Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Extreme Budgeting Redux: April 2010 Edition

My first check from my side-hustle kicks in this coming Friday and while I wish I could splurge on a new pair of shoes or load up on some new iTunes downloads, the reality is that I'm playing catch up until mid-May.  After getting sick in February (paid nearly $100 in co-pays and medications) and giving my mom money to travel back East for my grandpa's funeral in early March, things will be tight around here for a bit longer.  Heck, after the financial year I've had, a month and a half is really not that long.  Nevertheless, I have to have a plan to get through this month and a half without getting myself into deeper financial doo-doo.  I've decided to review and revise my budget for April to see how much I could save without going absolutely crazy:

1. My normal monthly hair budget (I do my own relaxers, color, maintenance and "dusting" of my ends) will be zeroed out in April.  I am currently in the midst of a 3-month relaxer stretch and I have a bottle of semi-permanent cellophane that I can use to cover my gray until my next relaxer is due in June. Estimated savings: $40 for the month

2. While I'd normally go to Weight Watchers each week and pay $12, for April, I'm going to go only twice (during the first and third week of the month).  If you miss more than 2 meetings, you have to pay for the missed week but by attending every other week, I can keep my membership current and still save $24 for the month.  This does mean I'll need to be extra diligent about tracking my points and exercising though...but I'm up for the challenge.

3. Reduce my advising hours on campus to twice a month.  I have a 70 mile (total commute) to and from work and that extra day on campus generally means I'll use a half a tank of gas.  I estimate that by reducing my advising hours on campus (and being available for student questions online), I can save about $30 extra bucks for the month.

4. Since I've given fast food the boot, I can't wait to see how much I save now that I'm focused on preparing my own meals.  Estimated savings: $180-$200 per month (and countless inches off my waist)

April (Planned) Reduction in Spending: $94 without fast food savings ($274-$304 includes fast food savings)

Now my husband and I have a joint checking out that we use primarily to pay out joint bills: mortgage, utilities, groceries.  This budget plan doesn't impact any of those bills or that account.  My plan is strictly for my personal checking account.  

Instead of trying to live on a microscopic budget like I attempted in February, for April, I'm cutting out the frills and trying to see how much money I can actually save.  My goal is to have enough money left over in April to be able to use that money to "splurge" on something nice for myself.  There's alot of things about becoming an adult I dislike but budgeting, saving and managing your money has by far been one of the most difficult.  Pray for me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bad Habit - No Excessive Snacking

I did really well with my No Fast Food Challenge this week.  I did have a turkey and ham sandwich from Subway but it really doesn't count as traditional fast food because it's fresh and I didn't have cheese or mayo.  As I was reading another website, I came across this article from the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK about the dangers of fast food: McDonald's Happy Meal Has 12 Month Shelf Life - GROSS! 
This is yet another reason to avoid fast food.  I also managed to lose 1.4lbs this week.  Yay!  And since I only managed 3 runs last week, I know my weight is down because I have been eschewing fast food.  Don't get me wrong I was tempted twice last week but I reminded myself that I had good food at home and if I wanted to indulge, I could only have Subway.  Limiting my on-the-go options to just Subway helped me stay in control.

This week's Bad Habit Break-Up will be excessive late-night snacking.  The reality is, I often have a snack after dinner.  Generally, I only have lean protein and steamed vegetables for dinner.  I started this recently so that I could save my carb for my snack.  And so far, it's working well.  Basically, I have a Fiber One Bar with some yogurt or a bag of 94% fat free popcorn and it's just enough to satisfy my craving without going overboard.  My concern this week is when I am up late working and trying to keep my snacking to a minimum when I'm crazy busy, bored or tired.  These are the times I'm most likely to "snack binge" - or have way too many servings of snacks in one sitting.  So my goal for the week is to rein in the outta control snacking.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bad Habit Breakup: Week One - No Fast Food

I rejoined Weight Watchers about 4 weeks ago and since that time I've GAINED 1.4lbs.  WTF?  Basically, I have been half-ass doing the program and I've slipped back into some of my worst eating and exercise habits.  I've been eating fast food like it's gone out of style and because of my injury/illness, I haven't exercised consistently since last November.  It's no wonder I have gained since I restarted. 

I don't know quite know how to explain this but usually when I go back to Weight Watchers, I try to use the program to address all of my bad habits simultaneously.  Almost like I think the program will help me deal with emotional eating or lack of exercise because I don't want to embarrass myself on the scale.  But since Weight Watchers doesn't prohibit any food, I have been following the spirit of the plan and that's why I'm struggling with gains instead of loses.  Case in point, I had 8 fast food meals last week and not all of them were grilled chicken sandwiches with no mayo either.  I had Jack in the Box tacos on at least 2 separate occasions and although fried zucchini isn't as bad as French fries, it is still fried food.  Add to the fast food frenzy was the fact that I said birthday calories don't count and had 4 slices of Spiced Bavarian Cream cake in a two-day period.  I like Weight Watchers for it's flexibility but I have to be the one to exercise some self-control.

I've identified my 7 bad dietary habits and for the next 7 weeks or so, I'm going to tackle each one.
Dietary Bad Habits List
1. Eating too much fast food (due to failure to meal plan and prep ahead of time)
2. Excessive snacking after dinner (and away from prying eyes)
3. Not enough fruits and vegetables on a consistent basis.
4. Not recognizing fullness; Eating 'till I'm stuffed
5. Drinking entirely too much diet soda
6. Not consistently tracking/journaling food intake
7. Blowing off too many scheduled workouts
So this week, my goal is to follow the Weight Watchers plan but to do it without any fast food.   This means I need to meal plan, prep food and follow through by eating what I've prepared.  It's not like I don't like cooking but it does mean I need to manage my time better. Mondays are my research days at home so I can use the mornings to plan, prep and store meals.  I have a rough idea of what I'm going to do so I'll be sure to post recipes and pictures tomorrow. 

Why address fast food first?  Well, I believe I've developed a fast food addiction.  I'm addicted to not only the convenience of it but also the layering of fat, salt and sugar.  I read The End of Overeating by David Kessler who was the former head of the USFDA.  Kessler says that when his administration of the FDA required food sold in stores to be labeled with nutrition information, the restaurant industry was left mostly unregulated.  This meant that restaurants could use any means necessary to keep customers filling their seats and their preferred method was to over-stimulate the brain's appetite functions with what he calls "layering food".  Layering, for example, is to "double" the amount of fat, salt and sugar to a food to make a person crave it even when they are full.  A real-world example would be Chili Sante Fe Egg Rolls.  Kessler says that these Egg Rolls come to the restaurant already fried and then frozen.  So they are fatty to begin with but the restaurant re-fries them and the unassuming customer is now eating double the amount of saturated and trans-fat they'd normally consume.  Constantly eating foods like this over-stimulates the brain which sends gherlin, a hormone in the pancreas, to trigger a hunger response.

What does this mean for weight loss?  Eating fast food and trying to simultaneously lose weight is like climbing uphill with roller skates on.  Sure, there are healthier options out there but part of weight loss is managing your environment to ensure your success.  I can't have chips and dips in my house and expect to resist them day after day so why continue eating fast food when it causes a similar uncontrollable urge to over-eat response in me?  So for this week, I'm going cold turkey on fast food and building from there.  This is going to be the hardest challenge yet, methinks. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Year Older

 The Birthday Girl Being Silly at Work (Notice the Hair Decorations From the Cake)

Yesterday (March 11th) was my 37th birthday.  Since my birthday always seems to fall on a weekday, they usually end up being pretty uneventful affairs.  But luckily, I have a great hubby and friends who always make me feel special.  This birthday was difficult because my grandfather Everett was buried in Arlington National Cemetary on March 11th.  But I soldiered on knowing my grandfather is no longer in pain and probably raising hell already up in heaven. 

I woke up to birthday greetings from my husband and then he gave me what I hoping he would get me.  A $100 New Balance Store gift certificate.  Yipee!  Can't I tell you how triflin' I've been about getting new running shoes?  Well, I wore the last pair down so much that after my last run about 2 weeks ago, I could barely walk for three days! $%@#!  After work I went straight to the New Balance Store and got these beauties (and some SuperFeet Inserts for my falling arches).

I understand that most shoe salespeople work on commission but why did the saleswoman offer me some silver shoelaces to go with my shoes?  When I promptly told her I only run on a treadmill, she looked a bit embarrassed for even offering. 

Right before my 10am class, I get a text message from my friend Jen saying there was a surprise for me in the work fridge.  Oh Lord!  Last year, Jen surprised me with a carrot cake that was sinful and divine.  What was she up to this time? :o) 

After class, I literally skipped back to my office to discover that Jen had bought me a Spiced Bavarian Creme Cake that was absolutely delicious.  It was so beautifully decorated though that I was almost (and almost being the operative word here) too afraid to cut it.  I had 2 huge slices at work because birthday calories don't count.

When I got home, my husband asked me if we could postpone my birthday dinner to Sunday.  He just had an oral surgery the day before and could only eat soup so he wouldn't be able to eat anything on the menu and since I wanted to go out and buy the new Sade CD, I was more than happy to postpone it. I went out and bought the long-awaited Soldier of Love CD.  I haven't gotten past the first two songs yet because I keep replaying them over and over again.  Sade's voice is beautiful as ever and I'm mad that she is 52 years old and still looks this damn good:

So although it was a relatively quiet birthday, I'm happy to celebrate another year with close family and friends and though my grandpa EJ is gone, he'll never be forgotten.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Do Over" March: The Art of Juggling

Not only was February the longest month on record for my finances (which didn't go to plan btw), my illness got worse and my beloved grandfather passed away on February 26th.  

This is what I mean that the 30's is a hellified decade fraught with all kinds of challenges.  My diet and exercise obviously suffered as I ended up in the emergency room for breathing treatments and a severe bout of bronchitis.  I was prescribed 4 different medications and told to rest.  Resting was actually a bit more challenging than I had anticipated because we have a vacation planned for July and I really want to hit 180lbs by then.  But not being able to breath kinda put a cramp in my workout plans.  I did stress eat which just made a bad situation worse.

Right after I started to feel a bit better, I got news that my maternal grandfather Everett had developed an infection which was preventing the doctor's from keeping up with his dialysis treatments.  He was 86 years old and lived a colorful life.  I will miss him dearly. I spent a few days after his passing in a mental fog but I vowed that once March rolled around, I was going to get back on the wagon in terms of my diet, exercise and debt management program.

So March is the "Do Over" Month.  This means I will focus on exercise consistency, tracking my Weight Watchers Points and not losing my mind on my spending.  I'm really trying to focus on developing a consistent routine as far as work, exercise and even debt management is concerned.  I am normally not a good juggler.

I have a million things going on at once, of course.  I began my online teaching side hustle on the 1st and I estimate this will take up 10-15 hours per week of my time.  I also have a book chapter deadline on March 10th.  Fortunately, I have a writing partner who is good at editing while I'm good at analysis and content.  I have tons of grading to finish by the 9th....I might have to push it to the 16th.   I have Sorority Softball League try-outs this weekend but I might have to go to the March 27th tryouts instead because I have so much to do.