Guest Post by Damon Dietz It’s 9:13pm on a Tuesday evening , and I finally have some peace and quiet to myself. The kids are in bed, and I plop down on my couch to watch a new episode of Breaking Bad. Suddenly, my cell phone vibrates with an alert from my bank. Yep, it’s another alert about an insufficient funds fee. That’s the third this month. I thought to myself, “What’s the point of having a budget? It doesn’t even work.” Fast forward a decade later, and I finally understand that is wasn’t the budget that was failing, it was me that was failing at sticking to the budget. Learning how to budget can be a tough task, and most budget fails because of three common reasons; unrealistic projections, not putting it in writing, and quitting too soon. Unrealistic Expectations So many people just pull numbers out of thin air when developing a budget. “I think I spend about $300 a month on groceries,” is something I have heard often when helping single dads with their budgets. No. Just no. Go back over the previous three months worth of bank statements and/or credit card bills and add up all your supermarket expenses. Then average those months to find out an actual depiction of what you spend monthly on groceries. You need to do this for all categories on your budget. Some items, known as fixed expenses (rent, mortgage, car payment, etc) will not change, but you need to concern yourself with the variable expenses, the ones which will change month to month (groceries, eating out, clothes, frivolous Amazon purchases, etc.). Once you have done this, you can set some realistic expectations on your budget. Not Putting It In Writing Once you have your expectations set, you should put everything in writing. A written budget will keep you on route to success and also help you to decide how and where your budget should be updated. Never underestimate the importance of declaring your goals in writing. Once you write your budget, it becomes real and more importantly, attainable. Quitting Too Soon I can’t tell you how many times in life I quit at things that were important to me. I quit numerous times when trying to lose weight . I quit when trying to save money. And I quit my budget many times as well. I quit because I got discouraged, which is understandable. But, the sooner you stop quitting, the sooner you will accomplish the particular goal or task. When I finally decided to stick to my budget, no matter how discouraged I become, I eventually succeeded. Look at it this way… let’s say you planned a family vacation to Niagra Falls. You are nearly halfway there, and you realized that you drove 20 miles off route. Do you turn around and go home? I certainly hope that’s not your first thought. Why then, after having one bad month with your budget, do you decide to throw in the towel? Stick with it. Just like anything else in life, you will get better with practice. Don’t quit. You and your budget will be better off for it. Bio Damon Dietz is a writer, filmmaker, and professional speaker, who shares his knowledge of finance, health, and life from the perspective of a single, divorced dad over 40. He is a father to three amazing kids and thinks dads are kick-ass, even when the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots. You can read more of his musings at: www.damondietz.com
As #mentalhealthawarenessweek continues, let’s talk about the most common mental health issue, #stress. I’m guessing we’ve all felt it at some point. Maybe just before that important meeting or when we look at the To Do list and wish for more hours in the day. Short burst of stress are fine. Our bodies’ react by releasing hormones like adrenaline to help us cope. These hormones are efficiently used as we react and we soon return to normal. But, they are created in the same way and in the same quantity regardless of whether the event is real and happening now, are an imagined worse case scenario of the future or a memory of the past. When there is no action the hormones have no use and nowhere to go, and that has a dramatic and detrimental affect on health. If stress continues over a prolonged period it affects everything from our mood to our immunity. Our #mentalhealth plummets and our physical health soon follows, to potentially dangerous degrees. So, what can we do? There are many techniques that can help, but today is World Meditation Day. If you’re anything like I was you may dismiss #meditation as a load of old baloney. It was only when I swallowed my pride and tried it that I discovered how simple yet and powerful it is. Why not give it a go? Today is a good day to start.
Wellness? Well that’s for women isn’t it? What’s that got to do with men? Real men don’t take classes on breathing, practice yoga in Lycra or do that silly mindful meditation stuff. Well maybe they should. Studies show that more men than ever are breaking down physically, mentally or both. Men are falling apart. So, what are we men doing about it? Unfortunately, studies show not a lot. We have a lot to benefit by taking our wellness seriously. We don’t need to go to a retreat in the middle of nowhere, drink only “out of the ground” water, eat leaves and sit chanting with our eyes closed, but we do need to do something if we are going to be the best we can be. Let’s start our wellness journey by covering three areas - fitness, diet and thoughts. Fitness It’s fine for a male to be lean and fit, the threat of ridicule is minimal. Where you begin depends on where you are. If you consider yourself to be reasonably fit do more, do it more regularly or add other workouts to your current routine. If fitness is all completely new, or if you haven’t done anything for a long time, start simple. Walk more. Go for a stroll at lunchtime. The exercise and fresh air will provide a welcome relief from the pressures of the workday. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator (I mean up!) Do anything that quickens your heartbeat and shortens your breath, but do it more frequently. And yes, I do include a ‘bedroom workout’ so long as it’s with someone else. Lift some weights. Studies show that as we age our muscle deteriorates more rapidly placing more pressure on our joints and bones and reducing our ability to burn fat. You don’t need to lift like Arnie, but incorporate some resistance training into your workout and you’ll feel the benefits. Diet Of course what you eat and drink is also important. Many men are put off healthy eating by the thought of having to spend a lifetime in the kitchen preparing and cooking fresh ingredients. “When am I going to do that?” Make time and make it fun. I know loads of men who love rustling things up in the kitchen. They treat is as an art or a time to de-stress. It doesn’t have to take ages. Smoothies and omelets are simple to make and can boost your inner health massively. Men of a certain age are renowned for silly behavior during the midlife crisis. So why not make it more productive for you by moving more and eating better? A slimmer waist and more muscular definition are a much better way of dealing with ageing than dyeing your hair or buying a flash watch or car. The Mind But it’s not just about the body, it’s the mind too. Men of all walks of life and across a wide span of age groups are increasingly becoming depressed. Negative self-talk in all its guises takes us down into a spiral of depression. If you’re not ready to talk to someone about it yet, read a book or listen to a podcast. I’ve learned a lot from authors such as Tony Robbins. It’s not only helped me tackle negative thinking, but also encouraged me to set and reach bigger goals than I thought I could ever achieve. Opening up can be difficult, but one place you can do this is in the world of social media. There are loads of closed Facebook support groups that can help. You’re safe in these. Nothing is public. It can be your little secret. You’ll soon discover you’re not alone and you’ll be able to get advice, help and support from a network of strangers who’ve gone through exactly what you’re going through. A Well Life The world is changing and many men are struggling to come to terms with their role in it. Taking care of yourself should be your first priority but unfortunately it rarely is. It’s time we men took more responsibility and started to treat ourselves as our number one priority. We can’t do much for others if we’re not in a fit physical and mental state to do so.