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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Constant Vigilence

Posted by Dave on April 8, 2014

I like the phrase “Constant Vigilance”. I think I picked it up reading Harry Potter – one of the teachers named Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody says it all the time, and is essentially paranoid of everything that happens in the world. Well I’m not paranoid, I have to constantly look out for someone who is out to get me and foil most of my long-term plans when it comes to things about my personal finance plan, my health, or other goals…Me.

I was reading an article titled “The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational” which clarified the necessity of Constant Vigilance to me, specifically, the section around “Current Moment Bias”. Current Moment Bias is my nemesis. This way of thinking puts the onus of all problems onto the shoulders of “Future Dave”, to the benefit of current Dave. Current Moment Bias is the level of thinking that talks me into eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough), because “Future Dave” will be able to easily lose the added weight associated with the 560 calorie snack (yes, I looked it up after the fact).

Rationally, I know that I would prefer to not have eaten the ice cream a couple of days later when I step on the scale. The ice cream (or whatever other unhealthy food I ram into my face) is something that makes me feel like crap, and takes me further away from achieving the level of fitness I would prefer to have, and closer to not having the ability to leave the couch.

When it comes to my plan to retire early, Current Moment Bias could really inhibit my ability to meet the goals I’ve set out. I generally limit my impulse buys to minor things such as books or meals out – say 10 or 15 dollars a purchase, maybe once a week or so. These kind of things aren’t really going to matter too much in the long run. Spending erratically too often though, could add months or years to length of time I would have to work, which in the long-run isn’t what I want at all.

So, I attempt to stay “Constantly Vigilant”, while still having some fun. I don’t fret over the minor dalliances I have with bad food, or bad spending. I just try to have my current self pull its own weight in my long-term plans – it removes a level of unnecessary stress from my life. I don’t like checking my bank balance and being $100 poorer than I thought I was with no real enjoyment to show for it, the same way I don’t like to have to work to lose 5 pounds gained eating three times as much ice-cream or pizza or Chinese food as I actually needed to have.

I’m all for solving my own problems when it comes to money or health, but I would rather they didn’t arise because of decisions that my rational self wouldn’t have made.

Love Without Spending

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 14, 2014

So today is the big day to express your love for that special someone in your life and by now you have been reminded by a few thousands commercials that you should get them something.  So what am I buying my lovely wife of over 13 years of marriage?

Nothing.  Not one flower, chocolate, card, dinner out or movieUtterly nothing.

You see I realized something a while back.  If I only remember to express my love to my wife only one day a year, I would be divorced years ago by now.  So I don’t wait for a particular day to show her that I love her.  I tell her when ever it crosses my mind and I show it by daily displays of affection.

Yet it doesn’t stop there I’m also nice to my wife about the little things.  I’ll remember some days to bring her up her first cup of coffee so she doesn’t have to get out of bed.  I’ll fill her a wine glass without being asked or I’ll get something for the kids at supper so she can continue to sit down and enjoy her meal.  Or I’ll play with the kids so she can finish her book with only a chapter left.  These aren’t big things, but they mean something to her so I do them because I love her.

Another factor for both of us is we have never made a big deal out of Valentine’s Day.  It was never anything important to either of us growing up so we don’t make a big deal out it in our house.  Our kids won’t get any presents from us today, but they will have no doubt when they fall asleep that they are loved.  With every giggle, joke, touch, hug and kiss they are told repeatedly every day that we love them.

So yes, celebrate love, but don’t worry about the stuff unless if matters to your significant other. When in doubt, ask BEFORE that big day on what matters most and focus on that. Perhaps a single rose and you singing badly to their favorite song is more meaningfully than two dozen roses. Or instead focus on being nice and showing love daily, you might find that just pays off and they will even forgive the occasionally lapse of flowers. ;)


Posted by Dave on February 11, 2014

I had a very exciting December – I went on an all-inclusive vacation to Mexico for a week, then took part in several festive parties. From Festivus to other holiday gatherings and New Years, I over-consumed both alcohol and food at a volume that me 10 years and 60 pounds ago would have been proud of. I’m usually more of a “everything in regulation” sort of person, which allows me to maintain a healthy weight and hopefully good long-term health.

In late December, I read a small medical study (because that’s what I do), which took some sort of liver reading from casual drinkers at the beginning and end of a month. For the month in the study, the participants gave up alcohol of any kind. There was a significant improvement in most health markers over the study period, including significant declines in liver fat levels (which are an indication of liver health). After the December I had, I decided it would probably be beneficial health-wise to give up alcohol for the month.

I mostly drink at social occasions, besides the odd homemade beer I have on a weekend night, so giving up booze didn’t put a major cramp to my lifestyle (The dance clubs didn’t miss me and my one and only dance move – jumping vertically). I consumed more coffee, tea and pop on weekends, which I’m not sure is healthier, but got me through my month of sobriety.

Most of the year, my wife and I will go out a couple of nights a month for a few drinks and to grab some food at one of many local bars. This January was so cold, we seemed to have spent most of our free time holed up in our warm house being grumpy because our faces freeze off anytime we hit the open air.

Between the lack of going out, and the no-drinking, my spending plummeted to almost nothing, other than one tank of gas and the odd miscellaneous purchase, nothing really came up that cost me anything.

I’m not sure what my retirement is going to end up being, but I would say it’s probably closer to the “boring” January I had, rather than the exciting and expensive December. When January was done, I was (probably) healthier, and definitely lighter than when the month started. These days, in the middle of February, I’m starting to get cabin fever, counting off the days until I will be able to hit the golf course – or at least not have to wipe ice out of my beard from the walk into my office from the parking lot.

Have you had a no-spend or sober month?