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Off the Scale: Prenatal Vitamins

2013 July 31
by Felicity

As I’m making progress, I think it is important to remind myself that this weight loss journey lifestyle change is about more than just a number on the scale.  Sure it’s great to see that number on the scale drop every week (please say I didn’t just jinx myself), but there are a lot of other ways to measure my success.

You might remember from my first post that I’m planning to be at my goal weight by the middle of 2016 and that between now and then in addition to losing 143 pounds, I plan on having a successful pregnancy (fingers crossed, holding a four-leaf clover and knocking on wood).  Preparing my body for pregnancy is pretty much my biggest motivation right now (well, that and preparing my body not to die of a heart attack in my thirties).

Back to the gearing up for pregnancy part – I’m happy to report that I have taken a prenatal vitamin every day since I started this blog.

I know, I know…  It really doesn’t seem like that big of an achievement.  Maybe you’ll understand why I’m so happy if you hear the story of this particular bottle of pills.

Orion and I aren’t spring chickens (gasp).  He’s 34 and I’m a much, much younger 33.  We’ve been married for coming up on nine years and that means it has taken us a loooooong time to feel ready to have a baby.  Scratch that, I’ve felt emotionally ready for about two years, but Orion was slower to come around.  It’s been hard for me to be patient waiting for Orion to get ready already, but this past January he pulled into a Walgreens and came out with a 240-count bottle of prenatal vitamins.  He handed me the bottle and told me he’d be ready to put a bun in my oven (was that too graphic?) as soon as I polished off all of the vitamins. One caveat – I could only take the pills as directed (one a day) – don’t OD on prenatal vitamins Felicity!

Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the awesomeness of my husband…

Whoa, that’s enough.  We don’t want him getting a big head (actually he has a huge head – I’m kind of worried about birthing his giant-headed babies, but that’s probably a topic for a different post).

Where was I?  Ok, my sweet husband gave me prenatal vitamins with a promise of baby making to come in just 240 short days.  And what did I do?  I didn’t swallow any pills for months.  I basically panicked and decided to do nothing because I knew I wasn’t going to be physically ready for a pregnancy.  Everything had fallen into place – my husband was ready to have a baby, our finances were under control so we could finally afford a baby and we were had just moved into a new home perfect for a family, but I weighed more than 280 pounds and I was afraid that I’d let us down.  Really afraid!

That’s all changed now.  I haven’t lost much weight yet, but I feel so optimistic about having (and working) a plan.  I’m taking my vitamins and my body will be ready to grow a baby as soon as the bottle of vitamins is empty any month now (Orion and I decided we didn’t really have to wait for me to down all the pills).

A Change of Scenario

2013 July 24
tags: ,
by Felicity

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to change my lifestyle and lose weight.  I’ve had some successes in the past, but those victories have always been short-lived.  A few times every year I lose 10 pounds, but then I stop making good choices and I gain all of the weight (plus more) back.  Lately I’ve spent some time thinking about this pattern and about how I can avoid the same results moving forward.

Just so you’ve got some background, here’s how it usually goes down…  I get really gung-ho about making lifestyle changes and I do well for a week or three.  But then comes the day when I make a bad choice – a really bad choice.  I eat an entire pizza for example.  In the past this would be the beginning of the end.  I eat the pizza and I end up deciding that the whole day is ruined and so I might as well just give myself permission to be extra-super bad. Of course I tell myself I’ll start over again tomorrow.  The problem is when I have a few of these days in a row and then I just give up altogether.   Now all of the positive changes are done with and it’ll be another six months or a year before I’m motivated to try again.

While thinking about how to avoid this scenario, I reflected on how I’ve been successful with debt reduction.  What’s different?  Paying off debt hasn’t been a perfect process.  There have been months when Orion and I have spent money that wasn’t in the budget – heck we even stopped the whole thing to buy a car and a house, but through it all we’ve made more good choices than bad.  We’ve always had forward momentum (sometimes slow) and I’ve never felt like throwing in the towel.

Why is it that I can have setbacks with paying off debt and not give up, but I don’t seem to have the same mindset about losing weight?

Whoa, that’s a deep question.  My initial reaction is that the big difference is because my weight is a lot more personal to me than my debt.  I’m literally carrying the weight around whereas debt is a pretty abstract concept.  Even with that understood, I have to start changing my thinking so that I treat my weight more like my debt.  I have to start thinking…

 

  • There is no starting over.  Everything I do going forward is part of the ride.
  • One bad choice doesn’t give me permission to make another bad choice.
  • Slow progress is better than backsliding.

 

In summary: There is no quitting allowed – Quitters don’t lose!

Minty Fresh

2013 July 22
tags:
by Felicity

You know I use a written a budget every month.  Making a budget is critical, but the more important part is actually following the budget.  For me to follow the budget, I have to track all of my spending.  The tool I use to create my budget and track all of my spending is MINT (there are a lot of great products out there, but this is the one that works for me).  I find using MINT is like a virtual version of an envelope system with some added features.

What do I like about MINT?

  • It’s Free!
  • I can see my entire financial life all in one place.
  • It’s Free!
  • The mobile app is easy to use, so tracking spending is a snap.
  • It’s Free!
  • All of the cool graphs appeal to the nerd in me.
  • It’s Free!

 

What don’t I like about MINT?

  • There is a lot of advertising (because it’s free).
  • There isn’t a feature to plan my budgets months in advance.

 

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 6.59.29 PM

I love being able to see my entire financial life all in one place.  When I log into MINT, the dashboard shows me all of my cash accounts, credit card debt (none = yay!), loans (boo!), investments (all retirement savings in my case) and property (two cars and a house).  MINT adds up assets, subtracts debts and gives me a snapshot of my net worth.

 

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 6.59.59 PM

Right from the dashboard I can get more details about any of my accounts.  If I need to check the current balance of any of my loans, it’s all right here.  You can see that I’ve labeled my loans in the order that I intend to snowball my debt (the mortgage isn’t part of the snowball).

 

2013-07-16 Budget Update

The dashboard also gives me an at-a-glance view of my monthly budget and spending.  I can quickly see how much money I’ve got left to spend in any budget area (like a virtual envelope) and it’s obvious if I’ve gone over (I’ve learned to hate seeing red).

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 7.04.21 PM

When it’s time to track my spending, I just click over to my transactions and I can categorize all of the money coming into my accounts and all of the money going out.  MINT tries to guess at which category each transaction should fall under, but I check over each entry for accuracy.  For instance, if I sometimes get my groceries from Target, but sometimes I’m buying a new shirt from the same store.  MINT can’t know which Target purchases are groceries and which ones are clothing, so I have to make those corrections.  For the most part MINT makes good guesses, but it’s not 100% perfect.

 

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 7.05.07 PM

Every month I set up a budget in MINT.  I tell the program how much income I’m expecting and I tell it how much I plan to spend and in which categories (predetermined categories are available and I’ve made up some of my own). My biggest frustration with MINT is that I can only plan one monthly budget at a time.  I would love to be able to start planning my budgets months in advance.  As it is, I just keep notes on irregular expenses and make sure to add them to the budget in MINT once I’m able to do so.  I try not to forget irregular expenses, but as we know, this month I forgot that the tags on Orion’s car needed to be renewed.  It’s usually not a big deal and it is more than made up for by the cost of using MINT.

 

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 7.07.08 PM

It’s cool that I have a few years worth of data in MINT at this point.  I get to have all kinds of fun graphing my trends.  I can see how I’ve spent my money over the past month, year or years.

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 7.06.42 PM

Like I mentioned, MINT is free and that means in order to use the system I have to put up with seeing some advertisements.

 


But again, this is a small price to pay for a free service where I’ve found a lot of value.  Without a program like this to make it easy, I’m not sure I would have stuck with budgeting.

So there you have it.  You know how I do it.  How do you do it?

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Note: MINT did not sponsor this post or in any way compensate me for publishing my opinion.  I’m just a happy user of this product and I wanted to share my experience in the hope that someone reading might be introduced to a helpful tool.

Screenshots in this post are via my MINT account.

Scaling Down: Week 3

2013 July 19
by Felicity

I had another good week.  I tracked everything I ate and got my butt moving (I’m definitely not a hardcore exerciser, but I’m getting better).  I’m happy to report another drop on the scale.  Goodbye first 10 pounds!

  • Starting Weight:                                286 lbs.
  • Previous Week’s Weight:                 278 lbs.
  • Current Weight:                                275.5 lbs.
  • Weight Loss Since Last Week:      -2.5 lbs.
  • Overall Weight Loss:                         -10.5 lbs.
  • Pounds Left to Lose:                         132.5 lbs.

20130719_064140

17 by 34

2013 July 18
tags: ,
by Felicity

Writing this blog I seem to deal with nothing but taboo topics.  I tell you all about how much money I make, I fill you in on how much debt I’ve racked up, and for crying out loud, you know how much I weigh.  With all of that out there, I guess there is no sense in keeping my age a secret.  I’m 33 years old and I’ll be the big three-four on September 30th.

Birthdays are milestones and I want to really make sure to mark this next one.  It would be awesome if September 30th rolled around and I could say that I had lost 34 pounds before turning 34 years old.  You know how I like having goals

I’ll be 33 for ten more weeks. In order to reach this goal I would need to lose more than 3 pounds a week.  That’s kind of a tall order – too tall.    I don’t think I can lose 34 by 34, but I can work toward half of that goal.

17 by 34

17 pounds is a lot of weight – 17 pounds is basically 2 gallon jugs!

I can lose 17 pounds between today and my 34th birthday.  I can weigh less than 261 pounds on my birthday.  Of course I’ll keep you updated on my progress and I can’t wait to celebrate with you in September.  What about you?  Are there any upcoming events or milestones that are motivating you?

Budget Update: July 2013

2013 July 16
by Felicity

We haven’t busted our July budget, but everything hasn’t been going perfectly.  I forgot about an annual expense and I underestimated in a few budget categories, but overall we’re doing okay.

 

2013-07-16 Budget Update

I completely forgot that the tags on Orion’s car were due to be renewed.  The $125 dollars spent in the “Everything Else” category went to renew those tags for two years. Even after writing a budget every month for the past few years, I still mess up on occasion.

I underestimated the money it would cost to check our bag during our recent flights to and from California (we went to celebrate Orion’s brother’s wedding).  I should have paid more attention.  I thought our bag could weigh in at 50 pounds without a problem, but it turns out that the weight limit was 40 pounds and we ended up getting hit with overweight baggage charges.  Nuts!

We also underestimated how much it would cost to board Kibbe (our cocker spaniel) while we were on our trip.  We only went over because he ended up getting a mild ear infection before we left and the kennel charges extra if they have to administer medication.

And the final red bar up there is an $8 overage on my allowance.  I’ve already blown all of my spending money this month.  I bought a new pair of sandals and a new pair of jeans for my trip and then while we were in California I got a pedicure with my sister-in-law.  Orion and I agreed I could go over to get the pedicure so I could spend some bonding time with my sister-in-law who I’m lucky if I see every other year.  I know that’s rationalizing, but it is the decision we made.

I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to come in under budget in a few categories to make up for these overages.  Also, Orion is teaching an accelerated summer school course, so we should have some substantial extra income this month and next.  I’m excited to see how much his paycheck ends up being.

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Screenshots in this post are via my MINT account.

Double the Money

2013 July 15
tags: ,
by Felicity

We know I’m all about goals.  I’ve got a goal for my weight and a goal for my debt, so it probably comes as no surprise that I have a goal for my career – a goal that is intimately tied to my finances.

In my debt story I filled you in on how I returned to school and finally earned my bachelors degree in 2009.   At the same time that I was graduating and starting my career in higher education, I laid down a challenge to myself to double my salary within 5 years. 

Picture it… Michigan, June 2009.  I go to work for a small, private college as an undergraduate recruiter and my annual salary is $30,000 (shouldn’t be too hard to double that puny number).  I’m not making a lot, but I have my foot in the door, I have great benefits and I work with awesome people (I still miss those guys and gals).

Fast forward a year and Orion finishes his student teaching and finds a job in Texas a long way from Michigan.  The job market for teachers is much better in Texas so we take a chance on me finding a job down south.  Luckily our calculated risk pays off.

As soon as we know we are moving to Texas I started applying for jobs like crazy.  I have one phone interview in July of 2010, but that job doesn’t pan out because they need someone to start immediately.  I won’t be settled in the Lone Star State until August so that’s a no go (hindsight being what it is, I’m glad I didn’t get that job).

I leave my job in Michigan on July 31st and we roll into Texas on August 3rd.  Orion has a job starting in the middle of the month and we have a plan to live on just his income, but I’m feeling some stress about being unemployed.  We’ve rented an apartment close to the school where Orion will be teaching and I’m applying to every college and university within an hour’s drive of our new place.  I’m dreading the possibility of having to commute, but not as much as I’m dreading being without a job.

Then in mid-August I get the best news.  I’m invited to my first (and only) interview and it’s at a university just a ten-minute drive from our apartment.  A week later I have the job and I’m making $34,000 a year.  Already a bit of a raise from what I was making in Michigan and the first step on my path to doubling my income by the middle of 2014.  After the dust settles I have only been out of work for four weeks (and I have been paid for two of those weeks because I had vacation time left over from the job I gave up in Michigan).  Things really couldn’t be working out better.

I’m pretty happy with my $4,000 raise, but I need to keep making progress – five years can go by really quickly.  I work really hard at the new job and I being to get noticed.  5 months after starting my immediate supervisor gets let go (anyone else have a crazy boss story?) and I get promoted into the open position.  Hard work and being in the right place at the right time pay off and my salary is increased to $40,008 (I have no idea why that $8 was tacked on, but who am I to sniff at a few extra bucks).  Now, I’m a third of the way to my goal. Yes!

How am I going to get the rest of the way to my goal?  I’m going to keep working hard and taking on more responsibility and I’m going to continue my education (without student loans this time).  I’m 21 credits into a 36 credit hour graduate degree in Higher Education Leadership.  I’m taking classes this summer and fall to be finished with the degree in December.  I’m going to school part–time while I work full time.

I love where I work and I’m hopeful that once I finish my degree at the end of the year there will be an opportunity for me to advance at this school.  If not, I’ll start looking for other opportunities in 2014, but I do have my fingers crossed.  Industry standard for someone with the level of experience and education that I’ll have by early 2014 is in the $60,000-$75,000 range so I think I’ll be able to hit my goal and of course I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  Believe me, if I get a raise you’ll be the first to know.  Well, I’ll probably tell Orion first, but you’ll definitely be the second to know.

Anyone out there getting raises, doubling income or otherwise being awesome?  Inspire us with your story in the comments!

Scaling Down: Week 2

2013 July 12
tags:
by Felicity

This week involved a holiday, a wedding, and travel between Texas and California.  All of that and I still dropped some pounds.  I’m pretty pleased.

  • Starting Weight:                                286 lbs.
  • Previous Week’s Weight:                 281.5 lbs.
  • Current Weight:                                278 lbs.
  • Weight Loss Since Last Week:      -3.5 lbs.
  • Overall Weight Loss:                         -8 lbs.
  • Pounds Left to Lose:                         135 lbs.

Just Try It: Walking

2013 July 10
by Felicity

I’m off and running walking.  I’ve never been a big fan of exercise, but I know it has to be a part of my life if I’m serious about getting healthy.  I’m determined to find activities I like, so my mission (and I have chosen to accept it) is to get out there and try new things.

I’m lucky to have an extensive trail system near my home.

It might not be trendy or hardcore, but walking is a great workout – especially if you’re carrying around an extra 138.5 lbs. in 100-degree heat. I don’t really remember the last time that I exercised.  Hmmm, thinking…  Nope, I’ve got nothing.

In all seriousness, it has been a long time since I’ve had much physical activity going on and I’m in the worst shape of my life.  It’s scary to think about, but I’m excited about the changes I’m making.  I’ve been getting out for a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood with the dog each night this week (might not sound like much, but it is a major improvement over last week, and the week before that, and… you get the idea). Sure my pace is slow and sure I’m disgustingly sweaty (did I mention the heat?), but I am moving and it feels awesome (go me!).

 

See that river in the background?

In addition to quick walks around the neighborhood, I’m lucky enough to live near a fantastic trail system.  I can walk through parks, neighborhoods or along the river and everywhere I go I see other people (of all fitness levels) running, biking and walking.  While I was out on the trails this past weekend I noticed an older man out power walking wearing a weighted vest.  The thought came to mind – since I’m carrying around so much “natural” weight I won’t need to spend $100 buying one of those anytime soon.  It’s important to see the humor in this situation, right?

 

See how muddy that dog is after having jumped in the river?

I tried it, but did I like it?  Yes!  I was outside in the sunshine, I was inspired by all of the other walkers and joggers and I’ll keep on walking.  Plus walking is free (unless you need a weighted vest) and we all know I like free stuff.

If you want to walk like me, listen to Dave Ramsey Show podcasts while you do it.  It’s always fun to mesh personal finance and personal fitness!

Cut the Cable

2013 July 8
by Felicity

I watch a lot of TV (too much) – not that surprising right?  What might surprise you – I haven’t paid a dime for cable since July of 2010.  Wait – don’t call the cops.  I swear I’m not stealing cable.  Orion and I get 100% of our TV from the Internet or through the mail and that small sacrifice tweak to the budget has saved some major bucks.

Here’s the scoop: we have an Internet enabled TV that has an app for watching Netflix (if you don’t have a fancy TV, you can use a Wii, PS3, XBOX, etc.).  Just FYI, the TV was a bribe to get Orion to let me sell a ton of his stuff on Craigslist before moving to Texas (still proud of you babe).  We mostly use the Netflix app to instantly stream TV episodes.  Occasionally we find a decent movie or documentary available instantly, but pickings are admittedly slim in that department.  On top of what is available instantly, we subscribe to two DVDs at a time from Netflix.  Getting the DVDs in the mail gives us access to some shows and movies that aren’t available instantly (somebody is not so patiently waiting for the next season of Downton Abbey).

So we use Netflix mostly for TV and yes that means we’re always a season or two behind on popular shows (don’t tell me what’s happening on Dexter!).  No it doesn’t bother me being behind (unless someone ruins Dexter for me).  One plus, we find a lot of great shows (old or obscure) that we might not have otherwise discovered (any other Monarch of the Glen fans out there? – yeah, I figured I was alone on that one).  All together we spend $21.63 a month for our Netflix service.

We also have a cheap computer (thank you Craigslist) attached to the cool TV.  Having the computer hooked up lets us watch shows on Hulu (we did try Hulu Plus for a hot minute, but didn’t feel like we were getting anything for our $7.95 a month).  My only complaint – Hulu repeats the same commercials way, way, way too often.  But hey, it’s free so I’m not really going to complain – not much anyway.

A highly scientific study quick Internet search tells me the average household spends $75 a month for cable TV.  Over the past 36 months that means we’ve saved $2,700 by not having cable.  Of course I sent all of that saved money off to pay down my student loans, but it’s fun to think about what I’d do with all that moolah if I didn’t have debt (excuse me while I dream about a new sectional sofa).

I think I watch just as much TV now as I did before we cut cable (which means I need to cut back).  I’m just as satisfied by Netflix and Hulu as I was by cable, but I have an extra $75 in the budget every month to use for other things (even when we had cable we still used Netflix). I definitely recommend cutting the cable – at least give it a test run.  Anyone else cable free and loving it?