Net Worth Icon

Welcome to my monthly net worth post for April, 2016. Each month, I post a complete breakdown of my net worth, along with a chart showing the progression of my net worth since the start of this blog. Posting my net worth helps keep me accountable for what I do with my money, and motivates me to make better choices and push to reach new goals. You can see previous net worth updates here

April was a huge month for me financially: It was the month that I officially became debt free! I had to pull some cash out of savings in order to make that happen, but I decided getting rid of my car loan was more important than having a larger emergency fund. Not to worry, I’ve already started building the fund back up!

April 2016 Net Worth:

Net Worth update as of April 30, 2016.

Net Worth update as of April 30, 2016.

As far as April goes, paying off the car loan was more of a “shell game”: It didn’t affect my net worth overall, it just moved the things from one row to another (less cash, less liability). From here on out thought, it should have a positive effect, as I won’t be paying anymore interest. It isn’t a huge amount, but $30-40 each month still makes a difference! And I’d rather have that money in my own pocket than in the bank’s.

I saw a net worth increase of $1,799 in April. It’s weird having so few categories that make up my net worth, now that I’m debt free. In the short-term, most of my growth should be in my “liquid assets”, as I’m growing my emergency fund back up. From there? I definitely need to concentrate more on my retirement accounts.

Net Worth Progress Chart:

Monthly Net Worth since the start of this blog (February 2013).

Monthly Net Worth since the start of this blog (February 2013).

I’m excited to see how the rest of this year plays out. Aside from a few vacations, I don’t expect any large expenses, so those monthly numbers should continue going up. Just the way I like it!

  • Cindy W.

Sometimes I feel like the biggest failure ever when it comes it saving money on purchases. I’m terrible at couponing; I never know where to look for coupons, and even when I have a coupon, I’m bad about letting them go to waste, or forgetting to bring them when I shop. I hate thrift stores. I try to comparison shop, especially for large items, but I often feel like a failure there too.

The reality is, I do the best at keeping a handle on my money when I make it as simple and foolproof as possible. I’m trying to get better at not wasting money. But I’m also trying not to fall into the trap of spending to save.

Last October, I posted about how I was saving money and preparing for the Holidays. Of course, that post was made before my nephew was stillborn and my Grandma passed away, when I had the best of intentions of doing the Holidays right. Life never seems to go the way you plan. And I’ll admit to being incredibly guilty of throwing money at life’s problems, with the hope that it will somehow lessen them. Just having a plan, and money saved in advance, helped keep the overall (financial) damage under control. But I didn’t follow through with some of my plans: I didn’t maximize my rewards at The Body Shop. And the Swagbucks surveys became an idea of the past.

Of course, I still had the Swagbucks browser loaded to my computer, and would earn points here and there from searching for random things. It wasn’t adding up to much though. That is, until I discovered that you can earn points through booking travel!

I knew that using Swagbucks for online shopping would rack up points much quicker. But, I’m not a big online shopper. Sure, I occasionally will buy something that I can’t find locally. I earned some point buying seeds from Burpee. And when I purchased the 21 Day Fix program. But it wasn’t until I went to book our getaway last November that I realized you can earn points booking through Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline. Sometimes you can even earn points booking directly with Hotels.

The points you earn vary, depending on when you make the purchase: I’ve seen anywhere from 2 points per $1 spent, to 8 points per $1. Sometimes it’s even a flat amount of points per booking. I was diligent about comparing booking prices both through Swagbucks and through a computer where the browser wasn’t loaded. I know they SAY it doesn’t change the price, but I’ve run into referral programs where places actually will raise the price to offset the added cost to them, so now I always try to check to make sure I’m not paying more.

When I booked our hotel in Biloxi for our vacation in early March, I was able to earn 8 points per $1. On top of that, I found a coupon on Swagbucks that enabled me to save another $90! So far, I’ve been able to redeem $85 in gift cards from the Swagbucks I’ve earned. I’ve used the monthly promotion of 2,200 Swagbucks for a $25 gift card three times so far, plus 1,000 Swagbucks for a $10 gift card. I’ve been leery to let the points sit in my account for too long, just in case they lose value at some point.

If you aren’t a big online shopper, it can take a while to earn points. And it’s a little annoying that all of the gift cards are e-cards (as far as I know). I’d love to be able to give out physical gift cards as presents. I’ve loaded gift cards from Target onto a mobile app on my phone, which makes them easier to use (especially given that I’m not a big online shopper). A few times I’ve considered buying plastic gift cards with the e-cards in the store, but I’m not sure that’s allowed. So instead, I’ve been using the cards to stretch my budget for items like clothing, and other wants I don’t really want to spend “my money” on.

Are you using Swagbucks? Are there tips that help you earn more points? Have you earned points on travel?

  • Cindy W.

The link to Swagbucks is a referral link. If you click on it and sign up for Swagbucks, I’ll earn points. Right now, this blog is earning $0. Since it costs me around $100 each year to run the blog, I’m hopeful that someday it might at least earn its keep!

Over the last thirteen days, I’ve found myself compulsively checking the online account for my car loan. I’m half expecting for some random amount to show up due; Maybe accrued interest, or some accounting error. But each time the balance remains at $0.

I should feel happy about that. Relieved. A sense of calming freedom. Instead, I find myself feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

My net worth update from April 2015 shows I owed $17,401 on the car loan. In a sense, that was my last remaining debt; The next month, I would sell the house and get rid of the mortgage. $17,401 is a lot of money to pay off in one year’s time. I’m proud of that. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small amount.

Right now, I have a few little goals I want to achieve: Get my emergency fund back up to $5,000. Save money for a vacation with my mom and sisters. Save up some seed money for a side hustle. But those are all little goals that I should be able to wipe out before the end of the Summer.

Then what?

I have bigger goals. But at this point they all seem so huge and unattainable. And I don’t know where my priorities should be. If I split my focus, it seems like I’ll never achieve any of them. But if I work on one goal to the exclusion of the others? It would take so long to reach one goal, I may never reach the others. So, which is my priority?

I obviously want to retire someday. And, at 37 years old, with only $21,000 in retirement savings, I’m woefully behind. For the first time in my life, I could actually contribute the maximum 401(k) amount of $18,000. Sure, the tax implications would be great. But it would be at the expense of all of my other goals. I’d be left with just enough money to cover my normal living expenses and spending, maybe a vacation or two each year. I would be putting everything towards the future, at the expense of everything between now and then.

I have other things I’d like to accomplish between 37 and 59 1/2 (when I could access my retirement accounts). Bryan and I would like to buy a house. Maybe not a traditional house: It’s possible we might purchase the triplex we’re currently living in. We’re trying to be strategic about the purchase, and ensure we get the best deal possible. But, it’s still going to require money upfront, along with a large cash cushion to cover ongoing repairs and maintenance.

We dream of one day becoming snowbirds, and heading South during the cold winters. That would involve either buying a place, or renting someplace for several months each year. Granted, there are ways to minimize that expense. But it isn’t going to be cheap.

Those goals in and of themselves would be enough. Compounding all this is the fact that I hate my job. Not just mildly dislike: I loathe going into work each day. And I’m at a point in my life where I’m honest enough about myself to admit that it isn’t just the company, it’s me. There’s a world of alternatives out there: Early retirement. Freelancing. Entrepreneurship. But all those things take money, and to some extent creativity and knowledge. And a whole lot of tolerance for risk. And did I mention money?

Of course, none of this is just a me issue: Bryan and I are going to need to figure out our goals, and how we plan to reach them, together. Right now is a weird time for him; We’re officially into Spring, where the weather sways from hot to cold, wet to dry. Some weeks he can work, other weeks it’s too rainy/wet/cold, and the job gets called off. It’s hard to think big picture, long-term, when you aren’t really sure if you’ll get a paycheck this week.

There’s also our age difference. Being 57, retirement is on the horizon for him. He isn’t planning for a retirement 20+ years from now, he’s planning for one in the next 5. Maybe less. And, given the type of retirement he’s planning, it pulls me into a different place than most people my age. After all, Accounting isn’t a very “snowbird friendly” career. It would be very difficult to find a traditional job that allowed for 3 months off each year.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now, I need to concentrate on rebuilding my emergency fund. And saving up for vacation. And trying some side hustles. The rest will come. Hopefully.

  • Cindy W.

I paid off my car loan on Monday. It was a super exciting day for me: I’ve been in debt since the age of 17, when I went off to college and signed those student loan papers. Twenty years later, I’m FINALLY debt free.

Everyone reading this blog knows what a big deal that is. Whether you’ve ever had debt or not, everyone in the personal finance blogosphere knows what a big deal those big financial milestones are. The sense of accomplishment. Freedom. Opportunity.

But in real life?

In real life, becoming debt free was kind of lonely. There wasn’t anyone to celebrate the victory with me, or to understand how I felt. In fact, there was hardly anyone I even wanted to tell!

I told a co-worker, as an explanation of why I was getting Starbucks for lunch. I just said that I had paid off the car, without mentioning the bigger financial picture. The girls in the office as a group have been discussing car loans a lot lately: One co-worker is planning to purchase a new, luxury vehicle. With a big loan, of course. The co-worker I told about paying off the loan bought a new car a few months before I did. She’s already looking in to purchasing a new vehicle, but her husband has told her she has to wait until her current vehicle is paid off. She’s lamented how she’ll be waiting four more years. Despite her husband’s request, she’s already pricing the vehicle she wants, and has contacted a dealer regarding the trade in value of her current vehicle.

I mentioned it to Bryan as we were making dinner. In an ideal world, he would have known before I even made the payment. But our world isn’t ideal, and we sometimes struggle with money discussions. We’re both in very different places financially. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I would be paying off my car loan this year. His response is to usually question why I’m in such a hurry. While he marvels at my financial situation, and how I’m able to stretch the amount I make (despite making much less than him), he doesn’t really want to talk too much about it. Part of it is an old-fashioned attitude about money: As the woman, my money is my money, and his money is “ours”. It makes him uncomfortable that he’s had to rely on me so much financially in the past year and a half. I also worried that I was “kicking him while he’s down”: He’s just getting back to work, and just starting to get things back on track financially. And here I am, going above and beyond. Becoming debt free. Having extra money to worry about.

In real life, it was just another day, save the Starbucks and the confused looks. I felt lonely, and weird, and apprehensive about telling anyone.

Thank goodness I have my online life, where everyone understands the excitement. Where I can proclaim loudly (or type in all caps):

I’M DEBT FREE!!!

  • Cindy W.

Monday morning I settled in at my desk and logged in to my Capital One 360 account to check on the status of my April payment. I expected to see the balance of my car loan sitting at $3,442; My April payment had left my bank account last week, but it seems to take forever for those payments to clear!

Instead, I  saw this:

Remaining balance on car loan as of April 4th, 2016.

My April payment had already cleared, and my balance was officially below the $3,000 mark. I took a deep breath, logged in to my bank accounts, shuffled some money around, and paid off the loan. The total payoff amount ended up being $2,962.26 (accounting for accrued interest).

And just like that, I’m officially debt free!

I expected to have a feeling of relief wash over me. Excitement. Maybe a feeling of joy and accomplishment. Instead, I found myself feeling a little bit terrified!

The decision to pay off my loan after it cleared $3,000 was something I’ve been thinking about and planning for months. Why $3,000? Because it’s an amount I could pull from my emergency fund, without it dropping below $1,000. Yep, I raided my emergency fund to pay off my car loan. And no, that isn’t the reason I feel slightly terrified.

Emergency Funds are a complicated topic, and people have various feelings on how much money you should keep in one. Some people reason that, as long as you have a large amount of credit, you don’t need any cash savings. The problem with that is credit can quickly dry up after a job loss, or if your credit score takes a hit (say, if the person you co-signed a student loan for defaults on said loan without your knowledge). Plus, I don’t have a credit card. Dave Ramsey recommends having a $1,000 emergency fund while you’re in debt, and then building it up from there. A lot of people recommend having 3-6 months worth of living expenses.

I feel most comfortable having $5,000 in the bank, strictly for emergencies. But I tend to vary that depending on what else is going on in my life. When I was socking away money to remodel/sell my house, I was comfortable with a smaller emergency fund, because I had other cash available in my accounts. In January, I dropped my emergency fund down to $4,000 so I could help Bryan with some of his bills while he was laid off, while still concentrating on paying off my car loan.

Now that I was so close to having the loan paid off, I chose to lower my cost of living over keeping a large cash reserve. But what if something happens? Aren’t I worried about not having enough money to cover an emergency?

No, not really. Sure, there are definitely “worst case scenario” or totally unforeseeable things that could happen where not having enough cash could be devastating. But, for the most part, I have most of my bases covered:

  • What if I got sick, or injured? I have really great health insurance through work, with low deductibles and coinsurance. If something really serious happened, and I didn’t have the cash on hand, I could work out a payment plan with the doctors/hospital.
  • What if something broke or was destroyed? The biggest things you have to worry about in this instance is your house and car. I no longer own a home, and I have renters insurance in case there were a fire or anything. I have car insurance if I was in an accident. If my car needed a major repair, and I couldn’t pay for it now, there are people in my life who have extra vehicles that I could borrow until I could pay for the repair. Or Bryan and I could carpool. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it also wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  • What if I lost my job? Well, I have 3 weeks vacation pay, which would now cover at least six weeks of expenses. With the lower cost of living, I could take pretty much any job, even temporarily, to cover my bills. Bryan is starting to work more regularly, so I could always lean on him to cover more of our expenses if things looked really dire.
  • What if Bryan and I broke up? This is highly unlikely: Our relationship is stronger than ever right now, and things are going really great! But, if something devastating and unexpected were to happen, I’d be okay. Two incomes are always nicer than one, but I’ve had no problem supporting us while Bryan was laid off, so I’d be perfectly capable of supporting myself, especially with one less expense. Even if I had to move.
  • What if I got really sick, lost my job, and became uninsured? Well, I would have been screwed either way! I have short-term and long-term disability insurance through work. But, those only apply if you’re still employed with the company; I’ve seen them fire people after their 12 weeks of FMLA was up, but before the 36 weeks where they were eligible for long-term disability. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen. But, if it did, at least the car is paid for, so it’s one less bill to worry about, and one less thing to worry about losing. Without a loan, I could drop to liability only insurance, and save some money. We could sell it if things got really tight. Sure, having an extra $4,000 in the bank would be nice. But, with an extra $370 bill each month, it wouldn’t go as far. Again, it’s kind of a toss-up. And a losing situation either way!

Besides, it won’t take long to build that emergency fund back up! If nothing changes, I can put $330 each week towards building it back up. By the end of April, it should already be over $2,000!

So why do I feel afraid?

Because what do I DO now that I’m debt free?

I’ve been in debt since the age of 17, when I signed my first set of student loan papers and headed off to college. The last few years, debt repayment has been my biggest priority. But now the debt is gone. Do I stay where I am now, and start socking away cash for retirement. Or for a house? Do I try to find a more fulfilling career, even if it pays less, or doesn’t have as great of benefits? Do I invest that money into myself, and escaping the 9 to 5 world? (Or 7:30 to 4:30, as it were)?

For now, I can concentrate on building back up my emergency fund to $5,000. I will probably start testing the waters on a couple of other ideas as well. Nothing needs to change overnight, just because I’m debt free. But, at some point, I need to figure out what my long-term plan is. Of course, I’m not alone in the decision: Bryan and I will decide together what works best for us.

So, I’m officially debt free. I bought myself a Starbucks for lunch to celebrate, and considered the implications. After all, debt free is a new type of freedom for me. I don’t owe anyone anything! That opens up a world of possibilities for me!

  • Cindy W.

I’ll admit, I was kind of surprised when I did my spending breakdown for March. We spent 9 days on vacation in early March, and yet, somehow, my spending wasn’t all that exciting. If anything, I spent less in some categories than I normally would have. I guess since I paid for the hotel in February, and Bryan paid for gas and food, most of my vacation spending was already done last month.

Where the money went: March 2016

Where the money went: March 2016

I was shocked when I realized I spent $0 on gas in March. Not that I spend a lot on gas each month, but I usually fuel up at least a couple of times. I must have gotten gas at the end of February. And then, I didn’t drive for 9 days. It isn’t like I drive much to begin with; I don’t work very far from home, and Bryan does most of the driving on weekends.

Most of my expenses were completely normal this month. I did spend $100 on a variety of items for vacation. And $99 on going out to eat throughout the month. I put $80 cash into savings, to match what Bryan spent on lottery tickets this month (my “lottery savings”, a guaranteed win!). The Grief Expense was for flowers; A friend’s brother passed away earlier in the month. I had spent $54 on seeds for the garden, but as it turns out, one item is on backorder, so I wasn’t charged for it.

All told, I spent $3,654 in March, while earning $3,265. Which started to concern me: It seems like most months I spend more than I earn. And yet, I always have a similar amount in the bank at the end of the month, so I’m not spending down my savings. It’s as if there’s some sort of magic going on in my bank accounts! And then I realized, a big chunk of what I spend each month is actually from previous months. I put a set amount of money ($250) into a separate account every week to cover my regular expenses: Car payment, rent, insurance, cell phone, etc. This account also acts as a “sinking fund” for my semi-annual expenses. When the month starts, I already have the money I need in the account for all of that months regular expenses. So I’m not using this month’s money for this month’s expenses, I’m using previous months’ money.

There were 4 pay periods in February, which means I put $1,000 into my expenses account. In March, I used that money for rent ($350), car payment ($340), Insurance ($35), Cell Phone ($16) and Entertainment ($9). I always round my “regular” car payment up to $500, so $160 of my extra payment comes out of my expenses account as well. That equals out to $910. The remaining $90 stays in that account to cover more expensive months, like when my semi-annual car insurance is due.

My spending money gets spent in the month that it is earned. This month, I also had an extra $680 to put towards my car loans from February, because I wanted to wait to see how vacation panned out before using that money. Using some of this month’s money, and some of last month’s money, is why my spending and earnings never seem to line up. April should be the last month where things look so confusing: If all goes well, I’ll pay my car loan off this month. I’ll use savings to do so, which will make April’s spending and earnings numbers look really bad. But, after that, I’ll be putting more money towards savings each month, and it won’t look like I’m spending more than I’m earning.

It may look messy, but things are lining up exactly how I planned.

  • Cindy W.

Net Worth Icon

Welcome to my monthly net worth post for March, 2016. Each month, I post a complete breakdown of my net worth, along with a chart showing the progression of my net worth since the start of this blog. Posting my net worth helps keep me accountable for what I do with my money, and motivates me to make better choices and push to reach new goals. You can see previous net worth updates here

I was expecting March to be a nice, steady month. I didn’t have any big expenses planned. I could get back on track with my extra payments on my car loan. And, much to my surprise, things ended up working out even better than I planned!

March 2016 Net Worth:

Net Worth update as of March 31, 2016.

Net Worth update as of March 31, 2016.

$3,752! The stock market definitely gave my net worth a nice boost this month. And I managed to put a nice chunk of money towards my car loan. $2,364 to be exact. Some of that ($680) came from money I was sitting on last month, waiting to see how our vacation plans panned out. I squeezed the budget extra hard this month to try to pay down the loan as much as possible. I’m ready to have that loan gone, so I can focus on other things!

Net Worth Progress Chart:

Monthly Net Worth since the start of this blog (February 2013).

Monthly Net Worth since the start of this blog (February 2013).

I’m really happy with how March ended. And I’m really excited about the possibilities that April could hold for me. If I want my life to change, I need to start taking steps to make that happen. That means pushing myself outside my comfort zone. It will be a lot easier if I don’t have debt hanging over my head, so that’s the first step.

  • Cindy W.

Spring officially began on March 20th, and I’ve already got a serious case of Spring Fever. I want to be outside, doing things. Being productive! Working with nature!

Of course, the weather in Indiana is not helping. One day it’s 70 and windy. The next it’s 40 and raining. Bryan and I do a large vegetable garden every year, and I’m itching to get started. Of course, you can’t really start planting until after last frost; My mom’s rule of thumb was always to wait until Mother’s Day. Which isn’t until May 8th. That feels like forever from now!

I did finally sit down and order some seeds this weekend. I probably should have done that much sooner, so I could have planted the seeds in March. Indoors, of course. Hopefully they won’t take too long to be delivered, and I can start them early April. The rain and how warm it gets will dictate when I can start hardening them off and getting them ready to transplant outside.

Gardening is one of the areas that Bryan and I are learning to compromise. Bryan is what I would consider a traditionalist when it comes to his vegetable garden: He plants mainly heirloom tomato plants, along with some beans, jalapeno, banana and bell peppers, lettuce, corn and cucumbers. I tend to like growing things that are exotic and unusual looking. Things you aren’t going to find in the produce department at the grocery store.

Last year, Bryan was willing to branch out a little. We didn’t cross into exotic territory, but we did grow spaghetti squash, cabbage and cauliflower. Our garden was the same size as the previous year, so we just cut back on the number of tomato plants we grew. Bryan has a friend who seed saves from his heirloom tomatoes each year, and then starts probably close to a hundred new plants the following year. He usually gives Bryan 20-30 plants each year. Last year we gave some of those away, and only planted about 15. It was a wet year, so the tomatoes didn’t yield much. We also grew a few other varieties of tomatoes, just for something different. All of the plants we purchased were from Lowes, or a local nursery. A few things we grew from seeds.

This year we’ve decided to increase the size of our garden. It isn’t so much that we needed more garden space, as it was a side effect of needing to cut back an overgrown area of trees in the yard. I’ve convinced Bryan that, instead of just planting more of the usual, we should plant a bigger variety of vegetables. He agreed, with the caveat that, if I choose to plant grape/cherry tomatoes, I can only do 1-2 plants of each, as each plant tends to be highly productive. I took that to mean 1-2 plants of each variety.

With a plan in place for a larger garden, I set out to order my seeds. I started off at Burpee’s website, selecting a variety of interesting seeds. $98.10 later, I realized my cart had gotten a little bit out of control. I love variety, but I hadn’t budgeted to spend that kind of money. Seed packets also tend to contain a large amount of seeds, way more than we would need for our garden this year. We’ll share with anyone who wants seeds, and save some for next year, but seeds often lose their ability to germinate after a year or two.

With all that in mind, I headed over to Territorial Seed Company’s website. They tend to have a variety of seeds and plants, and allow you to select from a variety of seed packet sizes, meaning you can buy fewer seeds, reducing your overall cost. They’re also a small, family owned company; I like the idea of supporting a small business over a large corporation.

Gardening is definitely a situation where the overall price is sometimes more important than the price per item. For example, most of the seeds I selected at Burpee were $5.95 per packet, and included 50+ seeds. That’s 12 cents per seed. At Territorial, I could by a small packet, measured in grams, that would maybe have 20 seeds in it, for $3.95. That’s 20 cents per seed. But, if over 2-3 years, I’ll probably only get 5-10 plants out of either packet, it makes much more sense to pay $3.95 than $5.95. The rest of the seeds would likely be wasted in either case.

I spent some time switching between the two company websites, selecting the best deal on the items that I wanted. And then I narrowed down my selection to only the items that I really thought we’d eat. Sure, the varieties of hot peppers were amazing, but did I really need 6 different types? Purple corn is neat to look at, but would we enjoy eating it? The reviews suggested probably not.

In the end, I narrowed my purchase down to 12 items, for a total of $53.67. Still a lot of money, but much less than the original $98.10. I chose ball zucchini squash, which look interesting, and should be more useful in our kitchen than traditional zucchini, which have a way of getting out of control in size. Cherry and current tomatoes in 5 varieties, ranging from white, to green, to orange, to purple, each boasting a unique flavor. Pac Choi and Kale. Mini Mexican Sour Gherkins. A paprika pepper, poblano pepper, and a “heatless” Habanero pepper. My hope is that if I indulge myself with a variety of exotic items this year, I’ll have a better idea of what is truly worthwhile to grow next year. And then I won’t spend as much money on trying so many new things.

Our huge garden should have a nice variety this year. Last year we instilled a rule once our garden started producing: Eat at least one item from the garden every day. I’m hoping to do the same this year. We’ll also share our abundance with friends and family, cook veggies as side dishes for our frequent Fish Fry gatherings with friends, and can or dry whatever possible at the end of the year. We spend too much time and money on our garden to let anything go to waste!

For us, gardening is a hobby that we love, and a way to ensure we eat more produce. We don’t look at this as a way to save money. Do we save money growing our own food? Probably not. We don’t spend a ton of money on the garden, but we also don’t spend a lot of money each week on produce from the grocery. We eat more produce during the garden season, simply because we have so much available. If you compared our yield to what it would cost to buy that amount of produce? But then, if we didn’t have a garden, we’d never buy in a season what we end up with from growing it, so it’s wouldn’t be a true savings anyways. And when you account for the amount of work we put into the garden? We’re definitely not saving!

Some things in life aren’t about saving money. Isn’t that the point of frugality? Save where you can, so you can spend where you want? Gardening is definitely a want for us!

  • Cindy W.

I’ve lost track of where we are on this. And, for once, not because I’ve given up!

Slowly but surely, I’m still plodding along with the 21 Fix. I’ve had a few hiccups, and I’m still doing it in a very relaxed fashion. But still, I’m doing it!

My first big hiccup was our 10 day vacation. To me, one of the best parts of vacation is the food. That, and having drinks at lunch, like a true rebel! We intentionally left the workouts at home. Sure, we could have brought along the DVDs. And DVD player. And weights. But that seemed like a lot to pack. And it was vacation! Plus, we’d be walking the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi. And the hills in Tennessee. And the streets of New Orleans. We had the exercise covered.

I left for vacation weighing 181 pounds. I came home weighing 185. Not exactly good news. I ate whatever I wanted, but tried to balance types of food, and not let my portions get out of control. I think it was the margaritas that did me in!

I also came home with a bum ankle. I injured my ankle a couple of years ago. Despite physical therapy, I was told the injury was permanent. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I have a brace I can wear when it does. Of course, I didn’t bother bringing the brace with me on vacation. After all, we’ve walked the beach before, and the hills of Tennessee, and never had an issue. For some reason, this time was different. I was able to grin and bear it, and pretend like nothing was wrong, but I was in a fair amount of pain.

I decided when we got back home to take things easy, wear my brace, and stop working out until my ankle felt better. I took all last week off. I’m probably going to take this week as well, just to make sure. I did however return to better eating: Using the cups to measure my food, eating the right number of each food group, etc.

I’ve been averaging 1 pound a week weight loss, so I worried vacation would set me back more than a month. But by some unknown miracle, on Sunday I was down to 179.5 pounds!

I’m not sure why I was able to get back on track weight wise so quickly. Maybe because the gain was so recent? But something tells me it was the kale. I decided early last week to make a kale salad. I liked it so well, I ate it every day for lunch. And things were a lot more, um, regular, last week. I’ve never in my life been regular. Ever. I even started taking fiber last month, to try to help. Kale helped. A lot.

My eating overall has been somewhat boring. I tend to be a bit obsessive about food: I eat something until I’m sick of it, and then I don’t want it again for a while. In a way, it makes things a lot easier. During the week, I like to eat small meals every couple of hours. Mainly because I get bored and frustrated at work, and I tend to be an emotional eater. Having small meals planned out throughout the day keeps me from eating the candy at the front desk, or the donuts in the break room.

So, I eat cottage cheese most mornings for breakfast. Followed a few hours later by a banana. A few hours later, I’ve added in a kale salad (just kale with a store bought sesame ginger vinaigrette). A little while later, I’ll either eat leftovers from the night before, or lunch meat wrapped in swiss cheese. If I’m hungry in the afternoon (or bored, or frustrated, or tired), I’ll eat another piece of fruit. If dinner is going to be late, or I’m especially hungry, I might eat something when I get home. Usually lunch meat wrapped in swiss cheese. At dinner, we usually have a meat and veggie or potato. Sometimes pasta with a meat sauce.

The weekends are a little less regimented. Bryan tends to make breakfast in the morning, which usually consists of a poached egg and something else for me (maybe hash browns, or a piece of fruit, depending on what we have on hand). I’ll usually eat something for lunch, be it leftovers or a wrap of some kind. And then dinner is typically a meat and either veggie or potato. My mind is more occupied, and I’m more content, on the weekends, so I find myself wanting to eat less often.

Slowly but surely, I’m seeing results by sticking with (a very loose version of) the program. Hopefully I’ll be back to working out by next week. The weather is starting to get nicer, so that definitely helps with the activity level!

  • Cindy W.

I’ve been looking at this blog for the past week, wanting to post something, but not sure where to start. We were on vacation the week before last, and I was determined to not “work” while we were away.

It’s been hard coming back to reality. Vacation was kind of a bust, but even still, it was a break away from the usual. I’ve had a migraine almost every day since we’ve been back. I could attribute it to still trying to overcome the cold I came down with the first day of vacation, or adjusting to wearing my glasses again after a week without. But I think the issue is much simpler: I hate my job.

Just saying that seems somehow ungrateful. After all, many people would kill to have a job, especially one that pays a fair wage, has fabulous benefits, and has loads of flexibility with ample time off. The worst I can say for my job is that the office is catty and gossipy, and there is little respect and zero support. People have overcome much worse. Honestly, I think it’s me more than anything else. But then, that’s a whole topic unto itself.

I feel like I have so many ideas of what to write about, but they’re all stuck in my head, and I don’t know where to start. And when I do start writing, one topic rambles into another, and blog posts quickly turn into books. It sucks when writing issues come down to lack of focus more than lack of ideas.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the past year, and it’s forced me to really think about who I am, and what I want for the future. I’ve experienced good things and bad, but they’ve all brought a bit of perspective. I want to write about aging, and the importance of forming a community. About digging deeper to figure out what you really want out of life, instead of what you’re supposed to want. I want to write about how we’re planning for a future as a couple with a large age gap, and some of the struggles that presents.

Hopefully I’ll be able to start pulling some of my thoughts together, and actually get them into writing. Overall, I am happy with life right now. I’m frustrated with my job situation, but I have some exciting ideas floating around in my head. I just need to get over my fear and risk taking a chance. Hopefully I’ll be able to start moving forward on some ideas in the next few months.

  • Cindy W.