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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Budgeting

I was recently listening to a news program about finances and budgeting.  Something they said really hit home:  Budgeting is not just tracking your spending. 

I was, and still am, proud that I tracked all of my expenses last year.  I actually made and kept a commitment to myself!  But I wasn’t really budgeting.  I knew how much money I needed to pay the mortgage, the bills, pay towards my credit card debt.  I wasn’t accounting for all the other expenses like groceries, gas, medical expenses, clothing, haircuts, gifts, etc.  I knew those expenses were there, but I wasn’t actually budgeting and setting aside money for them.  I was wearing blinders and getting deeper into debt.

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It was a light bulb moment when I realized I wasn’t budgeting.

For example, if I spent $1,000 last year on car expenses – oil changes, tires, or whatever, then I should be setting aside money each month towards what I know are expected car expenses for this year.  Planning.  Based on last year’s expenses, I already know what I can expect this year.

As I’ve sat down to try to determine a budget using my past expenditures as a guide, it’s crystal clear I spend way more than I make.  My income covers the mortgage, household bills, health insurance, car payment, and credit card repayments leaving me with only a few hundred dollars a month for food, gas, and all other expenses.

Getting myself on track is going to have to be a two-pronged approach of cutting spending AND finding ways to generate more income.

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Slashing the Food Spending

Spending less in any category will help free up funds to pay more towards reducing my debt.  So the first, and I think easiest, area to tackle is my spending on groceries and eating out.  At the start of the year, I made steps towards budgeting and have been consciously monitoring my spending.  I had already decided to tackle reducing my food spending and am off to a great start, but I hadn’t fully set it out in writing until now.

Last year I spent:

  • $3988.78 on groceries
  • $368.25 on toiletries
  • $175.18 on cleaners, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
  • $2221.89 on eating out (Oh, that number hurts when I see how much money!)

Spending Less Target #1:  Eating Out

Eating out is obviously a category of mine that can be targeted for significant improvement.  So the average per week spent last year was $42.73.  If I turn that into a pizza or Taco Bell takeout every other Friday night, that brings it down to about $40 a month as opposed to $185.16 per month.  I believe much of my eating out expenses over the last year was the result of poor planning and tiredness.  It was easy.  Too easy and now I’m paying for it.  So far this month I have spent $19.78 on eating out, so that’s $20.22 left for the month.  Planning ahead will help me avoid falling into the trap of unplanned eating out.  I can do this!

So my January challenge is to spend no more than $40 on eating out this month.  

Spending Less Target #2:  Groceries

I’ve been spending on average $332.40 each month at the grocery store.  That’s for myself and my son.  Do two people really need that much from the grocery store each month?  I don’t think so, but I’ve been going along with the idea of buying what I want at the grocery store because it’s at the grocery store.  It’s okay to spend there because it’s the grocery store.  That’s not okay.  Not okay when it’s allowed me to put myself into significant debt.

I have quite a bit of food in my panty and freezer.  I grew up quite poor and we didn’t always have a lot of food in the house.  I think I compensate by keeping way too much food stocked in the house.

So my January challenge for the grocery store is to only buy items which are essential.

  • Make do with what I have in the pantry and freezer as much as possible.  I’m talking about only buying fresh items like milk, bread, eggs, and fresh fruit/veg, or necessities like toilet paper.
  • I’m setting a target of spending no more than $10 a week this month on fresh fruit/veg because that’s a category which can easily result in waste since some fruit/veg go bad fairly quickly.  If I buy less, then I’ll be more inclined to use what I have rather than let it rot.
  • So far this month, I’ve only spent $7.51 at the grocery store.  I’ve resisted the urge to run up there every time something is out or running low!

I haven’t figured out a target number for spending on groceries in the month of January.  My son is 14, so eats like an adult.  What’s a good number for spending on two people at the grocery store??

 

 

 

 

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