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7 Goals You Can Achieve without a Lot of Time or Cash

Recently on Facebook we asked:

FB update

We were overwhelmed with the responses to our question, which generally fell into these categories:

  • I want to write a book
  • I want to start a business
  • I want to become physically healthy
  • I want to travel / live somewhere special
  • I want to volunteer for social good
  • I want to do something creative
  • I want to learn another language

Perhaps you share one of those goals? It’s a pretty fantastic list of dreams, all of which could be done in a year off with pay.

We asked the question with the pay included to counteract the “it would be nice, but I have bills to pay” kind of statements that usually follow expressing a big dream. We wanted people to be creative and honest with nothing to hold them back.

Now we’re going to be creative and honest right back.

Dreaming in Place

Many dreams can be achieved without leaving home, without spending a lot of extra money (or any at all), and without a lot of extra time. It’s all about focus and repetition. And today we’re going to show you 7 goals you can achieve with minimal investment. Today begins your Stay-at-Home Dream, fully funded by your current income and fit into your current schedule.

Don’t believe us? Keep reading.

Write a Book

Put your dream in writing | name your dreamA book with 70,000 words can be finished in a year by writing just 192 words a day. You can do that with your morning coffee before work. You don’t need any special software (we wrote our first 3 books in Microsoft Word), but even if you do splurge to get it, Scrivener (what we’re using now to write our 4th book) has a 30-day free trial and is only $15 to purchase.

There are scores of writing groups online to help you with critiquing, finishing, and self-publishing your book (or looking for a publisher). And if you need extra help or inspiration, you can’t go wrong with Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, or William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Each of these books is less than $13, half that price at a used bookstore, or free from your library.

How many words will you commit to writing each day for the next 365 days?

Start a Business

Samantha Searle with cake

Starting a business is easier than ever with the Internet. Quality entrepreneur sites like Fizzle will teach you what you need to know (stay tuned for upcoming podcast episodes with Fizzle founder Corbett Barr and Escape from Cubicle Nation author Pamela Slim), and you can work on it in just 5-10 hours a week to start…while you have a regular paycheck from your job. If you want an offline business, you might be surprised to find out it’s easier than you think.

In Dream Save Do we profiled Samantha, a busy mom in Australia who wanted to start her cake decorating business but had talked herself into thinking it was impossible as a home-based business. When she finally made the calls and checked into the details, she discovered she could be up and running in just a few weeks to serve the ready list of clients she had from baking all the neighborhood birthday cakes for the past year. And Little Avenue Cakes was born.

Can you spare 5 hours a week to work on your dream business for the next 52 weeks?

Get Healthy

Losing weight | Healthy eating | Travel and Weight LossWant to get in shape? A Couch to 5K program will get you running 3 miles a day in just 12 weeks, giving you 40 more weeks to up your mileage and possibly run a half-marathon.

If running isn’t your thing, you can simply start walking every day like we did and drop the pounds while helping your heart. And we’ve seen tremendous results for our friends using the INSANITY Workout series, getting pretty buff in just 60 days. (Check out our recent podcast interview with One Fit Widow on how exercise brought her through her grief.)

Worried about your eating and health? We can personally recommend Dr. Agatston’s The South Beach Heart Health Revolution, the book our preventive cardiologist told us to read after my brother’s heart attack. You’ll learn a lot about the cardiac diet that worked so well it later became a diet fad for people without cardiac conditions. You can also read about the weekday vegetarian program, a completely reasonable way to eat healthier and be more environmentally friendly. (Click here to read about our experiment with this plan last year.)

Will you commit to just 30 minutes of sustained movement every day and one day of vegetarian eating every week for the next year?

Travel

Warren and Harry the dogOkay, you may not be able to scrounge coins from the couch to pay for a big trip. But you can take advantage of some terrific ways to travel without spending very much money. Take housesitting, for example. By promising to take care of someone’s pets and/or home, you will have free lodging in a new location. If you can drive or use airline miles to get there, you’re only left with sorting out your food and entertainment, something you’d be paying for at home anyway. Our favorite matching service is Trusted Housesitters, and if you want to join just use our code (married) for a 25% discount on membership.

Another option is Couchsurfing, which pairs you up with a local who has a spare couch or room. You pay nothing to stay for a few nights, but the payback is typically in cooking meals or sharing information about your country with the hosts. Each host is different and comes with a rating and a profile, so find one that suits your habits.

If you budget your travel funds during the first 6-8 months, you can start planning your trip for the second part of the year.

Will you sign up for a housesitting service and start evaluating the offers?

Volunteer

Milking goatsYou can also volunteer around the world, doing everything from making prosthetic limbs to working on a ranch to helping with animals and children. (Click here to read about Katherine, a woman we interviewed for the newsletter about volunteering on a ranch in Argentina). Farming is a big deal, and WOOFing allows you to find free room and board while you spend part of your day working the earth or tending to animals. This is another way to satisfy your need to travel, as many of these opportunities are in exotic locations.

Closer to home, there are great organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, animal rescue organizations, literacy programs, and teaching English as a second language. And if you’re into the do-it-yourself thing, organize your own fundraiser for your favorite cause.

You can make a significant impact in the world in far less than one year, especially if you stay in your own town and volunteer long-term.

Can you donate 2 hours of your time each week for the next year to help someone who needs it?

Be Creative

warren on the logWhether you want to make art, take photographs, create a documentary or produce a play, there is nothing stopping you right now from storyboarding your project. Once you know the scope of your project, you’ll see the options for completing it with greater clarity.

We wrote 20-page versions of our first two books before we fleshed them out into full-length books. It helped us realize whether our ideas were useful to other people and if we had enough material. This works the same for an art project, documentary, or play.

Last year we interviewed Danielle Villegas, a woman on the verge of 50 who had just shot her first short film. (Click here to watch the video interview from our newsletter archives.) She said it was done on a shoestring budget and with a mostly volunteer cast, and she had to take on the gonzo attitude of 2o-something directors to get it done. Just this month she debuted the film at the Seattle film festival.

On an upcoming podcast you’ll hear us interview Nathan Agin, who recently shot a pilot of his documentary about healthy food choices by using a Kickstarter campaign to fund it and convincing his crew to be paid later.

Can you commit to creating a description of your project (on a website or in a video) that is so compelling other people want to help you finance and create it? And then show it to those people?

Learn a Language

Warren readingThere are dozens of free podcasts online to learn languages. Our favorite is Coffee Break Spanish (though they do have other languages available). Pimsleur, Mango Languages, Rosetta Stone, your local community college, and sites like Conversation Exchange where you can Skype with native speakers to practice for free are also great options.

And before you balk at the prices of those language learning programs, remember that you can get many of them for free through your local library. Mango Languages is actually developed primarily for library use. If you haven’t been to your library in a while, check it out. It’s no longer the index card checkout system for musty books you remember from your childhood.

Warren learned basic Spanish using podcasts during his morning commute in the year before we left on our trip and studied Thai during our time there with the help of Mango Languages.

Practice your new skills while ordering at ethnic restaurants in your city or by attending cultural events.

Would you commit to 30 minutes a day of learning another language for the next year?

Creating Your Own Destiny

Let’s be honest, you probably aren’t going to get one-year sabbatical with pay.

So instead of dreaming about that perfect day when the path to the life you crave is paved with gold bricks and zero obstacles, take a little bit of action now to bring the dream closer to you. Because even with a fully-financed sabbatical in front of you, there’s nothing to motivate you to reach your goals except your own desire.

And you don’t have to leave home to find that.

PS: Excuses? Leave them at the door.

If you do need a pile of cash and a major life overhaul to reach your big goal, click here to find out how we went from cubicle dwellers to world traveling writers in just 2 years.

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.

Comments

  1. Even writing short stories, while challenging, can be fulfilling and just as much fun as writing a book. They also give you shorter sections to work with, rather than a daunting tome.

    • Mike, writing short pieces to start is great practice. It allows you to get the hang of writing, storytelling, and explaining before you jump into something big. It also gives you time to find your voice, which isn’t always apparent at the start (we try so hard to emulate our heros in the beginning!) Thanks for the wise advice.

  2. Even writing short stories, while challenging, can be fulfilling and just as much fun as writing a book. They also give you shorter sections to work with, rather than a daunting tome.

    • Mike, writing short pieces to start is great practice. It allows you to get the hang of writing, storytelling, and explaining before you jump into something big. It also gives you time to find your voice, which isn’t always apparent at the start (we try so hard to emulate our heros in the beginning!) Thanks for the wise advice.

  3. I love you guys! So inspirational, Thank you for posting this!

    Not to sound like a stalker but I’ve admired you both and your goals since you started out. I love watching your achievements and often wish I was in your shoes. Little steps are better than no steps!

    Thanks again!
    Amy

    • We love you, too! (Was that too forward?) :)

      Little steps are not only better than no steps, they’re better than big steps, too. Little steps mean you’ll take more of them for a longer period of time because they’re easier. And before long you’ll look back and see that you’ve taken the equivalent of a big step without breaking a sweat. And THAT feeling is incredible. Good luck, Amy!

  4. I love you guys! So inspirational, Thank you for posting this!

    Not to sound like a stalker but I’ve admired you both and your goals since you started out. I love watching your achievements and often wish I was in your shoes. Little steps are better than no steps!

    Thanks again!
    Amy

    • We love you, too! (Was that too forward?) :)

      Little steps are not only better than no steps, they’re better than big steps, too. Little steps mean you’ll take more of them for a longer period of time because they’re easier. And before long you’ll look back and see that you’ve taken the equivalent of a big step without breaking a sweat. And THAT feeling is incredible. Good luck, Amy!

  5. Scrivener is a brilliant program. I used it to write my thesis in college. Now, it’s my major project and materials management source, especially for my ebook and web content projects. If the materials synced with the cloud, it would completely overshadow Evernote. It may seem overwhelming at first but the tutorial is amazing, and the Help Community is fantastic. Absolutely worth the investment.

    For learning a language, check out Fluentin3months.com . Benny has great advice and very good learning resources. He’s fluent in something like 8 languages now.

    Also, if have any web design experience just use http://selfstarter.us/ and avoid the Kickstarter fees.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

    • Hi, Theo. Thanks for the great tips! We still use Evernote to organize our early thoughts on a book project, but once it’s in a somewhat usable form we transfer it over to Scrivener to begin writing. In fact, we just finished the groundwork for our new book, The 24/7 Relationship. It feels “official” now because I put it into Scrivener. :)

  6. Scrivener is a brilliant program. I used it to write my thesis in college. Now, it’s my major project and materials management source, especially for my ebook and web content projects. If the materials synced with the cloud, it would completely overshadow Evernote. It may seem overwhelming at first but the tutorial is amazing, and the Help Community is fantastic. Absolutely worth the investment.

    For learning a language, check out Fluentin3months.com . Benny has great advice and very good learning resources. He’s fluent in something like 8 languages now.

    Also, if have any web design experience just use http://selfstarter.us/ and avoid the Kickstarter fees.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

    • Hi, Theo. Thanks for the great tips! We still use Evernote to organize our early thoughts on a book project, but once it’s in a somewhat usable form we transfer it over to Scrivener to begin writing. In fact, we just finished the groundwork for our new book, The 24/7 Relationship. It feels “official” now because I put it into Scrivener. :)

  7. Thanks for the link to fizzle! I was actually looking for an affordable course to get my dreams of opening a business off the ground. I always find good tips on this blog!

    • Hi, Sarah. We just interviewed Fizzle founder Corbett Barr for the podcast…stay tuned for some GREAT advice for entrepreneurs (it was so good we had to extend it over 2 episodes!)

  8. Thanks for the link to fizzle! I was actually looking for an affordable course to get my dreams of opening a business off the ground. I always find good tips on this blog!

    • Hi, Sarah. We just interviewed Fizzle founder Corbett Barr for the podcast…stay tuned for some GREAT advice for entrepreneurs (it was so good we had to extend it over 2 episodes!)

  9. Those who want to write a novel should check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/
    I’ve never done it (well, I’ve never written a novel either!) but people seem to think it’s very helpful.

    • Hi, Christy. NaNoWriMo is every November and encourages people to write the first draft of a novel in just one month. If you write about 1650 words a day, you can do it. NaNoWriMo is free.

      Another lesser-known writing contest is via a Canadian publisher but over the US Labor Day weekend. It’s called the 3-Day Novel challenge. They want to see 100 pages of new novel written in just 72 hours. This is an actual contest with publishing prizes and takes a $50 entry fee, but your entry is said to be read by at least 3 staff members to give it a fair shake.

      Both are excellent ways to motivate you to write, but of course they only come around once a year. But you can take those basic plans and implement them yourself anytime of the year you want! (I’ve done both and like them for different reasons.)

  10. Those who want to write a novel should check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/
    I’ve never done it (well, I’ve never written a novel either!) but people seem to think it’s very helpful.

    • Hi, Christy. NaNoWriMo is every November and encourages people to write the first draft of a novel in just one month. If you write about 1650 words a day, you can do it. NaNoWriMo is free.

      Another lesser-known writing contest is via a Canadian publisher but over the US Labor Day weekend. It’s called the 3-Day Novel challenge. They want to see 100 pages of new novel written in just 72 hours. This is an actual contest with publishing prizes and takes a $50 entry fee, but your entry is said to be read by at least 3 staff members to give it a fair shake.

      Both are excellent ways to motivate you to write, but of course they only come around once a year. But you can take those basic plans and implement them yourself anytime of the year you want! (I’ve done both and like them for different reasons.)

  11. Sarah C. says:

    Love this article. Wish I would have a year with pay to start a wine education business of my own. No idea how to start one or what the laws are around alcohol in an educational environment in terms of licensing, etc. I love to travel, so being able to have a solid business foundation that I can pick up and offer wherever I go would be amazing- having the opportunity to travel to many wine regions to enhance this would be fabulous as well. Too much going on in my life right now to focus on this more specifically! (Training for half marathon, studying for Diploma of Wine- a 2 year endeavor-, working full time in wine store, trying to have a social life and not fall asleep in it!)

    • Hi, Sarah. It sounds like you’re already working toward your dream of a wine education business by getting the 2-year Diploma of Wine and working in a wine store. And it sounds like you are making the right kind of contacts to find out the information you need to get started after you get your diploma. It may not be a one-year paid sabbatical, but you’re making all the right moves so far. Now you just need to do the research on the requirements so you can start laying out your action plan. Please keep us posted on your progress – we’d love to cheer you on!

  12. Sarah C. says:

    Love this article. Wish I would have a year with pay to start a wine education business of my own. No idea how to start one or what the laws are around alcohol in an educational environment in terms of licensing, etc. I love to travel, so being able to have a solid business foundation that I can pick up and offer wherever I go would be amazing- having the opportunity to travel to many wine regions to enhance this would be fabulous as well. Too much going on in my life right now to focus on this more specifically! (Training for half marathon, studying for Diploma of Wine- a 2 year endeavor-, working full time in wine store, trying to have a social life and not fall asleep in it!)

    • Hi, Sarah. It sounds like you’re already working toward your dream of a wine education business by getting the 2-year Diploma of Wine and working in a wine store. And it sounds like you are making the right kind of contacts to find out the information you need to get started after you get your diploma. It may not be a one-year paid sabbatical, but you’re making all the right moves so far. Now you just need to do the research on the requirements so you can start laying out your action plan. Please keep us posted on your progress – we’d love to cheer you on!

  13. Monique says:

    Correction for your couch to 5K link
    http://www.c25k.com/

    I have to second your Pimsleur recommendation. Many libraries have the CD version of the lessons available. Excellent resource.

  14. Monique says:

    Correction for your couch to 5K link
    http://www.c25k.com/

    I have to second your Pimsleur recommendation. Many libraries have the CD version of the lessons available. Excellent resource.

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