The dress behind the resolutions.
DH = Dear Husband
Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but despite the weirdness of our time – Brexit, Trump, a nervous sense of imminent but unpredictable change – I feel optimistic about the year ahead.
My New Year’s resolution for 2016
“And I will. Every day, I will do a plank. Every day. I’m putting that stake in the ground. I’ll start at 2 minutes, but each month, my goal will be to increase by 15 seconds so that by the end of 2016, I’ll be holding a 5-minute daily plank.”
And why did I resolve to focus on planking through 2016? Two reasons:
- A dress that DH had given to me as a Christmas gift made it clear that I had a “baby-bump-without-a-baby.” I couldn’t wear it without slipping on some gut-flattening shapewear underneath, and I wasn’t happy about that. I proclaimed, in bold font no less: “For Christmas of 2016, I will not have to resort to ‘shapewear’ to put on that dress.“
- I used the plank to symbolize the steady, patient balance that I knew I needed to develop in my approach to money-management.
The plank: an analogy for personal finances
At this time last year, we had just finished renovations for which we had saved and paid up front. (Yay us! We never used to take on big projects without using debt.) These renovations had been a sort of reward that we allowed ourselves after having paid off all $102,000 of our non-mortgage debt. $21,000 in consumer debt + $81,000 in business debt were gone! But as I looked ahead to the next steps of our money makeover, I recognized that they required a shift – in me:
“Past the point of putting all of our focus upon debt-repayment, we now require more balance. Short-term savings; emergency savings; investments; mortgage payments; and an increase in giving. I felt more directed and sure when it was all about paying off our consumer and business debts . . . I’ve come to recognize in this journey out of debt how impatient I am. Impatience played a big role in getting us into our debt-ridden state (“I want it NOW!”), and I don’t want it to sabotage the financial health we’ve been building . . . I need the core strength – the stability and balance – of patience in my approach to our shifted financial goals. Muscles in the human pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen ideally work in harmony. Efforts towards our savings, investments, mortgage payments, and giving can also progress towards an ideal of harmony. No rush. Slow, steady, progress. Balance. Stability.”
My planking progress
You can read the full story of my planking progress for 2016 at Fruclassity. Here, I’ll give a short overview: The “every day” part of my resolution did not last. Injury in the last half of January was followed by gradual lapses in determination. And as the months went by and my plank-time increased, it just became so HARD! After achieving one plank of 3 minutes 45 seconds in August, I decided I’d had enough and gave it up. But in early December, at a staff Christmas party, a colleague asked me how my plank challenge was going, and that conversation led to . . . an impromptu plank-off.
Two other colleagues joined us. And the result? Each one of us attained a personal best plank time! Including me. I held for 4 minutes that night – even though I hadn’t tried a long plank since August. The power of community support! We committed to a weekly plank-off, and at our last one on December 23, I hit 5 minutes! That’s a life-time best for me. So while I didn’t actually fulfill my resolution – “I’ll be holding a 5-minute daily plank” – I did hit my goal time and I did gain core strength.
But what about the dress?
Can we skip this part? No. I still can’t wear that dress sans shapewear. Clearly, it takes more than strong core muscles to flatten a belly. Which leads to my resolution for 2017 . . .
Resolution for 2017
I eat ravenously – always have. When I get hungry, it’s not pretty, and I often resort to quick carbs to take away the edge. This metabolic demand plays into both my finances and, I believe, my tummy.
My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to learn to manage my personal food intake. And it is personal, isn’t it? Just like personal finances. By that, I don’t mean “private”; I mean “unique to the individual”. We all need to find our own way towards balancing the budget as well as balancing the weight scales. One of my personal challenges lies in what I can only call food addictions.
It’s no secret that the food industry uses salt, sugar, and fat in an intentional effort to make consumers addicted to their products. They’ve succeeded with me, and I want to overcome those addictions. Why? Two reasons:
- Management of discretionary money has been the stumbling block in my efforts to get my money act together since our journey out of debt began almost 5 years ago. In the last couple of months, I’ve finally started to track my discretionary spending, and this tracking reveals the extent to which I spend on food. It’s never expensive as an individual purchase – $4.50 for a coffee and tea biscuit at Tim Hortons – maybe $9.25 if I’m treating someone else – and the occasional lunch or dinner for around $10 – but it adds up to so much that I invariably end up in debt in my discretionary account. If I get my food act together, I’ll get my discretionary spending act together.
- There is definitely a vanity thing going on here too. I really would like to be able to wear that dress without having to resort to shapewear, and it’s possible that a reduction in unhealthy carbs will allow that to happen. But it’s also possible that it won’t, and if that is to be the case, then long live shapewear.
Getting your finances in order: facing character flaws
“The deeper side of debt reduction is that as you work on the practicalities of budgets and tracking, you’re going to bump into character flaws that you didn’t even know you had.” That’s what I said as part of my talk on debt-reduction at the local public library in November, and it’s what I continue to discover.
For me, impatience is one such flaw, and in 2016, I believe I addressed it well. DH and I are steadily bringing the mortgage down. In December, it was at $89,700 – our only remaining debt from an original $257,400 of combined mortgage, consumer debt, and business debt. At the same time, we’re maintaining long-term savings, building up short-term savings, and giving more. We’re well balanced and strong. The plank analogy works.
I don’t think that a demanding metabolism can be called a character flaw. That’s beyond my control. It’s my management of it that reveals a fault: I tend to be reactive rather than proactive. In the area of food, I too often set myself up so that I’m hungry and have nothing to eat. Maybe I’m at work and haven’t prepared a lunch – so I “have to” go to a restaurant. Or I’m out doing errands and it takes longer than I’d planned – so I “have to” get a snack at the coffee shop.
For 2017, it’s going to be all about becoming more proactive – getting a grip on my food issues, and thereby finally getting a grip on my discretionary spending. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to ditch the shapewear too.
Do you have a New Year’s resolution? Your comments are welcome.