Simply Improving Your Life is Simple

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As we start the new year, I thought it would be a good time for reflection and to share some thoughts on life and fatherhood. These are some of the ways I've strived to improve my life the last few years. Sometimes it's paying attention to the little things that can improve your well being, save you money, and help the environment.

1 - Drink Water
Now what could be easier than drinking water? The amazing thing is that most of us don't consume nearly enough water. Experts recommend anywhere from eight to twelve glasses of water each day. According to the Diet Channel, drinking water enhances fat loss, combats ailments, reduces hunger, and hydrates your skin, helping you to look younger. But there are other benefits as well. Financially, think of the savings when you drink water instead of soda. If a family of four eats out twice each week and orders sodas during each meal at $1 each (makes the math easy), that's $8 each week. That's $416 per year. How many times do you eat out each week? Each month? How much soda, tea and coffee does your family consume?

When drinking water, avoid buying plastic water bottles when you can. I've seen wildly varied estimates on the number of water bottles we consume each year, but it's a lot. Most estimates I've seen suggest that Americans buy an estimated 30 billion plastic water bottles each year, and that 80% of them are never recycled. Not to mention the millions of gallons of oil used to make the plastic bottles.

And lastly, tap water is typically just as good for you as bottled water. If you don't like the taste of your local tap water, there are many inexpensive options for filtering your water. The bottom line is that drinking more water will improve your health and save you money.

2 - Lower Your Thermostat
The last couple of years we've been much more aggressive with keeping our thermostat lower during the winter, and our kids haven't complained once. According to ProudGreenHome.com, for every one degree you lower the thermostat for eight hours, you can save about 1% on your heating costs. We lower our thermostat from 69 to 65 at night and during the day when we're not at home. We do this manually, but a programmable thermostat would be an ideal purchase to automate this process. Lowering your thermostat saves money, and saves energy. And when you're watching TV with the family, it creates an excellent opportunity for some cuddling time with your kids.

3 - Change Your Diet
If you're like me, you have to watch what you eat. I really enjoy food, and large portions of it. I don't like the thought of being on a diet. So instead, I've approached my diet as a lifestyle choice. I've worked to develop good ongoing habits with my diet. We each have to find what works for us. Find your problem spots, and adjust your eating habits to avoid your biggest dietary problems. Portion control alone has helped me a ton, so that I no longer weigh a ton.

4 - Eat In
Eating out is expensive, especially once your kids start ordering off the adult menu! It's also not very healthy. Avoid fast food in particular. And limit the number of times you eat out each week. Eating at home has done wonders for my improved diet.

5 - Grocery List
Now that you've changed your diet, and are eating at home more often, it's time to do a better job of planning your meals. Look at the family schedule, and plan an appropriate menu for the week. When you shop for groceries, make your grocery list at home before you shop, and stick to it. This will save you a considerable amount of money. According to a recent government study, Americans waste an estimated 27% of the food available for consumption, and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American. How much food do you throw away every month?

6 - Exercise
I have always struggled with the motivation for exercise. And I don't have great insights in how to motivate you either. Back pain and the desire to not become my dad who was overweight is what finally motivated me to do something. But it took finding the right routine at the right time of day before I was finally able to work it in as a permanent part of my schedule. I do mine early in the morning because I never have the motivation to exercise at night. But whenever you do it, plan it with your weekly schedule, and hold yourself accountable for sticking to your schedule. People who exercise feel better physically and mentally.

7 - Water Conservation
According to EarthEasy.com, "In 1990, 30 states in the US reported 'water-stress' conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community." They list 25 ways to conserve water in the home and yard. Here are a few that can be easily implemented in your house. Don't use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue or other small bit of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted. Take shorter showers. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shaving. And keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge. Running the tap water until it's cool for drinking is wasteful. See their entire list here: http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm

8 - Recycling is Good, Reducing is Better
We've recycled for years, but in the last couple of years we've become much more aware about what we use, and what we waste. There was a time when we'd fill our trash bin each week for trash collection. Now typically our cart is less than half full.

9 - Get Involved
If you aren't involved with any community programs or organizations, give it some thought. There are many great organizations out there. In this economy, they're all struggling financially. Maybe you could donate just a few hours a month. It's amazing what can be accomplished when we all pitch in. Sometimes helping others is a great way to give our own lives some perspective. It's personally rewarding. And there are many people in our communities who need our help.

10 - Get Organized
I'm a list maker, and it's often the best way to keep myself organized. Every morning, write down the five most important things you need to accomplish that day. And as Larry the Cable Guy would say "Git-r done".

Bonus - Family Time
I tried to stick to ten, but just couldn't do it! Make sure to make time for your family. We typically have family movie night once a week. And we try to have sit down dinners as a family at least three nights each week. But what's great is that you can get your family involved with this list as well. Explain to your kids the benefit of drinking water instead of pop at every meal. Talk about saving resources by lowering the thermostat, conserving water, and reducing food waste. Don't only set a good example by exercising and eating right, do it with your kids. And find ways to get your children involved in the community. You'll be glad you did.

 

Lee Eldridge has been involved in marketing for more than 20 years. He's the co-owner of the promotional items company Snap Promotions out of Lawrence, Kansas. As a customizable promotional items specialist Eldridge is known as an innovative leader within the promotional products industry. Lee writes for his company's blog as well as his own KC Chiefs Blog.

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