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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Join the Conversation


  1. Five minute plank- wow! I can’t decide which core exercises I like best but I have a bit more of a baby pudge than I used to, and it’s time to give the core some love and attention.

    I’ve got some plans for the upcoming year brewing, though I notice that my plans tend not to be a single theme so much as a list of concrete commitments. That works for me more than a generalized theme where I have to then think of ways to execute said thematic strategy. I’m still recovering from last year so no fireworks, just slow and steady to win another year. Happy new year!

    1. Clearly resolutions are personal too – in the sense that they are unique to the individual. We have some concrete commitments to support our larger commitment of becoming debt-free, but having too many simultaneous concrete goals doesn’t work for me. The overarching theme idea offers a principle that I more successfully abide by. All the best with your core and with your recovery from 2016. I wish you a strong, satisfying, and successful 2017, Revanche.

  2. I’m optimistic about 2017 too. Good luck to you this year tackling the personal goals. I love the progress you made on the planking with the group of colleagues. Maybe that the key for you? Have someone keep you more accountable.

    You already know our goals. we are focused on saving and funding college. We are excited for the challenge and a great family focused year.

    1. You might be right about that group support, Brian. It has certainly worked for planking and finances. Perhaps I should find it for my food goals too? That might be too many groups . . . Maybe a group within an already established group? Hey, I think you’ve just given me an idea : ) Again, all the best to you and your family in the year ahead.

  3. dang a 5-minute plank is no joke! I feel ya on the big appetite thing. I did a one-day juice cleanse on jan 1st and I’m thinking, “ok if I can do that, why do I need a handful of pretzels after lunch on top of another snack?” I feel like sometimes it’s just boredom. Anyway, like planking or food or finances, it requires self-discipline…and you already have that in other areas of your life, so I have no doubt you could do whatever you set your mind to!

    1. Well, I like that vote of confidence, Tonya. Thanks : ) I find I have better self-discipline when I’m in serenity mode. Once things are over-busy, chaotic, or emotionally charged, self-discipline gets swallowed up – along with carbs. Since life is rarely serene, I’ll have to stretch my self-discipline function. Good luck in dealing with those pretzels. Chocolate-covered, right? (It’s a very good things they’re not available at my work.)

  4. Planking is really a good exercise. It targets almost all parts of the body, especially the core. My resolution for this year is to become healthier and I hope one of these days I will manage to have a regular gym appointment to reach my fitness goals. Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you James. The “regular” part of your hope is important. The odd work-out won’t do much – but regular work-outs will. If you manage to find something you enjoy doing – whether it’s cross fit or kickboxing or spinning – you’ll be more likely to stick to it regularly. All the best for the year ahead!

  5. Congratulations on getting your debt down to what remains of the mortgage debt. That is so impressive! And what a journey of self discovery it’s been for you too. I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to more posts in 2017.

    1. Thank you, Donnie. How wonderful that you are within a few weeks of complete debt freedom! I’d say you have tons of core strength to be in the position you are now. Well done!

    1. I haven’t gone beyond that 5 minute record, Kelly – and I don’t have any plans to. (My next goal is to do a more creative movement type of plank to music.) I have not tried using an app to help control what I eat. Do you have suggestions for a good one?

  6. Here’s an annoying story for those of us of a “certain age”. I was telling my son about your plank goal. He’d never done one so he looked it up, made sure he was doing it correctly, and set about planking. So after he hit minute 5, I wanted to scream. Mostly because I remember those days when even if I hadn’t done a particularly difficult form of exercise in a year even, it was a piece of cake (pardon the reference). I love how you compare planking to money discipline. When you’re under 40, you can get away with more. After 40, you may have to work a little harder. Anyhoo, best wishes on a healthy and wealthy new year Ruth! Shapewear or not, you keep on rocking that dress! 🙂

    1. Tell your son I do not appreciate that! No – good for him. Even a young man has to have strong core muscles to hold a 5-minute plank : ) And you’re right about age as it relates to finances too. A young person who has created a financial mess? There’s time . . . A person over 40 or 50 or 60 . . . There’s way more urgency. (I might have to write about that, Kay.)

  7. Thank you Jennifer. There are so many parallels between financial and physical health. I can’t help but think the “poor food choices” you say you make have to do with addictions. If it’s a “huge problem”, I hope that you will seek out help. When people get their food and exercise habits going in the right direction, other things start coming together too. I hope that 2017 will be a year of breakthrough and victory for you. All the best.

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