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Stay sane during Covid

It began with a shock as the virus spread, everything closed and markets crashed. Then things got eerily quiet. For a while doom scrolling kept us busy. Then the scramble to set up a home office and learning spaces for the kids. Next came guzzling down Netflix episodes for light drama followed by a US election for even more drama. Most recently we’ve been comparing shots and reactions. But we are all getting weary and it’s time to find new ways to stay sane during Covid.

Fine, I mean fun, dining

No question our eating has changed a lot. Emphasis on the lot.  Where workday dining used to be confined to mealtimes, being at home gives us continuous access to the fridge, the pantry and the cookie jar to relieve some boredom. Here are some ideas to mix things up and stay sane during Covid:

Meal Kits – here in Ohio, our Giant Eagle grocery store has a selection of Great to Go meal kits for two including Chicken Piccata and Mushroom and Green Chile Enchiladas. Meanwhile in Canada, PC Chef has their Oaxacan Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa and smashed Avocados. They make a fun date night, are easy to prepare and build real chef skills for when you are ready to take off the culinary training wheels.

Leftovers – check out Supercook, a clever way to find recipes with what you have left in your fridge. Download their app from the App Store or Google Play and just speak your fridge leftovers into your phone. Boom! It finds you recipes that use just what you have! How Cashflow Cookbook is that?

Wine Clubs – there are some great wine clubs out there including the Wall Street Journal Wine, a cool club that starts off with 14 bottles plus glasses for just $69.99. Or why not try a complete blind tasting kit from Argaux? They offer 2, 3 and 4 bottle kits to test your palette and learn your preferences. You can set up your own testing night and compare scotches, gins or rums. We did a comprehensive vodka testing night right here at Cashflow Cookbook headquarters.

Clear out the brain fog

What a great time to learn something new! We are all used to remote connections and the range and quality of courses has never been better. Wonderful way to reinvest your commute time in ideas to enrich your life and further your career while staying sane during Covid.

Stay sane during Covid take a class
a masterclass can teach you all kinds of new skills. Photo Andrew Pons

Masterclass gives you full access to the best in every field. Learn songwriting with Alicia Keys, cooking with Gordon Ramsey, skateboarding with Tony Hawk or business management with Howard Shultz (think Starbucks). An unbelievable deal at $15/month.

There are lots of other great online learning sites including Udemy, Coursera, EdX and LinkedIn Learning. Titles include business related topics like mastering XL (how fun is that?) or learning to code (How much fun can you take?), to every kind of interest or hobby. Udemy, as an example, includes courses on everything from music and photography to fitness, lifestyle and interior design. Often courses with thousands of 4-5 star reviews are only $20-$40. Coursera and EdX tend to more academic and career-oriented titles.

The great outdoors

There it is, just past your screens and out your front door! Go check it out. Prop up an effigy of yourself in your office chair so you’re not missed on the Zoom call. You got this.

Hike – grab some runners and get to a park or trail. Breathe that fresh air and commune with the woodland creatures. It’s a lot like the Headspace meditation app, but without the computer, the guy with the British accent and the annual subscription. Push the pace a bit and get your heart engaged, or bring some snacks and loaf along. Either way, the latest research says that it will help you stay sane during Covid.

get out for a bike
It’s like riding a, well, you know! Photo Carl Winterbourne

Bike – yah, the dusty metal thing in the garage, just behind the Christmas decorations and the boxes of, well, whatever is in them. Guessing here, but perhaps you haven’t had it out in ages. The good news is that it is just like riding a…well you know. Get a nifty phone holder for your handlebars to help your navigation or just go natural and enjoy the day.

Herb and Vegetable Gardens – A great alternative if all of that huffing and puffing isn’t your thing. Lots of instructions to get you started on YouTube and seeds and kits on Amazon. A wonderful way to commune with your own yard, and get the very freshest ingredients for your garden.

Bird watching – I know, I know, it sounds a bit fuddy duddy. Bust out the Tilley hat and the cardigan and all that. But a bird feeder set up just outside your morning coffee window really adds something. And since your boss isn’t watching, take your time, enjoy the interactions and the colorful species. Hauling the bird food around provides a great workout, which leads us to the next section.

Home workouts

stay sane during covid with home workouts
stay sane during covid with home workouts. Photo Johnathan Borba

Sadly, all of the excuses are gone! The gyms may be closed, but you can set up a home gym. Peloton, Bowflex and NordicTrack are all shipping again. And even if they weren’t your body weight is still there. Maybe more than ever. Get some basic equipment and then amp it up with bespoke virtual classes.

YouTube has every kind of workout and tons of instruction in Yoga, pilates, bodyweight, and Martial Arts. If the Apple elves brought you a watch for Christmas, put it to work with the Apple Fitness+ app. Love this, new classes all the time to bring your treadmill, spin bike, yoga mat and abs to life.

Honeydew list

Since you are at home staring ceaselessly anyway, why not fix a few things up? Tradesmen are booked solid, but what a great time to learn some new skills. Recruit a handy relative or try working under the wing of a pro. There are YouTube channels for every kind of fixit project. Bob Vila and Vancouver Carpenter are awesome for general repairs, while Appliance Repair is great for fixing, well, you know.

If your boredom sinks to previously unexplored levels, it might be time to do the sorting and organizing that you have put off for the last decade or two. Do some robust purging, move those old treasures out to charity and then get some shelves going to give you primo access to the things you really need. Cleaning, sorting, purging and organizing rivals meditation and Xanax for mood improvement.

Looking to ease your boredom, stay sane during Covid and save money? Tackle some energy saving projects, like weatherstripping some leaky doors and windows, sealing around pipes entering your home and adding attic insulation. We did a few Covid-era projects to save on electricity and it made a big difference. See below:

stay sane during covid home energy projects
Looks like those January energy savings projects paid off

Build a kit

stay sane during Covid - build a kit
stay sane during Covid – build a kit

You name it, you can get a kit for it. Deb got me a Les Paul guitar kit that will have me sanding, staining and soldering for weeks. Once done, I will plug it into one of the amp kits I built earlier for a real all-built-at-home experience. To ensure that I can enjoy really great guitar tone, we just got tickets for a Santana concert later this summer.

If you trend to more arts and crafts, here is a cool hands casting kit to immortalize your paws. Or you can find books and kits to make everything from candles to clocks.

Entertainment in a box

A bunch of companies will ship you a monthly box, of well, cool stuff. Hot sauces, mystery games, puzzles, at-home escape rooms, luxury essentials and tons more. Check out Cratejoy as an example. Prices run from $20-$40 a month or so.

Summary

Turns out that there are lots of ways to stay sane during Covid. As scary and as sad as this chapter has been, its also been a time to regroup, reconnect and recharge. Maybe a change to remake your life in a new way. For many it has opened possibilities – more working from home, less commuting, more free time for family. Some of these changes can help free up cash (one less car? reduced commuting costs?), while others can offer a better lifestyle (more time with kids, spouse and pets). Use the time as a chance to improve every aspect of your life. Soon the fog will lift, the world will open up and we will appreciate relative visits, dinners out and concerts like never before.

How are you staying sane during Covid? Let me know in the comments below.

Main Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Wealth through frugality

A quick recap. So far in this series, we have explored the issue of how to stop worrying about money. At its root, financial bliss comes when we spend less than we earn, which is very easy to say. The lure of cool new stuff guides our hand to slide our plastic through a lot of slots and into a lot of trouble. We learned that tracking our wealth helps us refocus, change our relationship with money, spend mindfully and invest profitably. We looked at the incredible wealth building power of simple spending changes over time. Naturally, those changes are less painful when they can be done with minimal effort and sacrifice. Getting something better for less. However, another whole range of possibilities emerge when we consider wealth through frugality. Eliminating the actual stuff itself. Not buying it in the first place. Plastic stays in wallet.

Ugh. Could anything be less appealing? Let me guess, we’re going to take away lattes, avocado toast, nice cars, fun vacations, cool clothes and dinners out? Well no, yes and kind of. But hear me out.

The things you own, end up owning you

I first heard that line in the movie, The Fight Club. At the time, I didn’t understand it and just viewed it as one of those slick turns of phrase. Years later it made a lot of sense, maybe too much,

Through a lot of hard work, careful saving and the glorious days of stock options, I found myself with a lot of stuff including a large sailboat, a vacation property, a nice home and a closet brimming with fancy togs. Which sounds like a wonderful lifestyle and in some ways it was. But I needed a toolbox for the boat, one for the cottage and one for the house. Every hour of fun seemed to demand 3 or 5 hours of maintenance, by either me or a hired serviceperson. Then there were the lists. Lists of lists, of tasks, parts and scheduling. Lists by store and by thing. And a ton of work. All of it had to fit outside the hours of my job, my family, friends and other interests. The things I owned, ended up owning me.

If you avoid buying a thing, there is the obvious point of saving money through the avoiding. But you also save on the service, the cover it needs, the extended warranty, the accessories, the place to store it, the related clothing and safety gear, its depreciation and eventual replacement. So of course there is a way to build wealth through frugality. But who wants to not have the thing? Maybe you.

Shift from things to people and experiences

When you dial down the things in your life, some wonderful changes occur. The lists disappear. Your time frees up. The drudgery of sorting, storing and purging goes away. Your life is returned to you to enjoy.

I wrote Cashflow Cookbook to help people build millions of extra wealth without “sacrifice”. The ideas really work, but there is another gear shift to add that brings both wealth and joy. Frugality. And it turns out that having less doesn’t involve a sacrifice at all.

The old joke is that the 2 happiest days of boat ownership is the day that you buy it and the day that you sell it. Totally true. And the reality is that I don’t miss my boat. Spring set up used to consume 3-4 weekends and fall storage another 2-3. I would grimace over the maintenance, the work and the time away from friends and family.

Three years ago, I downsized from an Acura to a Honda. What happened was fascinating. Absolutely nothing. My friends didn’t abandon me. Road trips were just as fun, the car is easier to park and more fun to drive. When I leave it somewhere, I worry less about it getting scratched or stolen.

I did a clothing purge a while back. I rarely wore most of it.  Each time I moved, I would dutifully pack it all up, carry the boxes, unpack everything, fold, hang and store. Then do it all again for the next move. I would hunt for things to wear, moving things I never wear out of the way. Now my clothes have room. And I can find them.

Suddenly the frugality movement starts to make some sense. Not because I have to but because I can. Things are simpler and I have more time for, well, everything. Living more simply and frugally is way to shift our lives from things to people and experiences. There is wealth in frugality, but also calm, connection and joy. And interestingly, no sacrifice.

What do you think? Have you embraced a simpler lifestyle? Let me know in the comments and please share the post if you enjoyed it.

Stay safe and enjoy.

Gordon

P.S .In fairness, I do have more guitars than ever before, but they don’t own me. They even let me share their room.

 

 

It happened again. This time, I was out for a drink with my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad. (How many of us can say that!) Great guy. He brought it up first. He is transitioning from the bicycle industry to real estate. “It’s like serendipity”, he said, “I just keep meeting the right people at the right time who are there to help me.” I smiled and nodded, “Go on”. He offered story after story. He has tapped into the power and is in awe of the possibilities.

I have seen it non-stop since I left the land of the quarterly earnings. I am living a constant Field of Dreams moment. My car dealer friend introduced me to another self-published author and speaker who agreed to share his secrets over a coffee. I couldn’t type fast enough into my iPhone. He laid out his whole business model for me and has followed up with emails to keep me on point. No charge, no consulting fee, no catch. Just doing it for the goodness of paying it forward. But it’s not just him. Old friends are reappearing. Colleagues offer introductions that pave the way for new possibilities. Sometimes it is me, sending drops of serendipity their way. And finding oceans of it washing back in return.

Where is all of this serendipity coming from?

And the serendipity breeds more serendipity. The speaking engagement leads to a newspaper column. The blog post leads to a speaking engagement with the clients of a financial advisor, which then leads to an employee financial wellness session at a different firm.

Was it always there and I missed it? Are we rising toward peak serendipity? Just yesterday, at a client meeting we talked about what we could do together on social media. One idea flowed into the next. Some would help my business, some would help theirs. Didn’t matter. There was a “pull” feel to it. No pushing, no demanding, no measurement. Just people helping people and the results flowing in. In fact, it seems to happen the most, the further I get from the command and control corporate world. Speaking with entrepreneurs, they look at me like I’m from Saturn. Of course that is how things get done. They have known about it all along.

How to open the serendipity tap?

So how can we all grow some more serendipity in our lives? I am no serendipity expert, but let me share what I have seen so far:

  1. Do Good – Choose a vocation that is about helping others. Define a great quest. It feels good and draws in others to help.
  2. Be Open – Accept the invitation even if it’s not clear why you should go. It could be a dinner in Toledo or a coffee in Portland that opens up completely new possibilities for you.
  3. Seek to Help – Meet new people with a mindset of how you can help them in their journey. Seek to understand, then to be understood.
  4. Look for the Synergies – Is there an elegant meeting of needs somewhere that can accelerate what you both are doing? What unique properties do you each have that can help the other?
  5. Loosen the Strings – in the corporate world, it is often about bolting down timelines and deliverables. Let them flow for a while and see what happens.
  6. Connect Others – we are all just a connection or two away from meeting those who can help our plans soar. Keep bringing your contacts together and those synergies will flow among them. And back at you.

Do you find Serendipity is rising? Or are we becoming more attune to it? Share your thoughts!

Photo credit Louis K on Unsplash

In the epoch prior to Netflix there were 2 ways to get a men’s suit. Once was off the rack, a fantasy-based method that assumes that your dimensions are aligned with a mythical standard. With mid-sized shoulders, mid size arms and mid sized paunch all was good. For the rest of us, these are more commonly known as “ill fitting suits”.  The second approach is to go made-to-measure, hand fitted over several appointments with pricing mentioned only if requested and then in hushed tones accompanied by sage nodding. Is there a better way to buy clothes?

Actually, let me back up. Prior to Netflix there was more call for suits in general. We festooned ourselves in them, complete with big shoes, fancy belts and power ties. Work fashion has morphed to jeans and polos or even cargo shorts and rock T shirts with concert listing dates on the back. So who cares about suits? Who knows, you might have a wedding, a fancy dinner out or a kid’s graduation to attend. Or maybe you just want a shirt or dress pants that fit properly. And if you are looking for savings on casual clothes look here.

I may have found a clothing gnome

Some guys love the trip to the mall to fuss over the fabrics and the styling details and enjoy getting up close and personal with a measuring tape. I don’t know any of those guys, but I’m just saying. The rest of us hope for a clothing gnome who magically restocks our closet with suits, shirts and pants that fit, look good and take no shopping time.

In a perfect world you would get measured once, pick fabrics from a web site, order new suits, shirts and pants from your iPhone while watching the Patriots. Click on your saved credit card and, Presto, your clothes show up at your door. No parking,  mall trips or  hassles. No embarrassing encounters with measuring tapes. Well OK, but just once.

The last mouse click sent a digital Gord to China

There is such a place and it is called Indochino. Brilliant. I put them to the test when replacing my ancient tuxedo – pleated pants, circa 1980’s NFL shoulder padding and inexplicably, a mustard stain on the lapel – don’t ask, it had to go. I booked my appointment via their online calendar. Boom. They greet me at the door by name and set to work. Lots of prodding with tape measures and everything carefully noted in the computer system. I wouldn’t have thought that there were that many things you could measure. Tape extended, move here, mouse click, keyboard. Repeat. About 30 minutes worth. Years of careful rum drinking and Breaking Bad binge watching were boiled down to a set of numbers. Then some try ons of sample jackets and pants. More measuring and clicking. Finally done. Time still left on my parking meter app. The last mouse click sent a digital Gord to China to get cut and sewn into exactly the tuxedo I spec’d. $699 plus taxes. I could get 3 for the price of a made to measure tux from a high end retailer.

A better way to buy clothes

About a week and a half later, a big box waited at my door. Inside was something that looked a bit like a tuxedo that had done a red eye flight from China. After a bit of closet time it came back to life. I would too, under those conditions. I slipped it on the jacket and wow, did it fit. Nothing bunching or stressing. Brilliant. On to the pants. Hmm a bit tight in the seat and waistband. Bad measuring? Excess rum? Who knows. I called my Indochino friends and they suggested I take it to a local seamstress. Then they ask me to take a picture of the receipt, send it to them and they will credit my account. And, they adjusted digital Gord so the next suit is perfect. OK, now this is service! Check them out at Indochino.com.

So have I bought more clothes from them? Not yet, but I know that Digital Gord is ready whenever I am. I will be back.

So how does this help my female friends? Ladies contribute! Is there a better way to buy clothes for women? Let me know!

Photo credit: Ruthson-Zimmerman on Unsplash