The holidays are here… and it’s “crunch” time!

Lt. Cmdr. Austin Latour, an exercise physiologist, offers tips to encourage readers to maintain a physical fitness routine this holiday season.

Holiday parties, shopping, and family will be keeping everyone busy throughout the holidays, but don’t let your physical fitness fall to the wayside. To combat decreased activity levels this month and throughout the colder winter temperatures, here are a few tips to help you prioritize a fun fitness routine and maintain healthy stress levels.

  • Set a routine. Exercising early in the day will get you energized for the rest of the day’s events and help you feel more prepared for those unexpected social events that may pop up, such as a holiday cookie exchange. You can exercise at your local MWR fitness center or carve out a small area in your home to complete bodyweight exercises.
  • Maintain accountability. Find a partner to workout with you… someone who is a positive influence and committed to a similar fitness routine.
  • Rethink your strategy. A workout can be performed with minimal equipment, and you don’t have to complete a one-hour workout every day. In fact, a shorter, yet more effective, workout can be performed at a higher intensity level. Balancing high-intensity workouts with low-intensity workouts will decrease boredom and allow you to work around your busy schedule. Here is a quick, high-intensity workout that requires a minimal amount of equipment and space.

For 20 minutes (complete as many rounds as possible*):
10 Pushups
15 Squats
20 Crunches
Plank for 25 seconds

Remember that exercise should never be painful. Follow the instruction of your medical professional. If you have a certain injury, substitute a different exercise that accommodates your specific situation. Have fun and don’t be afraid to perform exercises you have never done before. Moving out of your comfort zone will enhance your fitness level and help you keep an even keel this holiday season and beyond!

* Exercises and repetitions can be changed to fit your needs. Count how many rounds you can do in 20 minutes and try to beat that score 2-3 weeks later. Push yourself as this should be completed at high intensity with minimal rest.

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 3

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

Now that we have determined what is most important to us this season in part121221-N-IN807-471 one of this series, and have adapted a budget-friendly means to gift giving in part two, it’s time to focus on how to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. Family gatherings are often the most anticipated events of the holiday season and expenses can quickly add up for both the travelling and host families. Late planning and missed holiday promotion opportunities can easily turn into very costly last-minute trips amidst swarming holiday shoppers. To keep spending and stress levels down, try these tips using the 80/20 rule:

  • In addition to searching for the best travel fares and booking in advance, keep in mind that you may not be able to visit everyone on your list. Decide what is in your budget, and which trip will be the most meaningful. Overspending to please everyone may result in detectable tension, fatigue, and financial strain.
  • If you are hosting a gathering, ask others to help out by contributing to the event. This can be in the form of a dish, drinks, cash, etc. Holiday meal planning costs can be kept reasonable by utilizing wholesale membership buying programs and using coupons. When everyone contributes to the process, there is a greater sense of community, which is what the holiday season is all about.
  • Choose inexpensive and free events that visiting family can enjoy. Base holiday concerts and activities and city/town lighting events are just a few ways to engage in cheap or free holiday fun. When your loved ones look back on these moments, the important thing will be the meaningful time spent together, not the amount of money it took to make it happen.

If you decide to opt-out of this year’s family reunion, perhaps your family can use this time to volunteer to serve others. Look for local events and activities where your family can contribute (local feeding events for the less fortunate, sponsor a service member for a holiday meal, etc.). Bringing joy to others is a gift that both the giver and recipient will relish.

Whether you’ll be spending the holidays in the company of family and friends, or through long distance communications during deployment, remember, you get the most value from nurturing your relationships with those important to you—not from stretching your financial limits. By considering what’s most meaningful, you’ll stay in control of your budget and “keep an even keel” this holiday season.

Food and Mood

Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, OPNAV N17 Dietitian, reflects on the impact food choices have on one’s mood to encourage readers to “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season with family, friends and shipmates.

The holidays are here, and you deserve some much needed time off, so take George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean.every opportunity to spend it with family and friends. Now, combine those relationships with good, conscious food choices, and you have the right ingredients to recharge your spirit!

Whether your time is spent with family, going to a potluck with friends, or sharing the holiday with your shipmates at sea, remember it’s all about balanced eating. The food we consume can affect the way we think, feel, act, and interact with those around us, so it is important to consume each of the food groups at each meal, at roughly the same time each day. In doing so, you can stabilize blood sugar levels and increase energy levels to enjoy the taste and spirit of the holiday.

Here are three ways food and mood can impact your relationships:

  1. Enjoying a meal with family and friends can enhance interpersonal relationships and boost your sense of community.
  2. Keeping a balanced and consistent food intake can positively affect your level of self-satisfaction and sense of controllability.
  3. Giving, such as contributing to a potluck and seeing others enjoy the food you provide, will increase your feelings of self-worth and meaning in your relationships.

You can also use a nutrition tracker, such as the SuperTracker on choosemyplate.gov, to help you plan and manage your nutrient intake and portion sizes. With conscious effort and consistency, you’ll find monitoring your food intake to be a simple, yet incredibly powerful strategy to help keep your mental, emotional, physical, and social well-being in check. So, enjoy good food, share and spend time with others, recharge your spirit, and remain resilient and all season long!

The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season, Part 2

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

In the first part of our series, we talked about gauging where our focus is this 141002-N-VY375-046holiday season, with a goal of 80% on personal relationships, and 20% on material spending. Now, we can tackle gift-giving without breaking the bank.

How do you shift your holiday gifting goals and priorities to a mostly non-material state? The answer is to reserve some time to explore simple and inexpensive creative ideas. Here are just a few:

  •  Homemade greeting cards: Use cardstock, markers and design a pattern as simple or elaborate as you desire. Add mementos or a family photo for more personalization and meaning.
  • Thoughtful keepsakes: Ornaments are a meaningful token of the holidays that can help us feel connected with loved ones even when we’re unable to be with them. Try framing your children’s artwork and sending a personalized copy to your Sailor or family, so that they have a piece of home for the holidays.
  • Family-wide gift exchange: Instead of attempting to send individual gifts to a number of family members, which can quickly add up, get your family to agree to write everyone’s name on a separate piece of paper, place all of them in a box, then have each individual draw one piece of paper from the box to indicate who they will purchase a gift for. To keep the meaning of the season in perspective, include a favorite charity in the name drawing.
  • Think locally and globally: Perhaps you realize that your family has all it needs this holiday season and wants to contribute to the local community. Think about participating in a gift-giving program for families, such as the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, or a shoebox gift-giving concept like Operation Christmas Child.

Your biggest tool to help you maintain the 80/20 rule is to set limits. Find joy in giving any gift, big or small, from the meaning behind it. It’s also imperative to the success of any holiday budget (and to maintain your own peace of mind) that you stick to the amounts designated for gifts in your financial plan. Doing this upfront and discussing with those involved will help manage and curb expectations.

It is not always possible to give or participate financially, so other intangible gifts like time and service are worthy substitutes. They instill a sense of gratitude and are true reflections of the 80/20 idea. As the old adage goes, “don’t hang your hat where your hand can’t reach.” In other words, be aware of your financial limitations and do not overreach in areas you simply cannot afford just to please others.

Stay tuned for part three of our series, “The 80/20 Approach to Stress (and Spend!) Less this Holiday Season.”

Holiday Shopping Tips and Strategies

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a long-time volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com and previously served at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. as a financial counselor. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy, and offers budget-friendly tips to help us “Keep an Even Keel” this holiday season. –NavyNavStress.com note

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are an exciting – and equally tempting – time of year to indulge in our purchasing desires. The retail world promotes extravagant discounts in big, bright, bold print, and for some, it really can be the best opportunity to secure favorable prices on sought-after items. But, buyer beware! Whether your buying experience is exclusively online or you’re a store-to-store shopper, here are some words of advice that can help minimize regret from your year-end shopping spree.

Start with the Truth
Groundwork is the basis for any major event. When it comes to earning, saving and especially Black Friday spending, a realistic budget will always be the place to start, even before you dream of your desired items! Determine precisely how much money is available to spend after you have accounted for savings, investing, and debt payments. Next, if you decide to use credit for any of your purchases, identify upfront where the repayment funds will come from. A good rule of thumb is to have it already set aside so that you are using credit as a convenience or to accumulate certain user rewards without incurring interest fees or other penalties.

Research before Buying
Now that you have committed to a budget, research your intended purchases. Glitzy packaging, celebrity endorsements, and clever advertisements can often present a false image of product capability. Check customer reviews, read any meaningful complaints, check out the manufacturer’s warranty and use research-based organizations, like Consumer Reports, to help support your decision.

The Hunt for Deals
Retailers are proud to display their deals and respective disclaimers in store and online, but the real deal is in the fine print. Don’t skip over the ultra-low price display only to be later surprised that a deal is only available to a select group of shoppers, locations, hours, or even online only. Be sure to ask upfront whether or not you can combine other coupons to complete the sale, too, as many products being offered at Black Friday prices disallow additional discounts. You can also make a list of the deals you find, naming stores where your product is available, prices, location, store hours, etc. Some websites and mobile apps, such as RetailMeNot.com and BlackFriday.com, can be useful in narrowing down your options by setting price alerts, thus giving you a sense of control during the holiday mayhem.

Pricing
Let’s face it, “We will match any competitor price” or “Lowest Price Guarantee” are music to most shopper’s ears! To take advantage of these offers, you will need to be sure that the advertised products are identical (be aware of stripped down versions), and know if there is a price matching limit (e.g. up to $100 per item). Holiday advertisements are key in knowing what’s available where, for how much and if there is an opportunity to pay a well-deserving price. Again, read the fine print.

Layaway
Using a layaway plan (online or traditional) can be an ideal option if you decide against using credit and paying upfront in full for your purchases. In this arrangement, you simply find your items and request that the store hold them until your payment is rendered in full. Be mindful that to do this, most assess a non-refundable fee and each retailer will have a written policy governing this practice (which you should read in full to avoid any surprises). Minimum purchases, cost to initiate a layaway plan, cancellation fees, pick up dates, and return and refund policies are some key items to know beforehand.

Couponing
Couponing is now a national craze and a favorite pastime for many, but rule number one is to read the fine print! In that small text, you can determine any brand exclusions; whether the coupon can be used over an entire day, multiple days or is void after one transaction; or if you are limited in quantity purchased. Also, be aware of the expiration of the coupon, as some retailers will have coupons specific to early bird sales and others dedicated to an entire day or series of days. Next, and equally important, know the store’s coupon policy. Coupon doubling, combining, price matching, register rewards programs and overages are some ways to save more money using coupons. Print out (or bookmark on your electronic devices) the coupon policies for the stores in which you plan to shop. This will come to your aid if you are challenged by your use of coupons to secure deeper discounts. It is not uncommon for store employees, especially those retained only for the holiday season, to be unaware of some details in their company policies. Legitimate manufacturer coupons can be found through mail delivery (e.g. SmartSource, Redplum), or on sites like www.coupons.com. Store-specific coupons can usually be found on the store website or in its sale circular.

All the best on your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping adventures!

Navy Exchange Coupon Policy: http://www.mynavyexchange.com/nex/customer-service/store-policies Commissary Coupon Policies: https://www.commissaries.com/documents/contact_deca/faqs/coupon_use.cfm Fraudulent Coupon Search: http://www.couponinformationcenter.com/psa-list.php