February 2013 Monthly Review

I had a pretty productive and busy february, as H and I worked a lot on the bathroom.  We are now basically able to use everything up there.  The shower, the loo and the sink are all functional, the room just does not have a door quite yet.  We still need to do some work with the door frame (that we dont really know how to do) before guests would feel comfortable using it.  Hopefully we can get the door put on soon.


These are all of my debts. Right now, that includes a vehicle loan, a mortgage and 1 student loan. When I started, I had 3 credit cards, 3 student loans and no vehicle loans. Everything that I’m still paying off now (with the exception of the student loan) has been incurred since I’ve tried to become debt free. Funny how that works out, eh?


Mortgage $118,001 ($537) – Same monthly payment here.  Approximately half of our payment goes to interest, which I’m oddly ok with.  In normal times of higher interest rates, it’d be closer to 75-80% and we’d hardly be making any headway.  Low interest rates and a low amount borrowed really helped us here.

Student Loans

Great Lakes Loan $9,077  ($134) I bumped this up to 175 a while back, but this is going down slowly.  I think it’s about time I start to treat my debt like the emergency that it is, instead of the waffling I’ve been doing since 2010.

Truck Loan

Ford Credit: $3,109 ($646): H and I have a goal to pay this off at the end of Q2, and it looks like we are doing just fine.  We are trucking along on this, I sent them a double payment again this month.  As of right now if we keep going the way we are going, it will take 4.7 months to pay it off, so we are going to have to bump that up a touch at some point to knock it down by the end of june.

Total Debt: 131, 504 ($766) – This is a lower per amount reduction than normal, but it’s because of the timing of the mortgage payment.  High, but I’m still OK with it.

Health Goals

This year, I’m working 1 month at a time on my health goals.  In january, my focus was on going to the gym and working out consistently.  That went pretty well, though lately I’ve hit a bit of a plateau that I’m working my way though.  In february, I focused on changing my diet so that I’m eating 6 meals per day.  I’m still adjusting to that, and it’s required some focus.   I need to pack meals & snacks for when I go to work, and I need to watch myself when I’m having dinner out with friends (with middling success, I may add).  In march, I havent decided what to focus on quite yet, but i’ll let you know as soon as I find it – most likely it will be running (though that could prove difficult.

I’m still carrying my pack to work to train for the death race, and I add weight to it at the beginning of every month.  I’d guess it’s about 30 lbs right now, but I’m not sure – our scale at home doesnt work very well.

Goal Workouts: 20

Total Workouts: 35

Still didnt figure out a new metric for this, but basically I’m working out in the morning at the gym, and I’m running tuesday, wednesday, thursday, saturday and sunday.  I thought I was going to do a 50k race in late may, but i’m having second thoughts.  I’m not sure I want to beat my body up that much that close to the race, and I’m also having a difficult time training.  Winter here is much worse than it was last year – we’ve gotten lots more snow, and it’s been a lot colder and windier.

2013 Health Goals

Last year, my health goals were the ones that fared the best out of all my other goals.  I was able to keep a consistent training routine from January to mid april, often going to the gym in the morning and running in the afternoon and one day on the weekends, usually amounting to around 10 workouts per week.  Once we moved into our new house though, my plan really fell by the wayside – there was just too much to do at the house, and I didnt carve out time to go to the gym.  Lots of this is obviously my fault, so enough with the excuses.  I was able to get back into the routine in fits and starts once we got back from our honeymoon, but nothing really ever stuck the way that it did early in the year.

After reflecting on the year, I realized that this was probably because I had no goal to aspire to.  I’m well aware that being healthy now and later in life will save me all this money, allow me to spend more time with loved ones in the future and get around better.  Unfortunately, those things (like retirement) are a very long way out, and it’s difficult to set aside time to work on them or deal with them.  I’ve realized that with all my goals, it’s best to have a timeframe to stick to, and for exercise for me it means some sort of race or challenge.  This year, I’ve got a few races planned (though not many at the end of the year) to make sure that I stick to my training plans.

I’ll be running the Wyoming Ultramarathon in late may (it’s a 50k), and in mid june, I’ll be traveling to vermont to race in the spartan death race.  After I heard about the death race 4 years ago, I really wanted to give it a try, and this year I’ve decided to stop screwing around and waiting and just go for it.  There’s about a 15-20% completition rate for the race every year, so odds are I’m not going to finish, but I hope to be in shape enough by the time the race rolls around to be happy with my performance.

Like my financial goals, I’ve broken the main goal (the death race) down into smaller things that I need to do every day, every week and every month to get ready for it.   Here’s the list:

  1. Carry my pack to work every day.  Early last week, I filled a backpack with a bunch of heavy objects and have been carrying it around when I walk to and from work.  Right now, the pack weighs about 25 lbs, and I’m hoping to increase the weight to 40-50 pounds gradually.  There’s nothing really in the pack but heavy stuff, so this should be relatively easy.
  2. Take the stairs at work every day.  Once again, another daily goal.  I work on the 4th floor, and the walk with the pack gets a tad tiring when I’m all the way up at the top, but it’s getting easier every day to walk up the stairs.  Hopefully soon I can be running up the stairs with my pack!
  3. Follow my gym routine.  I’ve developed a specific plan for each day of the week with what exercises that I will do.  I think this will work better than last year because last year I did what I wanted and ended up really neglecting my deltoids/hamstrings workout because I thought it was an annoyance.  This year, I’ve got a workout for each day, and all I have to do is roll out of bed and head to the gym.
  4. Run 3x per week.  At the moment, my 50k training program has not kicked in (it will at the end of the month) but right now I’m trying to run about 10 miles per week (with my pack) to prep for both races.  I have a schedule for my 50k training, and I havent decided if I’m going to run all those runs with the pack or not yet though.
  5. Change Diet.  After about a week of this program, I have noticed one thing: I’m starving all the time.  I’m eating more for breakfast than normal, eating a snack before dinner and more food at lunch and dinner, and I’m still hungry.  I dont know what the deal is, but I’m pretty sure that something’s got to give with my diet.  I have never really tried to change my food intake in my life, so there is going to be a lot of learning going on here before I figure out what exactly I’ll be doing.  I’ve looked into a few programs, but I think I need to eat 5 meals per day instead of the normal 3, with reduced portions.  I’ll let you know what I figure out though.

This may seem like a lot of goals, but unfortunately it will only get me through mid year.  I’ll probably take the end of june and some of july off from running (but still go to the gym) and re-assess at the beginning of Q3 how I’d like to finish out the year.  There is a winter death race, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to do that or not.  There are always other races that I can do that are much shorter and require less training, but I’d have to look into more of those as time goes on.  Right now though, I’m set until mid june and will re-assess later.

Readers: What are your health goals for this year?  How specific are they, and do you have a plan to complete them?  

July 2012 Monthly Review



This has been up and down for a while, but now that we have closed on the house it’s going to shoot up – I’ve also got a bit more on my credit card than I usually do, which I’m hoping to get most back because of (another) tax mix up.


This account has not yet shown up in my online banking screen, so I cant really monitor it quite yet, which is frustrating.  I’ve put in a request to have them add it, but it’s still pending.

Student Loans

Great Lakes Loan $ 10,584 682 ($98)  I’ve increased my withdraw off of this account, and am pretty happy with the result of that so far.  It’s nice to at least see the balance go down almost $100 every month (no real benefit, all psychological).  This will come to recon after the truck.

Truck Loan

Ford Credit: $5,918  +14: I’m glad that I do these reviews or I probably would never have caught this.  As you can see the balance went UP between june and july, and it took me a few seconds to figure out why.  I made a second full payment towards the end of june because I had some extra cash, and they took that as the payment that was due in july – while I wanted the july payment to auto-withdraw on its own, like it always has.  The payments will start back up regularly in august, so I think I’m just going to let this ride.  I dont really want to add another thing to my list of “stuff I need to mess with”, so I’ll just continue

Total Debt: 16,502  This does not include the house but is still awesome.  A long way down from where I was in at 56,500 in December, 2009.

Health Goals

Continued on a streak of epic fails for this, actually.  H and I did a lot of walking on the honeymoon, but I dont really count that as exercise.

Goal Workouts: 20

Total Workouts: 0

Food Challenges:

This month, in an effort to save some money and start eating what food H and I have, I started a Meat Challenge.  This has gone well, as we havent really bought any meat for quite some time, and our grocery bill has reflected that.  I got my new hunting tags in the mail for when I was gone (Im going for 2 antelope, 1 deer and 1 elk this year) so I will probably continue this on into next year as well.  If I fill all these tags – possible, but i’m not counting it as likely, we will probably need a chest freezer or some sort of deep freezer.

The Grocery Store Challenge has been a bit harder to pin down.  H is on summer break right now, and she has been doing most of the shopping, whereas when she’s in school, I usually do it.  She’s bought some things that I may not have bought, but stuff with the house has been so crazy that when we go to the store the mindset is “what can we cook with in our current situation” , and not really worrying about much else.

We are back now, and dont really have any pending travel plans (though we will need to make a visit to upstate new york sometime between thanksgiving and christmas.  Other than that, it will just be time to get everything in order and focus!

How was your june?  Did you make any debt progress?  Are you trying to complete anything else this year?


6 Lessons I Learned from Training for A Marathon

As of Sunday, My marathon is less than two weeks away.  Running a marathon was something that I listed in my 2012 goals, and slowly but surely I’ve been working to make it happen.  Much like my savings goal, this started with small, consistent progress.  I started training at the end of January (that seems like forever ago!) with a 3 mile run, and last weekend, I completed my longest run of the program, which was 20 miles.  In between, I’d run anywhere from 20-40 miles (or more) per week, typically over 3 days.  I never really felt like anything was out of my reach or totally unattainable, but that’s because the program took me up in steps.

One of the best ways to fail at a goal is to not try, and another great way is to try and do too much, too fast.  There would have been no way I would have kept up my training if I started with a 8-10 mile run and tried to keep going from there with the program.  I would have hated the goal, hated myself for making the goal, and then just to make sure, I would have hated myself (again) for failing the goal.
Lesson Learned: Start small, you’ll thank yourself for it.

Training for this race required a huge time commitment (obviously), but it was something that I really had not anticipated as I started.  Once the first two weeks had passed though, I knew that I was going to need about 1.5 hours a day for 3 days during the week, and about 3 hours on the weekend.  Those times ended up increasing as the distance increased, but I quickly eased into a schedule of leaving work having a small snack such as an apple or granola bar and changing into my running shorts and shoes and hitting the pavement.  It quickly became routine and I started to enjoy the runs with H and the dog, exploring the city on foot in what was unseasonably nice weather.
Lesson Learned: If you want to succeed, you have to put the time in to reach your goal.

One of the other great parts about this was that I got to train with H – training is always more fun when you’ve got someone that is working with you trying to accomplish a similar goal (H is doing the  half marathon).  Even though my thoughts about the running itself would be all over the map, I really enjoyed this time spent with H and the sustainable house.
Lesson Learned: Get a training partner – it will keep you consistent and you’ll have a better time.

Unfortunately, not everything about this marathon training program has been sunshine and roses.  Since H and I closed on our house, my training has taken a drastic pullback.  I have been logging everything to mapmyrun, which a pretty sweet website and app for android and iphones.  I have made “house things” a higher priority than running for the last 4 weeks, and have been hardly doing any of my weekday runs, but have managed keep on track (for the most part) for my weekend runs.  It was surprising how easy it was to continue missing runs after I missed that first run, and this week it’s already thursday and I havent run at all.  Early in the program when I was ambitious about the marathon (and afraid of not finishing) I ran in gale force winds, and now when the clouds go just a bit grey, I use that as a handy excuse to not run at all, saying that I’ll make it up later.  Well, later eventually did come, and I had to run 20 miles with what was essentially 1.5 weeks off right before hand.  It hurt afterwords, a lot.
Lesson Learned: Don’t miss a run, but if you absolutely have to, dont keep digging yourself into a hole.

During this whole training period, even though I felt a bit tired after some of the long runs (and sore) and had to squeeze in some of the weekday runs, I never really felt like they were that big of a burden or too much work.  I knew that I wanted to run a marathon, so I just decided to make a plan and go for it.  Never once did it seem like I had to drag myself out of bed to run – when I knew I had the time and had already blocked it off, I was usually pretty amped to go, even though I knew it would be hard.  But, because I wanted to do this pretty bad, it never really got to be something that I ended up dreading doing.  Sure, I ended up sore and tired at the end of lots of my weekend runs, but it was a good tired – one where I felt like I accomplished something that took me 1 step closer to a big goal I have.
Lesson Learned: If you actually want the goal, the hard work you put in wont seem like work at all.

Though I didnt really pick a goal pace until later in my training (whenever I run races,  I always miss the mile markers and dont really know how far I’ve got to go in the race) it has been super helpful in training so far – ensuring that i’m keeping on pace and not going too fast at the beginning or too slow at the beginning and leaving too much in the tank at the end.  This will make sure that I dont get caught up in trying to keep pace with the more experienced marathoners at the race and end up having to cross the finish line in a wheelchair.
Lesson Learned: Don’t worry about what others are doing, focus on doing what you can.

All in all, I’m pretty happy that I decided to take on this goal – it was little more than a 15 months ago that I ran my first race ever (a 5k) and I will certainly be happy that I’ll be able to make this big of progress in my running.  I’m not sure how much running I’ll be doing after the marathon training is over, either.  This summer looks busy as it is, and if the last few weeks are any indication, the answer will be not too much for a while, but I’d like to at least get into the habit of running a few times per week.  One of my goals for next year may be to do the spartan race in vermont, but it costs $600 to enter (!!!) but I’m not sure, and I know I’ll need to be in top shape for that.

Readers: What lessons have you learned from training or working towards a goal for a few months before accomplishing it?  Did you find more value in the process of preparing for your goal, or more value in the goal itself?

The ABCs of Sustainability

Just like everyone, I have trouble remembering all of the things that I can do in my day-to-day life that will help me become a more sustainable person (and help me save money or get healthier).  To help me out, I developed this post – sustainability from A to Z.  Here you’ll find tips beginning with each letter of the alphabet that can help you out in your day to day life.

A is for Air Dry.  Lots of dishwashers have a heated dry cycle that uses a lot of energy.  When you have dishes in the dishwasher, typically you’re not in dire need of something that’s in there, so you won’t need the heated dry to speed things up.  You can just turn off the dry cycle all together and let your dishes air dry in the dish washer.  If it turns out that you do end up needing something, just open the dish washer and pull it out and dry it with a towel.  Air Drying dishes can help you save money by using less heat when operating your washing machine, and  can help you save the earth by using less energy.

B is for Buy Used.  Buying used is a rather simple process:figure out what you need (or want)  and find a store that sells it used.  You can check local antique or consignment shops in your area, your local craigslist, or even ebay.  Don’t worry if you think that what you’re looking for is too off of the wall or crazy, sites like ebay have everything.  Buying used can get you what you need for cheaper (and possibly better quality) than buying new, and you’ll keep something out of a land fill as well.


C is for Clothesline.  This is probably one of my favorite sustainability tips as everyone who wants to can do this (even you’re apartment people!)  Many of those in homes can easily string up a clothesline or may already have one that just needs repair. H and I had to make our own by buying some clothesline string and stringing up a few lines over the corner of our fence.  If you live in apartment, you can always use one of those clothes drying racks.  Clothes dried out on the line smell so good and feel so fresh when they are done too!  You can save money by using less electricity, saving wear and tear on your dryer, and you can save the environment by reducing emissions from   your local energy generation station.

D is for Driving.  There are plenty of things that will burn gas at a higher rate than normal, such as constant jackrabbit starts (gunning it off the light) constant stopping and starting, and speeding.  It’s pretty simple to avoid these habits (once you graduate high school) by paying attention to how fast you’re going and watching the lights to make sure you don’t have to come to a complete stop before your light turns green.  Of course, this will help you save gas, which will save you money and will help out the environment by using less petroleum based resources.

E is for efficiency.  Specifically, I’m talking about fuel efficiency.  You know that your commute is going to be X number of miles to work and back home, right?  If that’s the case, then why wouldn’t you want to maximize the amount of miles that your vehicle can operate per gallon of gas?  Well of course you would, because you want to be more sustainable, and you know that getting a more fuel efficient car will help you save money by using less gas than you would with a less efficient vehicle, and will help save the environment by lowering emissions and using less petroleum based resources.

F is for Full.  Many things operate better and use less energy when they are full.  Freezers use way less energy when they are full because the things that are already frozen will help freeze the newly put in things.  Many other home appliances work in a similar way.  Why run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s half full, simply wait a day or two until you’ve got a full load and you’re on the road to sustainability.  This can help you save money by using less energy (on freezer, dishwasher, washing machine and other home appliances) and saving on wear and tear, and will help you use less energy or water depending on the appliance.

G is for Garden.  Most food that you eat has traveled 1500 miles (on average) to get from the production area to the shelf of your local store.  Clearly that’s a lot of miles and a garden is a great way to cut down on food miles.  Even those of you with apartments can plant a pot full of your favorite herbs like basil and mint and avoid buying some things.  Starting a garden will help you save money at the store by lowering what you’ll need to buy, save the earth by cutting down your food miles, and could help you become a bit healthier by removing additives and pesticides from your food.

H is for Homemade.  For just about everything you buy, you can do it yourself.  People just think that it’s cheaper to buy what someone else has made (while it does happen sometimes, it’s far less often than you think).  I haven’t been into the homemade movement for long, but since I started digging in, I’ve found tons of things you can make at home that I’d typically buy, like dryer sheets, drain cleaner, food, cheese and so much more.  When you make things yourself you can control what goes into the product and how it tastes at the end – and you also get that great feeling of having done something productive that day.  You can save money and the environment by going the homemade route.  This tip provided by staff writer Beatrice.

I is for Information.  The more information you have about something (be it a service or product) the more you can decide if it’s as sustainable as you would like it to be.  Don’t like how many miles your food travels?  Get some information and figure out how you can start producing some of your own food.  There’s plenty of ways to become more sustainable, you just have to look around for them. Honestly, I didn’t know you could make your own laundry detergent, dish soap, etc until I started this site.  This can save you some money by cutting down costs of things you’d normally buy but start making instead, and can help save the earth (and your heath) by using less toxic ingredients.

J is for Join. If you look at the definition of join in the dictionary here is what you will read, “ the shape or manner in which things come together and a connection is made;  make contact or come together.” Use this to your advantage in living sustainable. See if there are community programs you can join that work on green projects, like community gardens for example. Or, join a Community Supported Agriculture Progam (CSA) and use it to source your fruit and veggie groceries. Or, bring your friends together who think like you and ‘come together’ to form an environmental advocacy group. The sky is your limit when it comes to connecting with the planet.  Tip provided by Miss T from Prairie Eco Thrifter.

K is for Knowledge.  There are a ton of things that you can learn about from a sustainability perspective.  You can learn about life cycles of products, how things are made and how the inputs used are harvested, mined, or otherwise created.  There is sustainability in each one of those steps, and the more you know about the most sustainable methods, the better you can make decisions on the day to day.  For instance, when I bought laundry soap I would always buy the powdered kind in the box because all of the fancy designed bottles are wasting a ton of space in the truck.  Less space wasted = more room for product = less trips.  So, there’s sustainability everywhere, you just have to know about it and make decisions based upon what you know.

L is for Low Flow.  Low flow showerheads and toilets are awesome.  Simply purchase a low-flow showerhead and install and it will regulate the water flowing out of the head.  Low flow toilets work a bit different – some use less water per flush and some will have two buttons – one a half flush for number one, and the other a full flush for number two.  You can cheaply lower the water in your toilet by filling a few jugs with water and placing them in your toilet tank, lessening the amount of area the water has to fill every flush.  Low flow treatments can help you save money and the environment by using less water.

M is for Mindful Spending.  A lot of sustainability can be boiled down to resource use.  If you buy things that you don’t need just to buy them, you’re wasting resources.  When you think about what you spend, you’re giving thought to what’s actually going to happen to the item when you take it home.  Is it something like a tiddy bear (full disclosure: I didn’t know about this before I started writing this post) that seems totally useless and will only be used a few times before it stored away, or will you use it a couple of times every week?  Think about your purchases, if you do this, you’ll end up saving yourself some money and stopping resources from being used for no reason.

N is for New Life.  Anything that you feel like you’ve outgrown or no longer have a use for, consider donating to a local chairity.  Even though you may not have a use for it anymore, there very well could be someone who has a need for it and would be more than happy to have it.  This could be anything from movies to books to old clothing.  You’re keeping things out of the landfill helping you become more sustainable and saving the person purchasing it some money because they are getting it secondhand.


O is for Overboard.  Don’t go overboard with your sustainability measures needlessly, as it could cost you money that you’ll never recover.  When I was in college we got assigned a task to try and figure out where we would save the most money if we could only replace one incandescent with a compact flouresent bulb.  Obviously, this meant replacing the light that was on the most for whatever reason.  Think about it – should you put the light in a high traffic area like the living room where the light is on 2 hours a day, or the closet in the basement that gets turned on once a week.  You can save some money by not buying needless bulbs and still be exponentially more sustainable.

P is for Programmable Thermostat.  Programmable thermostats operate pretty simply – you tell them what time and what temperature to turn the heat to on any given day and they do the rest.  They take probably an hour to install and cost about 50 bucks, but can easily make that back during the winter, and then some.  Once you’ve got this done, you can sit back while it saves you money and helps out the earth by using less energy than  you would if you heated/cooled your house when you were not going to be there.

Q is for Quality.  One of the most important things I have discovered on my eco-living journey is the importance of quality over quantity.  I have discovered, in terms of food, I prefer an approach that is less about how cheap and easy to make the food is, and whether or not the food is of good quality. Quality over quantity, in this sense, means going slightly against your natural spending habits, at least on the surface, and embracing an added short term expense to minimize a long term one. Investing in your health and the planet now by modifying your diet to include organic and humanely-raised animal products will benefit you in the future with lower health care costs. It also benefits the planet through sustainable farming practices. Already eat sustainable? Then here is another example.  Think of the consumer marketplace. How many people buy a cheap, plastic item and eventually have to take it to a landfill because it no longer works, or the plastic cracks, sometime not long after they bought the item? The numbers are staggering. Don’t believe me? Go and pay a visit to your local garbage dump. In my experience, not many consumers in general question the quality of the items they buy. They just buy them and forget about the origins of the product, or the sweatshop conditions of those who laboured to make them. It often doesn’t enter into the consciousness of everyday people. Do the planet and yourself a favour and start paying attention to quality over quantity.  Tip provided by Miss T from Prairie Eco Thrifter.

R is for Reuse.  I used to want to buy a lot of stuff – something for every purpose and something crazy for some far fetched idea I had at one fleeting moment.  Thankfully, I didnt do 98% of these ideas, but a lot of people do buy a lot of stuff for one reason or another.  Eventually they’ll tire of the item and will be willing to sell you something perfectly good for cheap, or even better, FREE!  Of course, this doesn’t have to include a friend – you can find something in your house that you no longer use and re-use it for something different.  It doesn’t have to serve its original purpose, it just has to serve a purpose to be reused.  You can turn old shirts into dishrags, hand down clothing to younger children or just about anything else you can think of!  This will help save you money by preventing you from buying things you don’t need to buy and will keep stuff out of landfills by extending the lifetime of the product.

S is for Shower with a Friend.  We increasingly hear about water and electricity becoming increasingly scarce while subsequently increasing in value.  Rolling brown outs in the northeast a few summers ago and a quick look at the water resources in Arizona are no longer isolated resource deficiency stories – the problems are getting larger and more wide spread.  Solution? Shower with a Partner!  The dial on your water meter (if you don’t have one now, you will …) will slow and you will save electricity heating (and keeping warm) a large tank of water in your basement.  That and the quality time with your partner – can’t put a price on that!  Tip provided by Simon at Sustainable Personal Finance

T is for Trees.  Who doesn’t like trees, right?  They are there when you need them to sit under in the shade on a hot summer day and they are there to fall on top of your car when the snow comes too early :).  In all seriousness though, trees are great for saving energy in the summer – they can protect your house from excessive heat by providing shade if they are planted nearby.  This will help you save some money on electricity costs and help the earth by planting trees to fix nutrients into the soil and remove CO2 from the air (you can also solidify your sustainability cred by taking a photo of yourself hugging said tree).

U is for Utility Usage Data.  Some utilities providers don’t offer this yet, but some do.  You get a website to go to that will tell you how much energy you’re using and at what time of day.  I think some of them can even tell you what appliance is using the energy!  Knowing all this information can allow you to tell the utility companies to cut power to your house on days where they have high demand (usually in the summer when lots of air conditioning is turned on).  This can save you some money because you’ll be using less electricity (and some companies give rebates for joining a program like this), you can also help the environment by delaying (or preventing outright) the construction of a new power plant, and reducing all the not-so-great things that comes along with new power plants.

V is for Vampire Draw.  I’ve talked about vampire draw a bit before, but for those that missed it: it’s when something is plugged into the wall but not connected to something charging on the other end.  One of the common culprits is cell phones – you leave your charger plugged in to the wall, but carry the phone with you.  The charger will still draw energy.  Obviously, this won’t cost you a lot of money but waste not, want not, right?  This will help you become more sustainable and save you money by saving you energy and lowering your electric bill.

W is for Walking.  All throughout high school, I thought that you had to drive everywhere.  When I got to college and my dad said I couldn’t take my car, I quickly learned I didn’t have to drive everywhere.  Once I started walking everywhere I had to go, I realized how much I enjoyed it and wanted to do it after I left school.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way for me right away, but after switching jobs, I’ve been able to walk to work for 9 months.  I’d prefer never to drive again.  This helps me save money on gas as well as wear and tear on your vehicle, stay healthy by getting you to walk more, and be more sustainable by driving less.

X is for Xeriscaping.  Xeriscaping is mostly done outside, and involves planting plants and native grasses that would naturally grow in your area anyway, to reduce water use.  Native grasses and plants are used to the conditions and won’t need any special treatment, making them fairly hard to kill if you’ve got a black thumb like me.  You can save some money and help the environment by using less water – gotta love 2 birds with 1 stone!


Y is for Yearn. When we yearn, we have affection for; feel tenderness for something. Yearn for our home, our planet. Be eager to experience mother nature’s beauty; to connect with her on a deeper level. Look around you and see what she has to offer- how beautiful she is. One of the ways I do this is by camping. I pack my tent, hike into the forest and escape into the wild. I listen to the sounds of the breeze touching the trees. I see the birds and squirrels playing. I awake to the brightness of the sun. I soothe myself to sleep with the glow of the moon. I take in the peace of the fresh air and heal myself with the silence. I yearn for my home.  Tip provided by Miss T from Prairie Eco Thrifter.
Z is for Zero Waste.  While this may be out of reach personally (but maybe not!) lots of events are beginning to head this direction.  I have been to multiple events that have forks, cups and spoons made from corn products, plates made out of recycled paper, and composting for food and paper waste.  While I personally don’t think they can get to absolute 0 waste, I’m glad they are trying.  Even though you may not be able to get to total zero waste in your household, even trying will help you become a far more sustainable person.  You can help the earth by looking at the whole lifecycle of your purchases, and figuring out what you’re going to do at every step.

Well there you have it – 26 sustainability tips.  Do you have any that I left off?  If I get enough tips in the comments I’ll put them together for another post.

Health Goals 2012

Since it’s the first week of 2012, I figured that I’d share my goals for 2012 with all of you.  I don’t list every goal in every category, but I do put the ones that I feel relate to the things we talk about on the blog.

Every year for the past 6 years, I’ve created goals for myself.  I wasnt too good with the tracking thing in  the early years, but I’ve gotten better recently.  (also, while editing my goals posts, I wrote I’d been having goals for different amounts of time in every post i’d written).  I decided to break up my goals into categories last year, and I’m doing the same this year.  The following are my goals for getting/staying healthy throughout the year.

This year of course comes with a little added incentive because I’m getting married.  While I dont mind looking like a tool at my wedding, I dont want to be overweight or unfit – in fact, just the oppisite.  I’d rather be in the best shape of my life, or close to it anyway.  Hopefully the goals I’ll set will help with that.

The first health goal for the year will be to run a marathon.  I don’t really think this will be that difficult.  Im a very function oriented person (if X, then Y) so my plan is to pick a marathon that I’d like to do before the wedding and then follow a simple training program.  I’ve already found a training program that i’d like to do, and have identified a few marathons that I’d like to do (both are in june, providing me 6 full weeks to get really fat before my wedding).  I think that H may run it with me, but she’s only interested in running a half marathon, so her training wont be quite as extensive as mine, but at least I’ll have a training buddy.  As far as I’m concerned though, I just have to follow the steps on my training program week in and week out, and I’ll be fine.  That may be simplistic thinking, but I dont need to get all worked up over it.  As of right now, I’m looking at 2 races, both in the beginning of june pretty hard, and one potentially in may, but it is a trail run so I’m not sure that I’m quite up for that yet.

The next health goal is slightly subjective (which makes for a poor goal) but I’m going for it anyway.  H and I will be spending plenty of time lounging around on the beach during our honeymoon, and obviously I dont want to look like a troll.  Unfortunately, there’s no way I’ll look as good as she will, but either way I’d like to be in good shape for my honeymoon.  How I’ll define this I havent figured out yet, but hopefully I’ll come up with something.

I’d also like to eat more veggies.  Next summer, H and I are going to be getting veggies in our CSA along with our friut, and I’d like to make sure that none of that ends up in the compost heap.  In order to do this, I’ll need to eat more veggies next year, both as snacks and sides, as well as main dishes.  So, one of my goals for next year will be to eat vegetarian at dinner 3 times per week.

I think that those goals should keep me occupied in the health sector for a while, and nothing looks like it will be too difficult (other than following the plan).  One thing I was told to watch out for is my marathon – It seems like there are quite a bit of injuries during training for a race, so I’ll need to watch out for that.

Readers:  What are your health goals for the coming year?  Do you have health goals, or are you simply trying to maintain what you’ve got?  Are you goals focused on weight-loss or something different?  

Year End Goals Review

It’s getting towards the end of the year, and it’s a great time to review the goals that I had for the year and how I fared with them.  I put some of my goals up on the site, and you can find them here.  I’ve also been doing some quarterly updates that you can read if you’re curious (Q1, Q2, Q3) but this is the final one  for this year, and soon will come goals out for 2012.  While I didnt put my goals all on the website, I did put goals for my finances and my health on here.  Goals not included were either mean to be a surprise or were not relevant to the topics on this blog, so I left them off.  So, without further ado, here were my goals and how I fared with them in 2011.

Financial Goals

  1. Pay off my Direct Loan.  The balance for this loan as of 12/31/10 will be right around $4,250.   While this wont help out my cash flow that much, it’s still by far the lowest loan balance  that I have.  I’m hoping that this will be paid off in Q1, and it should be if I can get back to my gazelle intensity that I lost in December.
Success!  I had a pretty ambitious goal of paying this off in the first quarter, but was rudely woken up when tax season came around.  I ended up using money that was supposed to be for debt repayment to pay both state and federal income tax.  After that, it was mostly traveling during the summer that ate up my extra money for loan payments, and once I was finally ready to pay it off, they lost the check.  Eventually (mid november) I was able to pay it in full.
  1. Pay Off Truck.  This goal is going to be a heavy lift, but I think that I can do it this year.  I’ve been debating if I should pay this off first or move on to the next lowest balance.  In the end, the truck is going to win out because of the amount of cash that it’s going to free up.  The balance on this note as of 12/31/10 is $17,979.
Fail!  Although I knew last year that this would probably be a bit too far out of reach, I decided to put it on here anyway so even if I ended up failing, i’d be pretty far ahead of where I was supposed to be.  I didnt make extra payments on the loan, but got a huge insurance check from a hail storm and was able to put that towards the value of the loan.  After borrowing 21,000 in December of 2009, The loan balance is near 9,000 now, which I’m more than fine with.  I originally financed the note for 6 years, but it should be long gone before then.

Health Goals

  1. Establish a routine at the gym.  I seem to be teetering on the brink of a solid schedule of gym attendance, and I’d really like to have it gel into a nice routine this year.  Unfortunately, this goal sits a bit at odds with my goal of paying off my debt (because I spend extra time working more to earn more).  I’ve got a spreadsheet tracking my progress, and I’m aiming for 4 days a week at the gym (if anyone cares, tuesday, thursday, saturday and sunday).  I think I can do this and stay focused on all of my other projects.  I’ll share these results in my monthly reviews so you can keep up as well.
Semi-Success.  I got into a pretty good routine during the first 8 or so months of the year, but kind of fell off after that.  Though I was able to regain a bit in December, I’ll be back in full force with all of the other new years resolution people in January and February, but I’ll still be there when they drop off in march.
  1. Identify an unhealthy eating behavior and stop it.  After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided that instead of stopping an unhealthy behavior, I’m going to start a healthy one.  I’ve decided that I’m going to eat vegetarian 1 or 2 dinners per week (my breakfasts are sometimes vegetarian, and I can switch my lunch if I want).  This will give me 1 or 2 days of full vegetarian food per week, which should do great things for my health.
Success!  This went really well, quite unexpectedly.  H decided that she wanted to become a vegetarian (though she does eat fish) so that made my meal planning much easier.  When I wanted to do a vegetarian night, I’d just eat whatever she was eating.