Emergency fund: what you need, whether you are 20 or 80

Why You Need An Emergency Fund

 

emergency fund, savings, borrowing, student debt,

An emergency fund is freedom.  Money is freedom.   Money on hand gives you choices.  Having a job that pays well is great but financial freedom is more about the money you keep than the money you earn.  Some people become financially independent on a modest salary while some are always broke on a much bigger income.

Financial freedom means to never have to borrow money for emergencies, like the roof leaking, or the fridge breaking down or to go on holidays or for birthday or Christmas gifts.  Financial freedom means to know you have a financial cushion should life throw you a curve.

As a woman, I feel very strongly that all women should have some money to their name, and yes, savings and an emergency fund, even if you are married to a millionaire.

I was well past 20, even 30 when I first heard the term “emergency fund”. Luckily I had never needed one before, so there was no damage.  In my 20’s I was totally oblivious to saving money.   Later, although I always made sure I  had a few hundred dollars in my  checking account, I don’t remember being a systematic saver.  I really started thinking about savings and emergency fund and retirement savings when I found myself alone with two young children.  And I am so glad I did.  Only wish I had started earlier.

I have met, worked with and known many 20, 30, 40 and even 50 year olds who either had not heard about such a fund or had simply not bothered to put one in place, at great cost to them.  People who often make good money but lived paycheck to paycheck, often carrying large a large balance on their credit cards.

The saddest case was a woman 63 years old , married.  Both her and her husband worked, with an annual income of close to $90,000.  When I met her, they  were 3 years post bankruptcy.  Her husband had recently become ill and could only bring in less than $20,000 a year, so she had to work full time, combining two fairly demanding jobs and being stressed knowing she could not work less or retire like she wanted.

The bottom line for her was  that there was no way she could retire until at least 65 because there was no money put aside.  She continued to work but fell ill and died of cancer two months short of her 65th birthday.  I cannot but think that the stress at the end of her life was a factor in her illness.

In my days working as a Financial Planner, I also encountered high income families,  saddled with over $100,000 consumer debt, and as you guess, no savings.

Emergency Fund at 20

If you are 20, you don’t need an emergency fund as big as the 35 year old who just bought a house or the mom who is recently separated and responsible for little ones.  But as you will see from the example below, you will need more than a few hundred dollars and the best time to build an emergency fund is when you don’t need to.  Just like buying insurance when all is good, not when the house is on fire.

So how much of an emergency fund should you have and how soon should you build one?

I say as soon as you get your first time job.  In fact, if you have a pretty good part-time job while in school or University, I suggest you start then.  You have nothing to lose by having more money in your bank account.  If you are one of those lucky ones, imagine the freedom from having money in the bank even before finishing school.

Let’s imagine you are fresh out of college or University, you have student loans,  you live at home and are looking for the first job.  Student “A” has managed to stash $2,000 away.  Student “B” has no money whatsoever.  I am certain student “A” will be less stressed, will be able to afford some work clothes if need be, as well as cover the expenses related to job search, like transportation, without having to ask mom and dad to pitch in.

Having the security of a fund wil allow Student “A” to be able to make larger student debt payments, getting rid of the debt sooner – and saving on interests.

If you have not been able to build an emergency fund before the first job after college (hopefully a full-time one with full time salary), the next best time to start is the day you receive your first paycheck.

How much should you save?  That depends what your income is and what your goals are.  If you have the benefit of living at home either rent-free or with a small rent, I would suggest you put half your net salary in savings, until you have enough money for first and last month’s rent on a place of your own, plus 3 month’s rent and living expenses once you are on your own, as well as 3 month’s student loan payments.

If you look at a rent of $800 a month, that comes to $4,000 for rent plus 3 months of enough money to cover food, insurance, transportation, and some money to go out once in a while.  A very conservative estimate is about $1,000 plus the student loan payments for 3 months, however much that is.

The above example comes to at least $5,000 fund – the 3 month’s extra is in case you lose your job and it takes you even 2 months to find another one (and you don’t get paid for at least 2, sometimes 3 or 4 weeks when you start a new job).

As you can see, even at 20 or so, you need some serious money in your piggy bank.

Emergency Fund at 30 (or as soon as you have more responsibilities)

Now let’s imagine you are 35.  You were married but now find yourself divorced, without financial support.  You have 2 children for whom you are totally responsible.  You make a good salary, around $75,000, your rent will be $1,200. You don’t have student debt (hopefully) but you bought a car and have payments of $350 a month.   What should your emergency fund look like?

Rent X 7 months $7, 200.  Food and other expenses for 5 months, including the car payment: $6,000 – Total: $13,000 +  Why 5 months of extra expenses?  Because as a single 20 year old, you probably could move back with mom and dad or rent a room off a friend should need be – but as a parent with 2 dependents, you just can’t up and move in with a friend.  So 5 months of living expenses is a minimum.  6 months would be even better, because the fridge could break down or the stove, or you could need new tires.

A $12,000 to $15,000 emergency fund looks huge but if you do the math with your numbers – salary, rent or mortgage, insurance, car loans, etc, you will most likely come without a few hundred dollars of this estimate.

Emergency Fund at 40, 50, 60

Let’s say now, you are 40, 50, or 60 and you own your home.  It’s a $350,000 home.  Just off the bat you should put away at least 1% of the value of the home every year, until you have a fund of at least $10,000, or even better, aim for $15,000  A roof alone can take you back $8,000.  It does not mean you will spend $3,500 every year but over a 10 year span, home maintenance will average $3,500 a year.  I know from experience that work on the foundation of a small house can easily cost over $10,000.

Windows, doors, also need upgrading at some point.  Even without renovating, the deck may need replacing,  The furnace can break down.  Owning a home costs money.  Trust me, you will be glad if you don’t have to borrow money to maintain your home.

Of course this emergency fund is on top of the one you built in the previous stage, to cover your other living expenses should you lose your job.

Many homeowners skip the emergency fund and re-mortgage their house every 5 years or so, increasing their mortgage by $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 or more every time.  It’s easy to fool ourselves because those “small” additions don’t increase the payments by much but the bottom line is that the mortage never goes down

Saving money is not always fun but everything being equal, it’s a lot more fun than having to borrow money and add interests to the mix.  It’s a lot better than worrying about finding the money, or qualifying for a loan and then tightening your belt because you have more monthly expenses.

Emergency Fund at 70, 80 and beyond

What about if you are older?  Do you still need an emergency fund?  Yessss you do.  Unexpected expenses happen at all ages.  Even if you are retired, you can still have big unexpected expenses.  Car breakdown, medical emergency requiring home care, unplanned  travel expenses to attend weddings or funerals in the family, appliances breakdown, and yes, your funeral expenses which you don’t want to saddle your children with.

Don’t get discouraged when you see those big numbers.  The sooner and the most you stash away every week, the smaller it will become.  Yes it will take discipline to do so and you will most likely have to adjust your lifestyle.  Think abou the prize at the end.

I hope I have convinced you that it’s better to save now and sleep soundly knowing you have a nice nest egg should you need it.  Taking care of our money is a way to practice self-care.  Money worries are bad for your health and your relationship.

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Your Journal Can Help You Make Difficult Decisions

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decisions, decision making, difficult decisions

Are you struggling with making some decisions right now?  One week you think you should stay, the next you just want out – of the job, the friendship, the relationship, or even a move to another house or across the country.   Or you are thinking of switching career, or going to University?  And it’s been going on for a while now?  Believe it or not, your journal can help you decide.

I have found a fairly quick, simple method to help you make a better decision. Start a diary about this particular situation.  Yes start journaling or maybe continue journaling but add a new twist to it.

For a whole month, or longer if you need to,  take a few minutes every day to document what has happened and how you feel, really feel deep down about the situation.  If you are unhappy, sad, fed up, disgusted write it down, and give examples of why you feel so.  The same way, if you are happy, hopeful, write down why, with examples.

The most important thing is to write down every time you have a strong feeling about the challenge you want to resolve.  The longer your dilemna has been going on, the stronger the indication it’s time to look at it more closely.

After a month, get yourself to a quiet place where you can review your entries of the month without being interrupted.  Read everything you have written. Highlight in green everything that you saw as good and positive.  Highlight in red or another color everything that you saw as bad, negative or downright ugly about that situation.

Putting reality on paper prevents selective memory – that is usually just remembering one side of the coin: either the good and excusing either bad behaviour or forgetting how your needs are not met, or focusing on the negative part, however small to the exclusion of all the good.  If you are really honest during your daily writings, this should give you a pretty good idea of the reality and help you make your decision.

Here are some examples of situations where you can use your journal.  Some are from my own experience, others from what I have witnessed in my environment.

.  Loving the neighbourhood but having difficult neighbours or a cheap landlord

.  Loving your job but hating the toxic work environment

.  Not hating your spouse but being chronically unhappy because of lack of connection, even after marriage counseling

.  Liking a friend but realizing that everytime you speak said friend never takes time to enquire how you are doing and ends up dumping about their life

.  Wanting to go in business for yourself but thinking about the financial sacrifices you will need to make without a regular salary

.  Wanting to go into business for yourself while not having a financial cushion before leaving your job

You may go one step further, share your writing with a trusted friend for support and accountability.  Choose wisely if you decide to share.  Choose someone who can remain neutral, yet capable of asking the right questions.

Very often when we are faced with difficult decisions, we let fear decide and end up doing nothing, or at the other end of the spectrum, we don’t take time to prepare adequately and jump without a plan or a backup.  Writing things down is like being your own coach, to help you reflect to make the best.decision after you have reviewed all the sides of the issue.

If you are ready to make difficult decisions in your life and want more support, use the contact form to ask for a discovery session (free) to help you decide if you are ready to invest in a coaching relationship to change your life.

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Tips for moms – Sleep, Exercise and Food

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moms, stay at home moms, work from home moms, tips: sleep, exercise, food
mom’s health

 

I decided to walk to the corner grocery store at the end of the afternoon yesterday – the weather was mild, for a Winter day in the North East,  and the 10 minutes walk felt really good after an afternoon spent working on my computer and the title of this post came to me: tips for moms: sleep, exercise and food.

I found myself thinking that while I have been diligent with my 2 or 3 times a week swims, I have not exercised at home or gone or walks in weeks.  Not good. And I have no excuses.  Time wise, I only have myself to care for.  As soon as the sidewalks are free of ice, I’ll add a regular 30 minutes walk 2 or 3 times a week.

It got me thinking of all you mommies out there building a business working from home, working outside the home or stay at home moms with young ones around.  As the year is still new I have come up with some ideas to get me, and hopefully many of you will find a way to add some of my suggestions in your workday.

And I remembered the times when I had young children and I was working, studying at University, taking care of my mom who at some point was in a nursing home and Oh!, was I tired, even though I tried to sleep as much as I needed, doing some exercise, mostly walking (I did not have a car) but not eating the best, especially while in University.

Let’s look at what you absolutely need to do if you want to be in the game long term, and have energy for life, love and fun too.

 

Sleep

Moms, you need your sleep.  You have probably heard that most people are sleep deprived.  That people who drive sleep deprived as as dangerous as those who drive under the influence.  That many disasters in the world have happened when people in charge were overly tired.  That there is a false bravado among many to boast about how little sleep they need.

Sleep is needed for health and to help you make the best decisions, as well as save time.  Our health is dependent on sleep because our body and brain repair while we sleep.  We are also nicer to be around when well rested.  We can better deal with stress, making our relationships both at home and at work a lot more pleasant.  And we are more productive when we are well rested.  Any work that requires brain power is best done after a good night sleep.

Sleep is also important for our beauty as well as our ability to keep a healthy weight.   Lack of sleep contributes to making us crave food, usually of the unhealthy kind, not only because we feel tired but because lack of sleep lowers leptin, which is an appetite suppressant hormone and increases ghrelin, an appetite stimulant hormone.

How I do it:  I need a good 8 hours sleep and I cannot function if I don’t get it.  It’s not just that I feel tired.  I absolutely need it.  Because I tend to wake up once or twice during the night, I need to factor this in when I plan my sleep.  Fortunately I do not have to wake up early, so it’s not much of a problem.  On the other hand I don’t like to sleep later than 8 a.m., so most nights see me with the lights out before 11 p.m., usually around 10:40.  That way I am certain that I will have the sleep I need even if it is interrupted.

One more tip: most of us have a 90 minutes sleep cycle.  Calculate how many you need to figure out what’s the best time to go to bed so your alarm clock does not wake you up when you are in deep sleep.

Exercise

We also need to move our body – whether we call it exercise or not.  I believe I was a lot slimmer a few years ago was partially due to the fact I did not have a car.  In fact, I remember gaining 10 pounds in the first year I bought my first car.  I was not going to the gym but I was walking everywhere – probably around 3 or 4 miles a day (5-6 kms) most weekdays.

I know most of you may not have the time to walk for an hour a day.  But if you do, please do.  Walking has been studied and found to be one of the cheapest and most health positive exercises you can do.  Aim to walk briskly, about 3 miles per hour (5kms) which is very doable, especially on flat terrain.

If you don’t have that much time, here are some ways to add minutes of exercise to your work day.

.  Walk to work, or park as far as you can

.  If you take the bus, get off a couple stops before your destination

.  Get up and walk for a few minutes every hour or so during your workday

.  Take the stairs at work, either in the morning or at the end of the day.

.  Go out for a 15 minutes walk at lunch – you can do almost a mile just then, more if you are young and in good shape

.  Aim for another 15 minutes walk before or after dinner.  There are 96 fifteen minutes slots in a day.  Surely you can fit in one or two

How I do it:

.  I continue my tai chi classes  It’s a one hour class a week and while it’s not cardio work, it is one hour of standing, moving, kicking, turning on one leg and other moves  It’s enough exercise that I  drink a half liter of water at every class

.  I have registered for ballroom dancing again.  Depending on the dances involved, it can be a mild cardio exercise and leg work.  Even the arms get a workout if I keep the form (instead of falling into my partner).  Here again I need to drink water during the 60 minutes class.

.  I just started Argentine tango classes.  It’s a 90 minute workout without stop.  It’s fun, with a steep learning curve and I definitely need to drink water.  Because it’s a long class I definitely feel my muscles when I get home.

.  I swim laps at least twice a week, for between 30 and forty minutes each time.  I always feel 20 years younger when I come out of the pool.

Other ideas to exercise at home when you can’t get out

.  Dance – salsa, chacha, triple swing for 15-20 minutes.  Youtube has great dance music videos.  Do a 15-20 minutes cardio workout – again you can find one that fits your level of fitness on youtube

.  If you have stairs in your home, you can do like me and pretend you are at work and do the stairs.  Imagine you work on the 4th floor, and do your one set of stairs up and down 4 times.  If you are in top shape, do more

.  Do strength training a couple of times a week – you can use free weights if you have them or do it using your body weight.  Again, you can find everything you need on youtube.  Strength training is important to keep healthy bones as well as to keep your metabolism running on high.

Meal time

Moms in general tend to forget to sit down to enjoy their meals and work at home moms often find it even harder to take the time to eat a nutritious meal at lunch time, even more so if there are young ones to be fed and cared for.

I know when I am working on my blog or reading a course, etc., I find it hard to get away from what I totally enjoy and can never find enough hours to do.  But taking time away from the desk is crucial so you can feed your body healthy food to keep your health and your energy up all day.

Here are some tips to help you have a healthy meal in the middle of the day.  Eating healthy is a high priority for me – so the tips I give here are those I use every day.

.  Cook a few meals’ worth of rice or pasta on Sunday evening,

.  Again, on Sunday evening, make a big vegetable stir fry, or make a big batch of mashed carrots.  My stir fry favorite veggies: onions, sweet pepper and celery.

.  While you are at it, put a chicken in the oven, or a small roast – that way there will be protein for the first few meals of the week.  I love turkey and even though I am alone, I recently  cooked a small turkey, kept some to eat, and froze the rest in 3 different containers, to thaw as needed.

.  If you don’t eat much meat, canned tuna or wild salmon is a time saver, and I use that for lunch about twice a week.

.  If you are vegetarian, chick peas, white kidney beans or other legumes are a low cost and healthy source of protein added to a salad and a bowl of rice, or pasta or a nuked potatoe.  And a big batch of vegetable soup.

.  I love pasta and once a month I make and freeze a large batch of spaghetti sauce.

.  I love salad – I always keep some lettuce or flat cabbage on hand to add a salad to my lunch.  I make a half bottle of olive oil in which I have added garlic (I keep it in the fridge) and only need to add some lime or lemon juice for a great salad dressing

Here you have it.  A list of easy to implement changes to keep you healthy and energized for a long time.

If you need help to keep on the right track with your goals, I am a trained life coach and I work with a couple of clients, by phone.  If you are interested, use the contact form to let me know and we can set up a session to discuss your needs.

Related reading on sleep:

Related reading on exercise (walking)

Help with meal planning

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The 2 biggest reasons we make mistakes when choosing marriage partners

marriage mistakes, bad relatioship choices

The proof that most of us make mistakes in choosing marriage partners

When we date in our 20, 30, and even much later in life too, most of us don’t kow what we are doing.  If you don’t believe me, remember that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, over 67% of second marriages end in divorce, almost 75% of those in third marriages also end in divorce and of those who remain married, only about 30% are happily paired up. This means of  25 or so couples  about 4 have a healthy, happy marriage.  If you don’t believe me, make a list of all the couples you know who have been married – or living together for at least 4 years and do the math.

People do not marry to get divorced.  Most people endure years of unhappiness before they divorce and many want to be married but keep on making the same unhappy choices.  Not through lack of character, but lack of basic knowledge.

There are many articles written on the mistakes to avoid when choosing a life partner, but unless we look at the underlying reasons we do make mistakes, it’s impossible to not do so.

Reason No. 1 – Not knowing ourselves enough and not appreciating our own value

Of the  20 + books on relationships I have read  over the past 3 years, 90% mention a healthy self-esteem, self-respect, or self-love as an essential to form healthy relationships.  Inner knowledge,  also  called self-intimacy is essential to develop a healthy self-esteem, to get to really know our values and what is most important to us, as well as to counteract negative messages we may have heard growing up.

To have healthy self-esteem, self-respect and self-love. we need to have done some personal growth work.  That kind of work happens when we can look at our behaviour, our upbringing objectively, realistically and without judgment, and assess and acknowledge what went well, what did not and what we need to do to make up for what was missing.  It requires that we be able to face unpleasant truths about our family or ourselves without blame, but with an intention to change what we can about ourselves.  And it involves giving ourselves what we missed as children: compassion, understanding, love, respect.

I know I went through the first decades of my life totally clueless about how my upbringing had influenced my relationship choices.  Fortunately I decided to become a psychotherapist and it opened the way to greater self-knowledge.

If your parents were not self-respectful, there’s a good chance they tolerated non respect and maybe you were not respected either.  You then grow up and it becomes the norm, or the normal way to be in relationships.  You don’t know any better.  Oh, maybe you would not tolerate physical abuse, but you don’t see verbal put-downs as bad, and you choose someone who treats you like your least loving parent.  That’s why people with an alcoholic dad or mom often marry an alcoholic, or two.   And those with self-absorbed parents end up marrying self-absorbed people.

Or you do self-care in externals.  Your mom never took care of herself, so you go to the spa regularly, but you drink too much, or you smoke, or you tolerate bad treatment from people.  And when I say bad treatment, it does not have to be physical abuse.  If your partner dismisses you, is not present emotionally, does not meet your top emotional needs, or is more critical than loving, and you stay around for more of it, then, you have a deficiency in self-love and self-respect.

If on the other hand you grew up in a loving, emotionally stable home, there’s a good chance your parents demonstrated respect for each other and for themselves.  When you grow up you can immediately recognize someone or something that is off with what you know.  If you have developed self-awareness, this translates with an off-feeling in your body.  You are better equipped to take care of yourself by speaking up or removing yourself from what you see as not good for you.

The bottom line is when you truly love yourself, you will not tolerate what is not in your best interest.  You can establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself instead of being your worst enemy.  This is the foundation to be better equipped to avoid mistake no 2

Reason No. 2  -We do not know what qualities are essential for a healthy, happy long term relationship.

While you and I learned geometry, algebra, history and even calculus and stats in school, I don’t believe there is even one school in the whole world that teaches “How to have a healthy, happy marriage”.  So we enter the dating world with what we learned at home, and on TV.  And if we don’t know and value ourselves, we cannot know what we truly need and want and choose what’s good for us.

Unless our parents’ marriage was a good one, it’s easy to assume that Hollywood movies are the way to go.  For guys, this usually translate, be tall, dark and handsome (and rich) and for girls, it’s be demure, slim and pretty (and know how to cook).  Whether the ploy was money, cars, sexiness or looks, it emphasized using a “bait”.  Books like “The Rules” (published about 20 years ago) encouraged playing games.

Nowhere did we see to be real, show your true self, risk being vulnerable,  to avoid playing games, to develop a solid friendship, to looking at values like kindness, a generous heart, being able to be real  or emotional maturity.

The result is that many of us did – and still – fall in love with the “shine” factor. Looks, income, status, etc, or we let the hormonal surges lead the way, putting commitment long before, or instead of compatibility, not just compatible tastes in food and activities, but shared values, emotional intimacy, mutual respect, a generous heart and an interest and capacity to invest emotionally in the relationship.

While I have met people who were really lucky to make good choices with loving partners even though they had not done personal growth work, I suspect they were the ones who had developed a lot of self-awareness in their youth and this paved the way for healthy choices.

If you find you consistently make poor choices in relationships, like it’s your 3rd partner who has an alcohol problem, or is self-absorbed and incapable of any empathy, give yourself the gift of doing the work so you learn to make choices from a place of greater self-awareness and self-love.


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Want to work with a coach to improve your self-knowledge and make better life choices, use the form to contact me

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Lie To Ourselves And How To Stop

Self-deception.  As human beings, we are often very good at telling ourselves what will protect our fragile ego.  The more fragile the ego, the bigger the lie.  And the more lies, the more fragile the ego.  The truth is we lie to ourselves to avoid a painful truth.

lying, lie, telling lies, self-deception

 What is Self-deception

The problem when we lie to ourselves is that we don’t usually know we are doing so.  Once you become more aware, the lies don’t work as well.  That’s also the reason when we become more aware we can start making better choices.

I could not find the statistics but I believe that only a small percentage of the population invests in their personal growth.  I remember saying to my clients (in addiction) at the end of their therapy, that they were now so much ahead of the general population – those who never hurt bad enough to make changes toward a healthier life.

The reason many of us “live lives of quiet desperation” is that we view change as difficult because we assume it will be worse than the present.  Remember the popular quote “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”?  Believing in the truth of this quote has kept more people in unhappy situations than many other go-to excuses.

What happens when we use the “better the devil…” excuse is we look at everything that could go wrong so the fear becomes larger than the desire for growth or change.

At the same time, what does not happen is we fail to look at the negative consequences of staying with the status quo, or we minimize them, with other ready-made formulas like “you can’t ask for perfection”, “it’s not so bad”, “it could be worse” or “some people have it worse”.

Fight Self-Deception

  • Make a clear picture of what the situation is like.  Write it down:                               .  how long has it been going on                                                                                           . describe the situation as best  as you can, being as specific as you can.  For example if it’s a bad work situation, write down exactly how long the situation has gone on and be specific: for example: since coming back from mat leave, my boss has given me small jobs, much below my capacity, or refused to send me on training as per our agreement, or… If on the other hand the problem is about a relationship, you need to also draw a clear picture.  How long, what specifically is the problem, whether your spouse has cheated, or is emotionally disconnected from the relationship or anything else.  Or is the problem the fact that you have a drinking problem?  I know from my work that people usually have known for around 10 years they had a problem before acknowledging it
  • Next you want to write what you have done to help solve the situation.  Have you asked for feedback at work or met with the boss to find a solution.  At home did you speak up, did you try marriage counseling, did you change your behaviour, etc.
  • Now I want to write down what the present situation has cost you.  Time, energy, sleep, health, peace of mind, money, relationships.  If you have difficulty being objective, imagine how it would have impacted one of your loved ones if they were in that situation.
  • Next is the time to write down what you really afraid of?  It could be that you fear never finding another job, or not make as much money, which are valid fears.  If there’s alcohol involved, are you afraid you can’t make it?
  • Or in relatioships, you could fear the reaction of your partner, or family.  Or maybe you are afraid you won’t survive financially.  I can say from experience that all those fears are normal and somehow, we all survive, thrive even.
  •  I have been in both an unhealthy job situation and unhappy marriage and I vividly remember how stressed I was.  I also remember the stress related to making the decision to leave the marriage and at another time the job.

Beat Self-Deception on a Daily Basis

.  Be present in your body and how you feel stressed, anxious, depressed, sad, how you don’t sleep well, have poor digestion, or other aches and pains

.  Honor what you want and what you need: write it down

.  Identify your usual responses and justifications (defense mechanisms).  Do you get defensive when loved ones tell you the truth?  Do you pretend all is well when you are crying inside?

.  Admit – even if only to yourself – that you are scared.  Ideally find a trusted friend you can talk to honestly

.  Recogngize the words that indicate you are letting fear run the show: I wish, I hope, some day, waiting for things, people to change, complaining

.  Catch yourself when you lie to yourself and say what your truth is.  The more you do it, the easier it will become.  And the more you will respect yourself for doing so.

Lying to ourselves hurts mainly us.  That’s why self-deception is very related to a lack of self-love and working on telling the truth will increase your self-esteem.

See related article: 

 

 

Drowning in January debt?

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get ride of debt, pay down debt, manage your debt

If you loaded your credit cards last month,  now that Christmas is over and the credit card companies and various department stores are busy sending out the statements, you might just want to run for the hills or sleep until Spring because you feel like you are drowning in January debt.

Debts cost money, and your health and your relationship too

Unless you have budgeted for the Holiday expenses and only used your credit cards to take advantage of the points,, you may be one of the millions of people who used credit because there was no other way to pay for expenses around the Holidays.  If this is so, you probably try avoiding to think about the coming bills. If the bills have started coming in, you may even have put them out of sight because you feel totally stressed at finding out the total of what you now owe.

And this can be you whether you make $30,000 or $150,000 a year.  Unless they make a conscious choice to save, there is usually an increases in expenses as the income goes up.  I have worked in financial services and I regularly met families with incomes of $150,000 a year who were also strapped with consumer debts almost equal to their income.  The advantage you have if you are in a higher income bracket is that you can most likely cut unnecessary expenses just because you have more of them.  The drawback you have is you may be afraid to lose your standing with your social network.

Let’s be real.  Unless you are facing a financial crisis because of illness or because you lost your job, if you are drowning under credit  card debts or other consumer debts, it most likely means you have a pattern of overspending and it will not resolve itself overnight.  And you will most likely find it painful.

But for me nothing is as painful as staying awake at night and worrying about having enough money to pay the mortgage or the rent, the food and other necessities like insurance and medication.  Nothing is as painful as seeing what you could end up paying in interest alone if you don’t clear those debts.

I recently had a credit card statement of $2,890. (which I paid in total before the due date) and I saw the small print that indicated it would take 35 years and 5 months to pay if I only made minimum payments of around $65.00 (interest rate 19.95%).  I was curious and calculated it would cost me over $12,000 in interests alone if I chose to go that route.  Scary.

Needless to say that putting the bills out of sight will not make the problem go away.  You have to open the statements and figure out a plan of action to pay those debts.  If you use denial you could end up with a collection agency at your doorstep or worse.

While paying 3 or 4 times the cost of your purchases in interests alone is painful on your wallet, the stress caused by debts will also damage your health and it can also damage your relationship.  Fights about money is one of the leading causes of unhappiness and divorce.  See this article about debts and divorce.

A plan to attack the debt

My first piece of advice is make sure you are well rested before you tackle the problem.  So no trying to do this in the evening after a full day of work.  Better wait until you have some quiet time in the morning, after a good night’s sleep.

If you have children, now would be a good time to ask grandma or a friend to have them over for a few hours so you can concentrate on the task.  If you are a two parent family, you need to do this together, whether or not both of you bring in income.

Get dressed, have a good breakfast and make your favorite cup of coffee, or tea.  It’s important to see this as work, because it is.  Hence the “get dressed” note.

Clear the table, gather the bills, as well as pens and paper and your bank statement for your checking account

Make a list of all the bills, including date due, and the interest rate of each.

Add to get the total of what you owe

Looking at the total and the balance in your checking account, determine if you can pay all your bills in totality before the due dates.  If so, write the cheques – and post date them as appropriate, or make the payments online, again setting the date of payments appropriately so that you don’t pay a penny in interest.

Get up and dance.  Well done.

If on the other hand you see that there is no way you can pay it all, you will now have to set a payment schedule.   Before you do that step, I want you to take some time to look at and think where you can cut expenses so you can add more money to your payments.

Here are some ideas to find money to pay down the debt (and avoid adding more)

. Put the credit cards away – from now on it’s cash only.  This is not punishment.  It’s to ensure you succeed.

.  If you normally eat out at lunch time, commit to bringing your lunch every day.  This can save you $75- $150 a month

.  Make a thermos of coffee at home to bring to work.  Savings: $35.00 or more if you normally have cappucino or other fancy brew

Learn to do all your errands in one outing.  Gas is expensive. Turning your engine on requires a lot of gas, especially in cold climate, so avoid short, unnecessary trips.  Walk instead.

.  Vow to shop in your pantry, freezer and fridge until you run out of a particular group of food

.  Eat seasonal food: cabbage, carrots, rutabaga, potatoes are cheaper than the asparagus at $7.00 a pound.  Lentils add protein to a good vegetable soup and chickpeas, kidney beans and other legumes cost about 20% of what meat costs.

.  Commit to “no take out” – learn to make your favorite at home.  There are litterally thousands of websites with great recipes.  Calculate how much you normally spend on take out and see it as savings.

.  Downsize your cell phone plan.  If you have a computer at home, learn to use your phone for phone calls only.  This alone can save you over $1,000 a year.

.  Put your cable service on ice.  You can either cancel for six months and then pay the $50. installation fee if you decide you “need” it or I know some companies will allow you to pause the service, as if you are going away for the winter, pay a minimal fee of around $5. a month and you don’t need to pay for installation fee when you want to activate it again.

. If you live in cold climate, wear a sweater inside and lower the thermostat.  Definitely lower the thermostat during the night.  A lower house temperature not only saves you money.  You sleep better when it’s cooler, cooler temperature is also better for your health.

. Unless you need your car for work, if you normally drive to work and also pay for parking, try co-sharing, taking the bus or walking.

. If you splurged on a big item for yourself, brainstorm whether you can return it and get a refund.  I know this hurts but you’ll be proud of yourself.  That’s priceless.

. Brainstorm whether there is a possibility to take on a second job.  Even if only for 6 months, an extra few hundreds a month can save you lots in interests costs.

Last but not least: making payments

Now the bills.  Redo your list and put the one(s) with the highest interest rate at the top.  In my example above, the interest rate of my credit card is 19.95%, which is high but not as high as department stores rates which usually hover around 29%., in which case a $2,890. bill paid with minimum payments would likely cost you $15,000+ in interests alone.  This is the one you will concentrate on paying first.

Write down and add the total of the minimum payments for all bills.  You must pay at least the minimum payment.

Looking at your finances, determine how much you can pay on the bill(s) with the highest interest rate.  You need to put the maximum you can on those highest interest bills.  The more, the better.

As any extra money becomes available during the month – either from sold purchases or from a second job, put the money toward those highest interest bills.

Of course, as soon as a bill is paid, the “liberated” money goes toward the next highest bill, until all bills are paid.

Put all your bills and your payment schedule in a file.  Every month  any time you make a payment,  enter the date, the amount paid and the balance as per your statement.

Find a low or no-money-needed way to reward yourself as you see the total of your debts melt under the Spring sun.

 

After you have done the work, if you still feel you cannot possibly either make minimum payment or cannot do more than minimum payment on all your bills, the best thing is to find a social service agency that deals with debts, consolidation and other solutions.  Do not go to private companies who promise to solve your problems.  Ask around you.  Again the best places where you will get real help are usually government funded agencies in the US. In Canada, see this site

Let me know if you found this article useful and if so, please share it with your friends and on social media so I can reach more people.  Thank you

 

 

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Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

New Year, New Year Resolutions,

I have never been keen on making New Year’s resolutions but I vaguely remember making some.   I think they were more “pious wishes” than well thought decisions to make changes.  Nothing much happened as a result of those.  In fact I remember last January saying something to the effect I wanted to lose 8 pounds. Well, it has not happened.

I know that I am not the only one who has failed at those pious wishes of the start of the year.  In fact most people resolutions are forgotten or simply dropped within a couple of weeks after January 1st.  That’s why gyms can give such good deals around this time of year.  Thousands sign up but few show up.

The reason we so collectively fait might have to do with the fact that resolutions seem to be obligations we saddle ourselves with, like “I have to” instead of more adult-like decisions like setting goals and having a vision of what we want our life to be.  Like we play parent, not the loving kind but more like the critical parent.

Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions (and what some of mine are)

This year I will definitely skip New New Year’s Resolutions.  Instead I will look at what I really want for myself in 2017.   There are things I am sure I want to do in 2017 and they can be summed up in one sentence: I will take the utmost care of myself: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and socially.  I want to pass every choice and every decision through that filter:  In the long run, is this good for me.  And I encourage you to also pass every decision and choice you make in 2017 by the filter of “is this ultimately good for me?”  Every time you can’t answer a loud “yes”, then it’s not worth your time and energy.

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other.”  Henry David Thoreau

New Year's Resolutions

Some ideas for New Year’s wishes, dreams and goals

  • Decide how you want to feel: I want to feel calm, passionate, joyful.  Other possibilities: happy, serene, energized,
  • Identify your 5 top values: my health, family, authenticity, learning, kindness
  • Identify the people in your life who match you in terms of values: I., K., P., M., T., MC., L.,
  • Identify what you want in your relationships: I want to have relationships that are real with people who can also be authentic and show some vulnerability
  • Identify how you want to make time in your life for those people: cook a special meal, invite for an evening of good conversation, meet at the beach, go for a hike
  • Make a list of what you want to continue doing: eat healthy 90% of the time, swim, exercise 3+ a week, dance, taichi, hike, learn, tell the truth,
  • Choose one or two criteria to filter all your choices and decisions in the New Year: Is this ultimately good for me? Is this in my best interest?
  • Choose a word as your North Star for the New Year: Vulnerability
  • Focus on the process rather than the destination: write the steps you want to take to get you where you want to go: if you want to have more energy, write down what normally gives you more energy and keep doing more of it: eat well, sleep more, exercise daily, choose who you spend time with, have a hobby,
  • Write what your vision is for your life: (private)
  • Write what your biggest problem is and brainstorm ways to solve it
  • Make a list of what you want to learn: Argentine tango, SEO, etc. to grow my blog
  • Make a list of books you want to read: too many to list
  • Make a list of experiences you want to have: It can be anything you have wanted for a long time, or things you used to do.  Brainstorm
  • Make a list of fun things you want to do by yourself: swim, read, dream
  • Make a list of fun things you want to do with a partner: go to the opera, to the beach, for a hike, cook a special meal, read to my partner, dream,  etc.
  • Make a list of what you missed as a child and how you will give it to yourself this year: If you had an absent, unloving parent, you did not learn to be there for yourself and love yourself.  Make this year the year you give to yourself.  If you were poor and never went to the zoo or the amusement park, take yourself there and enjoy it.
  • Write down your greatest wish: (private)

What do you want for yourself in 2017?

-In one year from now, what do you want to have happened?

-If you chose to be fearlessly authentic, what would happen?

-What do you want more, crave in your life?

-What do you want less of in your life?

-What is your secret wish?

-If you knew you only had one year to live, what changes would you bring to your life?

I hope this post gives you some ideas to bring more joy in your life in the New Year.  Let me know if it does and please share with your friends and on social media to help me reach more people.  Thank you.

 

Alone at Christmas? Start Your Own Traditions

My Traditions Around Christmas

Christmas Eve, Christmas

A few years ago, (when I was a child), stores did not start the Christmas Season in November. I remember getting excited about Christmas a couple of weeks before the Big Day.  One memory I have of the Season is going to see the animated window display at Eaton’s on St-Catherine Street during the school break.  It was magical –  and I so wish some big retail store would re-start that tradition for the little ones   Another good memory is visiting on my dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve and staying up very late, eating tourtières and pies at the Réveillon, a very French Canadian tradition. This was quite a party for the only child that I was – dozens of cousins and piles of gifts under the tree.

When my children were young, I continued to wait until the week before Christmas to buy and decorate the tree – sometimes we decorated the tree on Christmas Eve.   I also loved the atmosphere in stores on December 24th when I would buy the small gifts to fill their Christmas stockings.   Christmas Eve was the time I chose to wrap my daughters’s gifts.  I would wait until they were in bed, sit by the tree and wrap presents.

Today the girls are all grown up and there are now grandchildren.  I still love the night before Christmas, quiet at home, yes wrapping presents, cooking, baking something sweet for the Christmas day family dinner and reminiscing about the year past.

What are your traditions for the night before Christmas, for Christmas day?  Do you, like me, enjoy the quiet hours at the end of the day to finish wrapping gifts or to relax with a good book or a mushy Christmas movie and do the last preparations for the Christmas dinner?  (I used to put the turkey in the oven, use the timer and wake up to the aroma on Christmas day).  Or do you prefer to be with friends or family and have a Réveillon?

Or are you feeling lonely, dreading the day, especially if there is no planned Christmas family get together?  If so, here are some ideas to help you through on that day as well as on Christmas day.

Christmas, Christmas Eve

  • SOME TIPS IF YOU ARE ALONE AT CHRISTMAS

  • Call your friends – invite them or invite yourself.
  • Look for a place to volunteer serving Christmas dinner to the needy people in your city.  Every big city in North America usually has many places serving a Christmas dinner
  • If you are in recovery, check out AA and NA – they usually have a 24 hour open house and will welcome you with open arms
  • Meetup – there are thousands of groups and many of single people who are also far from their family – members can organize a get together or join one
  • Pamper yourself – you can give yourself a spa treatment at home, cook your favorite food or go to bed early to catch up on your sleep
  • Take yourself on a nice day trip – to a small town or spend some time in nature
  • Red Cross usually has blood donor clinics on December 26.  It feels good to know you can save a life
  • Cook a good meal and share it with a shut in neighbour
  • Remember that all that shines is not necessarily gold.  Many family get togethers are rifled with tension and unhappiness.  As an only child, I always wanted siblings – then I saw how some siblings can be mean to one another.  It helps to put things in perspective.
  • If your finances allow, treat yourself to a trip you’ve always wanted to take
  • Paint a wall – paint a room, finish a project.  I remember the first Christmas after I was divorced and my kids were with their dad on Christmas day, I painted the living room.  It worked.  Got rid of some anxiety and loneliness and slept like a baby that night

Whatever you decide to do, be kind to yourself, be your own Santa and remember that Christmas has become a big commercial endeavour.  And again, remember that all that glitters is not gold.

Let me know how you are spending your Holiday time and if you have other suggestions.  If you enjoyed this post, please share with your friends and on social media to help me reach more people.  Thank you

Related post:  Christmas Stress

Another related article:

Are you Stressed because of Emotional Spending?

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overspending, shopping, spending money

Do you want to curb your Emotional Spending.  Don’t get me wrong.  Emotions are OK, in fact emotions are wonderful and shopping can be a lot of fun.  I am quite an emotional person.  I don’t try to shy away from what I feel, whether it’s anger, sadness, hopelessness or joy or happiness.  It does not always feel great but emotions have a place in life.   When we repress the difficult ones, it has a direct effect on our ability to really experience the feel good ones, like happiness, joy and rapture and that’s when we need more powerful external triggers (to increase dopamine).

As beings, we want to avoid pain.  When we sense painful emotions, the first thing we want to do is to move away from it.  Here comes Emotional Spending. Novelty raises dopamine.  Having a new pair of shoes or a new car makes us forget for a little while that we were just dumped, passed over for promotion, . that our house does not compare to that of our best friend or that Hollywood star.  That we are bored or unhappy.  So instead of addressing the real problem head on, we shop.  It’s like trying to cure a vitamin B deficiency by loading up on vitamin C because it’s more convenient.   It’s not going to help.

Emotional spending, like emotional eating or addictions does not discriminate.  I have worked in financial services and I have met many high income earners who are drowning in debt due to emotional spending

You have most likely heard the expression “emotional eating”, or eating your emotions.  Well, the same thing happens when we “shop our emotions”.  This post is about consumerism and about 80% of the population.  If you are a compulsive shopper (the other 20%) and you have credit card debts, can’t pay your other bills on time, have tons of unused purchases and feel out of control, you may need to speak with a professional to help you.

A Secret (the marketing industry is not your friend)

There are millions, even billion of dollars being spent every year to….. drumroll….entice you to part with your money.  It comes in the form of TV commercials, magazine and newspapers ads, flyers dropped in your mail box, web ads.  Just about anywhere you look, someone is trying to make you spend money.  And it’s all good for some things.  I regularly check the grocery flyers before I go shopping every week.  I want the best deal for my hard earned dollar. I also compare prices when I need something, be it an alarm clock or a new computer.  Where things get slimy is when advertisers try to manipulate us (to make us feel bad) to make us spend money.  For example:

using guilt to make you buy an expensive or totally useless gift for your child;

when it uses your lack of self-esteem to push you to buy a shiny expensive car or move into a bigger house (to impress the neighbours);

or fear to get you to buy a home alarm system;

there is also the beer commercial with all those beautiful, happy people having a great time to trigger your need to belong and the illusion that it’s how you will meet your soulmate

and one that brings millions just by itself: the weigh loss industry.  Yes a healthy weight is important.  However, most of the weight loss industry appeals to our need for instant gratification: lose 7 pounds in a week, a total unhealthy way to get to your best weight

and the one most used on the web of making you act quickly because the offer is limited to today or even just a few hours.

Those are the top ones I can think of right now.  The worst thing is that they work and they bring in more than they cost the advertisers.

The Costs for Us

  1. If I shop to stop feeling pain, or sadness, or even depression, I put a plaster on the source of the pain.  Shopping covers the pain, for a little while anyway.  What shopping does not do is heal the source of the pain.  So when the high of the new shoes or car wears off, we are stuck with the original feeling and need another form of medication to feel better.  When we cover the pain instead of adressing it what we do is to perpetuate it – it keeps on living.  We sign up for more time in pain and more shopping
  2. If I do “emotional spending”, I also end up with more pain (and more stress).  Most of the time, what I buy when I emotionally spend is not something I need and it’s often not something I can afford.  Most emotional spending is done using credit cards, without so much as a thought to the cost.  Comes the end of the month and the credit card statement can be a painful wake-up to now come up with the cash for something we may have left in the bag at the back of the closet (because of buyer’s remorse or our attempt to hide the purchase from our partner or other loved one)
  3. The more emotional spending, the higher the balance on the credit card statement, and consequently, the worse the stress.  Now we add the stress of repressed emotions to the financial stress of ever increasing debt.  (In emotional eating, it’s the girth that keeps increasing).
  4. The longer the emotional spending happens, the greater the damage to our emotional and our financial health.  I have known people who ended up being hounded by creditors, having their salary garnished and even having to declare bankruptcy, multiplying the initial stress tenfolds.
  5. As the side effects of over spending happen, another emotion arrives on the scene.  Shame.  People who end up with consequences from their spending feel ashamed.  They don’t want other people to know anything about their financial difficulties, the collection agency calls and the sleepless nights.
  6. All this extra stress puts strains on relationships.  Money problems is one of the most common cause of marriage problems.   See this study:

Recognize your triggers

You can’t change what you don’t see.  If you are still with me, you may have recognized yourself in it.  You may have credit debts due to emotional shopping, or you have many articles in your house that are either still in the shopping bags or that still have the price tags.  Or you often experience buyer’s remorse and shopping has not made you feel good long term.  You may still be depressed, lonely.  Your self-esteem and self-love have not improved with the weekly manicure or a closetful of beautiful clothes.

. Which situations and people make you feel bad about yourself?

. Which feeling do you most try to avoid?  Guilt, loneliness, low self-worth?

STOP IT

. Talk to a trusted friend who manages their money wisely

. Avoid your trigger, be it magazines, the malls or the web

. Make a list before shopping.  Not just for groceries.  If you need socks, make a list  with: socks, and stick to it

. Use the envelope system and pay cash for your purchases (you withdraw the exact amount of money for each envelope (food, gas, personal expenses, etc.) and you stick to the budget for each envelope

. Have one envelope for “fun”.  Just make sure it fits in your budget

. Socialize with friends who don’t overspend

. Socialize in new ways – pot luck dinner, coffee instead of dinner, etc.

. Find fun activities that don’t cost much

. Write a list of your financial dreams – being debt free, owning your house, traveling, going back to school, early retirement, etc.

Changing spending habits does not have to take a long time.  What it first requires is that you be 100% committed to change.

Let me know if you found this article useful and what you put in place to help you stop overspending.  Please share with your friends and social media to help me reach more people.  Thank you.

 

 

 

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No Cost Self-Care ideas

 

self-care

Here are over 30 self-care ideas.  I have used most of them over the years (marked with two **).   They don’t require money and they can take as little as 15 minutes, even 10.  Those with an * are meant to be practiced most days,  if not everyday.

Here we go

  • Take a short 5-10 minute walk, preferably in a park or on a quiet street before you return home after your day’s work.  Take time to breathe deeply as you walk. It will help you decompress and move into a non-work mindset before you start the home shift.  If you use the bus to get back home, get of the bus a few blocks before your destination. * **
  • Listen to your favorite music on your way to and from work.  Music soothes the soul. * **
  • Go to bed as soon as you start feeling tired in the evening.  If you wait until you are exhausted, you may find it harder to fall asleep – and you will be exhausted in the morning. * **
  • Hire a babysitter for an hour after work to give you some time to take a long shower, change into comfortable clothes and start dinner.  Or ask your partner to do the child caring while you take 15 minutes to shower and change. **
  • Eat a fruit as a snack instead of a muffin or donut. * **
  • Go for a walk at lunch time.  This is my top recommendation.  Well it’s up there with enough sleep and healthy eating.  I did that at least 90% of the time when I had a job – before being self-employed.   I would go for a short 15-20 minute walk and eat my lunch after (it’s easier to walk briskly on an empty stomach).  This is especially important if you work in buildings where you cannot open the windows.  Fresh air and sunshine will boost your energy for the afternoon. * **
  • If you are self-employed, take a lunch break and go outside for a short walk, a swim or to do some gardening. * **
  • Make lunch your main meal of the day.  Meat (or other protein), some carbs and at least a full cup of vegetables.  A healthy lunch will keep you energized and awake – avoid big, fat, greasy food (chinese buffet is not a good choice for lunch). * **
  • Eat at least 2 portions of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. * **
  • Spend time in nature regularly – at least weekly. * **
  • Turn the volume down – turn off TV, radio, cell, computer when you get home after work.  Learn to appreciate the silence.  The more busyness and noise in your days, the more you need quiet and silence. * **
  • Spend less than you make.  Build your savings, invest, pay your bills on time, pay down your debt, build an emergency fund. * **
  • Read a good book on self-care (Jennifer Louden and Cheryl Richardson are two authors with a few good books each). **
  • Eat lightly at dinner.  If you ate a full healthy lunch you will need less food at dinner and in turn you will sleep better.  After 40 or so, it’s harder to sleep well on a too-full stomach. * **
  • Drink water throughout the day.  I do not always drink enough water – one way to overcome this is to drink 500 ml (2 cups) of warm water with some leomon juice before my morning coffee and some before lunch and dinner.  It’s a lot easier to drink more in Summer or when I dance or do tai chi or on a long walk. Water is good for the whole body: skin, kidneys, digestion, etc. * **
  • Set clear boundaries for what you will allow yourself (not over-drink or overeat, or spend hours on the web, learn to say no to protect your time, etc,) and what you allow others to do, or not (disrespect you in any way shape or form), * **
  • Get therapy if your unhappiness is long lasting or if you suffer from depression or debilitating anxiety.  Don’t wait until it gets worse.  Find a good therapist who specializes in what  ails you.  I am a former therapist and yes I have consulted a therapist in the past. **
  • Choose wisely who you confide in.  Brené Brown says “…share with people who have earned the right to hear our story”.  Those are the people who have shown to be trustworthy.  Those who will not use your confidence to get back at you. **
  • Put your favorite music on and dance. **
  • Always have a reserve of healthy food in the house so you can cook a good meal. **
  • Choose to believe you are loveable.  If you only do one of these, make it this one. Everything in your life is function of how much you love and respect yourself.  * **
  • Light some candles, put on some favorite music, turn off the light and relax – 15 minutes, 30 or even 60. **
  • Set the table with your best kitchenware and candles on a week night.  And yes do it even if it’s only you. **
  • Buy your favorite food once in a while – even if it’s expensive.  Whether it’s lamb or lobster, treat yourself.  Cooking at home is about a third of what it would cost you to eat out. **
  • Stay home if you feel you are coming down with a cold or the flu.  That’s prevention.  You are also protecting your colleagues from your germs.  I once worked at a place where we could take up to 5 “mental health” days a year.  That’s before you get sick.  This was in social services (addiction) where the burnout rate is high.  **
  • Take all your vacation days.  There are a lot of people who do not take the vacation days you are entitled to.  If you are not going on a trip, you can take days to have long weekends all summer long, and more.  The downside is you may get addicted to a 3 day weekend.   Before retirement I went from a full week to a 4 then a 3 day workweek.  If you can swing it financially, do it. **
  • Keep at least one, preferably two days completely off work every week.  The weekend is for rest, fun and family. **
  • Turn off the tv, cell and home phone during meals. * **
  • Ask for what you want from your partner, your grown children, at work. * **
  • Wear perfume to bed. * **
  • Read a motivational, personal growth book.  My favorite: Brené Brown. **
  • Read a good novel. **
  • Need a nap?  Take a nap. **
  • Take regular short – 5-10 minutes breaks every 90 minutes or so during the work day.  Get up, walk for a few minutes, or listen to some music, drink some water, stretch, call a friend or your sweetheart. * **
  • Exercise at least 5 times a week for at least 20 minutes – that’s the bare minimum for your heart (also prevention against cancer).  Even a 20 minutes brisk walk is gold for your health. **

Choose the self-care ideas that appeal to you and put them in practice regularly.  See which ones work for you and repeat.  If you find these self-care ideas useful, do share with your friends and on social media.  Thank you.