Train Your Way to Financial Fitness Review - Journey to Saving

Are You Financially Fit?

Being a personal finance blogger, I can only hope I fit into the category of “financially fit!” Does that mean I’m absolutely perfect with my money, though? Nope. Most of us aren’t. We always have something to learn or improve on.

If I track my spending, make sure it’s in line with my goals, steadily pay down my student loans, and save on the side, where can I go wrong?

Perhaps you’re asking yourself the same question, especially if you’re a fellow PF blogger. But the truth is, money is complicated. While it may seem like we’re doing everything right on the surface, we need to take a deeper look at what’s going on below the numbers.

Train Your Way to Financial Fitness

Train Your Way to Financial Fitness Review - Journey to SavingWhen Shannon over at Financially Blonde kindly asked if we willing to review her new book, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness, I knew I was in for a treat. If you’ve never read Shannon’s blog before, you should (but after you finish reading this!). As a financial planner, she offers some of the most practical advice for getting control over your money.

This book is no exception. If you haven’t made the connection yet, throughout the book, Shannon uses easy fitness analogies to follow along with, including details of her own journey to get back to being physically fit. The book is a breeze to read, yet packed with “financial exercises” you can use to work your way to being in the best financial shape possible.

I am only going to cover the Financially Fit type here, but Shannon does go over Financially Skinny and Financially Fat in the rest of the book. You take a quiz at the beginning to see which type you are (Skinny = living paycheck to paycheck; Fat = over-spending). The book has three separate sections dedicated to each type with personalized advice for each. Shannon strongly believes there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach with finances, and I agree.

Financially Fit and Frugality

The words staring back at me in the first chapter really resonated with me. Shannon said the biggest issues that savers face are 1) spending money, 2) using credit, and 3) investing.

I can say I definitely have an issue with spending money! That sounds a little silly, doesn’t it? Well it’s not, and it’s a real problem for some people, including myself. I am constantly having internal battles over whether something is worth spending money on or not.

Let’s see what else Shannon has to say about this:

For whatever reason, you have always known that it is better to save than to spend. From an early age, you probably had no issue with staying at home on a Friday night rather than going out with friends if you didn’t have the money. Most Fit people experienced financial hardships at some point in their early lives, and those hardships left a lasting impression…

I think she pretty much nailed it right on the head there, at least for me. Do any of you feel similarly?

A Brief Story

I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I grew up watching my parents face their own struggles with debt. They were trapped under a small mountain of credit card debt, to be exact.

As a result, their stress and worry became mine. I was too young to fully understand what was going on at the time, but it did have a lasting impression, as Shannon said. I have never been okay spending my money freely. I have always been a homebody (though there’s nothing wrong with that!).

I’m still learning how to deal with this. I have saved up enough for both R and I to be okay in case something happened, but I am stuck with the feeling that it’s never enough. In turn, I have a difficult time parting with my money. I always wonder if it could have been put to better use elsewhere. And this is with any amount – not just large amounts.

Being Okay With Spending

The solution Shannon provides is to simply tell yourself that spending is okay. Nothing terrible is going to happen if you decide to splurge on something that will make you happy. The fear that something will happen is likely irrational, especially if you’re truly Financially Fit and have been saving for many years. I have to keep reminding myself of this!

Shannon shares a client’s story of how she decided to give in and go away on an international trip with her sister. She was against spending so much money at first, but when she arrived back from her travel, she was ecstatic that she went. It provided her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience. If she had insisted on not spending her money, she would have missed out!

If you spend your money on things that will bring happiness to yourself or others, chances are, you’re not going to regret it, and it will be money that is spent meaningfully. There’s truly nothing wrong with that, especially if you have the money sitting there.

I have personally found this to be true. Letting go just a little isn’t going to hurt you if you’re 100% on top of your finances. Shannon suggests planning for the spending or creating a separate “fun” account so that the money is clearly labeled for such use.

Even the most frugal people can think of things they would really like, whether it be a material item or an experience. Make a list, spend the money, and evaluate how you feel after making the purchase. It’s all about taking baby steps and feeling good after spending. Remember, you worked hard for your money, and it’s not doing anything for you sitting in an account.

Overall, I think the book is useful for everyone. Shannon uses many relatable analogies and breaks everything down. It’s not boring or dry by any means, and if you’re familiar with Shannon’s blog or style of writing, you’ll find the same consistency and flow in her book. At the very least, it makes a great present for anyone you know who might need a little help in getting Financially Fit!

Do you think you’re Financially Fit, Skinny, or Fat? Have you made the transition from one to the other? Do you ever struggle with spending money?

Choose Wealth! Be A Millionaire By Midlife: A Review

Many of us in the PF community are choosing wealth by making the conscious decision to save, earn more, and have our money work for us. Financial independence and early retirement are common terms that many of us take seriously. What about those that aren’t in our community, though? So many people are living life without the ultimate goal of saving. My own parents barely have enough saved up for retirement.

Choose WealthMarie Phillips, author of Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife (affiliate), and founder/blogger at Family Money Values, is trying to get the word out that achieving millionaire status IS possible, even for the average person. Her goal with this book is to help you avoid becoming part of the 75% of people who have less than $500k in net worth by the time they are 45.

In the PF world, we are surrounded by people with lofty savings goals. Many of those that I follow want to be millionaires like Marie. However, I don’t personally know any. Before blogging, I never had any aspirations like this. I thought I would live the same paltry existence as my family, albeit with more savings, but never amounting to such wealth. Through the words and examples of others, I have seen that this is very much possible! I get excited to think that at 40, I might have quite the stash of money built up. Before? I never gave it a second thought.

I really admire Marie for putting a book like this out there. Others deserve to have their eyes opened, too. I still get weird looks from my family when I tell them I have hopes of retiring early! No one else has done it, how will I?

The fact is that the journey is quite simple. Sure there are struggles, there are times we will want to give up, and there will be times when the light at the end of the tunnel is dim. It gets brighter with each step we take, though. I’ve outlined before the steps I want to take to reach financial independence. In her book, Marie provides a framework that anyone can use to start building their wealth.

Stop using excuses, anyone can do it

Marie starts off by asking the reader “what keeps you from being a midlife millionaire?” Well, if you’re already at the midlife point, it might be a little too late, but it’s never too late to start saving. Reflecting on the financial decisions you’ve made over the years is sure to provide you with some good insight.

Marie provides some common reasons as to why people think being a millionaire is unobtainable. She then goes on to list excuses that we’ve all heard (or even used) before. This was one of my favorite excuses – “I’m going to enjoy life while I’m young!”, or YOLO. What’s her response?

“Remember though, that all those brand name clothes, fine furnishings, cute little decorations, and fancy auto accessories will be dusty old unwanted things when you are in midlife. Things tend to accumulate in our lives and houses, crowding out enjoyment. Spend your youth wisely!”

A beautiful explanation as to why conscious spending is important. I always try and practice this, especially with big purchases. “Will I still want this in two years? Is this really going to bring me happiness past tomorrow?” I can look around our apartment and find more than a handful of wasteful purchases that I regret. Spend with purpose, ideally on things that will bring you closer to your goals.

Marie lists other excuses, each time showing that they’re nothing but a small roadblock. You can get over them if you want it badly enough. The average person does not think it is within reach, but it is, and Marie is here to tell them why.

Marie’s journey

I particularly enjoyed reading about the epiphany Marie had regarding her finances. I could certainly relate to her story. She “bumbled along” much of her early life, doing what everyone expected her to do. As a result, she was unhappy. Her husband was working 10 hours a day, watching the kids on the weekends while Marie worked a low paying job. In addition, her husband hadn’t received a raise in years, yet he continued to work hard.

Marie finally decided “I wanted more. I wanted more earning power, I wanted control over money and I wanted a better life.” And she took action. She began researching well paying careers, what she had to learn in order to perform the jobs, and realized she would have to go back to school. Her liberal arts degree wasn’t going to cut it.

What did she do? She obtained a license to have a day care in her home, and she stuck with it for three years until she had the money to fund her education. She attended class at night and on the weekends, while still watching her children during the day. Finally, after two years, she had earned her associate’s degree in data processing and landed a job after two interviews.

Marie made a better life for herself by working hard, and continued to work hard until retirement.

Framework for wealth

I’m going to quickly go through the chapters:

  • Dream big for the life you want. Marie lived this one, and is proof that if you want your dreams to come true, you have to work at it. Before, she was going through the motions, and realized that the life she was living was not enough. I have to admit, I’m not a huge dreamer. I very much related with her bumbling through life. I’ll have more on this in a future post.
  • Wake up and start your wealth engine. Here, Marie tells us why it’s important that we break the mold. Be the person we truly want to be, not who other people want us to be. It’s important to experience life in every capacity you can, otherwise you won’t know what’s out there waiting for you! This spoke to me as well. I’m an introvert, and I don’t like getting outside my comfort zone. That’s not going to get me anywhere, though. Marie also lists some fantastic resources in this chapter in regards to finding what you truly want to do in life.
  • Break your bottlenecks. What’s holding you back, and why?
  • Money-fy your life. One of my favorite chapters. Marie speaks a little on educating yourself about your finances, as well as talking openly about them. There are some great questions listed in this chapter that really make you think about your financial history and habits.
  • Leverage time and money. Simply put, if you’re not making enough, you might not be able to save enough. “If you keep letting that minimum wage job suck up your time, you will be treading water forever, never getting where you want to be.” Yet another chapter I enjoyed. I watched my mom do pretty much the same administrative job her entire life, with different institutions. While my mom was content with this, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted for myself. You have to have confidence that you are worth more; make yourself valuable.
  • Use the most powerful force in the world and Maintain hope. “Persistence.” Marie highlights this many times in Choose Wealth! Many of us know that the road to wealth is a long one. It’s a marathon, not a race. There’s not much in the way of instant gratification, and that’s a problem for some people. She lists a variety of ways to keep yourself motivated on your journey. Her next chapter ties into this, as it is crucial to maintain hope. There will inevitably be bumps along the road, and you must be able to keep your dreams in sight at those times. Don’t give up!
  • Find help. Marie talks about finding a millionaire mentor to help coach you along. Find inspiration in the stories of others. Those of us with blogs receive help when we need it in the shape of support and encouragement.

Conclusion

I hope by reading my review, you are inspired to check out Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife (affiliate). It’s a very easy read, and even though I’d like to become a millionaire by midlife and know how I want to get there, it was still very informative. I also think this would make a great gift for any high school or college graduate out there – quite timely, too. While this book is mainly aimed at the younger crowd, I think those in their 30s and 40s would benefit from reading it.

I was not compensated for this review. Marie offered me a copy of the book to review, and I sincerely enjoyed reading it.

Moto X Review (Republic Wireless)

I am back today with my Moto X review, which is the phone I chose when I made the switch to Republic Wireless. I came from having an iPhone 4S, so this review is going to consist of a decent amount of comparisons between the two phones and operating systems. I hope it’s helpful for those of you wondering about the quality of the phone, as I had some hesitation switching back to Android after experiencing iOS.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability.

Body of the phone

moto x reviewAs there are more varieties of phones coming out quarter after quarter, there are a lot of options out there to choose from. Before I had my iPhone, I had a Droid X. It was bigger than the iPhone, slightly narrow, and had a bump at the top. I wasn’t feeling it, plus the phone felt outdated with the Android operating system.

Upon viewing the iPhone in the store, I fell in love. iPhones are sleek; all Apple products have a certain appeal to them (in my opinion). So when I started researching Android phones, I was surprised to find quite a few that were stylish in their own way. The Moto X doesn’t fail on this front.

First, it has a gorgeous screen and display. Honestly, the small size of the iPhone had appealed to me after having a kind of clunky phone, but after seeing the Moto X, I knew it was time for a change. My iPhone, with a cover on it, actually fit inside my coworker’s Moto X – right on top of it! However, it’s very thin, and fits comfortably in the pockets of my purse. It actually gets lost inside my bag on a daily basis…

If you order from Republic Wireless, the only color choices that are available are black and white, similar to the iPhone. I like black, so that’s what I went with. While reading reviews, some people noticed that the back of the phones felt different depending on the color – the black was said to feel more solid. There’s a rubber backing, as well as a little indent for your finger to rest on while holding. It’s pretty comfortable, and I have small hands. It’s also very light.

Overall, I don’t think there’s a clear winner here. The only other thing I can think to note is that the Moto X has three on-screen buttons, instead of a physical button on the front, but they are easy to use.

Performance

A valid concern many users have is the performance of the phone. The iPhone is pretty fast, and coming from my older Android phone, it was a very welcome change! However, the Moto X has very decent specs, and I haven’t noticed it going any slower than my iPhone. It’s snappy and responsive, and I don’t find myself getting impatient with it very often.

As far as downloading things, I covered that in my previous post about the Republic Wireless service, as compared to Verizon.

I don’t run any intense applications on my phone, so I can’t really speak to that, but it runs simple games like Solitaire and Sudoku just fine. I utilize Feedly for my blog reading, and there are times where it freezes on me (where I never experienced issues on my iPhone), but it’s not a deal breaker.

Battery life is great – no complaints here. Depending on the day, I use my phone often at work, and by keeping the screen brightness low, it lasts the entire 8 hours. By the time I get home it’s around half.

Photos aren’t as great as they were with my iPhone. I was kind of disappointed in the camera quality, but I know some people don’t use their cell phones as their camera. Others want the convenience, though, and I like having the option. I haven’t really taken many pictures outside our apartment (which has bad lighting), but the ones I have taken inside have been a bit discolored.

The last thing I want to mention is that you cannot silence your phone, or change the volume, with the screen being locked. You must unlock it first. I got really used to having the little switch on the side of my iPhone, and the Moto X does not have that feature. In any case, there is a shortcut to silencing the phone, rather than holding the volume rocker down. Just hold the power off button, and along with the option to turn the phone off, you’ll have the option to silence it or put it back on sound.

Operating system

moto x reviewAndroid comes with more customization options available, as opposed to iOS. This was my biggest disappointment when switching over to the iPhone, but I got over it. I actually came to like the bubble home screen of the iPhone (and I think Android looks a bit messy now), but there are ways around that. You can install launcher applications to change the look of your phone. I downloaded “Nova Launcher” myself, simply because I wanted to change a few things up.

With the iPhone, you can only change your background, and I think there’s two choices as far as themes. If you’re comfortable with less, I’m happy to tell you the default stock options that the Moto X comes with are more than enough for the average user. If you’re one to experiment, it comes with plenty of options, too. Best of both worlds.

I’d like to mention one thing I’ve gotten rather used to – active notifications. There is no flashing light on this phone to tell you that you’ve received notifications. If you have an iPhone, you’re used to this. Without thinking, I would just press the button on my phone to see if anything new was going on. With the Moto X, this active notification will display on the screen around every minute or so.

When you press on the circled icon, you have the choice to swipe up or down. For example, in my picture, if I swiped up, it would take me to email, and if I swiped down, it would take me to text messages. It’s pretty handy. You can turn it off during certain time periods, and it doesn’t have any impact on the battery life.

App store

The only downside I have to report about the Moto X is that the Google Play store is lacking. I was really happy with Apple’s App Store when I first got my iPhone and iPad; there’s tons of decent quality games for free and it’s easier to navigate. The Google Play store just doesn’t seem to have as many attractive options. Even the basic Solitaire and Suduko games I mentioned seem lackluster compared to their iPhone counterparts. In this sense, I’m glad I still have my iPad to play games on.

If games aren’t your thing, then the apps available to you probably aren’t a huge concern. The basic apps, like Mint, Pandora and Evernote, are available on Android. Of course, all your popular social media apps are also on there.

The Moto X comes pre-loaded with a bunch of prominent Google apps, such as Gmail, Chrome and Google Maps. I think that Gmail and Google Maps run nicer on the Android system, which isn’t a surprise. I haven’t really played around with anything else, such as Google’s newer music player, but it has decent reviews.

moto x reviewThe last note on apps that I have is that you should stick to the stock messaging app. This is because Republic Wireless runs in a unique way, and if you use a third party app, it messes with the software in your phone. The Republic Wireless Moto X is not the same as a Verizon/AT&T Moto X, since Republic Wireless has the WiFi/cell hybrid model integrated into the phone.

Miss Siri?

Not at all. I don’t know about you, but I never had to call on Siri very often. It was a fun bonus feature in the beginning that I was a bit fascinated with, but the novelty wore off quickly. In any case, with the Moto X, all you have to say is “Okay, Google” and you activate Google Now. The screen says, “Yes?” and you just voice your command. The screen does not need to be on for this feature to work.

Overall evaluation

I’m really glad to say I didn’t mind the switch at all. I did have to re-learn the Android system a bit, and get used to the “Swype“-like feature built into Android keyboards. It really does help to make typing easier most of the time, though. You basically just glide your finger across the letters instead of individually pressing on each. I never type “normally” on my phone anymore. The predictive text isn’t too shabby either.

I hope this review was helpful; I apologize for the length, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible!

Have you recently made the switch from an iPhone to an Android phone? Which do you prefer and why?