Small changes

I wrapped up 2016 on vacation from work, but unfortunately I’ve also been battling a cold almost the entire time.  Since December 27th, cold-induced bronchitis has limited my activity.  My wife jokes that every time I take a winter vacation I get sick, and it’s hard for me to remember one when I didn’t.  Last year. I worked through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, and I didn’t get sick.  This year, I’ve been sick twice: After Thanksgiving, and after Christmas.

So while that may seem convincing to some, I think there’s another factor:  consumption of alcohol. Both of these rounds of colds were preceded by drinking a little too much the night before.   There seems to be some research to suggest heavy drinking can affect our immune system’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours.   Maybe it’s common sense that I just had never considered…

After I factor in the expense of drinking, I have decided I’m going to curtail my drinking for both health and financial reasons.  There’s probably at least $1,500 annually (and maybe upwards of $2,500 when I consider all spending) I can cut from my spending on alcohol, which when I think about it is a lot of alcohol.  I have slightly expensive tastes, though, so it’s not like I’m pounding cases of Milwaukee’s Best every weekend.  Of the things I buy, bourbon is $30-$50+ a bottle, craft beer is $30-$60 a case, and wine is about $10-$12 a bottle.  And drinking at a restaurant or bar is just crazy expensive, even the few times a month I do that.

So since I’ve spent a majority of the Winter Holidays not drinking,  I might as well continue the trend.  I think it will have a very positive impact on my overall life.  Having a drink after work or with dinner often relaxes me and leads to an evening of not getting stuff done.  If I’m going to ramp up the side hustles this year, I’ll need to be more productive in the evenings.

I think the benefits from reducing alcohol consumption may also carry over into my real job as well.  I’ll be more active, which should improve my overall health.  More activity in the evenings should lead to better sleep, which will make me better rested for the next day.  It might even lead to more “real” exercise.   So overall, it seems like a good idea, and deep down I’ve been feeling like I drink a little too much some nights, so it’s time for a change.

It’s less a New Year’s resolution and more of a product of having  11 days to think about ways to improve my life and the ability to realize our financial goals.   Regarding the finances, it’s not about the money directly, but more about what the money represents: freedom.  If reducing my alcohol consumption affects that realization of freedom on so many levels, it would be foolish not to change my ways.

In December, I added a Habit Tracker to my notebook.  It looks like this:

img_1007
December Habit Tracker

I found it useful and enlightening, and I plan to continue it’s use over the coming months.  If you’re working on creating some new habits in 2017, perhaps a similar tool will be helpful to you.  Whether it’s in a notebook, on a piece of paper posted on your wall, or maybe even on a chalkboard in your kitchen, visually tracking your adherence to your targeted habits can be very beneficial in cementing the change.

Whatever you choose to use, find a visual way to track your goals and progress towards them.  If you do, I bet you’ll find you hit more of your targets in 2017.

 

 

Advertisements

Drinking Whisky and Feeding Kids

Due to my recent involvement with Leadership Washington County (LWC), I’ve also had the pleasure of working to raise money for a program called Blessings in a Backpack.  Blessings provides food on the weekend to children that are fed during the week by government programs.  Without this support, many of them wouldn’t eat for the entire weekend.  “Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement” according to the Blessings website.

This makes perfect sense, and while I’d rather figure out how to impact the true root causes of this problem, the kids that benefit from the program are in their circumstances now.  So a small group of us from LWC were put together in a team to raise money for the local Blessings program.

Our initial brainstorming session had a common theme: alcohol.  Eventually we landed on a handful of options, and once we visited Mingo Creek Distillery we thought we had a good location for  an upscale event.  As we continue the planning, there’s some concern we’re dreaming too big for our upcoming February event.

The distillery is a small venue, but their spirits are relatively high end.  Their Rye is $47 a bottle; their Bourbon is around $55.  Our event is planned to coincide with the release of their next batch of Bourbon.  There will be 4 or 5 tables in different rooms of the distillery which pair upscale food with craft cocktails.  There’s about $20 of drinks in each ticket, and tickets will be limited to a max of 50.  We’re calling it the “Winter Warmer.”

Our intended price is $150 per ticket, shooting for $100 to Blessings for each attendee.  Essentially, every ticket would feed a child for the entire year of weekends.   With bourbon and craft distilling being so hot, paired with an exclusive event and some great food, I don’t think the ticket price is too steep.  We’d offer a $25 discount on a pair of tickets.  Others think we’re severely overpriced.

I think the kind of people who buy $50 bottles and $14 cocktails would be willing to pay up for a release event that feeds children too.  “A little less guilt for your guilty pleasure.”    We’ll see how it pans out, but I will say the act of getting involved in supporting this program has been very personally rewarding.

Giving doesn’t always need to be monetary.  In Romans 12: 5-8, Paul talks about all of us having various gifts.  Too often people think of giving as a monetary thing.  But often, giving of your time and talents in service to others is more personally fulfilling, and frankly might cause a greater financial impact in the end.

If you have some time off around the holidays, think about some ways to give of yourself rather than just of your money to help some other people.  It might be the greatest gift you can give yourself, and them too.