Category Archives: motivation

Finished my first half marathon!

Over the weekend I ran in the GoodLife Fitness Half Marathon in Victoria. A few people have been asking how it went, so I thought I should write a short recap of the race! If you’re not into running, well, then… just skip this post I guess. :)

Most of you know that I have been training for this run since April (aside from the month of July, which I had to take off for medical reasons). About 6 weeks ago, I injured my foot during field hockey practice. It was quite uncomfortable to run distances or play field hockey with so many quick side-to-side movements, so I had been taking it easy. And that made me preeeeeetty nervous for this race.

Publicly, my goal was to run the 21.1km in less than 2 hours, but secretly my goal (before injuring my foot) was around 1:52 or 1:53.

2013 Victoria Goodlife The morning of the race, I was out the door by 6:30am and in my corral by 7am for the 7:30am start time. It was cold, and I was even more nervous than before. My parents came to watch the beginning of the race. It was nice to have them there, since I was running solo – and my dad seemed really happy. It has been a long time since he’s been able to run (due to health issues), but he used to be a marathoner… and he’s one of the main reasons why I decided to start running this year. :)

I strategically positioned myself in the middle of the 2:00 and 2:15 corrals, thinking that 1) I would get more motivation by passing a ton of people during the first 20-30 minutes of the race, and 2) I wasn’t even sure how fast I could run. This was a dumb move. It was so crowded that it was really hard to pass people during the first few kilometers, and as a result my first few kilometres were a slog – running 25-30 seconds slower per km than my race pace.

Once I got going though, I clipped through the first hour and felt great. I was running at a pretty fast pace compared to my long training runs (the first 10km clocked in at 54:02), but I wasn’t tired so I kept going.

2013-10-13 09.48.27Then I died at the 17km mark. In my head, I was cursing myself for not training more (and not running faster during the times I did train). The next 2 km were really difficult, and I ran them close to 20 seconds slower than my previous pace. But once I hit the 19km mark, I knew I had to go for it. I would hate myself if I didn’t give it all that I had. So I pushed for the finish.

The next two kilometres were slightly slower than my earlier race pace, but still faster than the last difficult ones – and my final kilometre was my fastest of the race – proving that I either have a really good finishing kick, or I have no idea how to pace myself. :| Something to work on, for sure.

Overall, I was pleased with my final time of 1:54:31 (5’26″ km pace), but I know I could have run faster. There were four very clear kilometres where I faltered (1, 2, 17, 18). Had I run those at race pace, I would have hit my secret goal time. This gives me a solid goal to work towards.

2013-10-13 09.56.17Running has always been a secondary activity for me; something to help me get better at field hockey, or something I randomly did on a treadmill at the gym. But now? I can’t believe that I actually enjoy it – the long runs, especially. It’s calming and competitive at the same time.

This race cost me $65, plus $31 in ferry costs and countless hours of my time over the past 4 months. But it was worth every penny, and I can’t wait for my next half marathon in 5 weeks. And as for next year’s GoodLife race? Bring on the marathon. :)

Do you talk openly about money with friends?

I asked this question last week, and it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. To me, it seems like 20 or 30-somethings are more open to talking about finances than older generations – like our parents or grandparents. Why is that? Why have we all of a sudden gone from shying away from a taboo subject, to talking so openly about it? How come in the 6.5 years I’ve been blogging, the personal finance blogosphere has exploded?

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I think it has a lot to do with the internet. Your voice has more reach online, and it’s way less intimidating to talk about things that might otherwise be awkward. Take me, for example. When I was getting out of debt, I was too embarrassed to go to my parents, friends, or boyfriend for advice. Instead, I turned to the internet. And soon after I discovered personal finance sites, I became a blogger myself. It’s difficult talking about failures – especially when it came to money – and I really wanted people to hear my story: a normal person, with a normal salary, dealing with student and credit card debt. I’m not unique, but maybe think that’s the point. I know I personally don’t want to hear about exceptional stories all the time, because they’re hard (if not impossible) to duplicate. I want to hear about normal people succeeding; digging out of debt, saving money, and living a comfortable life – that’s what I can relate to. I cannot relate to someone who makes my entire annual salary in a month, and spends thousands of dollars a month of clothing, dining out, and other luxuries. :)

For 20 and 30-somethings, most of us have been in debt before, and most of us have struggled with our money at some point in our lives. And I feel like maybe it’s that commonality that brings this generation closer together and more willing to talk openly about how we can improve our situations. Since money is so closely tied to success in our society (whether that’s right or wrong is another topic), it seems easier and less intimidating to talk about it when it seems like everyone is going through the same sorts of problems.

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All of this information we are sharing is great, but being so open can have a negative impact as well. It’s extremely hard not to compare yourself with your peers, or those success stories. And if you’re online looking at someone’s financials, or talking about them over a cup of coffee, it can be easy to get discouraged.

Even now, I can get caught up in feeling down about my situation. While my blogging friends are making $10,000 in advertising, or climbing up to a $1 million net worth, or earning $250,000/year, I should be inspired by their success! I remember once dating someone who was so put together and so successful, that I felt completely useless in comparison. He willingly shared details about his mortgage, his job, and his investing strategies – not to brag, but just in normal conversation. Yet, in all of these cases – whether it’s blogger friends or real life friends – I find I’m often left feeling a little inadequate because I’m not doing what they’re doing.

But, we can’t compare ourselves to others. There will always be someone more successful, richer, better looking, etc. than you, and if you keep focusing on what you lack (instead of what you have) you’ll be a pretty unhappy person. The only comparison that’s fair is you, and we all know that, right?

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However, I do think all of this openness with our finances has changed us for the better. I know that had I not found the online personal finance community, I doubt I’d be where I am today. Sharing ideas is always better than hoarding them, right? But will we become so open that nothing is off limits? Will so much information just confuse and overwhelm us? It’s really hard to say how all this will affect our generation in the long run.

Do you think being more open about our finances is helping us change for the better?

How open are you with friends and loved ones with your money?

How do you fight debt fatigue?

There are many different ways to get yourself out of debt – like creating multiple income streams, selling possessions, living below your means, and going without a lot of comforts you were used to. But when you change your life so drastically, at a certain point, you might start to get tired of concentrating so hard on your debt. This is called debt fatigue.

Debt fatigue is a mental state that can happen when you’ve been in debt for so long that you think you’ll never dig yourself out of the hole you’ve created for yourself. Financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade often tells people on her television shows to try and make a plan to get out of debt in 36 months or less – because anything more than three years, and you’ll likely suffer from some form of debt fatigue.

I was in debt for years – from age 19 to 24, but I only actively cared about eliminating my debt for 12 months. Near the end, I could feel myself slipping (and that was after less than a year!). I remember I was just a few thousand dollars away from being debt-free, and then I bought a $3,000 iMac computer. What? Yeah. I was sick of living such a limiting, frugal lifestyle, and it took a lot to remind myself of the path I was on, and how much better my life would be once I got out of debt.

Related: Can lifestyle inflation be avoided?

Being extremely money conscious all of the time can really put a strain on your quality of life. Because I never had a great relationship with money, once I got myself out of debt, I really struggled to find a balance between spending and saving. It took me a very long time to come up with a budget I could live with, and I still find it hard today – which is why I track my spending on a weekly and monthly basis here at GMBMFB.

So if getting out of debt seems impossible, and it seems like it’s too hard for you to deal with, don’t give up and revert back to your old spending habits. Here are some suggestions on how you can fight debt fatigue:

Keep in mind the big picture

It can be really, really easy to fall into the habit of feeling sorry for yourself when you’re on a strict budget. Especially when you find yourself working a part-time job on Friday and Saturday evenings, when you could be out with your friends instead – trust me, I’ve been there. I worked minimum wage jobs for years – it helped me get out of debt, and save for a down payment on my first home.

When you’re trying to get out of debt, holding onto the impression that you are depriving yourself will only bring you down and make it harder to stay on track. It helps to create a list of both short-term and long-term goals for your debt-free life. Then, whenever you start to feel yourself slipping, you can remind yourself of your goals, and how amazing it will feel once you achieve them.

Think of your debt-free life

Take a few minutes to think about what being debt-free will mean to you. Whenever I started to feel tired during my journey out of debt, I kept in mind all of the positives that were waiting for me once I got there – like sleeping better at night, being able to afford a vacation, owning a home in the future, starting a life with someone, and most importantly – freedom. Not having to stress out about where the rent money was going to come from, or how I was going to pay for groceries? That was something I was really looking forward to, and unfortunately, it’s something I sometimes take for granted now. It wasn’t that long ago where I had to shuffle money around just to make ends meet, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

Related: Would you ever date someone who had debt?

Reward yourself

It’s okay to celebrate financial milestones when you’re getting out of debt. Whether it’s paying off a credit card, or getting your total debt down to a certain threshold, make sure you give yourself a little bit of wiggle room to treat yourself – within your means, of course. I used to treat myself with ice cream cones. :)

Create visuals

What are your goals once you become debt-free? Many people are visually motivated, so creating a collage of photos or a vision board is a great way to stay on track. Social media websites like Pinterest and Trippy make it easy to save and share photos with friends. So whether you’re looking forward to a trip to Europe, owning a home, or starting a family once you get out of debt, start cutting out photos or pinning images of your goals.

Don’t beat yourself up

Nobody is perfect. So if you slip or make a mistake, the worst thing you can do is give up. Don’t wait until the following month to get back on track (I’m super guilty of waiting for a milestone to “start fresh” with my goals if I haven’t been doing well). Just pick yourself up, learn from your mistake, and keep going as quickly as possible.

Have you ever suffered from debt fatigue before?

You don’t have to travel when you’re young

I’ve always wanted to travel, but obviously since last year (age 29) was my first time overseas, it was never my first priority. I wanted to clear my debt first, build up a savings cushion, learn how to spend responsibly, get comfortable with having a budget, and have some sort of financial stability before I could even begin to think about traveling the world.

When I was younger, many of my friends went traveling. I was extremely jealous of their experiences, but not of the fact that they racked up credit card debt, ignored student loan payments, and came back home to a financial mess. Now that I’m able to afford to travel, almost none of my friends can because they’re too busy paying for the life they led 10 years ago.

venice03And that’s fine by me, because I personally think I’m appreciating travel more now, than I would have when I was younger. For one thing, I can afford it. Sure, I still stay in hostels most of the time and travel on the cheap. But I can afford to do amazing things as well – like hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, hiking in the Arctic Circle, taking a gondola ride in Venice, and eating real, proper meals in restaurants if I want to – without any of it having a major impact on my budget.

The few times I traveled when I was younger? It was rough staying within such a tight budget. Especially since “budgeting” was a foreign concept to me anyway. I still have very vivid memories of taking a $80 Greyhound bus ride to Anaheim when I was 18 years old, and eating cold Chef Boyardee in our motel room because it was all we could afford. Being older and knowing how to manage my money appropriately makes traveling a lot less stressful. And maybe even more enjoyable?

There’s so much emphasis on traveling when you’re young. In fact, just a few days ago, someone pointed me to this article: 3 reasons to travel while you’re young. Basically the idea of the article is not to hold off on traveling. No matter what the circumstances, there will always be something to stop you. Here’s an excerpt:

Never were more fatal words spoken:

  • Yeah, but… what about debt?
  • Yeah, but… what about my job?
  • Yeah, but… what about my boyfriend (or dog or car or whatever)?

Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job and traveled still did those things — eventually. Be careful of the yeah-but. The yeah-but will kill your dreams.

The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it. Do this while you’re still young. Do not squander the time. You will never have it again.

I get the message behind what he’s saying: don’t be scared, just go for it. But to put a time limit on travel – to say that you should do it while you’re still young (what’s wrong with doing it when you’re 30, or 40, or 60?) – to contemplate forfeiting all other life goals… well I think that’s a bit foolish. And it’s the reason why I don’t read many travel blogs. It’s like if you don’t travel often (or at all, even though you want to) because you have other priorities in life, all of a sudden you’re uncultured, boring, and basically dismissed. Not saying all travel blogs are like that, but some are. That’s probably why I’m a better fit as a personal finance blogger, than a travel blogger. :)

And it leads to comments and sentiments like this:

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To even suggest that going into debt in order to travel will enrich your life? Or that you should travel instead of taking care of (high interest) debt? Come on. Let’s be real here. Perhaps it’s because I’m a personal finance blogger, but I think that’s the dumbest piece of advice I’ve ever heard. Traveling doesn’t automatically make you better, smarter, or more cultured than anyone else. It also doesn’t make you more interesting either. Life experiences do – and it doesn’t matter if you gain those experiences working a 9-5 job, raising children, getting out of debt, earning an education, or traveling.

421984_10150572636880248_507680247_9549546_1086526455_nI had coffee with a friend a friend last week, and we got to talking about my year in Germany. She said the one thing she really regretted was not spend time living abroad somewhere during her life. I gave her a weird look and said, “your life isn’t over just because you’re 30, you know.” She gave me an equally weird look back and I immediately knew she hadn’t even considered living abroad now that she was “old.” There are plenty of opportunities to travel and live abroad at any age. And of course it’s true you will experience things differently when you’re young. But who’s to say whether that experience will be better or worse than going 10 or 20 years down the road?

I guess my point is that I don’t think anyone should regret not traveling when they’re young. Not everyone can. Or wants to. If you have debt to take care of, a career to think about, family obligations, or any other reason that would prevent you from packing your bags – guess what? The world will still be around to explore after you’re 20′s. :) And maybe, MAYBE it just might be better that way.

So travel when you’re young. Travel when you’re old. It doesn’t matter. Travel if that’s what you want to do in life. Or don’t. Just don’t go into debt to do it, and don’t get pressured into stretching yourself thin just because you feel the need to experience or see something by a certain age.

Do you think it’s essential to travel when you’re young?

How many hours did you work to buy that?

A few weeks ago, I blogged about considering the cost-per-use for items that you buy. As most of you know, with the cost-per-use concept, you take the purchase price of an item, and divide it by how many times you think you will use it. For example, when I buy a pair of black flats for work, I will likely wear them 3 times per week, for 2 years. So (52 weeks) x (2 years) x (3 wears per week) = 312 times before I buy a new pair. If my shoes cost me $75, that’s about $0.24 per use.

Another way to help you determine whether something is worth buying or not, is to figure out how many hours you will have to work to purchase that item. It can be a serious eye opener. I used this approach a lot when I was a teenager making $8 an hour. When I realized I would have to work two full days in order to pay for a university application fee, I asked for my hours to be increased. And when I broke a heel on a pair of boots, I calculated that it would cost me 12.5 hours of work just to replace them – so I spent the equivalent of one hour of work getting them repaired instead.

Today, I use the same method when I’m thinking about buying a big-ticket item. For example, in 2011 I worked approximately 60 hours each week (60 hours x 52 weeks = 3,120 hours total). I earned around $80,000, which means my hourly salary (before tax and deductions) was $25.64. After tax, my true hourly wage was around $18. So when it came time to making the decision to get adult braces, the $6,980 price tag meant that I would have to work 387 hours just to pay for them – or nearly 6.5 weeks. Yikes.

I go out for lunch with co-workers almost every Friday. This costs me around $10. After taxes, my true hourly wage is around $23. Which means I have to work less than 30 minutes to pay for that meal. To me, it’s worth it.

My mortgage is $1,070 per month, which ends up being about 46.5 hours – or less than 1 week of work for me, after taxes. That’s also worth it.

Then there was a gorgeous dress I saw online at Anthropologie, but it was $300. And as much as I loved it, I couldn’t justify the 13 hours of work it would cost to pay for a dress.

You get the idea. Obviously this method, much like the cost-per-use method, has its pros and cons. But I really do find it helpful to break down how many hours I have to work for something to see if it’s worth it.

So the next time you have a few minutes, take into consideration your wants vs. needs. How much of what you are spending on a regular basis is on needs – like groceries, rent, insurance, and utilities? And how many hours are you actually working each week just to pay for the stuff that you want?

Asking yourself these questions is important, and taking the time to calculate how many hours you have to work to afford something is a really great exercise in the value of a dollar. A dinner out with friends every week might not seem like a big splurge, but if you’re making minimum wage, or you can’t pay your bills, or you are drowning in debt, or you’re working overtime just to make ends meet (so that you can continue buying stuff), maybe it’s a good time to evaluate what you can truly afford.

Is the lifestyle you’ve built for yourself worth the hours you put in?

Do you ever calculate how many hours you have to work to buy something?

Do you think it’s a valid method to evaluating purchases?

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