Chances are you’ve come up with some pretty elaborate plans to trick yourself into being more productive.
Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is actually to change our environments. This is one of the first areas I thought of when I first started E-Class Ventures all those years ago. As a youth I often tried to change my room (as much as I was allowed) to improve my mood with varying levels of success. It ranged from constantly rearranging (pre feng shui craze) to try the make the most of very limited space to painting in perhaps not the best color palette for an already cramped room. All of that to say environment impacts your mood, productivity and this overall wellness.
What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There’s plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here’s how and why making some changes to your environment works.
Your brain is efficient Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we’re faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That’s why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.
A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there’s a reason for that. It’s your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!
Trick yourself into making wise decisions What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let’s look at an example.
Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you’re hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You’ve trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!
Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work (aka as home for a lot of us since the pandemic), does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?
It might take some legwork to get started, but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!
What’s one thing you’ve done to change your environment this year that has had a positive effect on your life? How are you going to continue our improve upon that charge for 2021? Share it below.
At the start of each calendar year, people make plans about how they are going to do things differently to change or improve their situation. Typically money moves are somewhere on the list. Unfortunately by mid-January we often see people giving up on those plans. But let’s face it, after everything we’ve faced in 2020 if you only change or improve one thing, YOU’RE WINNING!
Here are a few money moves you can make for 2021. But more than that we’re giving clear action steps that you can incorporate that should help you stick to the changes past January.
#1 Cut your expenses and debt, if possible
I know you’ve heard this one countless times before, and probably rolled your eyes. (🙄 here we go again!) You think you really need cable or satellite with 300+ channels to catch that one show on that premium channel or to keep the kids entertained. You NEED Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, AND Apple TV. (Yes, we realize their ads are probably popping up on the page since we mentioned them.) That new gaming console and subscription service is ESSENTIAL for your kids, so that they stop bothering you before you end them after how many months of trying to shelter in place as much as possible. So we’re not going to mention any of those changes. But here are some ways to cut your expenses that you may not have thought about.
· Shop for less expensive insurance
If you have a car, apartment, or house, you have insurance on those items (unless you like riding dirty and living dangerously). But why spend more for a truly necessary item than you have to? So often we stick with the same company year after year while they slowly inch up our premiums while providing the same level of coverage and at times less service. Shop around prior to each renewal and see if your company still has the best premium. If not, switch. If they’re not valuing your business by keeping your cost low, why are you out here being loyal to a corporation?
Don’t know where to start? Just tell us below which insurance quotes you’d like and your residential (or commercial if you own a business) zip code and you’ll receive an invitation email to get multiple quotes within minutes.
· Refinance and/or payoff your debt
Are we recommending you go through a long credit approval process here? Not necessarily. Look at the interest rates on all of your current debt. If you have lower interest rate funding sources (a line of credit, credit card) that isn’t maxed out, it might be advantageous to move some of that debt over to the lower interest rate source. Especially while the Fed has held rates hovering just over 0% for most of 2020. (We’ll do a post later about what that means in detail; just know while you won’t get that rate necessarily you should be able to find lower interest rates because of it depending on your credit score.) Just be sure to watch out for transfer fees that may offset the money you’ll save in lower interest costs.
If you have the means to payoff some of your debt with money you have sitting in a low-interest rate savings account, go ahead and do it. You’re not going to make any more keeping that money in the account any time soon at 0.01%. Still not convinced? Play with these calculators to see how much your debt is costing you and how to get rid of it.
#2 Save money on food and cut food waste
So many people are struggling to afford food right now. The nightly news displays how the lines at food banks continue to grow in length. If you’re able to still buy the food you need first let’s take a moment to be grateful for that. 🙏 Now on to how to cut costs…
· Always. Make. A. List.
We know, we know. You’ve read and heard this one before too. So why aren’t you doing it? “I’m too busy.” Really? Too busy to save money? You’re going to end up spending one or the other (time vs. money) so why not spend a little time to save more money. “I write the list and forget it at home.” Ever heard of a phone? They have cameras and apps to make lists. “The kids always end up asking for things in the store.” Uh, here’s an idea. Teach them to make a list too! Good habits are taught and learned early just like bad ones, like shopping without a list and worse yet, hungry.
Stores are designed as mazes to make you wander around and notice as many products as possible. After all, you might just see something you “need” but didn’t plan on getting! (Darn kids 🧒) That’s why bringing a list with you is key. You’re far more likely to stay on track if you have a few written objectives. Making that list also helps you find all of the best sales, discounts and coupon codes. Speaking of coupons, here are some of our favorite apps:
Ibotta While it doesn’t include a list feature like another app on our list, it does offer a wide variety of coupons and our new fave for saving money and staying on budget, digital gift cards. Set your budget for groceries at lets say Walmart, buy the gift card in that amount through Ibotta for a percentage back immediately. Then, pick out all of the available coupons at Walmart for your shopping list and use the gift card to pay. In a few days (often a few minutes but we don’t want to overpromise), those coupon amounts will be credited to your account. Cash out whenever you reach a $20 balance.
Coupons.com So SavingStar went the way of the dodo bird and everyone had to migrate over to Coupons.com. We’re not mad at this as the offerings from SavingStar had gotten less desirable over the years. Also, Coupons.com was a site we had used in the past, albeit less frequently because it was associated in our minds with printing out coupons to take to the store. While you can still print coupons, there is an app now that we’re getting acquainted with. Follow our social media for updates on our experience with the app.
Checkout 51 This used to be the app to turn to for discounts on fresh produce, which at times can be challenging to find. While those offers have become fewer and farther between, this app has started expanding into other savings areas like gas and online shopping. It also has a built-in pharmacy savings card and a newer feature we’ll also be sharing on social media, surveys for money. 💲💲
KeyRing Ok while this one doesn’t offer any coupons or rebates, it is great for storing all of those customer loyalty cards. It’s also one of the only apps we’ve discovered so far that also allows you to create a shopping list for each specific store that’s not dependent on whatever rebates are available.
What apps do you use to save money on groceries? Share in the comments below. And while you’re grocery shopping, try to stick to the perimeter of the store. That’s where the more healthy, essential items you’ll need are often stocked!
Talking about healthy foods…
· Wait until evening to hit up your farmers market
ECV Talks is based in Florida, USA where finding farm grown foods is relatively easy. If you’re blessed to have farmers markets near you, make sure to shop local and support them. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal. Local vendors usually don’t want to lug their unsold goods back home with them. That’s why they’ll often start discounting their produce as the day drags on. Hit them right at the end of the day to get the best deals. And don’t be afraid to ask them for items that aren’t visually perfect but are still usable.
But don’t over-purchase just because you’re getting this great deal without a plan to avoid tossing all those fresh fruits and veggies. Try canning, blanching and freezing to preserve your purchases and cut back on food waste. Or if you want to spend a little more, we highly advise investing in a Foodsaver or similar vacuum sealing appliance. Saving money on food is a long game. If you’re preparing your own meals instead of going out (which let’s face it alot of us are doing right now), you’re already well ahead of the curve. Trying out these tips can take your frugality game to the next level!
What money moves do you plan to make in 2021? Talk to us below!
So this post should have been scheduled earlier today…but it wasn’t typed. I (Ms. ME) should have done far more marketing for the entrepreneurship master class I just held. To be honest, I kind of phoned it in, right down to the replay of one of my earlier classes from this year (see e2E launch below).
But enough of what I did wrong…here’s what I did right.
I didn’t press play and walk away. I actually put myself back through my own class. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil anything here so you’ll be incentivized to sign up for the next free class happening on February 13th. What I will say is that it reminded me of the things that I need to be doing, even when I don’t feel like it to keep this and my other businesses going & growing. It reminded me why I took so many years to come back to this entrepreneur lifestyle and how rewarding and freeing it has already been this year.
Is that to say it hasn’t been nerve-racking at times? No, but it also depends on how I choose to look at it. The tedium of employment had driven me to a low point that I don’t want to revisit. So I have to accept the occasional thrill of “will she or won’t she” until my motivation returns to its past level when I juggled parenthood, college, and entrepreneurship. Or I can take my own advice from the master class…
At any rate here are a few tips on starting your own business (some are similar to my master class) that I’ll share from an ABC story back in 2011 that still has relevance:
Know why you want to start a business
Create a simple business plan
Nail your target customer
Go out and get customers
There are more tips in the article, seven to be exact. But as I and so many others are proof of, tips and knowledge are necessarily always enough without sufficient motivation or support. That’s part of the reason I created my course. So often while teaching teens and young adults how to start businesses, I’d hear from their adult guardians that they wish they not only had the knowledge but the support I provided my students.
So the key difference of this course in what I see as a series of at least three courses is the support group, for now located on Facebook, Entrepreneurs Creating Value. In my over a decade of working in education, I’ve truly come to appreciate that while the educator may direct the class, all of the instruction does not come from that educator. Goes back to that concept of ‘each one, teach one’ that I first heard in one of my college classes.
Of course at the end of the day everyone who enrolls in an online course is looking for the instructor’s feedback, which I provide on the schedule we’ve agreed upon based on our consultation prior to enrollment. However when it comes to tips 3 and 4 from above, I find the more people you have available to pick their brains the quicker you travel the path to identifying and reaching your target customer for your new business. Instead of bugging family and friends who may not fit that profile or worse yet may not want to support you in your escape for the employee lifestyle that they are too afraid to leave behind, crowd-sourcing the information you need in addition to individual research is a better path.
But what do you think? If you’re thinking about starting a business do you prefer one-on-one, having a group to bounce ideas off of, or both? Share below.