All posts by Elle

How to Become an Early Riser (& Enjoy It!)

Until we can find a way to extend the day, I've found that becoming an earlier riser can help you gain some extra time for your personal goals.

Benefits of Waking Up Earlier

Even waking up an hour early can make a huge impact on your day. The biggest ones I noticed personal are:

  • Productivity: Let's start with the obvious – you have an extra hour carved out to get your goals done. Having this time has given me a chance to set up and plan the day without feeling rushed.
  • Creativity: This quiet time allows me to ruminate more and I feel I can tap into my creative space easier.
  • Stress Relief: Having this extra time for myself has alleviate some stress. I read and reflect on some scriptures which has helped me be more positive.
  • Healthy Habits: While I don't exercise in the morning, I have been better with eating better, starting with breakfast. Since I'm not in a rush I can enjoy a real meal.

Finding My Path as an Early Riser

While I don't typically sleep in (little ones will make sure of that!), I struggled with getting up earlier.

It seemed like I could do it once in a blue moon, but I usually woke up feeling groggy and unfocused.

However I have finally broken through this past month and have been able to wake up early and energized (with no alarm clock needed).

5 Ways to Become an Early Riser

  • Have a purpose. Waking up early in itself isn't motivation for me. I needed to have a specific reason and for me having an extra hour for my writing gave me the push and desire to see this through.
  • Adjust slowly. I built up waking up over a week, choosing 15 minute increments. That allowed my body to accept this new change easier.
  • Create a bedtime routine. To make sure I woke feeling refreshed, I began going to bed a little earlier. I wound down by reading some fiction.
  • Make a goal for the next day. It doesn't have to be big or complicated, just have something in mind for what you want to accomplish in the morning. I found looking forward to something energized me.
  • Savor the morning. I take a short break from writing to watch the sun rise. It's a simple, but powerful way to reset yourself before the daily chaos comes in.

These tips helped me to overcome my hurdles and become an early riser. I hope they give you a way to creating productive and less stressful mornings.

Thoughts on Becoming a Early Riser

How many of you are natural early risers? How many of you had to adjust before you made the change? What helped?

Why the Debt Snowball Method Works

One of the best ways to simplify your finances (if you haven't done so already) is dumping your debt.

Discovering the Debt Snowball

When we got engaged and had the money talk, we discovered a few things about one another.

I had credit credit debt, a car loan, and student loans while he had a no debt, except a semester's worth of classes he was going to pay off once the grace period was over.

With that eye-opener I made a goal to pay off my credit credits before the wedding. I searched for different ways and discovered the debt snowball method.

It felt free to pay those off!

After we were married we went ahead used the debt snowball money to get rid of the car loan early. We even added some snowflakes to speed things up a little further.

If you haven't tried it, building a debt snowball can be an incredible way to giving yourself more financial freedom.

What is a Debt Snowball?

Dave Ramsey is most associated with the debt snowball as a part of his system to help people gain financial peace.

Paying off debts is the second of his seven baby steps as popularized in his book, Total Money Makeover.

Many people have sworn by Ramsey’s methods and have paid off huge amounts of debt in a year or two.

Debt Snowball Basics

Here’s how the debt snowball works:

  •  List all of your non mortgage debts from small balance to largest
  •  Pay the minimum payment on every debt
  •  Figure out how much extra you can put towards paying off your debt
  • Use that money to pay down the one with the smallest balance
  • When that is paid off, roll over that money into the next debt (old amount +minimum)
  • Repeat and keeping rolling over payments until all your debts are gone

The Power of Momentum

Many people have discovered that this method was the easiest to maintain because they only have to focus on one debt at a time. With the intense focus, it made them want to pay off the debt faster.

The debt snowball offers a behaviorally motivating set up as you get wins quicker towards the beginning.

As each debt fall off your list, you two build momentum to tackle the next debt. You’re more concerned with crossing the finishing line rather than the speed in which you get there.

Is it perfect or the most financially sound plan? No, but the results show that the debt snowball is an effective way to get rid your debt.

Automate Your Debt Snowball

You can bypass a lot of mistakes and relapses if you automate your credit card payments with online bill pay.

Most banks and credit unions offer this feature for free. Get the minimum payments set up for the secondary debts and put the maximum you can towards the first debt on your list.

As you knock out each debt, simply update your payments.

Thoughts on Getting Rid of Debt

How many of you use a snowball to get out of debt?

Yard Makeover: The 2016 Plan

Now that we have settled down for the most part, we're looking at transforming our place into a home and one of first goals – making over our yard.

When we were touring the house we loved the size, but we knew it would take quite a bit of work to get the yard ready.

Our Yard Makeover Plan

Besides making it looking good, we have a few practical goals for our backyard:

  • Kids: The house came with a playground, but it is in definite need of TLC and maintenance. (Maybe more, but we have to ask someone more knowledgeable.) We also want to maintain an open area so they could play and run.
  • Food: We've had a vegetable garden for years. It's been small spaces, though, so we're looking to learn and grow more this year.
  • Cat: We're creating a spot for our lovable (to me) and crazy cat. This was something we've planned for awhile as it became clear that our cat was better off and happier when exploring outside.

We have a lot of work ahead of us for this year.

Remove the Overgrown Ivy and Brier

There is a ton of ivy around the front and back, growing on some of the trees and the fence, climbing on the brick.

Tons of leaves, brier, ivy, and mess when we first started with the yard.

One of my first tasks was to get it off the brick.

The brier is also scattered about (which has meant plenty of times I've been scratched and cut!), but it's especially bad on the fence.

Prepping Our Garden Spots

The soil around our place varies so we're using two good and sunny patches for our inaugural gardens.

I'm picking up seeds for both vegetables and flowers and will start planting this weekend.

(I did a podcast on easy plants to grow in case you want to try gardening out.)

As for the rest of the yard, we're be working on remediating the soil. We have sandy spots on the south side and plenty of clay in the back corner.

With all the yard debris we've been clearing, I'm going to try hugelkultur beds out in the back part of the yard.

Figuring Out the Playground

We cleared out the leaves, vines, and yard mess around the play-set. Now we have to figure out what to do with the actual playground.

We can't afford to buy a new one, but I do like having one out for the girls and their friends to enjoy.

Some of the beams need to be replaced for sure, along with the swings which have definitely seen better days.

If you've done this, could you let me know how it went?

Free the Panther

One of the stipulations with the move is that my cranky cat (who had a habit of marking) would be acclimated into an outdoor one.

It's not too much of a stretch – he use to hang outside, but with no real yard and plenty of dogs around, his options were limited in the townhouse.

Through trial and error I modified a rabbit hutch for him along with a tiny fence around. He's been enjoying it. His appetite is much better and I've caught him purring quite a bit while he enjoyed laying in the sun.

Enjoying Our Yard in 2016

We'll see how things go (and I'll share the good and the bad here!) with our makeover. I'd love to get your take on fixing up the yard.

What projects have you done at your spot?

Monthly Goal Review and Preview: February / March 2016

New month, which means it's time to review and share some goals!

I'm so happy that spring is coming up, not a fan of this cold and erratic weather we've been having.

February Goal Review

So last month told you what I wanted to knock out. In the spirit of simplifying I kept it to only three things (money, home, and life).

Here's how it went down:

  • File Our Taxes: We finished our taxes and waiting for a refund. It's particularly welcomed after the fridge died this past weekend.
  • Unpack and Settle into the New House: Everything vital is up. We still have some items like the clothes that are scattered in boxes downstairs. We'll take them out and put everything else back.
  • Write 30,000 words: This was a fail. My plan was to write in the evenings when my husband was home and could watch the kids. It didn't work that way – we're both tired and I discovered I'm not much of a night writer.

Okay, so 2 out of 3. Not thrilled with that, but I do have a plan to fix my writing goal.

March Goals

With things settling down, I want to start looking at giving more attention to my work and enjoying our new place.

  • Work on my sites: I've been writing online for years and some of my sites need some updating and attention to the admin. Besides making them better resources for readers and I think this could help increase income. (Win-win!)
  • Fix Up and Plant Gardens: We did a ton of prep work on the yard already and with spring around the corner, I'd like to get started with the gardens.
  • Write 30,000 words: This will get done! I've been waking up an hour earlier than my usual schedule to make time. Unfortunately this has an unforeseen consequence of the girls now waking up early.

THOUGHTS ON SIMPLIFYING THIS MONTH

I shared my goals for this month; I’d love to hear from you. What are you up to this month?

Getting Rid of Junk Using the Basement Technique

One of our goals with moving to our place is getting rid of our junk.

When we put the townhouse up for sale, we followed the advice our real estate agent to remove the junk. We did a huge round of purging stuff.

Throughout the showings we'd dump some boxes. With our tight schedule, it was a struggle to find some time to get rid of junk, but we did bit by bit.

Finally we had an offer and a date to move out. Excited we dumped or donated some more stuff.

With all of that effort, you'd think we'd got rid of all of our junk, right?

Wrong.

We were loading the truck that weekend with our buddies we discovered that we filled it up and still had more in the house.

I was disappointed for sure, but we decided to learn from our mistakes.

The ‘Basement Technique' to Simplifying

When we moved in we moved into our new place we unloaded all but the essentials (beds, minimal furniture, pantry, etc.) into…. the basement. (You expected that, right?)

I know that doesn't sound earth shattering, but that's not the secret weapon.

The technique, or method if your prefer, behind our madness is this:

Before we bring anything upstairs we have to be certain that we truly need it or would use it often.

That applies to everything.

So if it's out of season clothes, it stays downstairs (with exception of one outfit – in North Carolina, it can be hot in February).

The girls' toys?   Most of the girls toys are tucked away in the basement, with no real complaining or notice from them!

Our home brew equipment is in the basement as well. It's easy to take it out when we need to make another batch of beer or mead, but otherwise it's not cluttering up our space.

Keeping Our Basement From Becoming a Storage Room

As awesome as it is to have less stuff in our living space, we also want to address the stuff in the basement.

To counteract the ‘oh we might need it later' excuse, we're doing monthly reviews.

As I mentioned before we open up the boxes,  but we're not unpacking everything in the boxes. We take the remaining items and put it in a designated spot.

Once a month we'll take a portion of our stuff to donate. (If there are items we think we can make some cash off, we'll list it on Craigslist to go towards our debt snowball.)

I know this system isn't perfect, but it's made our lives a lot less stressful. We don't have to clean as often and we're realizing we don't really need that much stuff.

Thoughts on Simplifying Possessions

I'd love to hear from you. How many of you have simplified and downsized your possessions? What worked really well? What was some of your biggest challenges?

Best DIY Guides to Fix Up Your Home

It's been a busy few weeks for us. After resting from the big move, we've been working hard at making this house our home.

While we've painted and decorated before, many of these repairs are new to us.

As we work through this massive repairs and maintenance list, we picked up some books and resources to help us out.

If you're in a similar boat, here are some of my favorite books, sites, and videos that have made these home DIY projects easier.

Best DIY Books

I love to read so books are my usual go to resource. As I was looking for DIY guides my focus was on finding that would help us with the very basics and thorough enough to help us figure out and fix most of our project list.

Right now these books are my favorites.

COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL

This book lives up to its name. Every single repair or maintenance we've done has been in this book. Think of it as a reference guide, taking you through the hand and power tool you need to start and advanced enough to help you finish a basement.

EDIBLE LANDSCAPING

One of our goals with this big yard is to grow vegetables and fruits instead of letting it simply be a boring lawn.

Besides the practical food benefits, we'd also like to take care of our little plot of land and make it beautiful. Creasy covers all the bases in her awesome book.

Best DIY Websites

As much as I love books, I admit that for certain situations, watching someone is a better help.

One of the best things about living now is how much free help is out there.

Whether it's a detailed step by step article on how to create something or a video, I love how detailed these makers are.

Thoughts on DIY Guides

I know there some gems I probably overlooked. I'd like to get your thoughts and ideas. What are some of your picks and why?