Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Category: Self-Improvement (page 1 of 3)

Is Mint by Intuit Right for You?

The word finances makes many newly-married couples cringe in fear. While everyone recommends budgeting, saving, watching credit scores, and tracking financial growth, these tasks bring with them extra time and energy demands that are often unrelenting. New and old families alike know they are supposed to do those things, but often do not know how to get started. And that is where the age of technology comes in! Over the past few months I have been using a very popular mobile app called Mint by Intuit to help me wrangle in those pesky tasks and hopefully plot a course of financial security. I will be going through some pros and cons of this service and hopefully allow those looking for a way to budget efficiently decide if this product is the right choice for them.

Pros:
  1. The user base is huge! To be honest, the reason that I am reviewing Mint is that it was one of the first apps that showed up when I searched for budgeting tools on the iOS app store. The good news is when an app has a large active user base, the company that manages that platform is more likely to keep the app up-to-date and to respond to suggestions and emerging technologies. This puts users in a good spot since they know that they are syncing their personal financial information with a widely used and respected service and not some shady back-alley app.
  2. It is free! This has to be on this list. An app gets put in many people’s good graces, including mine, when it can be downloaded for free. And the free train doesn’t stop there; the service does not have any premium or “pro” features that require a subscription service, meaning it is a truly free app—not one of those sneaky mostly-free ones.
  3. Automated! Using technology is supposed to make life easier, right? Well in this case, the answer is yes! Once you sync your bank account to this secure application, Mint does the rest! It creates charts and tracks spending patterns automatically and religiously. Before using this app I did not know to the exact percentage point what I was spending on entertainment, but now I do. With the information that is ready at your fingertips immediately after signing up, it is simple to start making plans and adjusting habits to align better with your financial goals. My wife and I were able to see that we were doing super well on some categories (food, clothes, and movies) but could use some work on others (eating out).
Cons:
  1. Ads. While the service is completely free, we do live in a world where money, unfortunately, does not grow on trees. As such, Intuit has decided to display banner style ads throughout the app and saturate the “Suggested Investment Products” feature of the app with its own systems. So while I revel in the app’s freeness, I do note that purchasing any other services strictly from the in-app recommendations without any third party advice is probably not the most recommended course of action.
  2. Automated. I know this appears on both lists, but for good reason. The automation does wonders on productivity, but I kept feeling like I was missing out on truly learning how to budget and plan the family’s finances. When the system was doing everything for me I realized that while I had great information now, I hadn’t learned anything. For those that want to learn budgeting, and not have it done for them, there may be better options explored in the future.


All in all Mint is a great product. It looks clean, it is easy to set up and use, and it has provided me with wonderful information that my wife and I have begun to use to our advantage. It truly is important for every family to budget and work toward financial security. With that being said, Mint just may be the right app for you to get on that road to financial success.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

BY JOSHUA HANSEN

A: Aspirations as a Married Couple

You spend your whole life planning what you want to do and be for the remainder of life, and then . . . BAM! You get married, and everything changes. It’s a challenging experience to try to take two lives with two plans and merge them into one. In some cases, there has to be a lot of compromise so that the two partners can live their idea of a fulfilling life.

When I was deciding to marry my husband, Tyler, I thought integrating my plan into his life would be pretty easy. My plan in life was to grow up, go to my dream college studying the thing I love, marry the love of my life, have some cute little kids, and otherwise insert myself into his plan. I thought my plan was very conducive to married life. This plan would have worked out great, except that life doesn’t always go as planned, and I didn’t have a back-up plan.

Shortly after I married Tyler, I realized that the thing I was studying was not something I loved. This was problematic because I was almost done—and if I wanted to insert myself smoothly into Tyler’s plan, I had to graduate when he did, or not at all; so changing my career track was not an option at that point.

Another problem we encountered was the fact that Tyler’s plan wasn’t fully developed. Sure, we knew the basic outline: graduate from college, get a master’s degree, get a job. But, all of a sudden, we started figuring out that the track he was on would not lead him to the career he thought it would. We applied for internships, but he didn’t get any because he just wasn’t in the right field (even though he’s brilliant, and any company would be lucky to have him).

These problems led to many nights of stress for Tyler and worrying for me. Sometimes we’d lie in bed about to go to sleep, when I would start worrying out loud and end up in a fit of tears. Why aren’t things working out for us? I’d ask. Why didn’t everything go as planned?

Now, I still don’t have the solutions to our problems, but I have a formula for dealing with aspirations as a married couple that I recommend to anyone having similar issues.

First, you have to talk to each other. You have to get together and write down the things you enjoy doing, the things you could see yourself doing as a career, your ultimate dreams and goals.

When you’re done with that, I recommend that you rank the things on your list in order of importance to you. Talk about the things that you feel are non-negotiable, and things you wouldn’t mind doing without. Work out possibilities for the future, and how those things might affect your relationship and your family.

Then you have to make a plan together. And not just one plan, but several that range from broad to specific, from semester to fifty years, from ideal to worst case scenario. This could take several hours, so make sure you have a block of time set aside for doing this, or else you could end up scratching things out at 3 o’clock in the morning.

The last step is making a plan of action for right now. What will you do today to set you on the right path? Even if it’s just research, it will help you out in the long run. Decide on a timely plan for both of you, and help each other out. Remind your husband when his internship application is due. Encourage your wife to look for opportunities to acquire new skills. Take it day by day—if you always make sure you’re on the right trajectory, you will eventually end up where you want to be.

BY CARI AVERETT

We Tried Bullet Journaling and Here’s How it Went

Disclaimer: I am not an artistic person. I was the kind of person who threw away their graded art projects during my high school art class.

Okay, now that we have established my lack of artistic ability, let’s get started!bujo2

What is bullet journaling? As far as I can tell, it’s a code word for cute lists, and I’m loving it!

At the beginning of every school year, I spend hours trying to find the right the planner. I want it to be cute and functional, but it also needs to be reasonably priced. However, each time I end up choosing functional. I mean who wants to pay $20 for a planner that will just get thrown away at the end of the year? Let’s be honest, functional is frumpy while cute is costly.

This is one of the reasons I love bullet journaling. I can pick a super cute notebook and customize the inside. I can do a different layout for every week if I wanted to!

A bullet journal doesn’t just have to be a planner. Make it whatever you want! If you have a blank page and a pen, go crazy!

How to Start

bujo1The first thing you need to do is pick a journal and some pens. I found my journal at the BYU Store, and I picked the pens up at my local Target.

Picking the journal was hard because I didn’t know what kind of paper I wanted to write on. In the end, I decided on a journal that had lined pages. Choose whichever works for you: lined or blank. As for the pens, I didn’t want anything that would smudge. Plus, I wanted fun colors. I went with the Paper Mate Marker Pen.

The next step is to write, draw, doodle, you name it! I made a cover page and an index. After I started, I noticed that the pens bled through the pages. I guess that nothing is perfect, right? 

Now What?

I suggest starting with a list of ideas of the things you wanted to write about. Honestly, you can write about anything: a list of movies you want to watch, a gratitude page, a quote wall, a bucket list, or grocery lists. If you need some more ideas, look up “bullet journal lists” on Pinterest. Get creative and start writing. Here are a couple of my lists:

 

bujo3

Days until summer countdown

 

bujo4

A day from my planner

Advice for the Skeptics

Embrace the mistakes you make: Seriously. No one is perfect. Think of the mistakes as making the journal become more a part of you.

  • Just jump in: Bullet journaling may seem like a daunting task, but you can do it! Trust me.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with different fonts and different writing utensils.
My Analysis

So far, bullet journaling has been fun and stress relieving. When I sit down to doodle or plan, I’m focused on the task so I don’t mess it up (the mark of a true perfectionist). But don’t give up! Make your bullet journal your own. And don’t forget to be creative; no one said creativity killed the cat.

By Naomi Hurd

Budgeting: Where the Real “Adulting” Begins

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Photo by Investment Zen

 

Budgeting is a fairly new development in my life. For years my financial planning was based on guestimation and knowing when my next paycheck would come through. I got by, but things completely changed for me two years ago when I took a family finance class. Since I’ve started budgeting, I have found a rewarding feeling of financial responsibility while still being able to do the things that I love. People make “adulthood” sound like the worst fate that you could ever face, but being financially responsible is an extremely rewarding experience that comes with more freedom than many of us have ever had. If you’ve never budgeted, please, please, pleeeeease try. I promise, you won’t regret it! Here are some ways to help you get started.

Make a plan. Take the time each month to estimate your income: how much you make per hour multiplied by how many hours you anticipate working (when I’m not sure, I like to estimate on the lower side because then it’s like a bonus if I earn more than I budgeted). Once you’ve got that, list all of your expenses. Some things are easy (like rent and insurance payments), but others are trickier. How much do you think you spend on groceries? What is an acceptable amount for you to spend eating out each month or going to the movies? Budgeting bums some people out, but keep in mind that this is your budget. Figure out how much you want to spend eating out a month, but also figure out how much you want to save so you can go crazy on your birthday. It’s all about staying organized so YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO not about keeping you tied down. If you find that your budget was totally impractical, then rearrange some things. It’s a living, breathing document, not something that’s set in stone.

Plan for every dollar to go somewhere. While I was growing up, my financial mantra was to spend as little as possible so that I could save as much as I could. My first inclination in budgeting was to figure out how much I needed for my expenses and then to save everything else. This isn’t the worst way to handle your money, but it’s a hard way to live. I would feel guilty about any purchase that wasn’t 100% necessary to my survival. In my family finance class (shout out to Jeff Hill from BYU’s School of Family Life), I got some great advice that has helped me not get frustrated in my budgeting attempts. The first piece of advise is to assign a category for every dollar that I planned on earning. This meant that I would plan to pay my rent, my insurance, and my groceries, but I would also plan to pay into my savings account, into my eating out category, and into my travel fund, just as if they were other bills. Once I had an assignment for all of my money, I felt so much better. I could spend money on whatever I wanted, guilt-free, so long as I planned for it. Being responsible means more than just hoarding everything you can to stay on the safe side; it means realizing how much you have and working within that boundary.

Plan for the unexpected. I think we can all relate to the frustration that comes when we take the time to make a plan, but then things do not go according to the plan. I have definitely felt this while budgeting, but Dr. Hill taught me a solution that is simple and makes everything so much better. He encouraged us all to make a miscellaneous category on our budgets. It is too hard to plan on every expense that will come your way in a month. Unexpected things come up: your roommate’s birthday, your car’s oil change, or your dream coat goes on sale (just buy it now, it’s an investment). Since it’s impossible to plan for everything, just plan on making a miscellaneous category. By creating a miscellaneous category that you never plan to spend, you give yourself a cushion that allows life to happen. You can buy a birthday cake, take care of your car, and get that coat without feeling like a failure.

I love budgeting! It is such a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference in my day to day life. I sincerely hope that you give budgeting a try. It is 100% worth the effort!

 

November Challenge: THANKS giving

Every year we arrive at Thanksgiving amid a hustle and bustle of cooking and preparing.  More often than not we sit down for dinner and pause a moment or two to go around the table, allowing each person to name something they are thankful for.
Why not step up your game?? Spend the whole month thinking of things you are thankful for.
A few years ago I printed out a picture of a turkey on the biggest paper I could find.  At the top of the paper I wrote: “THINGS WE ARE THANKFUL FOR!”   Then I hung the paper on the wall along with a pen and told my family to write anything they thought of during the month.   At first only one or two words were added.   Gradually, over the course of the month, the kids started writing anything and everything!   By the end of the month, our poster was crowded with ideas from pizza to penguins.   Needless to say, our feelings of gratitude ran deeper that year, since we took the time to contemplate and focus on daily gratitude.
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If you’d like to try this with your family, here’s a turkey to copy and print. Or if you want your children to be more enthused, have one of them draw the turkey. There are also other great variations on this idea. What’s important is to take time to focus on our blessings, to focus on our gratitude.
Are you ready to take on this November Challenge?
“Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes. A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
 Happy Thanks Giving!!
Written by Phyllis Rosen

3 Ways to Create a Positive Attitude

 Ways to become your best self“Oh, here we go again, a reminder of how imperfect I  am.” Usually when we think of self-improvement, we tend  to start underestimating ourselves, our potential, and our  purpose.  We focus on our weaknesses and our mistakes,  making it  difficult to remember our strengths and  successes.

 Have you ever received “constructive criticism” but, in  reality, the words actually take jabs at your heart? Have  you  ever set goals and held high hopes, only to realize  that  carrying them out was close to impossible?  (especially with  the way you had planned)

Like many of us, you’ve probably felt down on yourself. You’ve probably failed a few times and have felt like you were drowning in depths of despair. The last thing you want to think about is how you can be better.

You’ve already made a list of what you consider weaknesses and what you can improve: serving others, friends, smiling, prioritizing, organizing, cleaning, showing your love, getting good grades, finding/keeping a job, stop crying so often, eat less/more, exercise, and so forth.

At this point you’re having trouble trying to remember that you’re worth something.

This isn’t how self-improvement should be. There is an optimistic side of self-improvement that Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.16.56 AMmany people don’t mention, or even recognize but in reality is the most important for actual progress.

For me, especially when I’m being hard on myself, I like to remember three steps that help improve my mental health and attitude. Improving attitude is the best thing we can do to strengthen ourselves in times of need and to prepare for difficult times in the future. We can recognize that we are not perfect now, but we can also be confident in our ability and purpose as we strive to become better.

1) Strive to overcome your weaknesses. Now, this doesn’t mean you ignore your weaknesses, nor does it mean you will be “weakness-free” anytime soon. It does, however, mean that you recognize your weaknesses and have a desire to change. With patience and grace, along with the desire to learn, you come to recognize that what you once believed were your weaknesses, have now become strengths when used correctly. For example, although speaking loudly is a trait you may feel ashamed of in some situations, in others it works greatly, so you discern in which circumstances you can make it a strength.

2) Use your strengths. The best way to improve is to remember your strengths, and to put them in action. We all have things we are good at, whether it be as small as making your bed every day or as big as recently getting a new job. Recognize your strengths and cater to those. Strive to set goals within your abilities, this will help you accomplish more and gain confidence in your abilities.

3) Fear not. Don’t get down on yourself for the fact that you need to improve in some areas. It is a common sphere that we are all working within. Remember that through it all, you are still amazing and there are good things to come. Remember that you CAN do it all, all that is required of you and all that brings you joy.

“Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.”

Believe in yourself. Believe in your capability. Believe in your ability to become. You are strong, beautiful and full of potential. Embrace it. Overcome the despair of failure and find the joy in imperfection. Find the joy in progression. Focus on self improvement.

Written by Rebekah Day

 

10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Healthy Lifestyle

mother-1245764_1920 According to the Journal of the American Medical  Association, 26.6% of children and adolescents were  diagnosed with a chronic condition in the United  States.  This means that one in five children today  have a chronic  illness, with chronic conditions s  spreading, it’s more  important than ever that we  take proper care of our  bodies.

 While chronic illness can be life altering, the effects of a chronic illness can be diminished by following a healthy lifestyle. It is widely known that 30 minutes of exercise and a balanced diet are necessary ingredients of a healthy lifestyle. What may be less known is that exercise and a balanced diet are suggested by health care professionals for proper control of one’s chronic condition.

Even though these guidelines are well-known they are difficult to implement into a busy family life. The following are some suggestions to start implementing a healthy lifestyle for your family:

  1. Find an exercise activity your family enjoys doing together and do it as often as possible.running-573762
  1. Plan your weekly meals to include fruits and vegetables.
  1. Have your children go outside and play while you make dinner.
  1. Keep healthy snacks around the house.
  1. Have your kids alternate picking the exercise activity for the day.
  1. Have your kids train for and participate in a family Olympics. The event could include a few families that are your friends.
  1. Alternate which family member picks the fruit/vegetable for the week at the store.
  1. If you tend to eat out, reduce the number of times you eat out in a month.
  1. Pick healthier options when you do eat out. (Pick a sandwich place instead of a pizza place.)
  1. Find delicious and healthy recipes to make.

Written by: Laura Fillmore

Book Review: The Big Leap

As I believe I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am a new and very avid consumer of self-help books. I love having those “aha moments,” and when you read (or listen to) a self-help book, you get them all of the time.

But I think there’s an unspoken stigma about this type of literature—that it’s only for middle-aged women and prospective businessmen. At least, that’s how I saw it. Reminding myself that I actually used to think self-help books sounded about as dry and lifeless as the DMV, I’m realizing I can’t remember what caused me to actually start reading one. But I did. And you know what I found? You don’t have to wait until you feel bogged down by flaws and negative life experience to seek improvement. We all started as infants, unable to talk or walk—life is an uphill climb from the beginning!

I’m taking a while to get to the book review, aren’t I?

My point is, I have the humble opinion that self-help books are for everyone. And I want to start you off with a good one. So without further ado, let me tell you about The Big Leap.

The Big Leap book coverGay Hendricks, the author, (who, by the way, has appeared on Oprah), discovers a problem with us as human beings: the Upper Limit Problem. He claims that we subconsciously seem to limit our success and happiness, and he finds ways to counteract this limitation.

The book is filled with ways to actively participate in the self-improvement process. He asks you to ask yourself, “What do I most love to do? (I love it so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored.)” He gives you a personal mantra: “I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.” He tells you the truth, ” . . . if I cling to the notion that something’s not possible, I’m arguing in favor of limitation. And if I argue for my limitations, I get to keep them.”

Now, with books, I am not a re-reader. I feel like there is so much out there to read, it would be silly to revisit what you’ve already finished and closed. But the minute I finished this book, I started it right back from the beginning again. There is so much wisdom here—so many keys to a happy and successful life. On top of that, I just felt feelings of positivity and hope throughout my journey into the book.

So, if I’ve convinced you, and you’re ready to give self-help books a try, try this one!

—Sophie Parry

Mindful Media: Make Your Time with Technology Worthwhile

technology-791029_1920I love technology, but like many good things, it can be abused and overused. More applicable to me, it can be very, very time-wasting. Yet I keep reaching for my phone and turning on the T.V. any moment I can. It’s a habit that I (and many of us, I assume) have been forming since Saturday morning cartoons.

But over the past two years, I’ve become interested in mindfulness, and guess what I’ve found. On the days that I am mindful about the way I feel and how my choices affect me, I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my life ten times more, including technology. Mindless consumption is one thing, and it really isn’t good for us. But really enjoying a T.V. show, looking for educational YouTube videos, connecting with family on Instagram—these are all good things, and they’re so much better when you are completely present.

I don’t mean to say that it’s good to fill your days and nights with as much technology as you possibly can. I think that when you practice being present—asking yourself how your body feels, how you feel emotionally, and what sensations you’re receiving—you will actually choose to consume less media, but the media that you do choose to consume will be worthwhile.

So here are my recommendations for mindful media intake:

1. Television (yes, Netflix bingers, I’m talking to you)—When you’re watching a T.V. show, try not to do anything else while you watch it. I know, this sounds like you’re wasting more time. But I’ve found that when I work while I’m multitasking, it takes longer and suffers in quality. If you find that you want to do something else while you’re watching your T.V. show, turn it off and do the thing you want to be doing! You’ll have watched less T.V., and your work will be vastly improved. Plus, you’ll have fully enjoyed the T.V. that you watched!

2. Social Media—It’s so easy to scroll down the endless pit of news and videos and memes. I do it every day. So here’s something that’s made it a little more worthwhile for me. When you find yourself becoming zombie-like, clicking from one image or post to the next, try to turn this venture into a creative one. Snap yourself out of it by either making your own account where you can share your expertise, making a personal connection and contacting one of the people you’re stalking (maybe you could reconnect with an old friend), or finding a creative outlet. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has started a website called HITRECORD. It’s an online community where you can post and develop creative projects!

3. Meditate—Yes, you’re right, this isn’t a technology-based mindfulness technique. It’s an ancient one! I’m including this because, no matter what, mindful technology doesn’t compete with being mindful in the physical world. Meditating starts with your mind and your body. It helps you to reduce anxiety, focus better, and breath better. So, if you want to use media more wisely or if you feel like you need a media cleanse, start with some meditation and see where it takes you. I love to meditate first thing in the morning, but do what works for you. Here is a great app that will guide you through meditations: Stop, Breath & Think. You can download it for free on your smartphone or access it online.

Mindfulness helps you enjoy every moment in life, focus when you need to, and make better decisions throughout the day. I hope these suggestions are helpful to you! Let me know what you think.

—Sophia Parry

Get Creative: 36 Ideas for “Creatives” and “Non-creatives” Alike

face-638845_1920Have you ever thought of a project, but you were too afraid to start?

I have a seven-year-old niece who has probably created more things than most people do in their lifetimes. Once, she made a fish tank out of paper and even devised a food dispenser with tape, folded paper, and paper scraps. When she lost a tooth this year, she set up a room for the tooth fairy out of a laundry basket with a toy bed and a fridge so that the fairy could take a break. This girl never stops creating.

I think a lot of us did things like that when we were little. After growing up, some people keep that creativity alive, while others classify themselves as “non-creatives” and avoid opportunities to see what they’re made of.

I don’t believe that art is the only outlet we have to be creative. I enjoy drawing, painting, and writing. I’m that kind of creative. But I haven’t always been confident that I could contribute my ideas in groups and meetings. I’m still not confident about that. But that’s another part of creativity, and I’m determined to develop it.

There’s an unlimited amount of creative outlets in this world. The challenge for us is to get over all of the fears that we make up about creativity—the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of being amateur, the fear of wasting time (that’s my big one).

Let me tell you something the bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has written about creativity:

“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

Having the courage to be creative is an adventure. And don’t worry about wasting time. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

“Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.”

So here is my challenge, and I’m doing this with you. Make it your goal to do one creative thing every day. You don’t have to spend a certain amount of time on it. Just do something. I guarantee that you will be more fulfilled in your life and in your family if you start to discover the treasures that are hidden within you.

Here are thirty-six ideas to get you started:

1. Write in your journal.

2. Take a picture.

3. Edit a picture.

4. Write a social media post.

5. Bake something.

6. Cook something.

7. Set the table nicely.

8. Draw something. It can be a doodle!

9. Paint a picture.

10. Paint furniture.

11. Paint a room.

12. Rearrange the furniture in your home.

13. Sing a song.

14. Play an instrument.

15. Do a workout. Maybe create your own routine.

16. Dance.

17. Ice skate.

18. Sew something.

19. Knit.

20. Crochet.

21. Play with a child.

22. Write a story.

23. Tell a story.

24. Write a blog post.

25. Write a letter.

26. Write a poem.

27. Write a letter.

28. Practice calligraphy.

29. Do your makeup.

30. Try something new with your hair.

31. Put together a new outfit.

32. Plan a date.

33. Contribute your idea in a meeting.

34. Learn a monologue.

35. Make a fun way to study for a test.

36. Ask a question. Do whatever you can to answer it.

I could go on, but I hope that these ideas get the wheels turning. Comment any success or failure stories. I don’t care which. I want to hear about courage.

—Sophia Parry

 

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