Review.
  • This form is a wonderful complement to a standard monthly calendar, which gives me the dates and perspective, while this form allows me to prepare better for these events and reflect on my successes/failures of the month.
The "Plan Ahead 2016-2017 Monthly Planner" was purchased at CVS for $6.99, and it's well worth the purchase. The blocks on the calendar are large enough to use a small Post-It Note if I need to highlight a specific event. 

*Action: The Monthly Planner will be briefly reviewed daily for 2-5 minutes to remind myself of upcoming events.

Developing The Home Management Binder

Upon further reflection as I was discussing the monthly planning feature I am using, I realized that my Home Management Binder will ultimately be 2 binders: a small 1/2-inch binder for the "Day Planner" that comes with me, and the larger 1 1/2-inch binder that contains the blog planning, home maintenance checklists, etc...

Hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to creating my personal organizational system. My next installment will be introducing the Weekly Planning choices, so stay tuned.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

Intermittent Fasting: Two Weeks Later

Visual Evidence

These photos were taken a little less than 2 weeks apart [July 20th to July 29th], but all future updates will take place at firm 2-week intervals. As you can see, the "pouch" on the front of my stomach is minutely firmer, and my belly button looks wider because of the tautness of the skin. This does not come as a surprise because one of Intermittent Fasting's claims to fame is that the regulation of blood sugar encourages loss of belly fat.

What Worked And What Didn't?

There were a few consistent dietary guidelines I followed:
  1. I typically ate from 10:30am or 11am until 6:30pm regardless, but often, I shortened my eating interval to 6-7 hours naturally.
  2. No matter what was going on, I drank nearly 1 gallon of water daily.
  3. My body seemed to feel better when I consumed one large meal for lunch [sandwich with hummus and veggies], then a small snack [salsa with a few triscuits], and small dinner [cucumber, tomato, and mozzarella salad].
I really was rather surprised at how quickly my body adjusted to not constantly eating. I finally felt like I understood the thirst signals my body was sending, and not mistaking them for hunger.

What's In Store For The Next 2 Weeks?

Yoga, yoga, and more yoga. Of course, the body needs more than just a good stretch, but to be completely honest, the Opdivo is started to mimic Rheumatoid Arthritis as a side effect. I've been given a short course of Prednisone and Tramadol for sleep, but I'd rather treat this with exercise if I can. Running and aerobic activity that puts tremendous strain on my joints is impossible; therefore, yoga is a terrific place to start.

Those of you who have been following my 90-Day Life Challenge will recall that I've posted about yoga once before (linked HERE), specifically about all of the fantastic FREE yoga videos on YouTube. In my post about my Daily Dozen: Personal Routine (linked HERE), I set the goal of doing at least 15 minutes of yoga daily, but I'm setting the bar higher.

*Action: I am going to continue with a daily yoga practice for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Boost Health With An Epic Green Smoothie

I just got back from the doctor, and it looks like I might be starting to experience some auto-immune, musculo-skeletal issues as a result of my chemotherapy. I have 2 choices: 1. Wallow in grief about the ups and downs in my health, or 2. Step up my game in terms of my health. I will post another intermittent fasting update shortly--spoiler alert: I'm down 2.5 lbs. and my doctor is thrilled with my fasting glucose.

This is not going to be a long post, but instead a run-down of the components of my anti-cancer green smoothie, why each ingredient was selected, and how it fits into my diet.

*No blender required*


8 oz. of V8 "Healthy Greens" veggie blend
8 oz. of steeped lemon/ginger tea
1 tsp. of honey
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 scoop of Green Superfood alkalizing green powder


  1. I begin by steeping the lemon-ginger tea while I gather the remaining supplies and ingredients. 
  2. Funnel the V8, lemon juice, and steeped tea into a reusable water bottle.
  3. Add the 1/2 scoop of Green Superfood alkalizing powder and the squirt of honey
  4. Shake the mess out of it until blended.
  5. Enjoy the health benefits.

Why Did I Choose These Ingredients?

  • V8 "Healthy Greens" - Most obviously, it includes a tremendous amount of dark green leafy veggies blended with apple and pineapple for sweetness. This saves me a lot of time and money, and the taste blends wonderfully with the alkalizing powder. 
  • Lemon/Ginger Tea - The ginger in this tea has terrific anti-inflammatory properties, and the ginger on its own would be too spicy for me.
  • Lemon Juice - This is very detoxifying for the liver and aids the body in digestion.
  • Honey - Honey also has some anti-inflammatory properties, but primarily it has antibiotic and probiotic properties that help my body feel fewer side effects from the chemotherapy.
  • Green Superfood Alkalizing Powder - I purchased this on a whim after I was returned home after my brain surgery, and I'm so glad I did. In addition to having the components of a standard multi-vitamin, it also has small amounts of the typical anti-cancer vitamin supplements such as: tumeric power, fennel seed, garlic, ginseng, and dandelion root.
Prepared properly, the anti-cancer smoothie only contains 100-125 calories, but is incredibly filling. To integrate it into my diet, I will use this to break my fast in the late morning. As I have previously mentioned in my post on Intermittent Fasting (linked HERE), my typical 16-hour fasting period is from 6:30pm until 10:30am. Rather than eat lunch very early, snack, and then dinner, I am going to begin with my anti-cancer smoothie and then have lunch at a normal time.

Let me know in the comments if you try this anti-cancer smoothie, and what you added/omitted.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Say Yes to Tap Water

Drink Tap Water to Save Money

I can only speak to the grocery trends in Raleigh, NC, but here, bottled water tends to run around $4-5 for a 24-pack. Not too shabby right? Well, it depends entirely on how many you drink per day and whether or not you reuse the bottles. Assuming you typically use-and-reuse once from a water fountain, you will still spend roughly $200 per person annually on a free resource. In comparison, a 4-pack of Rubbermaid 20-ounce water bottles is $15--not on sale. Most reusable water bottles no longer contain any BPAs, but if you choose to replace them annually, your cost will max out at $60 per year per person (or less if each person chooses 1 bottle).

Drink Tap Water to Protect Your Body

According to the "Facts About Water," from the Drinking Water Research Foundation, water provides numerous health benefits, including:

  • Moistens tissues
  • Protects organs
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Improves digestion
  • Aides kidney and liver function
  • Stimulates metabolism
  • Improves brain function
  • Lubricates joints
  • Carries nutrients/oxygen to cells

Not too shabby. And as if this isn't enough, water also helps improve your sleep. Of course, energy drinks, sports drinks, and vitamin-infused juices may claim to give your body what it needs, but really, all they accomplish is giving your body something else to process. Save the money and the drama. A simple daily multivitamin and water will do the trick.

The Alternative Argument About Bottled Water

To show I intend no bias, I will pull my information in this section from the International Bottled Water Association.

First, as the IBWA correctly points out, all bottled water containers are 100% recyclable, and have the smallest carbon footprint of any "packaged drink" (i.e. soda, juices, and water). Now I know what you're thinking...I recycle all of my water bottles, so how is this wasteful? Well, according to the IBWA's own website in 2013, it was estimated that 1.39 liters of fresh water are required to produce just 1 liter of bottled water. Why the waste? If you drink the recommended 64 oz. plus per day, you will need to have 4-20 oz. bottles on hand (which includes that you did not drink from the last bottle). This translates to 1.6 liters of wasted water per day or 580 liters of water wasted each year. And that's just for one person. Anyone maintaining a passing knowledge of the current environmental crisis knows that fresh water is a precious commodity we are running out of.

Secondly, what about the cost of producing the bottles themselves? If used more than 10 times, the environmental cost of packing bottled water in your own reusable bottles will lower, almost to the level of tap water; however, bottled water is packaged in containers only designed to be used for a week at most. The reusable water bottles (e.g. Brita, Rubbermaid, etc...) are designed to be refilled hundreds of times. This is what you want.

My Personal Mission

Starting today, I will no longer buy bottled water for drinking. I will stockpile a small amount for situations such as a power outage, but I will not purchase drinking water. In fact, no more soda, sports drinks, energy drinks. It's 1 gallon of good, old-fashioned tap water for me. Let me know if you're with me.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Create A Cleaning Routine

I am seriously loving my 90-Day Life Challenge, so much is being accomplished--and I feel relaxed about it. Since we will be moving in a little over 2 weeks, I think now is a great time to start developing a household cleaning routine. We can start fresh in our new apartment.

Let me begin by saying that I am--by no means--the first person to blog about this, let alone provide materials. However, I have always been a little wary of trying to use a routine created for someone else's house. It's not made for my house, so could it possibly cover everything I need? And while I appreciate every tip and trick I have read over the years, I always wished that a website would teach me how to create my own. If this is you, look no further.

Steps to Creating Your Own Cleaning Routine

Step 1: Brainstorming - This step will take a little time. Personally, I sat down for a quiet hour or so in the morning to work on this assignment. Below, I have posted a pdf link to the form I am currently using for my own brainstorming session. The tables are divided into indoor, outdoor, and miscellaneous chores sections. Fill in as much of the form as you can, thinking about what you want to be completely daily, weekly, monthly, etc..., and when you have finished, proceed to the next step. 

Brainstorm Household Chores Form

Step 2: A Closer Look - Now that you have jotted down your thoughts, take a walk from room-to-room in your house, pausing to revisit the list of chores you just finished. Did you include everything? Is there something you have left out? Remember, this is not a perfect system. You can always add, subtract, or change. Repeat this process for each section on the form.

Step 3: Review - Did you make unreasonable demands for yourself? Look at what you have listed for your daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual chores. Double check that you haven't over-committed, or been unrealistic in what should be completed in the allotted time frame. For example, you will rarely need to launder your curtains on a weekly basis, but on the other hand, you may want to mop your floors more than once a year. Just double-check yourself. 

Step 4: Get Feedback - If you choose, now is a good time to have your partner, roommate, whoever, look at your chart and see if you have left something out. 

Step 5: Creating the Daily Routine - Now, you are finally ready to create your routine. Your day-to-day routine naturally divides itself into segments, and I recommend you do the same. On a separate sheet of paper, make 4 columns with the headings: Morning, Afternoon, Dinner, and Bedtime. Now, looking at your "Brainstorm Household Chores Form," take each chore you have listed in the "Daily" column and place it into the Morning, Afternoon, Dinner, or Bedtime categories. Once you have finished, create an ordered list for each time of day, and voila, you have your Daily Routine.

Step 6: Creating the Weekly, Monthly, Seasonal, and Annual Routines - Following the same process, you are going to create your other routines. The columns headings are as follows:

Weekly Routine - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (leave at least one day off, and I recommend leaving )
Monthly Routine - 1st Friday (e.g.) of the month, 2nd Friday, 3rd Friday, and 4th Friday
Seasonal Routine - Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter
Annual Routine - January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December

Step 7: Make it Beautiful - Now here is the fun part. Take each list you have just made and type it up in a format you would be proud to display on your refrigerator. Some people may prefer to display the list in multiple formats in a binder, single-sheet display, and a pocket version for your planner. It is completely your call. Use colorful paper if you would find that more visually pleasing. 

If I have missed anything or there is another printable you would find helpful, please, let me know. I welcome every comment, criticism, or suggestion I am given.

Happy Reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Weekly Financial Meeting

This is an idea that DH and I had flirted with for months, ever since he started his own small business in October 2014. Now, with the onset of my 90-Day Life Challenge, we are finally going to do it. 

*Alert: FREE Weekly Financial Meeting form HERE.

What Is Covered in a Weekly Financial Meeting?

I took quite a bit of time to develop the form, I worked on it all morning today. I realized that I needed to start with a few important questions:

  • Begin with a review of our monthly budget. I complete these the last week of the previous month.
  • How much money is coming in this week?
  • How much money do we already have available?
  • Which bills are due this week? Which account is paying them? We each have checking and savings accounts to make it easier to sort DH's business responsibilities.
  • Where is the rest of the money going after bills?
  • Discuss our short-term needs and our long-term goals.
Of course, this is just our personal "spit ball" at the key topics to cover. Every family will have their own twist on what is important.

3 Components of a Successful Financial Meeting

Here is an image of the Weekly Financial Meeting form that we use here at "Keen Enterprises." The downloadable form (linked above) is exactly the same except for the family-specific header. 

As you can tell, I like for forms to look a little quirky and strange. It makes me feel more relaxed because I know it doesn't have to be perfect, just functional. The 3 main categories I pulled out for the form are: Review, What's Going On This Week, and Future Planning.

Look at any relevant notes from previous financial meetings
Pull out the copy of monthly budget and update with bills paid

How much money is in our accounts, and how much is coming in?
What bills need to be paid this week?
Have any other expenses come up (i.e. car maintenance)?

DH is paid weekly and I make some side income, so we need an accurate account of our money weekly
What are our short-term financial goals? i.e. Birthday gifts for Wee-One
What are our long-term financial goals? i.e. Retirement

Well that's it. We will be using this form every Monday or Tuesday (whenever DH receives his payments) for now until the end of our careers. Please take advantage of the FREE form, linked again HERE. I sincerely hope that it helps you feel a little more in control of your financial future.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: The Daily Dozen [Personal Edition]

Hello all! As promised, I'm back today with a second installment of the Daily Dozen series, and this one's personal. It's all about the basic habits that each person should devote a few minutes to each day. 

As stated in the previous Daily Dozen entry, the whole purpose of a daily checklist rather than a morning/afternoon/evening routine is that--for the novice routine-haver--you will have the flexibility to allow the routines to develop on their own. For the record, I'm terrible at this. I run around like a chicken with my head cut off most days, but I do nothing to improve my own feelings of self-worth and perception of beauty.

The Daily Dozen List

  1. Daily facial massage. A little drop of oil or serum to work into the skin, 2 minutes worth of self-love and your face will glow with good health.
  2. Brush your teeth. Seems like a given, but...moms forget.
  3. Shower. Same logic as above. I don't know what possesses me to keep delaying my shower in favor of wiping down my son's toys--or some other cleaning chore--but it has to stop.
  4. 15+ minutes of yoga practice. If you are interested in reading my post about free yoga programs on YouTube, click HERE.
  5. Take out my contacts at night. This is a major habit that I need to start, for two main reasons. First, it's just a good basic health practice so your eyes get plenty of rest and oxygen. Second, it forces me to shut off at a certain time every night since I can't see without them.
  6. Apply basic makeup. My version is mascara, powder foundation, and lip gloss.
  7. Read for 20 minutes. Nothing helps you take a break like a chapter of a good book.
  8. Meditate 5 minutes. I'm God-awful at this, but meditation is a terrific practice for lowering stress, blood pressure, stress-eating, and the constant chatter in your head.
  9. Drink 1 gallon of water daily. Hydration is great for skin, your brain, metabolism, and so much more.
  10. Go to bed by 10 pm. Should be a no-brainer, but a 10 pm bedtime will allow you to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep and still wake up early enough to accomplish my Most Important Tasks [MITs] before Wee-One pops awake at 7 am.
  11. Drink no more than 1 cup of coffee. I don't wan't to be artificially energetic, so I cutting down on caffeine to better hear my bodies signals.
  12. Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 glass of wine or 1 mixed drink max. Same logic as cutting back on caffeine.

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

At first glance, so many of the items on my Daily Dozen list are self-explanatory and rather obvious ways to take care of yourself, but some of us just don't. It's not sad, and no one is looking for pity, but when you decide--as a mom, wife, or partner--to devote your life to other people, you forget to take care of yourself. That's why I am applying the same rule to my personal care as I do to my personal finances: Pay Yourself First

This does not mean that you have to "selfishly" ignore the important people in your life in favor of spending time on yourself. Instead, consider researching ways to improve your sleep so you can comfortably wake up 15 minutes early and add a nice facial massage to your morning routine.

Thank you for your attention and readership. I would love to read about some important components of your Daily Dozen, so please share. I'm always looking for new ideas.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend 

90-Day Life Challenge: Yoga

Ahh, yoga...Just the thought of it makes me sigh. Yoga is almost like massage therapy for me. It's something that every body needs, and I am finally going to commit to completing at least 20 minutes of personal massage therapy daily. Like earning money on MTurk, I practice yoga off-and-on maybe once a week. For this 90-Day Life Challenge, that's going to change.

While it would be wonderful to go to a local yoga class, I honestly don't have the $100-300 extra to spend. My solution was to check YouTube for a collection of the best FREE yoga programs. Here is a list of the 6 best channels, and my favorite video from each. We have an Apple TV that we purchased when we decided to cut down to just an internet package, and the YouTube app will play these videos.

*Shouldn't need to be said, but I do want to make it clear that I have no affiliation with these channels, I just genuinely appreciate the artists and their contributions to health and fitness.

PsycheTruth Yoga

This is a very yoga-specific channel, but the parent channel PsycheTruth has long been a favorite of mine for many types of videos: Health/Wellness, Yoga, Massage, ASMR, and smatterings of other categories as well. Much of the channel is devoted to using natural, holistic, and/or alternative therapies to aid the body in natural rejuvenation. PsycheTruth Yoga videos are roughly 20-30 minutes. The videos are accessible to beginners as well as advanced practitioners.

Yoga With Adriene

Yoga with Adriene is another yoga channel with short programs geared towards a specific focus. She currently has an excess of 250 videos available. This video is just over 15 minutes, but many of the videos run longer than 30 minutes. I like the way she tailors each routine to a very specific focus. There are some videos geared toward the beginner and advanced practitioners, but most fall in the intermediate category.

Fightmaster Yoga

This specific video is great for when I am already feeling strong and ready to take on a challenging workout. Much of Fightmaster Yoga's channel evokes that feeling. The videos are so fresh, innovative, and energetic, I'm only sad that I don't have the ability to do them all yet. If you are a skilled practitioner, you have to try this channel. The videos also have a tremendous range of duration from 15 minutes to over an hour in length.

Yoga Vidya

Yoga Vidya does not have as large a number of videos available as the aforementioned channels; however, it does have many videos detailing yogic practices, meditation, chanting, and interviews with yogis about meditation and mythology. She also posts lots of instructional videos for individual poses. There is nothing particularly unique about the videos--beginning/intermediate level, 20-30 minutes each--but her voice is so soothing. I like to exercise to Yoga Vidya when I need yoga that is more quiet and meditative.

Do You Yoga

Do You Yoga's videos are all short (less than 20 minutes). They are so simple, and great for a yoga "quickie" when you know you should exercise and don't feel like you have the time.

Yoga Yak

Yoga Yak is such an oldie but a goody. All of the videos are full length, 45 minutes to 90 minutes at the longest I've found. In addition, there are also a lot of videos offering a peaceful soundtrack to add to your everyday life. Nature sounds, music to use for private yoga practice or transcendental meditation. The practitioners are so genuinely eager to share their practice with you. I always feel like I've just attended a class lead by a beloved mentor.

Hope you are able to use these resources to fold a regular yoga practice into your daily life as well.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Savings Goals

This was a big step for me today. I have a tendency to refrain from planning out my financial future because I'm too worried about having the money that I need on a daily basis. I've always saved for the future, but I don't typically feel like its ever enough or that the saving would ever end. The fact of the matter is, there should be measurable goals that we work towards as a family.

My 7 Essential Savings Goals

At the moment, I only have around $500 per month to devote to savings, but I know this won't be the case forever. I've got extra work becoming available starting in September, and DH's business has started to pick up, so he's able to contribute a few hundred dollars a month to our financial freedom. 

  1. EMERGENCY FUND - I set our emergency fund goal at $2,000. My thought process was that this would cover tires for both cars and a month's worth of rent at the same time.
  2. 6-MONTH JOBLESS FUND - Sometime around 4 am a few weeks ago, I happened to catch the Suzi Orman show. She suggests upwards of a 9-month fund, but that isn't really realistic to me. We are a 2-income household with a lot of family support in the event of an emergency. To cover 6 months of essential spending, we would need roughly $15,000.
  3. HSA - Ideally, I would like to see at least $25,000 in a Health Savings Account. This would help with any surprise medical bills that I--or my little "dare devil"--might accrue.
  4. 529 PLAN - Obviously, DH and I will want to be prepared with Wee-One is old enough to go to college. Like his father and I, Wee One will be asked to live at home, work part-time, and attend a local university, which will definitely help with the overall cost. In addition, we invest in a small personal account for him on a regular basis, and his grandparents have set up a custodial account as well. We settled on $25,000 as a reasonable goal.
  5. NEW CAR FUND - Another $20,000. We are not specifically saving for a new car since both of ours are running beautifully and just had tune-ups, but we want to have a large lump sum set aside for major necessary purchases (i.e. new car, air conditioner, family emergency, appliances, etc...).
  6. HOUSE FUND - Now, this is where it gets personal for us. This would be a good place for anyone to store their down-payment savings, but we have decided to go another route if possible. We want to buy a foreclosure property outright. No mortgage, just standard bills. Considering that a 2 BR/1BA, 900 sq. ft. home on 1 acre in this area goes for around $110,000, we feel that $90,000 should be able to purchase a reasonable foreclosure and allow us some wiggle room to fix problems or customize as needed. 
  7. RETIREMENT - The most important piece of future planning in anyone's savings portfolio, but easily the most daunting. I highly recommend reading Retire On Less Than You Think by Fred Brock. It's a wonderful read, and gives great perspective about how to prepare for retirement logically--as opposed to catastrophically. I'm aiming for $500,000.

Here's an image of my own Savings Plan. As you can see, I used grid paper and a simple "bullet journal" style of charting. It just seems to work better for me if I am visually pleased by the charting process.

Cute, But How Is This Going to Work?

So good of you to ask, I asked myself the same question the instant I finished the Savings Plan. I'm restarting with my Emergency Fund. Like I said, I have $500 each month (approximately) to put towards savings. I am going to split this and put $400 towards my Emergency Fund, and $100 towards my 6-Month Jobless Fund. I generally do prefer to work on more than one thing at a time and have a little bit of that Dave Ramsey "snowball effect." It should take 7 more weeks to finish filling up the Emergency Fun, and then I get to deposit the full $500 into the 6-Month Jobless Fund. In October, I will begin depositing $25/month into each of HSA, 529 Plan, and New Car Fund accounts. It's not much but I will still be able to feel like progress is being made.

As more funds become available in October, I will immediately begin depositing $150/month into my local Credit Union Roth IRA. Why a Credit Union? So I can never lose the original investment. Why a Roth IRA? So I won't be taxed on what I withdraw from the account during retirement. As the other savings goals are met, I will end up deposit their full amount into the IRA, roughly $750/month. Of course, this is assuming that my income is fixed.

The last component of my savings is the House Fund. It's easily the most daunting because we so desperately want to find somewhere to call home. Everything else we bring in goes here....Who knows? Maybe this blog will take off...

Thanks again for "listening" to my pontificating and supporting me on this journey. As always, I welcome criticism and suggestion, from anyone.

Happy Reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Amazon's Mechanical Turk

Well, I'm on to Day 2 of my 90-Day Life Challenge, and today is about Amazon's Mechanical Turk. I desperately need a little extra money to feel secure that we won't be homeless again if one of the cars breaks down, and we still have to focus on my medical debt. I've dabbled with it for over a year, very very sporadically, and have accumulated somewhere around $70 that I transferred to my Amazon gift card balance.

As you can see, it's not a scam. You really will earn a little extra money towards Christmas gifts, household supplies, etc, and there's no catch.

What is Mechanical Turk?

Amazon's Mechanical Turk, or MTurk for short, is a form of crowdsourcing work that pays individuals small amounts of money per assignment to complete microtasks at home (or on the go). MTurk's particular form of microtasks are called HITs--Human Intelligence Tasks--and they range from $0.01 per task, all the way up to $100 or more (depending on the work, of course).

How Much Money Can You Make?

As stated, the amount of money you can make on MTurk directly depends on a few factors:

  1. Your "level" as a worker. When you start out, you do not have access to some of the better paying HITs because those requesters may want you to have a specific success rate (i.e. >95%) or have completed at least 500 HITs. However, this is easily accomplished by taking on as much "batch" work as you can until you hit the threshold that allows you to accept better work. More on that later. 
  2. How much time you are willing to commit. Since my work at the preschool is only 10 months out of the year, and my work with the special needs baseball league has off-season time, I usually wax and wane a bit in my use of MTurk. However, for the purposes of creating a better source of income, I will be aiming for between 30 minutes and 4 hours every day.
  3. Use resources that help weed out the good HITs. I will link a few below, including a Reddit forum that posts high-paying, low-time commitment HITs.

Ultimately, you can probably expect to make $2-3/hour when you first start out and are learning the ropes, but once you get the hang of "batches" and uses some the resources I have listed below, you will be able to earn (I've been told) upwards of $30/hour. Right now, I've progressed to $5-6/hour. 

What Are "Batch" Jobs?

"Batches" are jobs that pay only $0.01 to maybe $0.10 per HIT, but you can complete 5-10 HITs per minute making them a very efficient way to bump your experience and make money. You can find them by sorting your available HITs by "most first" (see image below). Transcription is a difficult one to start with unless you're good at that sort of thing already, but you get the idea.

So, What Am I Going to Do?

Right now, I'm a decent level worker with respect to my approval rating, and I have completed a little over 350 HITs, but I need to do better. 

Here's the plan:
  • Complete "batch" work to get me to 500+ HITs, then 1000+, then Masters level. The Masters level is where you find the fun jobs that pay you $1-2 for 5 minutes of work, sometimes more. 
  • I will post a follow-up to this post every 45 days, since that is the length of time that MTurk uses when you check your account and click on the link that says "see more." 
  • MTurk and the appropriate forums will be loaded onto my computer when I wake up in the morning. If I have a few minutes to sit down and churn out a few, great, but if not, it must be available for me to do whenever I have spare time during the day. I generally feel too busy for this, but honestly, TV isn't as productive as paying down debt...
  • At minimum, 30 minutes and 50 HITs must be completed before I go to bed at night.

Ultimately, I would like to see myself in a position where I am working around 1-2 hours per day, and make $30-60 daily. That would allow me an additional $900-1,800 in income monthly.

Plans for the Money

For a more detailed description of our personal finances, click here. Needless to say, we are functional, not quite comfortable, but we definitely don't have enough extra money floating around to preemptively handle household issues or significantly pay down debt. That's where MTurk comes in.

I have budgeted around $400 every month for odds-and-ends: tires for the cars, oil changes, new shoes for Wee-One, household supplies, and any other neccessities. Whatever isn't used just gets rolled over into the next month's budget. The thing is, all of these items can be purchased through Amazon. I've always transferred my MTurk earnings to a gift card balance so it works perfectly. Now, I have $400/month set aside that I can use to pay my medical debt!!

Useful Links for MTurking

HITs Worth Turking For (Reddit)
MTurk Forum
Turker Nation
MTurk Grind

Well, that's it. Good luck to anyone that would like to try MTurking, and let me know how it goes.

Happy Reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Intermittent Fasting

This is Day 1 of my 90-day life challenge, and I'm beginning with my weight. Currently, I am 5'3" tall and (according to my appointment on July 15, 2016, I am 214.4 lbs. Obviously, this is an unacceptable weight for someone my size. I typically wear an XL or a 16-18 comfortably. 

To track the effectiveness of intermittent fasting, I will post updates after each of my chemo infusions since this is the only time I weigh myself. Not proud of where I'm starting, but very proud of where I'm going.

Why Try Intermittent Fasting?

Last week, I did a Google search for "diets that improve blood sugar." I'm not diabetic or even close to it, but I do have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS], which comes with a healthy dose of insulin resistance. I needed something that I could manage while still mothering my wee-one and working two and a half jobs. And up pops intermittent fasting. I'm not gonna lie, I was extremely intimidated by the idea of not eating for 16 hours at a time, but the logic is sound. My oncologist even thought it would be a good plan for me to try since it's main benefits are: managing blood sugar, retraining your body's response to hunger, and (of course) facilitating weight loss. It has even been suggested that intermittent fasting can lower the bodies risk of certain cancers that are exacerbated by weight gain, i.e. melanoma.

So, What Do I Need to Do?

On a random Google Image search of "intermittent fasting," I stumbled on this beautiful infographic that explains the ins-and-outs of the Lean Gains version of fasting, which is basically 16-hour daily fast, followed by 8 hours of an eating period. The source of this infographic is linked under the image. As you can see, there are many ways to use intermittent fasting for health and weight loss, but I've chosen the LeanGains 16 hours "on" and 8 hours "off," primarily because I want to have lunch and dinner with my family. All forms of fasting recommend some form of exercise before you break the fast in order to use more fat stores and accelerate weight loss, but that is a challenge for a different day.

So, Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?

The short answer is, eh, it depends. Since you do not eat for long periods of time, you would either need to have a relatively easy time dealing with the feeling of hunger, or a deep desire to control that impulse. I fall into the latter category. At the same turn, this would not be good for someone with a specific dietary need to eat small meals at short intervals, or for a diabetic person who has not checked with his/her doctor first. 

Additional Resources

Well, that's the basics, and like I said, I'll post another update after my next infusion appointment on the 29th. Wish me luck! I welcome any criticisms or commentary on my methods, or any suggestions for improvement.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90 Days To A Life That Works For Me

If you have read my About Me page entitled, Meet Your Devoted Friend, then you already know that I am a hard-working Mommy and partner who has been battling cancer and struggling to find balance and joy in life. After nearly 8 months of climbing this hill, I am going to do something about it.

I want to scale mountains, have a clean and perfectly organized home, speak a dozen languages, rid the world of poverty, be cancer free, be the world's most amazing mother, but I can't be any of those things until I joyfully take my first steps, without expectation or judgement.

What's Not Working?

For starters, I am not a fan of my weight and overall physical condition, but that's nothing surprising considering my cancer diagnosis. I am working and make a reasonable salary at my two and a half part time jobs, but it's not enough to pay down my medical bills and save money so we can purchase a small family home. I don't feel like I spend enough time with DH, Wee-One, or any family/friends. I tend to get overwhelmed easily by the ever-expanding "To Do" list. But now, I'm fed up...

Rules of the 90 Day Challenge

  1. Post for 90 Continuous Days. I love writing, and blogging gives me a sense of accountability. Most days, I wake up in the morning, excited to post about a new idea or recipe, but don't because I woke up too late and ruined my plan. No more, 90 days chronicling my step-by-step journey towards a happier me.
  2. Each Day Represents 1 New (Positive) Habit or Task to Complete. i.e. Drink 1 gallon of water per day, or Organize and Purge Clothing.
  3. Choose Steps from All Areas of Life. My weight is an issue of great concern--particularly as it relates to my battle with cancer and my future well being--but it is not the only concern I have. Therefore, tasks and habits will also address personal finances, family, relationships, career, spirituality, health/wellness, or any other subcategory relevant to a quality life.
  4. Do NOT Move Backwards. Once I take a step forward on a new routine, task, etc... there is no going back.
  5. Accept My Learning Curve. Not every post will be a work of art, but I do expect my writing, editing, marketing, technique, and networking to improve with practice. I will aim to keep my posts between 500 and 1,000 words so as not to set an impossible bar. Although, if I stumble on a great topic, it will become a feature post later. Of course I reserve the right to edit whenever I get the notion.
Here's how I am starting:

I sat in front of this monthly calendar for 5 minutes and just listed a few of the small changes I would like to make in my life, putting them on the blog calendar as I did so. This helps me recognize which posts may turn into small series, and which ones may require another stand-alone article. Hmm, I definitely need to stand-alone post about these resources I'm using. *Sigh of relief* I'm finally working on my happiness.

What is your first step? 

Thank you for going on this journey with me.

Happy Reading,

Your Devoted Friend