Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Looking forward and looking back: A FutureMe letter from September 1, 2020

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As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I write myself an email the first of every month to be delivered to me a year later. Occasionally, I’ll write a FutureMe email with another interval — for example, when I’m facing a move and worrying about all that might go wrong, I’ll write one to be delivered a few months after Move Day. Then I’ll have moved and settled in, and I have the pleasure of seeing how groundless were my worries. And sometimes I’lll write an email to be delivered in a few years — for example, my predictions regarding how well some president might do.

I received a fairly long letter this morning from 9/1/2020. In it I wrote about my resolutions regarding habits I was establishing, and as I look back at the past year from today, I see clearly how establishing new habits involves what should be viewed as practice attempts but often are seen as failures. In the letter I wrote about resolutions regarding diet, exercise, and finance, and though for some the year was spotty, this past month I feel I’ve corralled all three.

Diet was the easiest. That was mainly a matter of cutting out too-frequent deviations from the diet and establishing a new pattern of eating, which I set out in that letter and is now an established habit — see the Update in this post.  So I’m chuffed that in the past year I’ve stuck with the new meal plan to the point that now I don’t even think about it — it’s just the way I eat.

Exercise took longer to get established, but in late July I took another run at it, going out early morning for a Nordic walk, six days a week. I’ve worked up to a daily walk that lasts at least an hour (3.4 miles) and often about 15 minutes more (4.1 miles). I now readily exceed Cooper’s recommended minimum of aerobic points. My average for August was 39.8 points per week, and that included ramping up gradually to an hour (or more), so September’s weekly average should be better.

Finance reform was hardest — I had to break bad habits solidified over many years — but I kept working at it — practice gradually can eliminate flaws in technique — and finally figured it out. The key elements for me were:

  1. I built my budget on 95% of take-home pay, not 100%. Unexpected expenses occasionally arise. For example: my La-Z-Boy recliner will be repaired on Friday: $150 labor charge (parts covered by lifetime warranty).
  2. At the beginning of the month my monthly income arrives in my checking account, and except for the amount budgeted for day-to-day spending (groceries, miscellaneous, and discretionary), I immediately move the money into my savings account and park it there.
    When I have to pay a bill, that money then comes from savings, not from my weekly day-to-day money in checking. I pay bills with Visa and then immediately pay the charge — by a transfer from checking if it’s a grocery bill or other day-to-day expense, and by a transfer from savings if it’s anything else.
    Thus the day-to-day budget never has to take a big hit — those bills are covered by money I already transferred to savings. And my Visa balance hovers right around zero.
  3. With all the big bills covered by money transferred to Savings, I can focus my attention on remaining strictly within my weekly allotment for grocery, miscellaneous, and discretionary. Staying within budget each week results in staying within budget each month. Today is 1 September and I have money still remaining from my August allotment for G&M and Discretionary, and my Savings account is flush with money for non-daily expenses as they arise.

So reading that letter from a year ago — where I set out what I was going to work on in the coming year — provided a good chunk of satisfaction to begin the day. Tonight I’ll write an email to myself to be delivered September 1, 2022, where I’ll write down new goals for the coming year.

Update a year later: September 1, 2022: Diet is still on track, and indeed I now build a meal that’s Daily Dozen compliant without having to think about it — this meal, for example, I made and then only after the fact noted its Daily Dozen profile. So diet continues to be in good hands. I now routinely ferment vegetables and always have some in the freezer — today, in fact, I’ll be finishing and bottling a batch of fermented pepper sauce made from cayenne peppers.

And finances also are doing even better as I continued to learn and refine the procedure. I am limited on the number of free transactions I can do from checking, so what I now do is to transfer from savings the month’s budgeted amount for daily expenses and put it into the Visa account. The Visa account then has a balance in my favor of the month’s budget for Grocery & Miscellaneous and for Discretionary purchases, and I whittle it down during the month.

And I learned to focus on the week rather than the month. I found I could easily meet my budget goal for a week — and meeting each week’s goal resulted in meeting the month’s goal. When my Social Security and pension check arrive, they automatically are deposited into my checking account, and I transfer that full amount into savings (thus repaying the daily expense money that I had transferred from savings to Visa plus also putting into savings the money for future expenses). Thus the checking account is almost totally inactive and incurs no costs (nor do savings or Visa).

Any large recurring expense I pay from savings — I may pay from Visa, but I immediately transfer that amount from savings to Visa, since savings is where I stash money for large recurring expenses.

The one area where I need to resume: exercise. I was doing well when things went south and I had to have a pacemaker installed. That resulted in a six-week interruption in walking and I’ve had trouble resuming the habit. This note from a year ago motivates me to get going. I’m going to make a daily walk a priority again again, beginning today.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 1:34 pm

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