The 6 best changes I made in 2018

Monday, January 14, 2019

I made quite a few changes in the last year, mostly aimed at giving me more time to spend on the things that matter. Some of them seem obvious in hindsight, but some I really had no idea would make as big a difference as they did! Here are the six best changes I made in 2018.

1. Using YNAB to budget and track expenses

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We technically started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) at the end of 2017, but 2018 was the first full year we used it. I've talked about it before on the blog, but the general idea of YNAB is that you budget money you have right now, rather than budgeting money you plan on receiving at some point. So in the past I've estimated how much money we'll have in a month based on our expected paychecks, and then I budget that out. But Casey doesn't get paid until the end of January, so that money can't technically be spent earlier in the month. YNAB keeps you from spending theoretical money.

The best part of YNAB for me, though, has been how we've used it to save for things in the future. You can set up as many savings categories as you want. We have one for every trip we plan to take and every major purchase we plan to make. Then we set goal amounts for each one and as we budget our money YNAB indicates how much needs to go to each goal. It made a huge difference for buying things like Christmas gifts, travel, and furniture. I can't say enough great things about it!

2. Hiring a cleaning service

This was one of my goals for 2018, but I was a bit reluctant about it at first because of the added expense. Looking back, I can't believe how much time I've gained by outsourcing the majority of our household cleaning. My husband and I both work full time, and I was spending most of my weekends trying to keep the house clean rather than spending time with our daughter. We started using a maid service every other week in January, and it has given me SO much precious time back to spend with my family! I can't really say enough about the positive effects of this decision. I know it's not a financial option for everyone, but if you are in a position to get some help with this one area in life, DO IT.

3. Using Hello Fresh on a weekly basis


This one was actually a big surprise to me - mostly because Hello Fresh is NOT cheap. We get three meals a week (two servings each, although we typically have leftovers for one) and it's $60 a week. After we did a free week with a coupon code, we started ordering a box about every other week to save some money. But once we did that, I realized that not only was I saving a ton of time by not having to plan our meals for the week, but I was also actually saving money on groceries. This sounds counterintuitive, but it's just the way it has worked out. Now we order Hello Fresh every week, and then we end up spending about $80 more on the rest of our groceries from Walmart grocery pickup (this includes food and household items). $140/week is an improvement for us on groceries, and we're eating out less than before because the decision about what we're eating has already been made!

A few more things I love about Hello Fresh:
  1. The food is SO GOOD. We've had dozens of HF meals now and there have maybe had 2-3 that we didn't love. (Favorite meal so far: Korean Beef Bibimbap!)
  2. There are a lot of choices, and you get to select the meals you want for each week. 
  3. There are always plenty of vegetarian options. We almost always get at least one.
  4. The food is really unique. We use HF to try types of food we haven't had before - and have discovered we love Korean food! :)
  5. You can skip as many weeks as you want. So if we're going to be out of town one week, I just skip that week and don't get charged. If you can't afford to do it every week, you can just skip every other week.
  6. I love knowing I'm not going to waste food, because each meal comes with exactly the right amount of each ingredient. So I don't have to buy a big container of something that I'll only end up using for one recipe.

4. Working out for the first time ever (!)

This is not an exaggeration - I've never worked out in my life! I never played sports, and as an adult gyms have always been really intimidating. I finally caved and tried a free class at Orangetheory with my friend Jen, and we've been going twice a week since!

A few things I love about Orangetheory:
  1. It's really hard, so I always feel really accomplished at the end. And I consistently burn 500+ calories per hour-long workout, making it always feel worth the effort.
  2. It's always a combination of workouts on the treadmill, rowing machine, and weight room, so I know what to expect. BUT the workout structure is never repeated, so I can never know exactly what to dread in class that day. :)
  3. It works well for me because there's a visible goal to reach. You wear a heart rate monitor and your stats are shown on a TV screen during the workout. It gives me something to focus on and work toward getting my splat points (number of minutes in certain target heart rate zones).
  4. Even though I'm not athletic and not in great shape, I don't feel awkward (most of the time, haha) because everyone's just focused on themselves. The coaches are really helpful, and there are videos in the weight room that play on repeat so you can watch how to do the exercises.
  5. You have to sign up for the class in advance. Once I do that, I feel obligated to attend it (and lose money if I don't). So it keeps me accountable.
It is ridiculously expensive compared to some other options, but it has worked really well for me and I'm really proud of myself for sticking with it (4+ months so far!). To me that is worth the cost! I have already improved significantly on the treadmill (initially was walking 4 MPH; now jogging at 6 MPH) and in the weight room (initially used 5 pound weights and now using 12-20 depending on the exercise!).

5. Going to the library

The library has been such a happy surprise for us this year. Our city just got a brand new library and it's beautiful! Finley loves the children's room (she's more interested in the magnetic blocks and computers than the books, ha!). And anytime Casey and I have a day off together we head to the library to read or to work. It has also really changed my reading life! The first half of the year I was checking out books digitally from the library, but once we started going in person, I started checking out physical books. You can put them on hold online and then just pick them up. I love getting an email from the library that says my book is waiting on me! We also use it to put children's books on hold for Finley too.

6. Watching less TV and reading more

I used to be a TV fanatic. I watched hours of TV a night and binged series on Netflix constantly. I have a bit of an obsessive personality. :)

This year I actually didn't actively choose to watch less TV; it just kind of happened. I found more joy in reading and it helped that my husband started reading a ton this year too. Now we watch one current show at a time (Survivor, Big Brother, or Amazing Race, whichever is on during the current season - so about an hour a week - 3 hours for BB). We do still watch some series on Netflix too, but only one at a time, and it takes us a while to get through them. (I'm not going to lie, we're working our way through the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions on Netflix right now and it makes me so happy.)

Reading more has probably been the most significant change for me in the past year and I'm so excited to continue in 2019!

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