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Flexing my frugality muscles

Friday, January 17, 2014

Although I'm still on a good log in streak here, I've been working on a different kind of strength the past few weeks. I'm building my frugality muscles!

I grew up pretty poor, and as an ecologist, I'm always mindful of things like wasting water and electricity, which happens to be frugal, too. However, I've been reading the Mr. Money Mustache blog and forums the past few weeks, going over my finances and making some changes, and really reflecting on what money buys. Over the years, I've made some financial blunders - nothing serious, just the types of things that separate many of us from financial freedom and keep us on the monthly payment treadmill.

Maybe most notably, I signed up with Mint.com and put their app on my phone. Since doing that, I've been able to stick to my food budget with no problems. I've spent zero on clothes, and made up a tidy little list of the things may need to buy this year (running shoes!). I've also been working Craigslist, Ebay and Amazon to sell off stuff I no longer need or want, and I'm stashing that money in a jar until I have enough to get a rowing machine to go along with my Craigslist weight set in the basement. Bunches of stuff went to the thrift store right after Christmas, which should help us get a nice tax return this year. As a big bonus, the house is nearly free of clutter, and it just makes life run more efficiently. When my auto insurance policy is up in June, I'll be switching to save about $300 per year, I've dumped Verizon for Republic wireless for a savings of over $40 per month, and will be cancelling my gym membership shortly. By the end of 2014, I will be free of credit card debt, have an investment account other than my retirement fund, and be paying my car loan down aggressively.

Just wanted to share this here, because it's very reminiscent of when I got serious about losing weight almost three years ago. Only now, I'm that much stronger and knowledgeable about my capabilities, so I'm not afraid to set some bigger goals at the outset. Looking forward to this voyage, and will hopefully be fitter in every sense of the word at the end of this year!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHANGINGHORSES 2/7/2014 11:34AM

    Awesome! I just got another quote for my car insurance and I can't believe how much I can save with a reputable company and better coverage. We must never stop shopping and comparing prices. I feel stupid for letting this go unnoticed for 4 years but hey, I notice now.


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KELMOM23 1/23/2014 7:34AM

    emoticon We also use Mint and love it. And, over Christmas, got connected with Republicwireless, too! nice. :) Also, thanks for the comment on my blog - very encouraging!

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GYPSYGOTH 1/18/2014 10:50AM

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I have also been using Mint. It helps!

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MOM_VICKI 1/18/2014 9:21AM

    Following your blogs is a great motivator to me:) Just before Christmas, I sold my first item on ebay and now I've got the Ebay bug to sell! Thank goodness it's not the Ebay bug to buy emoticon

Good luck this year with your financial goals.

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AEROBISAURUS 1/18/2014 9:11AM

    I'm excited for you! Good luck. emoticon

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HISTORYRUNNER 1/18/2014 1:54AM

    Like you say, you're practicing the focus and discipline you need for physical and emotional well-being in the financial realm. This looks great - rational, systematic, purposeful. And the great thing is that as you eliminate debt, and clutter, life becomes clearer and flows more freely. Wishing you well on your path to liberation!

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TIMOTHY53 1/17/2014 11:13PM

    Pinching pennies ... that's what the frugality muscle is best for.

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How powerful is a "lifestyle change?"

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A common mantra here at Spark People, and wherever else common-sense weight loss advice is dispensed. That is "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change." I think I took that to heart after being here a few months, but only as it related to diet and exercise. Now, after almost three years, I see that it goes so much farther than that. Changing your health can seep into other areas of your lifestyle in so many powerful, and positive ways if you let it. Maybe it stems from being mindful of our bodies' needs, or maybe it creates more optimism to look forward to the future. Or maybe creating new, healthy habits just frees us up to emotionally deal with other baggage. It's probably a combination of all of this, but I think the most powerful lesson, is that change comes from within.

I am feeling pretty good at this point about my diet and exercise routine, after having experimented with a few different approaches. I can now do all of my workouts either outside or at home, and they fit easily into my schedule. I'm also close to where I need to be with my paleo/primal diet approach, so it is getting easier to implement, too. Now I have some bandwidth freed up to improve other areas of my life!

This past week, I've been focused on money. Getting fit has made me much more aware of how I want to look and feel as I age. In the past, I was focused more on a 5-year future timeframe, and it was really hard to visualize 30, 40 or 50 years down the line. I feel like I'm physically on a good track to enjoy an active and healthy retirement, but not so sure that I'm on track with the financial piece of the puzzle. Suddenly, I've got a fire under me to really improve this area of my life, where I've previously stuck my head in the sand. I've identified areas where I can simplify my life, which I think always leads to saving money (with more complications and less free time, it's harder to cook at home, take time to really consider purchases, or look for that missing "thing" instead of going out and buying a new one), and I've also found some places where I can save some money on my insurance, and cell phone. I bought a squat rack off Craigslist and will be quitting my gym membership, too. My credit cards will be paid off by summer, and then I will open an investment account, something I've been thinking about for years. By the end of the year I plan to be aggressively paying down my car loan. I also did the math and discovered that my husband and I could have our house paid off within 9 years, which would allow him to retire from his current job when he hits the magic 20 year mark, and pursue something more satisfying. That is powerful stuff!

How has your lifestyle change affected other areas of your life? What do you want to work on next?

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHANGINGHORSES 2/7/2014 11:48AM

    Awesome blog! I think financial fitness is just as important as physical fitness. I have been exercising frugal muscles for years and I can say that if I had not been doing so, my past 5 years would have been even tougher to get through. One of my favorite sayings in this area that I try to keep in mind when spending is "Every dollar that you spend has consequences elsewhere in your life". How can I put this dollar to better use?
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MOM_VICKI 1/3/2014 9:35AM

    I couldn't agree with you more!! Very well said :)

Another benefit that I've noticed over the past year as I've reached my fitness/wellness goals is that I'm feeling more confident. It could be just an age thing, but I feel a lot more confident these days to express myself and stand up for my beliefs.

I've often thought that counting calories is very similar to managing money - there's only so much coming in, so it's important to track what's going out... If only I could keep the "going out" part of the equation better managed...

Good luck reaching your financial goals this year - I'm excited for you and your husband!

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AKA639 1/2/2014 7:34PM

    Woo Hoo!

I also had a similar outcome to becoming more fit. I wanted other areas of my life to be improved too. I changed jobs last year, and I started focusing on finances. I'm making a lot of progress too!

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NWCOUNTRYDANCER 1/2/2014 5:07PM

    Great insight. Good for you for getting financially on track. This year I am sticking to what I start with. Changing my eating habits to lose weight, more exercise, cleaning my house of the clutter and junk that has collected and needs to go.

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Whole 30-ish, day 4.5

Monday, December 30, 2013

So on Christmas day, feeling nasty from eating too many cookies and other junk, I realized that I had a perfect time window in front of me to do a Whole30. I am not so busy with horses or gardening in January, and don't have any travel plans until the second week of February.

For those who aren't familiar, Whole30 is basically a strict paleo 30 day challenge, that you modify afterwards to see which foods you react to, or just keep on going with the Whole30 plan if you don't miss any of the foods that are cut out for the 30 days. It doesn't allow any grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, or alcohol, not even any paleo-fied treats like muffins made with almond flour.

So I did a "soft start" on December 26, and then started "for real" the next day. However, I am bending the rules a little bit. I had some heavy cream left over, so I decided I would use that up, which I did today; tomorrow will be day 1 of no dairy. Secondly, I decided that I could have a drink or two of either red wine or hard cider (nothing brewed from grains) on Saturday night. Lastly, I got the Twister jar for my Blendtec yesterday and was dying to try it out, so I broke the no paleo-fied treats and made some pumpkin fudge, but kept the sweeteners to a minimum. I also plan to include some white potato here and there because I think they qualify as paleo, and my husband hates sweet potatoes, so sometimes it just makes life easier.

So far, I am really liking the results; I've dropped about 3# of water weight as of this morning, and am not experiencing any carb cravings. In fact, I'm completely un-tempted by the beer or candy bars DH left in the fridge, and most of the food at the grocery store doesn't even register to me as food, much less anything I want to eat. When I get hungry, it's sort of background noise, rather than a feeling of needing to eat, right now. In fact, I've been eating at odd hours because I've gotten absorbed in other activities and can't be bothered to eat. On my energy level, I am hoping that it picks up. I don't feel "bad" in any way, shape or form, but just don't feel compelled to work out. Not sure if some carbs would help there. I may try eating a couple dates before I head to the gym tomorrow and see if I perk up. My energy is on just sort of a low, steady monotone right now, but that might partly be because I've finally got some time after work after a few stressful months of working on tight deadlines. It will be interesting to see how it goes at the gym tomorrow, and when I go back to work next week.

So that's it for now... the dairy goes for real tomorrow!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WOW1966 12/31/2013 9:41PM

    I have read about several ultra runners that do well on this type of diet, so maybe your energy will improve as your body adjusts. I am attempting to do a similar clean up with my diet but I don't think I can completely cut out the grains (whole wheat bread and oatmeal) or the dairy (greek yogurt).
Keep us posted on how it's going.

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AIDEN487 12/30/2013 10:26PM

  Good luck

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BACCAGIRL 12/30/2013 10:06PM

    I can't tell you how amazing it feels to have read your blog today. I often wonder about the Paleo diet and instead of just researching it and making the decision to just go for it or bin the idea, I now have a firmer idea of that "diet". Whole30 does sound tuff, but I don't see why I should fail there since I really eat only real foods anyway! Thank you for blogging, what I find an amazingly helpful blog today!

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December...

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The weather must be watching the calendar, because it is cold and drizzly this morning, with snow in the forecast by the end of the week. So far, we've had a fall full of great running weather, and I was able to work my horses a fair bit in November. With the colder temps in a few days, the arena will be too frozen up to use, so my horses will be on winter vacation until probably sometime in March.

I have to admit that the close of 2013 finds me feeling kind of frustrated. This morning my weight was 167, which is actually just a little bit higher than it was at this time last year. I was right around 162 for most of the year, and even dipped below 160 a couple times. However, when I started to taper for my 30K in late August, I think that was the beginning of this annoying weight creep. Right when I should have been getting back into training after the 30K, I got a really nasty cold that was affecting my breathing for almost a month. I was able to train for and run the Zeitgeist HM at the beginning of November, and I have been training consistently since then, including adding more heavy compound lifting back into my routine (I couldn't seem to fit it in very well when my mileage was getting higher prior to my 30K this summer). The lowest weight I've seen in the last month is 163.8, so I'm guessing overall I've gained 3-4 pounds of real, actual fat. I'd like to think at least a little bit is muscle, but I'm kind of doubtful about that. Yesterday I even noticed that my size 8 Levi's are too tight now when fresh out of the dryer. Ugh. The short story is that I'm now about 10 pounds away from my ultimate goal weight, and after essentially maintaining, or losing less than a pound per month for about 14 months now, 10 pounds seems like an impossible amount to lose.

So the question is, what am I going to do to turn this around and get back on track? I think for now I need to focus on getting back to my 162 baseline weight. My body seems happy to maintain there, and I'll be able to stop worrying about stepping on the scale and seeing the 170's again. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to do this, at the moment. I think I'll go back to tracking my food, which I haven't done in a LONG time, just to see where I am. I've also noticed that when it's dark by 6:00, I'm prone to feeling like the day is over, and I plop down and don't do as much around the house. Though it's not formal exercise, I guess my usual puttering around in the yard, or working with my horses until 8 or 9 each night burns more calories than sitting in front of the computer, and I haven't adjusted my eating to compensate for the reduced calorie burn. Another thing, is that I added cheese back into my diet, and kind of went overboard on that. A little cheese seems to be OK, but I don't need to rekindle my love affair with fancy cheeses.

Being that it's the first of the month, the time is ripe for a new challenge so I'll be ready to start 2014 on the right foot:

1. Do a mini workout after dark on weekdays - 2 mile walk or jog, plus at least 50 kettlebell swings
2. Raw veggies with lunch every weekday
3. Stick with the current workout plan - 2x week strength training, 1x HIIT (rowing), 4x running
4. Beer 1x/week max, red wine 3x/week max
5. Minimize sugar and cheese
6. Record what I'm eating (will probably just write this in a journal unless I decide I really need to track cals).
7. Plan meals each week, and do any necessary pre-cooking on Sunday to make sure I don't veer too far off track during the week

Hopefully this will get me back on track, and I'll find out that a few of these pounds were just bloat/water weight. We'll see!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHANGINGHORSES 12/5/2013 8:14PM

    I hope that your plan is working out for you. I find it harder at this time of year, the gloomy cold days are not good for my psych. I have to force myself more often then not to exercise at this time of year. Do what you can and grab the sunlight at every chance!

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MOM_VICKI 12/4/2013 7:11AM

    Looks like a great plan! You'll be back to your goal weight in no time!

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CHICA_BORICUA 12/3/2013 8:08AM

    emoticon emoticon

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Weatherproof

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Not so long ago, I was the one passing runners on my way to work on a cold, dark morning, or when it was raining or snowing, and wondering if they were insane, tenacious, or just plain dumb. Today, I realized I've become one of those people, and I am hoping for tenacity, but it wouldn't surprise me if a little insanity and stupidity are in the mix.

This morning we had our first bit of snow for the year, but it was melted off the roads first thing in the morning. I headed out for my long run hoping to beat the next storm scheduled to come through, but the freezing rain showers started about 2 miles into my 9 mile run. Not so long ago, this would have had me turning around and heading home, but instead, I just figured that if it turned to hail, I'd have to find a tree or make a beeline for that old abandoned gas station. The dog and I had a lovely run and got to admire the views of new snow on the hills, and rain trails streaming from the storm clouds as they drifted across the valley instead. A more serious rain shower moved over us when we were about a mile from home, but thanks to tech fabrics, that was really no problem, and we got home with nothing worse than soggy feet. I can tell you that a hot shower is that much better after a chilly, wet run than after sweating out 5 miles on the treadmill!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SIERRAGOLD 11/19/2013 10:04PM

    That sounds totally normal because you love it so much. When I used to run (a million years ago) I only really enjoyed it if it was on the cool side. Rain didn't bother me, but a down poor was just too much. Back in the day, we didn't have good clothing for that. So that sounds like you and your dog had a great time!

Barbara

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AKA639 11/19/2013 10:30AM

    Awesome! It is funny your your perception can change when you enjoy something. Tech fabrics help a lot, as well as having great company! I've ridden my horse through some storms and I love to ride in fresh snow fall.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great to see you are well too!
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MOM_VICKI 11/17/2013 10:40AM

    Sounds really beautiful! The right clothing and protection make ALL the difference!

Way to go :)

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SNOWFILLY 11/17/2013 6:54AM

    WOW!!! You are AMAZING!!!!! emoticon emoticon

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LOISDESK 11/16/2013 8:01PM

    That's tenacity! Good for you!

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ZOSBOS 11/16/2013 4:11PM

    Sounds like a great run!
I'll run in all weathers, but I actually prefer winter runs, I'd rather run in the rain than in the heat any day! But I guess to non-runners we do look a bit mad! :-)

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PJ2222 11/16/2013 4:03PM

    emoticon

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