Losing to Win

I am finding interesting success since I have started thinking of my weight loss and debt loss goals as the same thing.

From January 8, 2019, to today I have “lost” $5,498.08 in debt, and since February 13, 2019, I have shed 11 pounds.

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My total debt as of 1-8-19 was $509,470.68, which includes mortgage, personal loan to mom, car payment, student loan, and massive credit card debt.  As of today, it’s down to $503,972.60.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m making progress!  I used my federal tax refund of $2525 to go almost completely towards credit card debt.  I am still expecting to receive my state refund of $1392, which I am allocating towards credit card debt.  I should also receive a work bonus of $1,000+ in April (although I certainly don’t count on that until it’s in the bank!), and I’m planning to put that towards the credit card debt also.  My total credit card debt is down about $3,000 since the beginning of January, and it’s rewarding to see the numbers go down.  My car loan, student loan, and credit card debt is down $4,325.44 with $79,747.82 to go.  I just keep thinking that’s less interest I’ll be paying!!

I have also been putting a little money in savings each month to cover expenses that don’t come up each month.  For example, based on last year’s numbers, I can expect my water bill to be about $500 for the year.  However, it only comes once each quarter.  So if I’m budgeting $50 a month for water, then each month I try to put that amount into savings so I already have the money when the bill comes due.

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On February 13, 2019, I made a fresh start towards diet and exercise.  It’s been three full weeks, and I’ve lost a total of 11 pounds.  According to the BMI chart, I am now merely overweight as opposed to obese.  A good portion of it was water weight in the first week or so, but I’ll take it!  I can already feel my clothes fitting better, so it’s definitely having a tangible effect.

I have been doing over 200 minutes of cardio each week.  Today will be my first day adding strength training to my workouts.  I plan to add strength training at least 2-3 days per week in addition to the cardio workouts.  My workouts have mostly been fast walking and elliptical.  I also really like using a couple of DVDs I have by Leslie Sansone.  She does mile workouts.  Each “mile” is about 12-13 minutes.  The best part is it’s in the house, so no excuses about rain, wind, cold, etc.

The first week of dieting I followed the Atkins plan.  At the start of week two, I switched to Keto and have been doing that a full two weeks.  The hardest part of each plan has been making sure I am getting the right amounts of protein, fat, and fiber all while staying in the appropriate calorie range.

One of the actions I’ve taken that is helping me get results is that I am faithfully tracking, measuring, and weighing everything I’m consuming.  Another action that is helping me succeed is that I plan all my meals for the day in the morning or the night before.  That way I know exactly what I’m going to eat as well as making sure I’m getting the right amounts of everything.  In the morning, I try to prep as much as I can for my meals and snacks for the day.  I have also been portioning out food so that I have smaller, more frequent meals.  I find it helps to not let myself get super hungry.

Last night I was feeling hungry after dinner.  I made sure to drink plenty of water to make sure it wasn’t thirst.  I finally decided I’d have some nuts.  I have portioned out servings in containers ready to go for those just in case moments.  I opened up this very small container and looked at the 1/4 cup of unsalted mixed nuts.  My first thought was how on earth that itty bitty serving of nuts was going to make me feel satisfied.  I turned the thought around in my head, told myself it was a serving and it most certainly should be enough.  I decided I’d take a bite of each nut separately, slowly chew the whole thing, and actually enjoy each one for its own flavor.  By the time I was done, I no longer felt hungry and was so pleased with myself that I had stayed on track.  It really felt like a win.

I believe there is a lot of truth to the idea of calories in/calories out for weight loss.  My plan is to slowly transition from Keto to adding in more healthy carbs from a better variety of vegetables, some fruits, and even foods like quinoa and oatmeal.  If I am diligent about tracking my calories and keeping them in range for weight loss, then I should still lose pounds.  As long as I keep up with my workouts, then I’ll have even better results towards my overall health.  I’m at 11 pounds down and 39 pounds to go!

My Takeaway Moment

I’m still doing a lot of soul-searching to try to figure out how my weight and debt are connected, but I’m absolutely sure there is a connection.  I allowed both of them to spiral out of control.  Now I’m finding that tackling them at the same time is working!

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I’ve Had it with Credit Card Interest

I’ve really had it with credit cards and their interest rates.  Fed up.  Done.  I get that credit cards may raise interest rates when the Federal Reserve increases interest rates.  But I’ve had multiple credit cards raise the rate each of the last two months.  (Interestingly, I’ve had other cards which have not raised their rates.)  I pay all my cards on time and often early.  I feel like they’ve reviewed my credit and know I’m carrying a lot of debt, so they figure I’m stuck.

Well, I refuse to stay stuck with them!  I am not going to charge one more dime.

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I’ve figured up exactly how much I need to pay on each card to pay it off before four years.  My plan is to put any extra money each month towards the card with the highest interest rate.  When I pay that off, then I’ll put the extra payments towards the card with the next highest interest rate.  As long as I keep paying according to my plan, and don’t make any new charges, I should be able to pay off all my credit cards in less than four years.  One of my first big chunks towards paying down the debt will be to use my tax refund!

In order to not make any new charges, I know have to be true to my budget.  One of the ways I am doing this is by having an emergency fund.  I already have one with just over $1,000.

Another step I’m taking towards managing my money is that I’ve started budgeting 10% of each paycheck, along with 10% of any other money that comes into my possession, to go into three savings accounts.  One account is for general savings, one account is for unexpected bills, repairs, medical expenses, etc., and the last account is to save towards gifts and vacations.  So, for example, when a birthday comes up I will use money from that account for buying a gift rather than putting the purchase on a credit card like I’d do in the past.  Based on my expenses last year, putting some money aside each month will help me to stick with my overall yearly budget.

Interestingly, since I’ve started to tackle debt loss and weight loss together, I’ve been having better results on both.  I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching to try to figure out why I’ve allowed these two significant areas of my life to be so out of control.  I don’t have an answer yet, but I feel certain the root cause is related for both.

 

 

 

 

 

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Losing Weight and Losing Debt

I haven’t quite worked it out yet, but I feel there is a connection between my being overweight and my being weighed down by debt.

For several years now, I have gone back and forth trying to lose the same 10 pounds.  Each time I lose 10 or more pounds, it starts to creep back up and ends up a pound or two higher than where I started.  The best I’ve done in a decade is to lose 25 lbs, all back of course. Looking back at my debt tracking, I’ve realized something very similar has been happening with money. I’ll pay down a portion of debt, and then within a month or two I’ve got all the debt back, usually more.

I think part of my long-term success with both losing weight and losing debt will be understanding how I got here. Is it allowing myself to feel out of control. Is it being comforted by the chaos? Maybe it’s voiding failure by not really trying? (The logical part of my brain acknowledges that’s a failure in itself!) Is it fear of failure or fear of success? What’s the connection? I believe if I am able to find a way to be successful at one, then I will be able to use that success for the other.

Time for some real soul searching to figure out why I’m not doing the things I know I need to do!

 

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Credit Card Interest

$6,366.38. That’s how much credit card interest I paid in 2018. I can’t even really say I paid it when in reality it’s merely being added to my credit card balances. Two steps forward, one step back.

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Seeing that number really brings home to me the amount of debt I’m carrying. That’s money I’ve basically just flushed down the toilet. It adds up to hundreds of dollars each month that “I’m spending” with nothing to show for it.

I have some cards with lower interest rates, but those are almost maxed out and don’t have enough available interest for a balance transfer. I could apply for a new card with one of the offers of zero interest for a time period on balance transfers. However, my past track record would indicate a high likelihood of transferring the balance and then running up new debt of the card with the higher interest rate. I don’t think the solution for me is to transfer balances, but rather to actually just pay down the debt I’ve incurred.

I have a list of my credits cards, balance, interest rate, and due date. I list the not only the minimum amount due but the higher amount that I’m actually going to pay.  I also note how much interest was added to the card in the prior month.

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Yes, that’s one month of interest totaling $739.28 added to my debt from all my recent statements.

Tip:  Check your statements for your interest rates. It can change from the initial rate quoted when you opened the card!

I know some people have great success with the snowball method of paying down credit card debt in which you pay off the lowest card first and then apply those payments towards the new lowest balance. I’ve opted to pay more towards the cards with the higher interest rate rather than with the lowest balances. I’ve been doing this long enough that paying off low balance cards isn’t what gives me the feeling of a win. What gives me a win is seeing the total amount of debt do down each month.

I”m disturbed hearing myself say “I’ve been doing this long enough.” The truth is I’ve been doing this my entire adult life. Running up the debt, paying it all off, running it up again. I keep imagining how my financial life would be different if I wasn’t paying $1,500 or more a month towards credit card debt. And what do I have to show for it anyway??

I need to find a way to finally break that cycle once and for all.

 

 

 

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Crossing the Grocery Hurdle

Going to the grocery store and Costco today was a huge hurdle for me to overcome while trying to keep on track with my January challenge to spend less.  I have such a strong impulse to stock up.  I think it goes back to being poor growing up.  While we always had at least enough, we never had a lot.  I’m pretty sure my urge to buy more is not wanting to go back to that place with the feeling the scarcity.

I only had a few items to pick up at Costco, so it just needed to be a quick in and out.  I tried to not even look at anything other than what I was there to buy.  I actually had a moment of angst when coming around to the coffee.  I know I’m running low, and I’m trying to make do.  I had decided the only way I’d buy some if it was on sale.  I was actually relieved when it wasn’t on sale!  I was able to walk right on by without feeling the need to buy some.

The grocery store was harder because I had to hunt around a little bit for some of the things on my list.  It was difficult resisting the urge to pick up last-minute items that weren’t on my list, but I did it!

So far this month I haven’t had any food spoilage.  Buying smaller quantities of fruits and vegetables each week means they’re all being eaten before anything goes bad.  I’ve been making meals with most or all the ingredients I already have in the house.  More importantly, I’ve been sticking to the food budget I set for myself!

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Grinding to a Win

As part of my January challenge to not buy anything non-essential at the grocery store, I made my own ground cinnamon!

I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast most days because it’s healthy as well as that I have a lot already on hand from a previous purchase made at Costco.  If you know Costco, then you know my oatmeal purchase was two giant bags!!

One of the things I like to add to my oatmeal, for flavor as well as the health benefits, is ground cinnamon.  I realized I was almost out, which led to the internal debate of whether or not ground cinnamon would count as essential or would I need to wait until February to buy more.  As was looking on my spice shelf in hopes of finding a second bottle of ground cinnamon, I realized I had a gazillion cinnamon sticks.  I had two normal-sized spice bottles of the sticks plus a container holding the equivalent of two more regular spice bottles of sticks that had been given to me by a friend who wasn’t using them.  I know spices lose their potency as they age, but I had taken them anyway.  I can take a little less potency when it’s free!

Then I had a thought that it be cool to be able to grind them up to not only use some of them but also so I wouldn’t need to buy more ground cinnamon yet. I got out my NutriBullet and the nut/seed milling blade and ground away.  It worked 🙂

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I now have a full spice jar of ground cinnamon.  I still have enough cinnamon sticks to fill another jar with ground cinnamon and will even have a few leftover should I actually need cinnamon sticks for anything.

Instead of doing what I used to do, which would have been to run right out and buy more, I thought about whether I could do without and what else I could do instead.  I took something that had been taking space on my shelf and getting older and turned it into something I will actually use, all while not spending more money.

One more step towards succeeding at my challenge!

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Are Coffee Beans an Essential Purchase?

I’m not even halfway through the month, and I’ve realized I’m going to run out of coffee beans.  Now I’m wrestling with whether or not coffee beans are an “essential” purchase.  If not, what do I do???

I’ve been doing really well so far not making any non-essential purchases at the grocery store.  I’m determined to stick to my challenge.  As of Jan 12th, I’ve only spent $15.54 at the grocery store for the month of January.

I’m not sure in good faith I can call coffee beans essential purchase.  That’s a bitter conclusion to swallow.

There are 19 mornings left for the month.  I have a few options I’m going to have to find a way to believe in if I’m going to succeed in my January Spend Less Challenge.

Option #1

For Christmas, a friend gave me a really nice bag of Starbucks Christmas Blend Coffee Beans DECAF – ugh.  I hadn’t figured out what to do with them because I don’t know anyone who drinks decaf, especially me.  Upon explaining my looming coffee bean shortage to another friend, he suggested I mix the beans – half regular and half decaf – to make them go further and as a way to use the decaf.  And ruin perfectly good beans with decaf beans??

Option #2

Drink less coffee.  For cryin’ out loud,  I may as well just drink decaf rather than drink fewer cups!  I used to drink more coffee, but I’ve been reducing over the last six or so months down to two cups most days.  Can I go down to one cup?  Isn’t that a waste of a coffee filter to use it for just one cup?  I flirt on the borderline of high blood pressure, and my doctor has suggested less caffeine.  This option would not be without potential health benefits.  Next they’ll say stop drinking wine and eating cheese!

Option #3

Use up some of my K-cups.  I have a Keurig, but I hardly ever use anymore it except for hot water for tea in the afternoon.  About two years ago, I went back to brewing pots of coffee because of the reduced costs.  I have a supply of some K-cups that I keep around in case I want a single cup later in the day or if I have company.  I do not have enough K-cups to make it through the month, though, at two cups a day.

Option #4

Drink more coffee at work.  We have free coffee supplies at work, but I rarely use any.  I have usually finished my two cups before work or am bringing my second cup in a travel mug.  Part of the problem with this option is my work start time is either 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., and I like to have my coffee first thing around 6 a.m.

Solutions into Actions

So this morning I tried mixing the regular and decaf beans.  It’s not as horrible as anticipated.  This is an option that I believe will work.  If I still run short, then I can move on to Option #3 and use up some of the K-cups that are taking up space anyway.  I’m having a hard time with Option #2 because the idea of brewing a pot for one cup of coffee seems like an awful lot of trouble.  What’s the point of one cup?  Option #4 will be my option of last resort, although it may be a good way to get myself to work early 😉

 

 

 

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