New Year’s Resolution for 2016: Build up Core (Personal Finance) Strength

90 seconds into my first plank of 2016

DH = Dear Husband

My new dress

Christmas morning, I opened up DH’s main gift to me – a beautiful dress.

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My new dress

We have three daughters, and it’s always a fairly big deal around here when I get a new item of clothing. It’s not something that happens often. “Go try it on!” they urged me.

“Now?” I asked. “You’ll wait?”

There were still several presents under the tree, but gift-opening would be put on hold while I slipped into the downstairs bathroom to try on my new dress. It fit well, but there was no way I was going to model it. “Give me a second!” I yelled, dashing upstairs. The dress comes in at the waist snuggly – a little too snuggly. I have lamented for some time the stubborn presence of my baby-bump-without-a-baby, but this gift was just bringing it into far too sharp a focus. What to do? Four people were waiting for me.

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My new dress with “shapewear” now required (ugh!)

I remember as a girl being fascinated by my mother’s girdles. They looked like pieces of medieval armor. I didn’t quite understand why anyone would want to wear them, and I wondered if I would when I was all grown up. “Girdles” of today are much more subtle and sleek than those of my mother’s era. “Shapewear” they’re called – to conjure up images of fitness I suspect – and they do look like something you might see at the gym. But the “shape” here has nothing to do with getting into shape. It has to do with literal shaping – moulding. Squeeze yourself into that thing, and any baby-bump-without-a-baby is obliterated.

When I came down the stairs, ready to model, it was all, “Oooh Mom!” “That looks great!” “Are you going to wear it tonight?” I did wear it Christmas night. And New Year’s Eve too. But I had also formed my resolution: For Christmas of 2016, I will not have to resort to “shapewear” to put on that dress.

My plank-a-day resolution

I have tried in the past to resolve upon regular workouts, but with only limited success. I actually enjoy physical exercise. The “regular” part stumps me. It’s no small deal, in the midst of a busy week, to carve out regular blocks of an hour or two to change, stretch, work-out, cool down, shower. Irregular is the best I can do. But “regular” is what brings results, and therein has been my dilemma.

So what about changing up that block of time? From 1-2 hours down to 2-5 minutes? There is never a day – barring extreme situations like injury or illness – when I can’t put aside a few minutes. It doesn’t matter how busy things get, how tired I am, how bad the weather is . . . It’s always possible to find a few minutes.

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. I’ll still skate, ski, run, cycle, and do cardio-kickboxing – hopefully often. But I’ll do a plank. Every. Day.

Benefits of core strength

While the motive behind my personal plank-a-day resolution is one of vanity, there are loftier reasons to pursue core strength. “Core exercises improve your balance and stability,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.”

Core strength in personal finances

DH and I are in the fourth year of our journey out of debt, and we’ve made great progress. Following Dave Ramsey’s steps to a “total money makeover”, we have:

  • paid off our consumer debts ($21,000)
  • paid off our business debt ($81,000)
  • made headway in saving an emergency fund to see us through 6 months of income loss (50% funded)
  • made steady payments against our mortgage ($37,000 down)

We’ve paid a whopping $139,000 off of our original total debt of $257,000. We’ve got $118,000 to go. No problem. We’ve got this, right?

Not quite.

We’re switching gears now. 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. Intensive focus. Big changes. It was satisfying. Now, our progress is spread out, slower, smaller, and to me at least, less satisfying.

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 – any more than I want my belly to sabotage my new dress. 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. Just breathe . . . and hold a little longer . . . like a plank.


Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Do you find it difficult to maintain the balanced steadiness needed to develop core strength in personal finances? Do you wear “shapewear”? Your comments are welcome.

Just a note on planks. 2 minutes is actually a fairly long plank. If you’re just starting to work on core strength, don’t be discouraged if you can only hold a plank for a matter of seconds. Start where your are : ) 

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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Our 2016 goals are getting back to basics. A general build wealth. Which means saving for retirement, college, increasing our e-fund. So like you it’s spread out all over the place and when you are not focused on a single goal can feel like you are not making much progress, but I remind myself of where we were just a few years ago and it puts it all in perspective. Shapewear? No not I. 🙂

    • Ha! You know, there actually IS shapewear for men, but good for you for not using it : ) I need to gain your perspective, Brian. All the best to you and your family in 2016.

  • Wow, shapewear! I’m so behind the times. Now although I’m sure I SHOULD wear it, I never have. I remember my mom’s girdles too. What a scary sight those were, huh? Great goals, Ruth! I look forward to your progress, mostly because you make it so interesting AND entertaining! May you have a most joyous New Year! 🙂

    • I’m sure you SHOULDN’T wear shapewear! I say “Good for you.” So glad someone else can remember those girdles : ) All the best in your fitness resolution, Kay. We’ll keep each other accountable. Here’s to 2016!

    • Amen to that. Though frankly, it strikes me that you have done remarkably well without the need for any particular “luck”. You’ve transitioned to the multi-focus thing very effectively, C.

  • wow a 2-minute plank even is no joke! Good luck with the challenge! I think it’s pretty smart to think about your short term needs right now. I think people ignore that then when an emergency comes up, they are back to square one having to put something on a credit card. I’m in the same boat too. I have a little consumer debt, but with zero percent interest for another year. I could easily pay it off TO-day, but I leave myself very vulnerable then to an emergency popping up. Best of luck in the new year!

    • Thank you, Tonya. Ramsey says to pay off consumer debt, with a $1,000 mini-e-fund on hand, and then to save up the big e-fund to see you through 3-6 months of living expenses. I suspect you’re going to have quite a bit of new room to maneuver in 2016 : ) The question will be how to manage it? All the best to you!

  • Love the focus! I do the same with kettlebell swings since a decent workout only takes a matter of minutes (about 6-7), though I’ll have to build up new strength since I’m doing modified swings now that my belly gets in the way.

    I think it’s wise to remember that extreme focus only works when you’re way off course. Once you’re on the right path, you’ll require constant corrections to stay pointed towards true north.

    • You have a baby-bump for the best reason possible : ) Good idea with the kettlebell swings! I like what you have to say about extreme focus for when you’re way off course. It’s new territory for me to grasp the implication that we’re “on the right path”, but we are. True north, here we come! Thanks, Hannah.

  • If you can fit in that gorgeous dress and hold a plank for 2 minutes you must be in pretty good shape! But I understand wanting to set a goal to improve. I’m much more consistent about my financial core strength than my fitness. I’ve been having back problems, though, so that’s been motivating me to get back to Pilates.

    • Back problems are no fun! I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for many years now. and that has certainly been part of the solution for me. I have somehow managed to be fairly fit and yet carry a significant paunch. Without the shapewear, I can fit into that dress – but I look like Mrs. Frugalwoods at about 6 months along. Not by next Christmas though! All the best with your back, Kalie.

  • Wow, even when I’m doing ab exercises every day, I struggle to do a 30 second plank. Of course, it might be BECAUSE I’ve done a bunch of ab exercises first…

    If you decide you want to go further than a plank, Xhit on YouTube has a bunch of ab workouts. One’s only 3 minutes, another is 5 minutes and so on. Plus when it’s a video, you can swear at the instructor all you want!

    As for shapewear, I hate that the Kardashians are hyping “waist trainers.” They’re essentially mild corsets. I find it creepy that we’re going back toward squishing ourselves into things to quasi-permanently alter our figure. (The idea is that eventually your waist will stay smaller even when you’re not wearing it.) Spanx are one thing — though I never got those kinds of things. I mean… the fat doesn’t disappear. It just gets moved around. So… you’re still going to have a muffin top, it’ll just be further up or down.

    • Ha! This is the first I’ve heard of “waist trainers”. A return to corsets doesn’t appeal to me either. It’s true what you say about the fat getting “moved around”. That redistribution does eliminate the belly protrusion, bu I would rather rely upon my own ab muscles – and a better diet. Shortbread and chocolate sure did work their magic in December. Thanks for the YouTube recommendation. All the best for your abs in 2016 : )

  • My goal this year is to continue and improve my finance aspect of my life. I think what I did in the last year is good and the only thing I could do now is to improve and maintain it. I’d like to save 50% of my monthly income starting this month to bolster my savings and to retire early.

    • If you have no debts to pay off, I think that saving 50% of take-home pay is possible for most people. There are so many temptations to spend in a society accustomed to spending more than 100% (and going deeper into debt) – and there is where the challenge lies. All the best in meeting you 50% goal, Jayson!

  • I’m not sure what I like more – the new dress or your plank, wow! You won’t need the armour by Christmas I am sure, not with your resolve. Plus, I believe that when you put it out there for the whole world to see (and in this case, to read), you affirm your intention so strongly that nothing can stand in your way. Happy new year!

    • Happy New Year to you too, Laura Beth! I put it out there because I know I need accountability for this belly of mine – just like I’ve needed accountability for our debts.

  • Maybe that’s what I need! Although I LOVE working out, I absolutely abhor core exercises! But I could do 2 minutes a day. Thanks, my friend!! And I know you’ll conquer both your savings AND your debt goals this year. 🙂

    • Savings goals, debt goals AND abs goals! Thanks Laurie. I hope the 2 minute per day thing works for you too : )

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