A Year with EveryDollar (part 3): Putting it into practice

In my previous 2 Posts I described 1) My experience using EveryDollar and 2) Some of the Tools I use with it.

In this post, I wanted to cover putting it all together.

  • Not following Dave Ramsey 100%
  • Starting out the New Month
  • The Extra Debt Payment Categories
  • What is Left to Budget
  • Going through the Month
  • Ending / Closing the Month

First off, I’m don’t think I am doing it 100% the way Dave Ramsey intended.

EveryDollar is assigned a Task……

If you listen to Dave Ramsey describe it, he wants you to have your budget 100% allocate, with “Every Dollar” assigned to a Task. (If you are following Daves’ “Baby Steps”, these would be things like:  Paying your Debt Snowball (Step 2), Creating an Emergency Fund (Step 3), Setting Aside 15% of your Income for Retirement (Step 4),  Putting Money Aside for your Kids College (Step 5), Paying off your Mortgage (Step 6)).  The key point is that EVERYTHING is assigned a purpose (or as Dave says “EveryDollar is assigned a name”).

In my case, I will usually leave a lot of the money uncommitted, until the Day before payday.  (The only time I have committed everything is when I knew I would have a very large expenses the coming month).

Getting the Calendar Right….

The 2nd big change from the standard usage involves the start of the month.  My payday is the 25th of the Month.  I tried using EveryDollar with the payday near the end of the month, it just got very difficult to manage and keep straight in my head.  For me I needed to make an adjustment.

So to get it working I basically I split the month based on my Payday (the 25th), so on the 25th of the Month, I switch Everydollar to the NEXT Month. (I’ll go into more detail later).  So far this has worked out for me pretty well. (Between the 25th-1st the GUI and App do need to be manually set, but otherwise it is OK).

Starting out the new Month

(Just to keep is organized, the next Section will cover the End of the month (or closing it out)).

Now that I have been using EveryDollar for a while my setup for the next Month is fairly straight forward:

  • Create the Categories for the Coming Month. (Including Income) 
  • Adjust the Categories for the Variable Expenses in the Coming Month
  • Top up my Virtual Envelopes

Creating the Categories and Amounts for Next Month

When you first start using EveryDollar, it will automatically fill in the Budget Categories based on your inputs into the setup Wizard, in subsequent months, it will ask, if you want to populate the categories with the details from the Previous month,  basically I just this option each time.

Adjust the Categories for the Following Month

Most items are Constant (i.e. Health Insurance, Cable, Cell Service, etc), though in some cases it me be variable:

  • Adjustments
  • Variable / Irregular (i.e Quarterly Expenses)
  • Unexpected Repairs/Copays/Biills
  • Loan Payments (with shifting Payments)
  • The Extra Debt Payment Category
Simple Adjustments

Sometimes it is necessary to adjust the values different categories.  When first starting out you probably will need to adjust the amount allocated for each category, simply goto the category and changed the amount “Planned”.  

Other reasons to do the adjustments are changes in Pay (Hopefully a raise :-)).  or other rates, etc.

Variable Expenses

I have a few expenses which happen quarterly, I usually will usually just put the details in the Category Name:

Waternet (Quarterly 3,6,9,12) 47.16
Heating Warranty (Qyarterkt 1,6,9,12) $42.20

There are a few cases where things will change

Unexpected Repairs/Bill/Copays

When these happen I will usually try and carry them over till after payday, so even though “unexpected” it can be still budgeted.

I will also keep a category for things like Insurance Co-pays and ajust them based on expected expenses. 

Shifting Principle Payments

Finally, I adjust the amount which will be paid for my Debt. In my case this is my Mortgage. If you are doing your Debt Snowball, this will be how much you are allocating towards each of your Debts.

Topping off the Virtual Envelopes

I have 2 Main (Virtual) Envelopes.  (I explain them in more detail in my previous post).

Each Virtual Envelope is a different Category.  For me they are: Groceries and Dinning. (Other people may use these for other things: Gas, Clothes, etc).  

On payday I will look how much is left in each envelope, and top them up.  The part that is exciting for me is that, if I have anything left after toping them off, it goes to my Mortgage. (If you’re doing Debt Snowball, use it for you Debt Snowball). (i.e. the “Extra Debt Payment Category” (not just the category but an immediate payment).

**The Extra Debt Payment Categories**

(I actually have 2 of these, 1 is automatic, the other is manual. This section cover the automatic payment)

I am working on paying of my Mortgage Early.  (As of this writing I am about 6 years ahead of schedule).  Other people may be doing their Debt Snowball and so would use these Category for that.  

The Manual Extra Payment

Anything budgeted but not use for topping off the Virtual Envelope goes into this category.  (Also at the end of the month it gets some attention as well).

If anything unexpected comes in, this (and the accompanying payment) goes into this category.

The Automatic Extra Payment

Basically if I have a permanent decrease (or an increase in income), these extra funds get thrown into this category.   Normally my Mortgage Company will Refactor my payment after each Extra Payment, this means that the payment will go down by a few Euros each month.  (I will add that to the automatic payment).

There are also many other ways to find cash to through into this payment, for example I have:

  • Cancelled my gym membership (€45 / month)
  • When my Cell Contract expired, I found a different provider who was much cheaper.  (I negotiated with the sales person to also get a bundle discount on my cable for 9 months. 
  • Switched Utilities (The sales person was also willing to negotiate, after 12 months we will get a €200 rebate, plus a small €9/ month savings)
  • By making lunch at home the ngiht before, my eating expesnes have gone to maybe €5 a week. (Also though this actually predates EveryDollar, the Free cash that was available, went directly into this payment from day 1).

Since these savings are Zero Sum (i.e. the savings matches the extra going out), I have this come out AUTOMATICALLY the day after pay day. I do not see these funds, so I am not tempted to use them.

What is “Left to Budget”

As you are updating the Categories, at the top EveryDollar will list “$xxx.xx Left to Budget”.  After I filled out all of my categories, I was very surprised to find the “Left to Budget” amount was much larger than I thought. (Listening to people calling into Dave’s show and Dave himself, this seems to be the case for a lot of people).

In theory this money is not committed and can be used for other expenses.  The first few month, the categories will need to be adjusted, so I would recommend leaving it alone before everything is settled.  

I’m not yet confident enough (even after a year) to regulary start the month by throwing all of this against the Mortgage.  (Usually I will have some unexpected insurance co-pay or some other item come up, but this is generally much smaller).  

I once month I had very large extra expenses pending, so I did use all of this amount, but it is not something I regularly do.

I have tried a few strategies to use this against my debt……sometimes as the month goes buy I will throw a fraction of the amount at the mortgage on a weekly basis. (i.e. 1/5 + 1/5 + 1/5……). Mostly it waits until the month ends.

(See the End of the Month below).

Going Through the Month

This is the pretty much the easiest part of using EveryDollar, I attempt to touch my main account as little as possible, the only things that come out of it are either:

  • Known Automatic Payments
    • Cable (15th)
    • Cell Service (21st)
    • Health Insurance (1st)
    • Mortgage (1st)
  • Topping Off the Virtual Envelopes
  • Payments to Sinking Funds
  • Unexpected Expenses
  • Extra Mortagage Payments
    • Automatic (Day after Payday)
    • Manual (Throughout the month).

As these come in I simply enter them as transaction in EveryDollar. Paradoxically I find myself checking account wondering (expectantly) when bills will get charged to my account, so I know that it can be struck from my PENDING amount.

(Also sometimes, when doing the payday bookkeeping, since I know the funds will come out in 1 or 2 days, I will simply pre-enter them).

In the US there is an Extra paid service where EveryDollar will automatically sync these from your bank.

Ending/Closing the Month (Making it an “EveryDollar Budget”)

As I mentioned earlier I am working on retiring my Mortgage, the first day of my pay period is very important  to making and figuring out how much extra will goto the Mortgage, but also so is the LAST day of the pay period. 

Before reconciling what is left over, I’ll usually copy the Budget to Next Month. 

At this point I will usually look at any Categories which still have cash left, usually there are only 1-3 (transportation, fees, copays).  At this point adjust the amount Budgeted to match the amount actually spent.  This free’s up the money and adds it to the “Left to Budget” amount. 

I will then make a payment to “Manual Extra Payment” to get rid of anything that is “Left to Budget”

Once there is “ZERO Left to Budget”, the program considers it an “EveryDollar Budget” because every dollar has been accounted for.

Conclusion

By watching/reconciling each expense, knowing what was happening and making sure everything falls into their Category, I have taken much more control over my finances and have much less worry. 

I’ve also become much more Mindful of my Money and where it is going.

It has also allowed me to throw much more than I though possible at the Mortgage and significantly reduce the expected time left.

A Year with EveryDollar (Part 2): Tools/Techniques (Cash Envelopes/Separate Accounts/Sinking Funds)

(This is a follow up to an earlier post “A Year with EveryDollar“)

One important aspect to help me keep everything organized is separating the money. The main tool I use for this is separate accounts, these accounts fall into 2 categories:

  • [Virtual] Cash Envelopes (i.e. spending accounts assigned to a specific Budget Category)
  • A Bank account Dedicated to a Specific Purpose.  These are frequently referred to as Sinking Funds.  (This is relatively new, before I was just putting the sinking funds into my main savings account)

Cash Envelopes / Virtual Cash Envelope

First let me explain what a Cash Envelope is, basically if you know you will spend X amount of money on Groceries every month you simply fill an envelope with that cash amount that is Budgeted for that Category. If the Envelope runs out, then that is it until the next envelope-stuffing day. (Granted when you first start out, you can be flexible about it, but you will need to adjust your budget so next month, you can avoid this issue).  

NOTE: On YouTube you can find videos of people stuffing their cash envelopes for the month, this is how serious people take it and also how important a concept it is. 

Why/What is “Virtual”?

In my area many stores do not accept cash (and also the smallest bill is €5), so using cash has some disadvantages, so instead I use what amounts to a Virtual Cash Envelope (i.e. a Card which has that amount of money available to it). I originally started out using a stored Value Credit Card,. However these have charges associated with them, it was useful, BUT the cost of topping it up defeated the purpose.  Instead, I switched over to using a specific bank for specific categories.

In my area, there are several Online Banks available (Revolut and N26 are the 2 most common ones). Basically, on payday, my Grocery Budget gets deposited into one and my Dining Budget into the other.

(Both send my iPhone an alert whenever they are charged and I can also view the current balance as well).

The psychological advantage of cash: Having the money on a card does have a disadvantage. When you spend cash, your mind reacts as if it is a loss, but when you simply hold your card up to a scanner, that loss is not there. This means that people are more frugal with cash. If you have the option you may want to stick with a physical Cash envelope.

Some Free Bank / Payment Accounts

There are several Free bank accounts available, the 2 Primary ones I chose are Revolut and N26.   I also have another account with Denizen which is also free.

  • All Accounts are Free to open and have no charges.  (If you want additional cards or services, they are available for a fee). 
  • These banks have no “Brick and Mortar” Locations (this is why it is Free)
  •  So, everything is done online via an iPhone App (with notifications when charges are made).
  • Deposits can be made using the accounts IBAN number, so bank transfers in can be done fairly easily. 
  • Although written from an EU Perspective (all 3 have US availability)

(In my area many stores only accept Maestro Cards for payment. (Usually smaller, day-to-day,  less touristy places).  So that is why my 2 primaries are Revolut and N26,  and Denizen is a Secondary.  This may not mater to you depending on your needs / area).

Revolut

For Revolut (when I got it) the initial card is free, if your area is like mine and the Maestro card is the preferred one, order this one. (I discovered the issue with with the Mastercard after I got it, so I had to order the Maestro card later and it cost about €5.

They offer a “Metal” Card for a monthly fee, and it does give rewards, for some this might be worth while.

I really like their App, in addition to payment notifications,  it can be configured to give a graph your balance. (As well as comparing your balance on a particular day (i.e. how much did I have left at this point last month).

 

If you decide to get it, this is my referral link:  https://revolut.com/referral/james5og!G10D21

(The reward can change from time to time, as of now it is a €10 credit to your account after an initial purchase, but it may change).

N26

I just recently started using N26, my other bank only provided the Mastercard Debit and it was a little annoying (If a store did not accept it, I needed to send the money from N26 back into the payment account… this was to stay honest about budget categories).  So far N26 has worked fine for all stores (once I got the Maestro card).  Initially they will send you a Mastercard Debit.  After depositing €100 you can get the Maestro card (in Germany, The Netherlands, and Austria).   

There app is fairly good to an also offers instant notification, when transactions take place.

If you decide to use them, my referral link is: https://n26.com/r/jamesh3045

Denizen

NOTE: When I got Denizen it was free, it looks like there is now a charge

The main reason I’ve stopped using Denizen was b/c they only offer a Mastercard.  When I was out and about and trying to use it for its category sometimes it wouldn’t work. (I had to then use another card and then (to stay honest with the system) would need to transfer to the money to the Denizen account.

The advantage of Denizen, is if you are an American you may be able to create an ACH account with their US partner (also free) which can be use for MUCH easier transfers to the US, with no real fee. 

Sinking Fund

One of the other techniques I use, are various Sinking Funds.

The best way to describe it is with an Example:
About once a year I get a bill from the City for about €800. Before I would setup an automatic payment and make partial payments for several months. Last year, I setup a monthly deposit to my savings account. (This was much smaller than the partial payment, so paying the money was a lot less of a burden). This year when I received the bill,  it was so much more of a relief to just move the money from my savings account and pay the thing in full.

If you are able to open a High Interest Savings account, I would recommend using that for holding your sinking fund.  I usually push a fixed amount 1x a month into the HYSA, it may be small but compared to the .03% getting 1% or better is a big improvement).

Conclusion/Continuation

Hopefully this post gives some ideas on how to organize you spending with Envelopes and Sinking funds, so you can feel more confident with your finances and save more.

The post was getting really long, so I’ll put together another one explaining in more details how I use these pieces with EveryDollar.

A year of EveryDollar

For the last year or so I’ve been using EveryDollar a free Budgeting App / Web Site published by the Dave Ramsey group. (https://www.everydollar.com)

At first the idea of following a budget, just sounded too constricting and impossible to me, though over the last year, I’ve actually been successful with using EveryDollar to do ….. a Budget (?) It actually works out that at first, the Budget followed my behavior, then my behavior following the Budget. Once I established the pattern, I was able to consistently follow it, with the end result being that my spending has been more under control and paradoxically more liberated.

I’d say this first years has been a success. More of my money is going to my mortgage, and planned expenses, meaning I have more control of my money, as well as less stress. I find myself being more mindful of my spending (which means I have more control over my spending).

Background

Over the years I’ve tried different ideas of tracking my spending. Quicken, GnuCash, MoneyDance. All of these have been based on a per transaction basis, of simply tracking EACH EXPENSE and putting it into a Register. These really weren’t “Budgetting” apps.

I’ve also tried making my own SS and tracking expenses that way, it was a little more satisfying. (Maybe this helped to break down my resistance to a budget).

Now that I have a house and mortgage payments, I felt I had more responsibility and I had project (paying down my mortgage). I had good cash flow, and I was arriving at my next paycheck with more surplus, but I still felt I could do better at controlling my money. (A broad look at my fixed expenses vs what I had left over, left me wondering where so much went).

Sometimes last year I started listening/ watching Dave Ramsey. Before I would listen to Clark Howard (and he was the person responsible for starting me cleaning up my Debts and becoming more financially stable). In fact, before I took out my Mortgage, I was debt-free. Both Dave and Clark are very good advisors, though they are very different.

One thing Dave recommends for his listeners if to live on a Budget, at first when I heard this I imagined at Penny Pinching existence, micro-managing how I lived. Instead, I find myself more wondering just worrying less and sort of excited to see, if how much I will be able to save.

In order to help his users to do their Budgeting, Dave’s company has put out a tool called EveryDollar. Once you have an account it can be accessed via a Websie or an Iphone/Adroid app. Best of all it is Free. (If you want to link it to a US Bank you can for a fee, but I don’t).

About a year ago I started to use it for my Expenses. I thought I’d write a little about how it works and how I set it up, the tools I use to help, and how I use it.

Preperation

For me, the first step to using EveryDollar, Ironically did not involve EveryDollar itself.

EveryDollar tracks Expenses based on Catagories, in order to figure out how much each Catagory would get allocated, I needed to look at my bank account and see where every-dollar went.

Almost all of my transactions are done via PIN, so I was able to simply download my past history from my bank. Sitting down with some paper and my Calculator App, I started by Dividing my Expesnves up into Catagories, based on where I spent the money… (If the place was a Restaurant, then it went into Dining; Grocery Stores went it groceries, etc).

What I saw allowed me to create 3 main categories for things which might occur in lots of diffrent places and where fluid:

  • Dinning
  • Groceries
  • Computer

As well as some very specific Categories for known/fixed Expenses:

  • Cable
  • Health Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Cell Phone

The Default EveryDollar interface comes with several default categories already. (I don’t think Computers is one of them, NOTE: I no longer have a computer category in my present budget).

Once I had my Categories I was ready for setting up the App.

Setup

Simply goto https://www.everydollar.com/ click “Get Started”. After verifying your email, the website will take you through a Wizard to set up a basic budget. (Basically, you will fill out a form with all of your details, collected above, it is very easy to adjust these numbers later)

Hopefully, as you go through the Wizard EveryDollar will Congratulate you for having money left over. (At the end they will ask you, if you want to pay for EveryDollar Plus, this is not neccesary, I’ve been able to use the Free Version without any issues.

The neat thing is that once you create the account, you can simply log into it on your phone or another browser and you have all of your details. I have most of my fixed expenses coming out automatically, so once I see these coming out of my account, I just start up my iPhone app and record them (using EveryDollar and (Virtual) Cash Envelopes, my main account has only a fixed amount of transactions per month and it quite boring (except when I can make extra payments against the mortgage). I’ll cover those aspects in a different article.

After Setup/ Usage

This is the simplest part. after you’ve created the account and categories, simply enter every transaction as they come up.

The First few months, it may take some adjustment to get numbers matching your lifestyle.

Also as you record each transaction you become more mindful of where you are spending your cash.

This article is already very long, I have other ideas I’d like to share, on how I use EveryDollar and a Budget for best effect (i.e. feeling more confident about my money, avoiding stress, paying down the mortgage, etc). Things like:

  • Cash Envelopes / Virtual Cash Envelopes
  • Sinking Funds
  • PrePayday and Payday activities
  • Working with stuff not lining on on the month
  • More about the day to day attitude

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A “Dictatorship” …….. really?

I recently saw a post (from someone wanting to move to Europe), in the post she referred to the “current dictatorship”. Comments like this leave me scratching my head.

I have a friend, in College she let some other student activists have a meeting at her house, they spoke up against the government. Because of this she was grouped in with them as a subversive. She had to flee the country and got asylum in Europe. (Her country was Chile).

My mom’s family is from Argentina, my aunt’s Boss got sent to prison and was only released when the Junta fell. As far as I know no one in our family was a victim of the Dirty War, but we knew the horror stories about it.

I will admit that one of the reasons I came to live in Europe was b/c I didn’t like the direction the US was going in (the main reason was a feeling of enjoyment over here), but to call what is happening over there (compared to what is/has actually happening in other countries ) a Dictatorship is counter productive.

The people who might be sympathetic to your opposition, are going to be turned off, especially if they are familiar with an Actual Dictatorship.

The others will scoff at the rhetoric (considering it “crying wolf”) and more dangerously it will color the lens they see future events in and be less observant.

Finally the people that are supporting the current administration, will have an example to call out to dismiss valid criticism and also call support to their case.

I’m not a supporter of Trump and think he is over stepping his authority, but it is not yet a Dictatorship, people must stand up and require the Government to stay in the Law , but shouting exaggerations hurts that effort.

Before they decided to “Walk Away” they “Stopped Clapping”

I remember reading a story in the Gulag Archipelago, there was an Official  Dinner party, at some point there was a toast to Stalin, the people clapped and then as people realized they didn’t want to lose face and be seen as the first person to stop clapping….. the clapping went on and on and on. No one wanting to the first to “stop clapping”.  Eventually, one person stopped and others not having to worry about the “Guilt” of being the first, also stopped.  It sounds so absurd until you learn the truth, that the first man who stopped clapping first was arrested the next day. (The reason the story is in the Gulag Archipelago, is b/c that man was a fellow prisoner with Solzhenitsyn (the book’s author))

Speaking my family members and watching the “Walk Away” videos, it struck me that most of the people who have walked away, still agree with the traditional  “Ideals” of the Democratic Party (i.e a fair society, equal rights, etc), it’s just that many of them feel the party has left them behind in it zealotry and methods.  Instead of them “walking away” the Democratic party was the ones doing the walking away, and for a long time, people kept going with them, kept clapping for their ideas even after it began to make them uncomfortable.

I remember reading a news article about a Democratic rally, in a Hispanic area of California. While the leaders spoke about Fair Wages, ending Racial Discrimination, supporting Bilingual Education, etc, the audience was enthusiastically clapping.  (Demographically most Hispanics are Catholic).  As the speakers began to move into areas less aligned with those of the Catholic Church (abortion, homosexuality, etc), the enthusiasm began to taper off, and the audience became less enthusiastic.

Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, I think they seem to be unaware of what is happening.  If you stop clapping you risk being labeled a ‘Hater’. (I worry my “Description” of the events at the California rally above, will get it lumped in as some sort of “hate speech”).

The guy who started publicising peoples stories/video (of them just leaving the Democratic Party) was recently denied service in a New York store, b/c the clerk felt he was alt-right (again for just publicising stories about people leaving the Democratic Party).   We aren’t at the point where ‘stopping clapping’ gets you sent to a prison camp, but being ostracised for leaving a party that has left you behind (or not showing enough enthusiasm), is in the same vein.*

Unfortunately, b/c people hear so little about 3rd parties the Republicans are going to be the primary beneficiaries of this shift. Even though, belief-wise many of these people will feel more comfortable with the Libertarians. (Maybe a few will like the Greens, but many of the “Far Left” ideas making people uncomfortable are already part of the Green Platform).   It might be that the people who walk away can eventually bring in more of their Centrist Ideas into the Republican party but that will take time and people will not be satisfied at first.

 

*Note: Look at Evergeeen college and what happened to the professor there who thought one of the events had gone to far.

The Frugal Gym (1st Steps (over and over))

So a few months ago, I finally cancelled by membership in “SportCity” not because of any issue with them, but because I didn’t use it enough to justify the cost.   (The money then went as an extra payment towards my mortgage).

I was able to figure out ways to get a workout at home with hardly any expense. (There are a few things I use to help (see below)).

Instead I started doing very simple and inexpensive things at home.  (Of course use common sense when working out (talk to doctor before starting ,etc), this is mostly what has worked for me):

Walking the Stairs

[This is my original, activity]

Our house has 2 stories (plus a built out attic),  it is a Dutch house so they are a little steeper than American Houses.  (It is not as steep as some of the houses you find in Amsterdam).

I when I get up… I simply set a 10 (now higher) timer on my iPhone and then…… go back and forth between the ground floor and the floor above … for the full 10 minutes.

When I originally started doing this…. it was hard.  (Yeah I was in such <sarcasm>great </sarcasm> shape, also it might be easier in a US House).

Making it Easier

So walking up and down the Stair for 10+ minutes, can be boring easier.  To help the time pass easier, I will usually listen to last nights news cast. (Time difference with the US means its on at midnight my time).

Tracking it

Many years ago I had a problem with tachycardia (basically my heart rate would shoot up to 150+ unexpectedly*), so I want to keep track of what my heart is doing. It also give me a good idea of the intensity of the workout.  So originally I used a Bluetooth Chest Strap Heart Monitor, which I had bought many years ago.

During the work out pair the monitor with my iPhone and use a program called “Polar Beats” (Polar makes a lot of the fitness equipment at the gym, the more modern equipment also supports Bluetooth allowing the heart monitor to link to them at the gym).   This tracks my activity and allows tracking your workouts.  Looking at the PolarFlow website, I can see that last week I worked out for just over 3 hours and burned 2182 Kcal. (I’ve obviously gone beyond the 10 minutes, I initially suggested).  The program will work with most bluetooth heart monitors and even an Apple Watch.

Also during the workout, if I see that my Heart Rate is too high, (The “Maximum” gets lower as you get older 🙂 ) I can taken a quick breather.

Results

I did notice a few benefits, mostly in weight. I dropped from about 107 kilo to 103 Kg. (Almost 9 pounds, all of the scales here are in Kilo “for some strange reason” 🙂 ).

My wife also started commenting that my posture improved and  looked much better.

Also, my wedding ring started slipping off of my finger, so I moved it to a bigger one.

Misc

I also started trying to walk stairs in my daily activity. (i.e taking the stairs at the Metro Station instead of the escalator and maybe 1x a day taking the stairs to the office at work (11 stories), that is tedious. (I need to be more diligent on both of these)

The chest strap worked well, but it was kinda annoying to put on/take off, etc.  So last week I went and bought a Polar OH1 Optical Heart Monitor. (Yeah I know the title says “Frugal” but this is optional, and it was a 1 time expense (vs the gym which is every month)). The OH1 goes on your arm is much easier to put-on/take-off, it can also be worn, more comfortably, for a longer period of time than the just strap. (One thing to be aware of, is the battery on the OH1 lasts for only abut 12 hours, so when done just plop it in its recharging cradle).

Disclaimer

Before staring working out be in good health and get permission from your doctor.

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The Forgotten Asterisk *

So in the last post I put a few Asterisks in.  This asterisk was referring to attitudes and beliefs which lead to the Dark Side.

When I refer to leading to the Dark Side, I’m referring to something thing may make sense or may seem like a habitual reaction, these can feed into a a downward spiral of increasing negative emotions and outcomes:

  • Resentment and Envy
  • An attitude of powerlessness, dependency
  • Anger
    • Both inside and outside
    • And spreading it to  others
  • Distraction

The reason I keep alluding to the Star Wars concept of the the “Dark Side” is because (too me) it is a simple concept of how one can become lost by and powerless from these Emotions and getting lost.

Actions, Attitudes vs Things

So when I was young I remember watching TV and there was a new story about a “Gun Buy Back Program” (as well as lauding its ‘success’), being young I really didn’t think about it more than “that’s interesting” or “cool”.  The story/narrator  made the simple association that Guns where bad and hence getting rid of them would make the world better.

(I’ll circle back to this later, but this idea is so intertwined with the issues of the world, from concrete issues like the “War On Drugs”, to the more philosophical points of the “Politics of Blame”).

Back to the original point,  many decades later, I’m sitting in the apartment where I was renting a room, in Amsterdam and watching the BBC.  They are covering a “KNIFE BUY BACK PROGRAM” (in response to violent crime).

Although I had already become aware of this, it farther cemented my understanding that:  It is peoples attitudes and beliefs which causes them to commit crime. The absence of guns, knives or even baseball bats will not solve crime, in order to solve the problems of violence people must change their behaviors and beliefs.

Responding with anger, believing they are powerless, blaming others, looking on the outside, all of these*  perpetuate the Suffering (include Crime and Violence).  Because of the way the media/society is programing people they are buying into this feeling of powerlessness and responding with anger (Or worse encouraged to respond with anger and outrage).

Take a breath, practice mindfulness, meditate, and look at problems from all sides.  If you practice these things in moments of peace, they will become more automatic, especially  when there is not peace.   And realize that things are not the problem it is attitudes.

 

Stop Spammers Plugin

I’ve added the “Stpop Spammers” plugin.

The (Losing) Game of Blame

One of the problem with Modern Society and Politics is The Game of Blame. When you play that, everyone looses.

Its possible to see the game of blame in everything from Politics, to our own Social interactions and even self talk. Its tendrils feed many other negative emotions and attributes:  envy, prejudice, denial, anger, feelings of helplessness, apathy, anti-scoail behavior, violence, etc.

 

About this point I imagine a Yoda voice saying, something like:

Blame leads to powerlessness, powerlessness leads to anger, anger leads to the Dark Side

Blame’s head has popped up through out History and is visible in Modern Conflicts and Failure.

Unfortunately when it raises its ugly head, it distracts people from actual solutions or worse (and more commonly) it gets channeled into the wrong direction.  (In politics this maybe deliberate)

There are so many ways blame fits into the World…. there is both a Macro and Micro level.  At the Macro Level it has/is hurting Civil Society and the Micro (or individual) Level it hurts the person.  In both it interferes with Success, Growth, Health and Happiness.

Today, blame at the Macro level can be seen being used by BOTH sides of the political spectrum.

Lets Blame High unemployment….;
The violence in this community is because……..
The Economy is in tatters because………
Our Social Programs are failing because…..
I’m not succeeding because……

At the Micro Level, it can be seen as the inability to let go, holding onto resentments, holding onto negative patterns, and not advancing. (It may be that one needs to seek professional help with this).

How to respond

I’m not an expert.  So many times its easy to diagnose a cause of the problem than to actually provide a solution.  I know when I was younger and more depressed, it was so easy for me to blame others and not look at myself.  (Some of those people where at fault and where evil, but also there where factors affecting other interactions. Hopefully now I can come at it with more equanimity).  I’ve come across many different ideas here are a few ideas/pointers/resources that might be relevant:

God Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The Courage to change the things I Can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference

Understand as much of the problem as possible, it may be you come to a realization about what is actually happening and how to respond better. (While doing this breath and stay calm).

Understand what is under your area of influence.  (Screaming about something you have no control over, will just make cause more stress and hurt your Serenity).  (Where do you have power?)

A few days ago I made a post on the book “Who Moved My Cheese” .  Its simple but powerful parable, in that story the issue is change (1 character is stuck in blame and another moves on).  I’d strongly recommend reading this.

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