Freedom Fuel-Free Budgeting Tool

I am a long-time fan of budgeting.  Practicing the art and science of budgeting is very useful in helping you get real with your financial habits and provide you a baseline from which to measure and modify your spending and saving/investing energy.  This is something that my mother instilled in me, along with the belief that all debt is bad and should be avoided at all costs.  I am eternally grateful to her for imparting her wisdom as it has allowed me to live debt-free to this day.

Now that I have explored the world of financial education by feeding my brain with such delightful reads as Rich Dad Poor Dad and Retire Young Retire Rich, I no longer look at debt the same way.  While I still avoid acquiring “bad debt” (debt accrued on credit cards or by taking out auto or home loans), I am an OPM convert.  OPM stands for Other People’s Money, and if becoming financially free is your goal, as it is mine, then OPM is what you want to leverage to build your real estate investments upon.

So! This is barely scratching the surface of investing that I highly recommend everyone look into.  More on investing later!

Today I want to share my new and improved budgeting tool that I created to help keep my spending in line so that I can invest more of my income in investments that pay me. 

I am reminded of a dialysis nursing preceptor who told me: “if you are working then you want your equipment to be working also.”

I am upgrading this sentiment to: “if you are working you want your money to be working also…so that eventually you can stop working and your money will work for you!”

So far I have been using this tool for the better part of December and it has really helped to keep me in line with my spending, in spite of the holiday shopping season.

I designed this spreadsheet on Google Sheets-for free!! And I am really excited to share it because I think that others may find this a helpful tool as well.

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I’ve created formulas that do all the calculations for you, all you need to do is input the amounts coming in/going out.  One thing I’d like to share is how to create a sum equation within a cell.  This is useful when you make more than one purchase in one category per day.

Let’s say that you buy groceries at 3 different places on one day.  You spend $25 at your local farmer’s market, $13.56 at Trader Joe’s and $20 at a local fish market.

Within the cell (B2 in the photo below) you will click your mouse and type:

  1. =
  2. SUM(
  3. Then enter the amounts followed by “+” sign
  4. End the equation with )
  5. Hit enter
Place your equation of “=SUM(x+x+x)”
Once you hit enter the total amount will be displayed in the cell.

If you want to see the full equation you can click inside the cell and the formula will be displayed in the “fx” box (see 2nd photo above).

Try it out by following the link to the Google Sheet here.******

******Note: Please do not edit the sheet itself, if you do, your information will be visible to anyone in the world who accesses the link!! Instead, make a COPY of the spreadsheet and save it to your Google docs account  by going to File and select Make a Copy. 

You can also download it onto your computer in Excel format to edit, PDF format to save for your records, etc.  I personally like to keep the spreadsheet in my Google account so that I can access it from any computer/my phone any time I want to add anything to it.

I really hope you find this useful.  To your financial freedom!!

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment!

Attitude of Gratitude: Yes, Thank You!

With the holiday season in full swing, I have been getting excited about sharing some tips on fueling your life with even more positivity, more blessings and more joy.  The secret? Gratitude!​

Gratitude seems to have an undeniably positive, albeit difficult to explain, effect on they who practice it.  While the study of gratitude is in its infancy, there already exists a body of research with mostly positive evidence in support of the tie between practicing gratitude and an overall sense of well-being (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).  Results of a study by leading scientific researcher on gratitude Robert Emmons and co-author Michael McCullough (2003) found that gratitude listing participants reported more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, felt more connected with others and had greater optimism for the coming week than did participants in the control group.​

Positive psychology research studies have shown that there is a strong, consistent association between gratitude and greater happiness (Harvard University, 2011).​

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Researchers at Berekely have found that gratitude:​

  • Unshackles us from toxic emotions​
  • Helps even if you don’t share it​
  • Benefits take time (study showed difference after 4 weeks’ practice writing gratitude letters)​
  • Has lasting effects on the brain (Wong & Brown, 2017)​

Practicing gratitude can lead to positive health benefits and greater satisfaction in life so why not take the opportunity today to start? ​

Writing thank you cards or thanking sending a wish of thanks to someone mentally is a great practice!

Harvard University (2011) gives some fantastic suggestions on how to make gratitude practice a simple part of your life:​

-Write a thank-you note

-Thank someone mentally​

-Keep a gratitude journal​

-Pray​

-Meditate​

-Count your blessing​s


Ohm-my, meditation is divine!

I am particularly a fan of gratitude journaling.  It is a great activity for right when you wake up and/or right before bed.  What better way to start and end your day than with sending out vibrations of gratitude that are bound to attract more of the same to you?​


References:

Emmons, R.A. & McCullough, M.E. (2003).  Counting blessings vs. burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389​.

Harvard University (2011).  In praise of gratitude. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Wong, J. & Brown, J. (2017).  How gratitude changes you and your brain.  Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

 

Enjoy Holiday Feasting with “Crowding Out”

How do we enjoy the holidays without overeating and gaining weight?​

If you’ve worked in healthcare as long as I have, you come to see first-hand the dangers of consuming sugary food products for too long.​  Diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, the list goes on…

Sugar=Poison?

Sugar is not a friend of our bodies.  So what does it have to do with gaining weight around the holidays?​

Insulin is in charge of feeding or building fat cells (Kahn & Flier, 2000).  Sugar triggers insulin production and insulin stimulates fat cells to take in energy and grow (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).  This means all the cakes, pies, cookies, sweet alcoholic mixed beverages-even mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are all causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, leading to weight gain.​  Yikes!

The good news: you can partake in cheer and eat as much as you want!​

The caveat: you’re going to want to “crowd out” the unhealthy foods with the healthier ones (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Crowding out means the more healthy food you eat, the less unhealthy food you will consume-I can attest this really works! Crowding out is a way to enjoy an ongoing non-diet lifestyle by increasing the intake of healthy foods and decreasing non-healthy foods (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Where to start? Look for low-sugar or sugar-free recipes for holiday dishes online.   There is a plethora of them out there.  Substitute delicious fruits in place of sweet snacks.  Have something healthy, like a handful of almonds or a fresh green smoothie made with coconut milk, spinach and banana before going to a holiday party so you won’t feel as hungry. Hunger will tempt you to eat the unhealthy stuff.​

Remember to drink plenty of water, it guides us to know if we are truly hungry or just thirsty.  And get in as much physical activity as you can.  I find a simple routine like a 20-minute cardio session every morning has an incredible effect on my energy, mood and productivity.  Getting enough sleep, relaxation, and self-care time aids in keeping stress levels down, which can keep cortisol levels from increasing- causing us to crave sugar.​

 20 minutes a day for increased energy, improved mood, and better overall health-works for me!

By being mindful of what goes into our bodies and crowding out the unhealthy foods, we can enjoy a healthy weight, not only during the holidays but the whole year round!​  Happy holidays and healthy feasting!

References:

Kahn, B.B. & Flier, J.S. (2000).  Obesity and insulin resistance. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 106(4), 473-481.​​

Rosenthal, J. (2018).  Integrative nutrition: A whole-life approach.  New York, NY: Integrative Nutrition, Inc.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010).  NIH study shows how insulin stimulates fat cells to take in glucose.  Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose

The Importance of Self-Care: Morning Pages

This past week I have been focusing on the art of self-care.  It came to my attention through my studies to become a holistic health coach and I am very grateful for it.

I had no idea how badly I needed to make self-care a daily practice.  I was giving a lot of energy to projects, my j.o.b., travel, studying and other people and it took me a while to notice that my energy was waning.

Through my curriculum I learned about a wonderful lady named Julia Cameron, author of the book The Artist’s Way.  This book was recommended to me by a friend within the last couple of years, and I purchased the book but still have yet to read it!

Luckily, I watched a lecture given by Cameron in which she describes the practice of writing what she calls Morning Pages.  This is the gift of writing freehand first thing in the morning and filling 3 pages with thoughts, feelings, dreams and anything else that is on one’s mind.

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I have only been doing this for about a week, and I am amazed at the difference it has made in my life.  I am calmer and more grounded and able to live outside of my own head and be more present with my loved ones.  I feel less needy of other people’s attention because I have given myself the loving attention of honestly sharing my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.

There really is something magical about validating yourself through writing.  Not only is it an actively healing and cathartic experience, it allows the exercising of creativity, something that I now remember is incredibly important.

I’m so grateful to Julia Cameron and the Morning Pages activity that has helped me to nourish myself emotionally and mentally and to inspire me to get back in touch with my creative side.

You can learning more about Morning Pages and Julia Cameron’s beautiful gifts here.

 

My Invisalign Journey: Week 1

I finally did it-I got Invisalign!! After going through not one, but TWO rounds of braces as a teenager (yes, my teeth were that messed up!), one permanent retainer POPPING OFF and multiple lost/damaged retainers along the way, I am giving myself the gift of a perfectly straight set of chompers!

My two reasons for doing this were

1) I knew that it would boost my self-esteem about my smile that I already loved; and

2) If I did not do it then my teeth would continue to shift and eventually get worn down in certain spots-no bueno!

In the video posted below I review my first week and what I’ve learned about Invisalign thus far-check it out! If you are considering Invisalign I highly recommend it-especially since there are lots of places who give great specials including Groupons that make them more affordable than certain types of regular braces, or at least equally as affordable.

Personally, I am very grateful that I have dental insurance through my company that covers up to $1500 of the cost.  Not only that, my dentist extended an offer to me of knocking $1000 off with a kickback that he gets from Invisalign (if a dentist starts so many patients on it within a month, the company will give them a “coupon” of $500, $1000 or other amount).  With these discounts factored in this will *only* cost me around $3200 out of pocket, which, if you ask me is well worth having a life of straight, healthy, easy to clean teeth that I will be able to enjoy and use for decades to come.  I’ve also come to the realization that if something makes me feel great and boosts my positive energy AND it has health benefits then it is a win-win for sure!

Smile!