I played the trombone in my high school band. Each year was an audition process to make the Region, Area, and ultimately the Texas State concert band or Texas State orchestra. So each year in August I’d get the audition music and begin practicing. By the time auditions came around in November I was as prepared.
I had some natural musical talent that helped me excel and without a significant amount of effort in my Sophomore year I made the Region and Area band. But I did not make the Texas State Band.
My junior year I worked harder, but again did not make it to the state level.
My senior year, I hired a private instructor. And in August we set out a game plan. We mapped out when each practice was going to be held. We mapped out how far on each piece of music I would get to by which dates. We created a roadmap for what those next few months would look like. And in my senior year when it came time for auditions I was 100% ready. I felt confident. My audition was the absolute best it could have been. It was my absolute best effort. That year they took 16 trombone players in the State band or orchestra. I was number 17.
While I didn’t ultimately reach my goal, I was so much closer than I had ever been simply because I had taken a 30,000 foot overview before I even started. I created a roadmap about the things I wanted to execute and that got me incredibly close to my goal.
That’s what the beginning of each month provides for my financial goals now. It’s an opportunity to create a roadmap of what I want the next 30 days of my life to look like. If you want to create something similar, here are 3 tips for an awesome financial month.
3 Tips For An Awesome Financial Month
Review Your Calendar Write out everything that you have committed to attend for the next 30 days. Discuss your schedule with your spouse. Don’t forget about kid events or business trips or date night. Be detailed and look at each of the next 30 days. Create a roadmap with your schedule. Our family uses shared Google Calendars for this because it helps keep us all on the same page.
Plan Your Meals For about the past decade I keep beginning each month with overly optimistic plans about what our grocery budget is going to look like. Then we get about 4 days into the month and that plan gets shot down real fast. The reality is, we’re super busy. At least 4 nights a week we have an activity to attend outside of the house. Taking time at the beginning of the month to compare our calendar with when we’re going to eat helps us come up with a plan that works. Some nights it’s totally reasonable that we grab Chick Fil A separately while one of us runs a kid to baseball and the other one runs the other kid to dance class. Other nights, crockpot meals get to be our best friend. The important part is that you create a plan. You don’t have to know exactly what you’ll feed each person in your family for each meal of the next 30 days. But you should know what nights you’re going to go out to eat, what nights you’re grabbing fast food, what nights you can cook, and what nights you’ll say “every man for himself.”
Create a Simple Monthly Budget Budgeting sometimes gets a bad reputation. It’s sold to us as something that is hard, or worse something that is restricting. The truth is, budgeting is just a roadmap for your money. Without one you don’t really have a plan to follow. With one, you’re much more likely to hit your goals. So make your budget simple. Write down all of your income for the next 30 days. Then write out what you think your expenses will be for the next month. Start with your Groceries, Utilities, Transportation, and Shelter (GUTS). Then write out your health and insurance related expenses like doctor co-pays, gym memberships, and life insurance premiums. Lastly write out everything else you may spend money on like kids school pictures, or new jeans, or daycare, or going out to the movies. If you’re not sure what expenses may come up, create a Miscellaneous category and plan to have those unplanned expenses. Subtract all of those expenses from your income until the resulting number equals $0.
You don’t have to do all of these things to have an awesome financial month. You could luck into success. And doing all of these things certainly doesn’t guarantee success. But I promise if you take about an hour of your life at the beginning of the month to create a roadmap, you’re going to be much closer to your financial goals 30 days from now.
Starting off 2017 I had one singular goal. My singular focus for the month of January was to complete, with some friends, the Whole 30 challenge. And I quit it.
If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is a meal plan with rigorous rules that say you can’t eat anything processed, or with added sugar, or certain preservatives. No grains or breads. No cheese or dairy. No fun. Basically just meats, eggs, veggies, and fruits. And you do this every day for 30 days.
The goal of Whole 30 is not necessarily weight loss but it’s to cleanse your body of the toxins and foods that cause inflammation in your body. It’s like a reset button. And you might lose some weight.
Even though I can say that my body was feeling better and that I had lost some weight, I quit Whole 30 and it was a great decision for me and my family.
Why I Quit Whole 30
Meal Prep for Whole 30
I knew that we’d have to be organized with our food choices going in to this. I had no clue how much time we’d be spending in the kitchen and doing dishes though. Prepping for a week of Whole 30 meals takes hours!
You have to create a meal plan for the week and go purchase the right ingredients for those meals. And you’d think that if a recipe calls for chicken sausage that you could just go to the store and buy chicken sausage. But not every grocery store carries chicken sausage and the ones that do carry it likely put corn syrup in as the third ingredient so that is no longer compliant and you have to look again or change the meal plan. Ugh!
Our kitchen was a disaster with all the dishes from prepped breakfasts and lunches. We’d finish a load of dishes just to start a new load. Our dinners weren’t complicated. We kept it to just a grilled meat and some veggies and still we were doing tons of dishes.
The meal prep involved with trying to figure out and make on Sunday afternoon what we were going to have for breakfast on Friday morning (that would still taste okay after sitting in the fridge all week) was probably the roughest part of the Whole 30 for us.
Schedule for Whole 30
If you look at your calendar for the next 30 days, you really need to have a fantastically scheduled meal plan or you’ll never make it through a Whole 30. My most stressful and emotional day was day 7 after playing in the band at church for 5 hours only to have 30 minutes for lunch before another appointment and not having any food prepped at home.
Tuesday nights my daughter has dance. Thursday’s we volunteer at a food pantry. Wednesday’s I have church band practice. I meet with clients 1 or 2 nights a week. And this doesn’t even touch the random events the kids have throughout a week.
On top of that, day 31 of our Whole 30 was going to have us in Disney World letting our first non-compliant Whole 30 meals be in the Magic Kingdom. I really don’t need an upset stomach from re-introducing cheese and bread to my diet while I’m standing in line for Space Mountain.
Life can get hectic and stressful and messy. Sometimes you need to have a convenient meal of hotdogs, broccoli, and mac n cheese that takes 5 minutes to prepare at home. Sometimes you’ve been running all day and the only time you have to eat means you swing through the drive thru at Chick Fil A. Whole 30 doesn’t really allow much margin of error there, even if you order a grilled chicken salad.
Emotions of Whole 30
This is where Whole 30 does exactly what it claims it will do. It will break you. If you’ve followed me on Instagram or Facebook for any length of time you know I have a deep love for cheese.
On Whole 30 you just quit everything at once. No cheese. No bread. No added sugars. No fried foods. No fun. Ever.
And this causes your body to literally go through withdrawals and detox. Sugar lights up brain receptors in a similar way that cocaine does, so we know it is highly addictive. This was my experience. By day 4 I felt like I had the flu and I had some crazy strong cravings.
I’m glad that I went through 9 full days of this. I got through the detox to the other side where I legitimately didn’t have cravings for bread or cheese or ice cream. I actually got to where I didn’t have much of an appetite at all and while I thought it’d be great to have a chip and some queso, it wasn’t a craving anymore.
The meal prep and the schedule problems coupled with the detox my body was going through broke me though. There were moments I cried for no real reason. There were moments I got angry or frustrated with my kids for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I was short and snappy with my wife.
If my ultimate goal was to be more healthy all around by doing a Whole 30, then I failed. My mental and emotional state went the opposite direction and I was definitely un-healthy emotionally for a few days. In the end I quit because Whole 30 didn’t help me achieve my ultimate goal of a healthy sustainable lifestyle.
Calories and Price on Whole 30
People don’t lose weight on Whole 30 because they aren’t eating junk food any more and only eating healthy, whole foods. You lose weight on Whole 30 just like you lose weight on any other meal plan. You eat fewer calories.
You’re not really supposed to track your caloric intake on Whole 30, but I did anyway. What I found is that even eating a good sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with several Whole 30 compliant snacks throughout the day, I was getting at best 1,500 calories per day. Most days were around 1,200 calories.
According to almost every nutrition app and consultant I checked with, this wasn’t going to be enough calories to establish healthy weight loss. And that is what I experienced. I lost 15 pounds in 9 days doing Whole 30 because I wasn’t eating enough calories.
The solution should be easy, right? Eat more food.
I didn’t feel very hungry. Likely because I had more veggies in those 9 days than I had eaten in the previous 6 months. But also, the cost of meat that is Whole 30 compliant is quite expensive. Meat is where the majority of your protein and calories come from on Whole 30 because broccoli isn’t going to do much for you and you can only eat so many avocados in a day. To eat enough meat to make up the calorie shortage I was experiencing, I’d need to spend almost double on our grocery budget. And then that would take us back to the meal prep nightmare of cooking and dishes.
What I learned from the 9 days of my Whole 30 experience.
There are probably a dozen more reasons I quit Whole 30 and I do feel like a quitter because of it. But I did learn a few great things:
Read the labels on the food you buy. I don’t know why sugar and corn syrup are added to everything, but there are typically alternatives you can buy. When you can choose food without added sugar and corn syrup, do it.
You can make healthy choices at restaurants. Ask for no seasoning or to put the salad dressing on the side. Look for grilled items. Tell the waiter that you don’t want any chips or any bread. Drink water or unsweet iced tea.
Sugar is freaking addicting and while it’s crazy hard to avoid all the time you can make conscious choices to limit how much of it you have in your diet.
If God didn’t want us to eat cheese and bread he wouldn’t have created us with taste buds and would have just given us pellets to chew on for food.
If your body feels a little sluggish, or if your mental state seems off, change your diet for a few days to more grilled meats and veggies and fewer carbs and sugar and see if you notice a change.
Having a meal plan and tracking what you eat is important, but so is being flexible and allowing yourself some grace.
Why would a business and money website write about Whole 30?
There are a ton of similarities to getting better with your health and getting better with money. Sacrifice. Discipline. Planning. Make more money, spend less money. Eat healthier foods, work out more.
I teach people how to change their behavior with money and offer a sustainable lifestyle for managing money and building wealth.
In my opinion, Whole 30 is not sustainable. It could be a good jump start if you need that type of thing. But it doesn’t teach a sustainable healthy lifestyle. It teaches you deprivation. And when there is deprivation there is no hope.
I may tell you to sell your car and drive a junky cash car and to work 4 jobs for a short time period so that you can get out of debt and start to build some wealth. But the hope is that you WILL be able to build wealth.
Since Whole 30 is an unsustainable lifestyle, the only hope in the challenge is to get to Day 31 where you can finally eat a grain of rice or lick a potato chip or smell a chicken nugget.
I quit Whole 30 on day 10. But I didn’t quit chasing a healthy lifestyle. And I’m going to eat a little bit of cheese and some spinach. But never kale.
Getting a house ready to sell is really not a fun process. I walk my clients through what to do all the time and it’s never really impacted me to show them the places they need to paint or the closets that need decluttered. But we are now selling our current home and I took my own advice.
“If you’re moving anyway, you might as well start packing and get rid of stuff you don’t want to take to your new home.”
So in the Lewis Family, we’re not hoarders. We don’t have a ton of extra “stuff.” When we went through our financial collapse years ago we sold pretty much everything that we owned in order to pay bills. Since then, we’ve replaced furniture with bargain deals on Craigslist that I refinished. We don’t spend money on physical things very often.
So I expected this de-cluttering process to get our house ready to sell to be quick and easy.
We donated 5 trashbags full of baby clothes to our church.
We gave my sister another 4 bags of baby clothes since she’s having her first baby in July.
We gave a pastor at our church 2 bags of little boy clothes as they have a 1 year old son.
We sold dozens of our kids toys on Facebook buy/sell/trade sites.
I threw away at least 30 old t-shirts and pairs of jeans.
On trash day of the week we listed our house, there were 15 bags of “trash” out on our curb, along with an old office chair, a broken dining room chair, and some other “stuff” that had just been sitting in our garage.
Oh, the garage. Yeah. This list doesn’t even mention the landscaping supplies and old toys and extra paint that were in the garage.
We truly don’t have a lot of things around our house. We’re fortunate to have everything we need and most of the things we want. Over the years we’ve learned contentment and how to say no to most frivolous things, and most of the stuff we do own is second hand or given to us.
But as I stared at this stack of 15 bags of “trash” I couldn’t help but think that at one point that stuff had value. At one point, we thought it necessary to exchange money we had worked hard to earn so that we could own something that now sits on a curb destined for the city dump.
Thousands of dollars in purchases spread out over the years was being thrown away, and for good reason. They were unusable, old, worn out, broken…. trash.
We think we need that new shirt or pair of jeans or shoes, but the reality is we have a closet full of clothes we don’t even wear. We think our kids need that new toy, but the reality is they have a toy box filled with toys they haven’t touched in years.
Here’s what I know. I remember why I spent money on a trip to Disney World, or for season passes to the zoo or museum, or for dance lessons for my daughter, or for a baseball season for my son. I remember why I spent money to take my wife out to dinner. I remember why I give money to various ministries and organizations.
And the money I’ve spent over the years on things like that… it doesn’t end up on the curb.
***I don’t currently publish new blog posts often to this site. However I do send unique, new, and helpful financial content out each week to Newsletter subscribers. You can sign up below to receive a Free Copy of my 30 Days to Better Money e-book and to receive weekly email updates.***
And in the demand for a constant stream of unlimited content, as a content creator it can be overwhelming to deliver consistently.
So I’m pressing pause. I’m asking a question that I wish so many other content creators would ask.
“What’s the end game here?”
There’s so much advice about how to “build a successful online business” and a lot of it comes down to consistency over time. Which is certainly true. I’ve written on this site and numerous others for over 7 years now. Hundreds of thousands of people have read my words. For 10 months I consistently put out a new podcast episode and had an average of 2,000 listeners each week. Consistency builds and creates trust with an audience over time and fosters a community.
So why is this the first blog post I’ve written in just over 60 days and only the 5th in the past 6 months? Why have my last 5 podcast episodes released sporadically and weeks apart?
It wasn’t intentional. To be honest I’ve even felt a little guilty about not publishing a new article or podcast episode (even when I’ve promised to be more consistent about it).
But, what’s the end game here? Why do I write? Why do I podcast? Why do I create content?
I want to help people get better with money so they can chase after their own dreams and passions. I’ve seen the power of getting out of debt and building some wealth in my own life. I was able to quit a steady job to become a full time entrepreneur. We paid cash for 2 cars. We took our family on an epic Disney World vacation. I get to work when I want to work, where I want to work, and earn however much money I choose to make. And all of that is from getting out of debt and saving a little money.
If I could encourage and equip one person, or 20 people, or 1,000 people to do that same thing then what type of change would we see in the world?
So I write and podcast to help other people get better with money. But the end game ultimately is to just help people.
And I’ve been able to do tons of that through my local community, through Facebook posts, through people emailing and asking questions, through various online groups. If I were a good blogger I’d take the advice I’ve given in other places and post them here on my website, my “home base.” But honestly it’s just been nice to stop focusing on building a business and just help people that need help.
I could record 5 new podcast episodes a week and create 5 new blog posts a week and record 5 new videos a week. I have plenty of content available in my brain that I could deliver that content. I’m self-employed and work from home, so I could find the time to make all of that happen. But I don’t know if putting that kind of pressure and consistency in place reaches the end goal of just helping more people pay off a credit card or student loan.
So I’ll figure this internet thing out. Consistency is important, I get it. But so is being an available husband and dad. So is helping people out when they need some help. So is taking a vacation and lots of naps.
I write this message to myself but also to you. If you’re discouraged in yourself because you’re behind on something you really want to do, just know that being a human is hard enough work. God’s given you grace. Give yourself some too.
If Black Friday has taught us anything about the human race it’s that we’ll fight to the death over that last $9.99 toaster oven at Walmart.
Okay, so you probably avoid the chaos that surrounds the Friday after a day of giving thanks for the blessings you already have. But the days between Thanksgiving and December 24 are still likely filled with shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list.
I’m a generous guy. I love giving gifts. I love receiving gifts. There’s something about a living room filled with stacks on stacks on stacks of wrapping paper that just screams CHRISTMAS!
But in my 3 decades on this earth I can’t really recall any of the gifts I received at Christmas time growing up.
You know what I do remember?
I remember my dad putting boot prints in the ashes of the fireplace on the year I had stopped believing in Santa Claus so that the next morning I woke up to believe for one more year.
I remember my first Christmas Eve service in “Big Church.” I was handed a candle and the stupid little paper guard didn’t work, so hot wax spilled on my hand and I cried while my mother held and comforted me.
I remember driving through the neighborhoods in the rich part of town looking at all of the Christmas lights on houses.
I remember the string quartet playing music before Christmas Eve service and what seemed like a 300 member choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
I remember having family and friends over to our house on Christmas Eve and eating a dinner made up of queso, sausage balls, little smokies, and the silly veggie tray mom always insisted on serving even though no one ever ate off of it.
I remember pull-apart cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas Morning and Ham for Christmas Dinner.
I remember sneaking out of bed in the early Christmas Morning hours to see if Santa had come yet, and then running into my sisters room to see if she was awake too.
I remember the first time dad let me help put the Christmas lights on the roof. I remember the home-made light up star we put up each year that could be seen from over a mile away on the highway.
I remember helping set-up our massive Dicken’s Village Collection. I remember picking out a Christmas Tree and needing to give our real Christmas tree water before we finally got a fake tree.
I remember shaking presents weeks before Christmas day. I remember sorting presents under the tree by whose name was on them. I remember counting presents to make sure my little sister never got more than me. I remember putting in place the rule that we open presents one at a time, in order from youngest to oldest and each time we came back around my grandma would forget it was her turn.
I remember all of this, but I have a difficult time recalling any gift I’ve received at Christmas.
The experiences, the events, the time with family, the annual traditions… that’s what makes this the most wonderful time of the year. It’s these things that get put on our annual Christmas List.
As you go through the next few weeks in a panic about buying that perfect Christmas gift for each person on your Christmas list, know that 5 years from now they won’t remember what they received but they’ll absolutely remember the experiences you share.