Maximizing Life

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It all started with a book I picked up from the library. Hey, Chalene Johnson wrote a book? Cool. What I thought was a book about fitness turned out to be a book about making every goal in your life you've ever wanted to achieve happen. This led to me signing up for Chalene Johnson's 30-Day Challenge, reading Brian Tracy's Eat That Frog (a reference Chalene uses), reading Michael Hyatt's Life Plan manifesto, and re-reading The Art of Nonconformity. The universe is trying to tell me something I think.

Out of nowhere everywhere, all these resources starting coming at me and they all seemed to have a common synergy. And they all seemed to pick up on my desire for personal progress. I'm feeding my ambitions with all of these resources and you can too.

Here are some of my favorite FREE resources for maximizing your hours, days, and life; melding your passions with your talents until you're unstoppable; making your dreams a reality; and being more productive. These are not the new-age-y send-positive-vibes-into-the-universe-type resources either. These are legit, human psychology- and science-backed strategies. free thought bubble mind map software. Here's a peek at my thought bubble. I broke it down by life priority and then by goal within that priority. My biggest priorities are God/Spirituality, Relationships, Health, Environment/Home, Career/Financial, Giving Back, Hobbies and Writing/Blogging. You MUST break down your life by priority in order to figure out where to best spend your time, with intention. If you're not giving time to the things you value most, you're not going to feel well-balanced.

List-making apps: Chalene strongly recommends using your smartphone for your daily list-making. I do find that when I make lists, I get more done in a day. I've used Astrid before and am currently looking into Evernote, Wunderlist and Remember the Milk. List-making sounds like such an unnecessary habit, but those of us that are most productive know just how magically motivating those lists really are. They perpetuate your goals.

Chris Guillebeau's A Brief Guide to World Domination. Also check out The Art of Nonconformity from your library if they have it. You do not need to approach life in the conventional way, the way mom and dad taught you. Dare to be different. And if you can travel hack like Chris does, then you'll be well on your way to every continent on Earth.

Michael Hyatt's Creating your Personal Life Plan manifesto (see his sidebar). I like the way Michael takes a different approach to charting your future, by starting with your death. Michael also takes a Christian approach to life planning, which I strongly identify with.

O magazine: Finding your Passion. If you like pretty charts and worksheets, you'll love this, my diligent little worker bees. If you don't know where to start with any of this, start here. You need to know what your passions are before you can embark on pursuing them.

Self Magazine: Creating a 5-year plan based on your passions, dreams and goals. This isn't the type of 5-year plan that the black suits ask you about in job interviews. This is the type of 5-year plan that makes you feel all giddy to get started.

Erica House: How to Architect your Own Happiness. Check out the mind map Erica uses. You could do that with listed above. Just doing concept maps makes me happy:)

The Leap: I found this little gem when I was writing reviews for a local bookstore. The case studies of people in this book that went from ho-hum jobs to giant successes are so motivating, it's hard to sit still. In the most general terms, Rick Smith talks about finding the overlap between your deepest passions and your best talents. Then, you take baby steps to get there, testing the waters first before you make that leap. No need to live in the poor house while you work on your startup!

You can read them all or read one or two. They all boil down to getting your priorities aligned, making steps each day toward your big life plans, and keeping to-do lists to find your happy. The only caveat to this reading list is that you can spend a whole lot of time reading without actually doing anything. Make sure you're actually putting your plans into action in some small (or big) way every day. Use these materials to give you momentum while you're charting your future.

Start today. Figure out what you're meant to do on this Earth.

Broomstick Stretch Workout

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Welcome to my first official posted workout. There are plenty more where this came from! I will be releasing two more stick workouts after this, one next week and one the week after. So stop back here and feel free to Pin away. After than, I hope to continue developing even more workouts to share with you all.

So, this first installment is a full-body stretch workout. Print the poster and use the descriptions below to perform your stretch workout. I have taken my inspiration for these workouts from those broomstick workouts that you might notice in magazines, etc. I shared the Workout Stick DIY tutorial last week, so if you want to personalize this workout to your unique style, check that DIY project here! Otherwise, feel free to grab an actual broomstick from your closet or even a thick straight stick from your backyard.

Always remember that a gentle stretch is good, but discontinue any moves that actually hurt.

stick stretches workout

1. Chest Stretch: With a wide grasp on your workout stick, pull the stick up and behind your head until you feel a slight stretch in your chest muscles. Go deeper if your body allows. The stick itself allows you to go deeper into this stretch than your body could alone. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

2. Triceps Stretch: Reach behind your back and grasp the stick, one hand from below the shoulder and one from above. "Walk" your hands closer to each other to go deeper into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Side Stretch: With a wide grasp, hold the pole over your head. Now lean to the right until you feel a stretch in the side body. Hold for two counts. Slowly return to the top and repeat on the other side. Do 8 repetitions each way.

4. Hip Stretch: Using your stick for balance straight out in front of you, (a) raise your right knee to hip height, (b) then rotate out to the side and return it to the ground. Continue in a circular motion for 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

5. Glute Stretch: Using your workout stick for balance, sit back into a squat bringing the right ankle over your left knee. Sit back into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

6. Around the World Stretch: (a) With a wide grasp, hold the pole over your head. (b) In a circular motion, move the stick around to your right, down toward the floor and then up toward the left. Do 4 circles this way and 4 circles in the opposite direction.

7. Calf Stretch: Using your stick for balance, step back into a rear lunge with the right foot, toes pointed forward and front leg bent. Press the right heel toward the floor until you feel a good stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

Stretching is so important to do before and after your workouts. It's an often overlooked and often skipped-over portion of a workout, especially in the face of time constraints. But by skipping stretching, you're really missing out and robbing your body of some really great benefits! Flexibility helps with everything from proper mechanics to balance to posture and so many things in between. I would especially emphasize performing a stretching routine like this after exercise, while muscles are all warm and receptive to stretching.

Check back next week for your first of two total-body strength routines using your new workout stick!

P.S.: In case you're wondering, I created this lovely photo collage on It's fun, you should try it:)

P.P.S.: Disclaimer: I am an NASM-certified personal trainer, however I cannot be with you in person to assess, check your form and guide you, so please remember that these workouts are done at your own risk. As always, check with your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program and always honor your body's abilities and limitations.

Weekly Workout Rundown

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  • 30 min AM LiveFit back and biceps
  • 30 min casual walk at lunch

  • 35 min AM LiveFit Legs
  • 15 min HIIT run

  • 25 min AM LiveFit shoulders and abs

  • Rest


  • Rest

Oh, you knew I couldn't rest for 3 days in a row, didn't you? And I just couldn't give up running for four whole weeks, so I snuck some in. Nothing too dramatic, just a little 15 minute-er on Wednesday and some intervals on Saturday. Previously, if you remember, I was doing 5 mile runs (1 hour) on Saturdays, in addition to four weekdays of running. I just can't quite give all of that up yet. What Jamie Eason says about the plan is that these four weeks without cardio are necessary for prepping the body to draw on its fat stores. If you're a cardio queen, you're probably pulling your energy from your muscle stores. I don't remember reading anything quite like this in my NASM textbook, but I'm willing to give the program a shot (with a little bit of cheating built in) since it was created by a bodybuilding phenom.

I am beginning my third week on the plan now, and man is my body sore! It's a good feeling though. I have never really worked on muscle hypertrophy with intent before. I always did strength training during the week, but never in such a focused way. My weight has just about stayed the same, but I have lost an inch in my waist and hips already. I've been sticking to the plan pretty strictly during the week, but I do have hiccups when it comes to the weekends. I do ok for breakfast and lunch, but dinner... We had a birthday party that went well into Saturday night and we had a potluck-style picnic. I'll admit to a cupcake and a S'more, but they were so delish and part of the party requirements:)

There's a free CrossFit class in my town this Saturday that I'm hoping to try as well. I've read a lot about CrossFit but have never actually attended a class. It will be good for me to see what it's all about. Saturday is supposed to be a rest day, but we'll just see about that.

Until next week...Cheers!

FlashFit Workout #1

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I can hardly wait until next week when I share my first broomstick workout with you. Since I'm so eager, I thought I'd publish a different workout in the meantime.

My lunchtime workout buddy and I, who hit up the gym every other day at lunch, were doing these workouts before we started training for her upcoming Tough Mudder. My partner wanted something that was hardcore, where we really felt like we did something for the 15-20 minutes we have to work out (hence, the name FlashFit). So, I designed this workout, which switches back and forth between strength and cardio. You'll do each move for 1 minute, moving right along to the next. I also made sure that we were working every major muscle group using mostly compound moves, to use our short time at the gym more effectively.

I've been designing so many more of these FlashFit in anticipation of picking up a teaching slot at work. My amazing workplace offers exercise classes at lunch and after work and I'm on the waiting list to pick up a slot as soon as one becomes available. Hopefully, I will be able to post many more of these soon, so hop on over to my sidebar to subscribe so you don't miss any:)

You can access the printable PDF file here. There are two different page designs for this workout, because I was experimenting with some publishing software. I personally like the second page better (above), but print whichever one you prefer and take it to the gym with you.

Report back here about how you enjoyed the workout and how challenging it was for you!
If you have any questions about how to do the moves, leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

P.S. This workout is not for everyone. I designed it especially for myself and my workout partner, so please take into consideration your own skill level. Please consult your physician before beginning this or any other workout program. And as always, honor your body's abilities and limitations.

DIY Workout Stick

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ever since I saw my first broomstick workout in a magazine, I've been smitten. I love how using something as simple as a stick can really change the angles and depth of a workout. It can give you a better stretch, offer you a bit more stability during challenging balance moves, and allow you to move deeper into certain moves.

Today, let's make a simple fun workout stick, shall we? You can use a regular broomstick--or even a straight stick you find outside--to do the workouts. But wouldn't it be much more fun to create an artistic workout stick that you can use whenever the mood strikes? I thought so...

Just a quick announcement: now that I'm qualified to be giving some exercise advice, I have put together three separate workouts that you can do with your new workout stick. I'll be releasing one per week for the next three weeks! So stay tuned for that, and feel free to share on Pinterest!

Workout Broomstick Tutorial


  • 3/4" (or thicker) wooden dowel from the hardware or craft store
  • Washi tape
  • Decorative duct tape
  • Acrylic paints (or other wood paint) and paintbrush
  • Any other decorative items you'd like to deck your stick out in


Washi tape and acrylic paint


  1. If you'd like to change the color of your dowel, use acrylic paint (or any other appropriate paint for wood) and give your dowel a few coats. Let dry. Paint stripes or designs with other paint colors if you'd like and allow to dry completely before moving on.
  2. Now, use your washi or duct tape to create fun patterns and stripes across your stick. I went with a simple light blue and green theme, punctuated by some polka dot decorative tape on the ends.
  3. Feel free to get creative with your stick design. Maybe you'd like to add some rubber elements for a good grip or add tassels to the ends of the stick. Your imagination is the limit!

Voila! Your very own workout stick for any broomstick workouts you might find online or here on my blog. I kept mine pretty simple, but feel free to get creative with your art supplies. It almost feels as though you get to play with a grown-up version of a baton. Check back here next week for my first of three broomstick workouts!

Project Details:

  • Washi tape from here and Target
  • Wooden dowel from Lowe's
  • Acrylic paints from my own stash (maybe originally from Ben Franklin?)

Weekly Workout Rundown

Monday, August 19, 2013

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  • 45 min Back and Biceps in the AM
  • 20 min casual walk at lunch

  • 30 min Leg Day
  • 30 min walk at lunch

  • 35 min Shoulders and Abs

  • 20 min Tough Mudder at lunch

  • Rest


  • Rest

I admit, I am having a tough time with the "no cardio" thing. And I just noticed that it's 4 weeks without cardio, not 2 like I originally thought. I might have to start incorporating some short HIIT bursts in the morning to satisfy my runner's itch. I mean, I've built up all this endurance over time and would hate to just give it up. I wish I knew the science behind this plan to allay some of my questioning. I just don't feel like I'm doing enough by doing only the strength workouts alone. But if I'm going to do this, I want to do it all the way! And at least I have those Tough Mudder sessions to alleviate some of my need for cardio. And I do admit that it is kind of a nice break from my normal insane workout intensity. I am lifting heavy though, so the soreness does set in every day following a workout.

I've been going strong with this LiveFit program though, and I've been eating, for the most part, strictly on the plan. I've been doing the workouts completely, to failure too. After two full days of "rest," I'm ready. Bring on Week Two!

Weekly Food Prep

Sunday, August 18, 2013

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Food glorious food! This is what mine will look like for the week. Spot any protein in there? This is what another week of following Jamie Eason's LiveFit trainer looks like. Protein plus veggies mostly.

Clean Weekly Food

Banana pre-workout
Smoothie with oats + frozen berries + protein powder post-workout
5 egg whites plus cooked veggies later in the morning

Clean Veggies and eggs

Snack 1: 
1/2 cup cottage cheese + chives + chopped cucumber

Clean snack

Squash + brown sugar + raisins
Italian Turkey Burgers with spinach on Sandwich Thins

Backyard Garden Squash

Clean Turkey Burgers

Snack 2
If needed, I will have two hardboiled eggs.

Grilled chicken + sweet potatoes
Turkey sausage + potatoes + onions
Pork chops + Brussels sprouts
Veggie burgers cake:)

My week will consist mostly of clean eating (with the exceptions of Sandwich Thins instead of Ezekial bread). Saturday might be a different story. We're having a late birthday party for me since I turned the big 3-0-. I can assure you there will be birthday cake involved, but I'll still try to balance that will a lot of lean protein and produce. Otherwise, my entire week is planned out to a "T" exactly like shown above. Since the squash isn't running dry in my backyard, I decided to incorporate them again this week. The chives, tomatoes and onions came courtesy of my backyard too. I love this growing season!

I can't wait to try the new burgers and have delicious fruit smoothies for breakfast. This is how I spend my Sundays, peeps. Usually it's church then grocery shopping with Hubster followed by meal prepping for the week. It's a great way to ensure that the week is full of good things. It also helps me get to work on time when my food is all ready and bagged:) I even have all my vitamins set out for the week. Go me!

What's in your lunch box this week?

Weekend Highlights

After taking a few trips in June and July, the weekends seem to get shorter and shorter because the prospective days off get fewer and further between. But we don't like to spend our weekends complaining about our lack of time, we go gangbusters and try to get every last drop out of them that we can.

Yesterday found us on the Wisconsin waterways. Hubster got done with work early and asked if we wanted to go for a little boat ride. Well, sure. If only I'd known that little boat ride would be six hours long, I would've packed more sunscreen, snacks and drinks. But I digress. Despite the sunburn, it was an amazing trip in my dad's little fishing boat.

Saturday boat ride

This was what our view looked like almost all day. Just beautiful trees over the water with amazing streams of light coming out of the clouds.

dog on a boat

Actually, my view looked mostly like this. Ha! This knucklehead is a baby of a pit bull. Every time we hit choppy waters, he whined and tried to hide. But these calm waters made for a happy pooch.

Anyone know what these birds are? We found an island that had these white-looking trees just littered with these birds. It was a bit "Birds" creepy but cool at the same time.

Fox River Turtles

We saw turtles sunbathing on almost every open log.

I love spending my days with these guys.

Two abandoned outhouses in the middle of nowhere.

redneck fishing dock
Only in Wisconsin.

And.......I saved the best for last. Look at this majestic bird Hubster spotted out on the power lines on our way back. Such a rare treat:

Wisconsin Eagle Sighting

Yesterday was completely unplanned, but I enjoyed every minute of it, even the time Hubster jumped a wave and got all of us soaked. Peanut started to cry until he saw how hard we were laughing. Crisis averted. Memories made. What a good day!

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

With green pepper bells and pungent smells
and pretty white onions all in a row.



Earlier in the season, I gave you a peek at the planting of my backyard superfood garden. Sadly, we lost our cucumbers, but we've been getting quite the harvest off of our humble garden these past few weeks. In fact, one week, I was able to put together an entire week's worth of salads for my lunches with my abundant lettuce harvest.



Our acorn squash is getting a little over-zealous. Oh wait, I'm the one who was over-zealous by planting not one, but two squash plants in our meager plot. I do that every year:) I know I pack too much in, but I just can't help myself when it comes to fresh garden veggies.


This week, I'm having a whole week of stuffed acorn squash for lunches. I shared the recipe here. It was just sort of put together with some things I had around the house and the farmer's market.

I could lose a Peanut in all those squash plants!

While we were gone on our Mackinaw City trip for a week, my father-in-law kept our garden picked. We came home to this ginormous bag of snap peas. I ate from that bag for days and days. It's so nice to be able to plan my clean eating weekly menu with my own backyard grown produce. It's going to be a great season!


We have this neat program at work where you can donate all those extras from your garden to local food pantries. I think this idea is genius! We've always got too much zucchini or too many tomatoes or a plethora of herbs in our backyard, so why not share the green love? If I don't eat them all myself, I hope to donate some acorn squash to this cause since that's what's currently taking over our garden:)

Did you grow anything this year? What do you do with your leftovers?

Clean Stuffed Acorn Squash

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Healthy? check
Clean? check
Filling? check
Low-cal? check

What's not to love about a recipe like that?

Clean Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 3 whole acorn squash
  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 1 cup cooked bulgar wheat
  • 1/2 carton sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice each squash in half and clean out the seeds and pulp. Place the halves face down in a pan in 1-2 inches of water. Cover the skins of the squash with tin foil. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the flesh is fork-tender.

While that's baking, start cooking your ground chicken on the stovetop until done. Drain grease, if there is any (the leaner the meat the better). Add in all your veggies and the bulgar wheat. Saute until everything is cooked through.

Once the squash is cooked through, let it cool a bit and then spoon the filling into the center of the squash and serve. Makes 6 servings.

I separated the stuffing into six different serving containers and wrapped the squash completely in tin foil in order to take it to work for lunches. I heat the filling and squash up separately and then scoop the filling inside the squash bowl at work. It looks like one heckuva meal and indeed it's pretty darn filling. When I plugged the numbers into the Sparkpeople nutrition counter I came back with just 259 calories and loads of nutrients, vitamins, protein and all-around good stuff!!!!

This meal was a perfect match for the lunch option on the Jamie Eason plan and perfect for this harvest season. I hope to make a Southwestern version with the rest of the squash that's coming out of my ears for next week. Check back for another taste-tested, Bounsee-approved stuffed squash recipe next week!

Annual Perseid Picnic

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I like to be completely intentional about family traditions as much as possible. Some traditions happen by happy accident, but many of them take some thought and preparation. Before Peanut was even born, I thought about special, unconventional things that we could do together every year to form some deep-rooted traditions that will maybe even be passed off into the next generation.

Out of those personal brainstorms, the Perseid Picnic was born. How cool would it be to take my Peanut out well past his bedtime to watch a meteor shower every year? How cool would it be to have a midnight picnic at the same time? After that, I could think of nothing else. This was an amazing idea that I just couldn't pass up. In fact, we tried it out officially during last year's Perseid meteor shower and I could already tell then this was a winner.

So, Peanut, his cousin and I geared up for another year of star-gazing. We grabbed snacks, binoculars, and a picnic blanket and headed to as dark-yet-safe a spot as we could find. We propped our heads on a park bench and waited. Thing is, 5 and 6 year olds do not have a whole lot of patience for these types of things. We only last about 1/2-hour, but that's ok. My nephew got to see a shooting star last year and Peanut got to see one this year, so I'm just happy that they've gotten to experience that thrill in a small way. I didn't see my first shooting star until college! As they grow older, I'm sure we'll explore this astral phenomenon in a bit more depth and be able to stay up a little later, make more of an event of this :)

Afterward, we went home and camped out in our little backyard tent. It rained, but we were protected by our big beautiful maple tree and the sloping hill we were perched on. We had such a fun time soaking in these final summer experiences before school starts. I truly hope that these special moments together create meaningful memories for my Peanut and his cousin and that one day they know just how much these little traditions mean.

What are your favorite family traditions?

Weekly Food Prep

Monday, August 12, 2013

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The bag of food that I brought to work this morning was rather comical. The sheer amount of food would have fit into at least two lunch bags. Oh my gosh! But it's all super clean, super healthy food, mostly lots of greens and lean protein. It just takes up space, that's all:) As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm beginning the Jamie Eason LiveFit series this week and trying to follow the plan as closely as possible.

Today was also chest and tricep day and my arms feel absolutely lethargic. When I try anything as simple as lifting my fork or opening a food jar, I feel shaky. Oh boy! I immediately fueled my muscles with a small smoothie consisting of 1/2 scoop of Perfect Fit protein powder and some frozen berries. Many know, and as I've  learned through my studies with NASM, that fueling with a bit of protein and carbs within 1/2 hour of strength training makes a huge difference in results. That fuel is quickly used for muscles, but you only have that short 1/2 hour window to take advantage, and I made sure I did. I also stopped to stretch my chest throughout the day today since I know I'm going to feel it soon if I don't.

I really take pride in eating this well, so I really hope the results are for this program are all they're cracked up to be. 

Breakfast (total 359 calories): 
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder + 0.25 cup frozen berry smoothie
  • 1/2 cup quick oats + cinnamon + 0.5 Tbsp honey
  • 5 egg whites + veggies (tomatoes, spinach, onion and broccoli)

Saute all your veggies and just add egg whites

Snack 1 (282 calories):
  • 2 Chicken Muffins served inside lettuce leaves
  • Broccoli with Mrs. Dash seasoning

Lunch (266 calories):
  • 1/2 acorn squash stuffed with ground chicken, bulgar wheat, onion, mushroom, garlic and tomato.
  • 1/2 cup cucumber

Snack 2 (366 calories):
  • 2 Chicken Muffins 
  • Kale salad with just a tiny sprinkle or raisins and walnuts with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing

  • We have steak, grilled chicken, whole wheat spaghetti, turkey sausage and pork chops planned for the week. I'll pair my lean meats with something like a 1/2 sweet potato for my starch and Brussels sprouts for my veggies, as required by the plan.
Bedtime Snack:
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with 1 tsp sugar-free jam (for muscle growth while I sleep)

Yes, this is a LOT of food, much of it high in protein, with a low caloric price. That's what happens when you start eating cleaner. You can actually eat way more. As in, a whole grocery bag full, judging by my trek to work this morning. Ha!

When I prepped my food last night, it was quite the debacle. I was getting so tired and the food prep seemed to be taking forever (although so worth it!). I went to put something in the fridge and bumped the door. Two entire shelves of condiments fell and messed up the whole kitchen floor. Then, I went to mop up the mess and accidentally put cooking oil in the mop bucket instead of vinegar--the jugs look the same! This was all after forgetting an entire jug of protein powder in the cart at Walmart and running all the way back across town to claim it. After mopping, the floor was still sticky. I just wanted to go to bed after all of that. Luckily, I was finished with my food prepping and Peanut was already asleep so I took the opportunity to duck away. Hubster promised to mop again today. He can be sweetheart sometimes!

I was able to get most of my produce from the farmer's market this weekend. A few tomatoes, onions, and sprigs of broccoli came from my very own backyard garden. The acorn squash was definitely from my huge backyard supply. I look forward to eating stuffed squash for at least the next two weeks. I hope to share a few of my recipes as I create them. This week, I will be able to share my chicken bulgar-stuffed squash, since that's what I whipped together for my lunches. It took me awhile to eat that whole sucker today!

And so, Week One begins!

Weekly Workout Rundown

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  • 40 min AM run, 3.1 miles
  • Rest

  • 35 min run, 2.64 miles
  • 30 min Jillian Michaels Shred It w/ Weights
  • 40 min Insanity Power and Resistance

  • Rest

A weird thing happened on my Monday run. I took my dog with me on my run and only grabbed one plastic bag, which we used and disposed of within the first mile. I bet you know where I'm going with this... I'll spare you the details, but someone saw the unexpected incident and admonished me. Instead of getting defensive, I simply asked him if he happened to have an extra bag. His whole demeanor changed when I told him what had honestly happened and he was cordial about it. It makes for a much better world when we all try to do the right thing, dontcha think? And remember to bring two bags next time!

 By now, I've already completed a full day of the Jamie Eason LiveFit Series and going strong. I mean, how can you not be going strong on the first day, right? I was worried about the "no cardio" thing for the first two weeks, but my workout partner and I are still doing our lunch routine, so I do feel the lung burn at least then. I also worried that I might get hungry on the high-protein plan, but I'm actually feeling pretty great so far. I can at least tell you I'm well-hydrated by the copious amounts of water I've been drinking. I can't wait to update you next week on how I did.

How are you doing this week?

How to Travel on a Budget

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am the queen of travelling on a budget. Take our recent trips to Mackinac Island, Door County and Chicago for examples. We were able to take these three exciting trips within a month of each other without robbing our regular monthly budget. I also happen to be a super resourceful person, so we get quite a lot more out of our trips than I suspect some others do. Let me clue you in to the tips and tricks I use to get every last drop out of our trips that we can:

Just me

1. Travel Sunday through Thursday: On our recent Mackinac Island trip, we did just that and the rates were significantly lower during the work week. We've done this before with trips to Wisconsin Dells as well, and ended up paying pennies for a week full of memories. Weekends are huge in the world of tourism, so travelling during the week can work to your advantage. If you're taking a week off of work anyway, why not travel Sunday through Thursday? Hey, that even leaves you a full three-day weekend to take a vacation from your vacation.

2. Travel during the off-season: similar to #1 above, travelling just outside of the purported "high-season" will save you significantly. We got dirt cheap rates for a motel in Wisconsin Dells when we traveled in mid-June. It was still hot enough to enjoy all the water parks and outdoor attractions, but too early to be considered part of the high season. We got to enjoy the sites for cheaper and with far fewer other people clamoring for rides. Check to see if there is an off-season for your desired destination and plan your trip around that.

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3. Stick with the envelope system: Prior to leaving for any of our trips, I always designate a certain amount of funds to fixed costs such as gas, motel, food and must-see sites. Then, I put away a little for "extras" like souvenirs, extra dinners out, parking costs and other things. We adhere strictly to this envelope system to keep our spending in check because it can be easy to get carried away with treats and unnecessary souvenirs. With my envelope system, we don't end up with a bunch of extra junk in our luggage and really give thought to what we're throwing money at. I'd much rather sacrifice an extra beach towel for an off-road ATV ride any day. Experiences always trump "things." Your spending should reflect that.


4. Sacrifice a nicer hotel for more experiences: Really, we're generally only in our hotel room to sleep. Therefore, we don't need anything extravagant. Yes, we want something decent, but it doesn't have to be much more than a clean bed, a hot shower and a microwave. That way, we can spare more expenses for memories and experiences. Those are much more important. You will save a significant amount of money if you can find a decent hotel with just the basics. With a little research, you can weed out the really awful places and find something just right. When we went to Chicago in June, our requirements were that we had parking, were within 15 miles of my NASM workshop, were in a decent neighborhood and had a pool to use. Know what you absolutely need and cut out the rest. With research, we ended up finding a decent, clean Best Western for a really good price and were able to spend more on museums and other excursions. You may even be able to score a hotel that is a step up by using travel discount sites like Priceline. This could be a bullet point of its own, but you should never pay full price for your hotel! Check out the prices on several travel sites before you make your final booking.

5. Find package deals. On our recent Mackinac Island trip, I was able to save a significant amount of money by packaging what we knew we needed with our hotel booking. We bought our ferry tickets and butterfly museum tickets along with our hotel room on the Chamber of Tourism website, saving us $7.50 per person. Hotels themselves often offer coupons and special deals, and some travel sites are equipped to do this for you too. If you know exactly what you'll need for the trip, go ahead and buy tickets at a reduced price ahead of time.

6. Bring your own food. Eating out is definitely something we enjoy doing on vacation, but we try to limit it as much as we can because it can be really expensive when all added up. By bringing sandwiches, yogurt, granola bars, popcorn and other travel-friendly foods in a cooler, we always save a lot on food. We usually plan one or two special restaurant dinners out and enjoy the rest of our meals at picnics or in our room. Beach and boat picnics offer much more significant memories than another restaurant meal anyway. You will probably end up eating more healthy if you use this strategy too!


7. Take advantage of amenities: Our last hotel had one of the best free continental breakfasts I've ever experienced. We were able to eliminate some of our food expenses due to this. We filled up in the morning and only had to eat light lunches. There was also an on-site gym, outdoor playground and indoor water park at our disposal. Some of our food and entertainment was built right into the hotel cost! Factor in these amenities to your trip planning to reduce some of your costs.

8. Do your research: Find as many free and low-cost forms of entertainment that you can. Don't spare expenses for what you really want to do, but do be resourceful about things you can do and see without spending a mint. Check travel websites for what other people are saying and for what locals already know. You might find some hidden gems that others don't know about or ways to get around certain costs. We've found countless free festivals, concerts, historical sites, lighthouses, beaches, museums, state parks and much more that leave us with amazing memories and no travel debt! I mean, swimming in the Great Lakes and catching that colorful awe-inspiring sunset under the Mackinaw Bridge cost us nothing, but those memories will last a lifetime.

Lake Michigan Fish

Mackinac Moon

9. Check your rewards and memberships: Our local EAA passes got us into the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for free. In fact, there are hundreds of museums across the country that our passes will get us into for free, so we try to see if there are any nearby whenever we travel. Check with your credit cards, AAA membership, workplace and other places you belong to find discounts and cash in on those points. We also like to save our reward dollars from our credit card just for trips. My and Hubster's workplaces even offer discounted tickets on places like water and theme parks. It really pays to check out what's available to you through your various connections and memberships.

10. Use unconventional income sources: A good portion of our trip expenses are brought to us by the cash we get from a friend who rents a room in our house. Explore new ways to bring in extra cash and then dedicate that portion entirely to trips. If you didn't miss that income before, you won't miss it now. I have also worked on some freelance writing projects, cashed in our credit card reward dollars, saved our tax returns and sold some unnecessary items from our home online or at rummage sales to sweep together travel funds. You could also squirrel away 1% of your normal income automatically to a dedicated savings account or earmark work bonuses for special travel occasions. Find a way to bring in extra cash, be diligent about saving, and you just might be able to go on your dream vacation--or at least head out of town for the weekend.

11. Stay a little further down the road. Staying directly in the city you which to visit can sometimes be more pricey. For example, staying for a week on Mackinac Island would probably have cost us double what we paid to stay on the mainland. We were still able to enjoy all the pleasures of the island, but we were also even able to explore much more of the upper Michigan area this way. One day, we simply drove down the road until we hit a small town. We wouldn't have been able to do as much on the Island. Same thing with our Door County trip. Staying right in Fish Creek or Bailey's Harbor would have set us back more than our little cabin just a tad bit down the road. Staying in a tourist-driven city is notoriously more expensive than staying just a bit outside.

12. Take shorter, closer trips: as you can tell by my family's travel experiences this year, we like to take vacation within a day's drive of our home. There are so many places that feel like a whole different world that take no more than a five hour's drive. Research places in your home state that you've never been before and I'm sure you'll find enough worthwhile trips to last you decades. As a bonus, you won't have the gas or flight costs associated with further travel. Likewise, we enjoy taking shorter, more frequent trips. If you're staying close to home, your travel time doesn't eat up your actual vacation time as much. Also, when you break the year up into smaller slices like that, you have so much more to look forward to, it's easier to budget for trips, and hey, your work productivity might even surge.

Mackinaw City Lighthouse

I truly hope these 12 tips give you some useful tips for travelling on a budget. It really is possible to visit new places, even with lighter income streams. Please, don't let that vacation time roll over into next year's paycheck. Take some time today to plan your next trip. You'll be glad you did. What are you top ways to save?