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Posted on Oct 25, 2011 in Dear Diary | 53 comments

The Worst Four Letter Word

I have what one might call an indulgent personality.

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Er, to say the least.

While we already know where that particular personality trait (flaw?) has landed me when it comes to the food side of things (does 246 lbs ring a bell?), what I don’t often touch on is how being self-indulgent has affected other areas of my life. I don’t like to talk about finances because I come from a very fiscally responsible family, and it’s embarrassing to admit how far I let myself slide. But hey, I figure if I can post pictures of myself at my highest weight in a bikini on here, I should be able to openly discuss what is probably the most taboo term in the Powell household: credit card debt.

Credit Card Tombstone
(source)

I’ve talked about my issues with disordered eating many times over. What many people may not initially realize, however, is that beyond the physical, emotional, and mental toll that binge eating takes on a person, it takes a huge financial toll as well. After all, it’s not like “binge food” was an item on my grocery list. No, instead I would drop $15 a pop at drive-thru windows (give yourself a second to calculate just how much fast food $15 can buy), charging pizzas and chinese delivery to my credit cards, and the costs, just like my weight, simply continued to rise.

Mo' money, mo' problems

Of course, while I spent a lot of money on food, that wasn’t the only culprit for my unabashed spending. Unfortunately, gluttony begets gluttony, and it isn’t just reserved for things of a culinary nature. Once I was out of college and making my own money, food therapy ceased to be enough to fill the emotional void on its own. Between going a little crazy with my holiday gift-giving and my obsessions with Sephora, pedicures, and designer shoes I never actually wear… Well, suffice it to say, retail therapy became the name of the game.

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Yes, you’re reading that insole correctly. These have gotten one wear. ONE.

Seeing several of my fellow bloggers be so honest about their sordid financial histories convinced me to do the same. After all, I’ve always said that honesty is what you get here whether you like it or not, haha. So I’m going to stop beating around the bush: I accumulated over $6,000 in personal credit card debt before I could even begin to admit that it had become a problem. It’s okay, family. You can judge.

Now, I realize that compared to the kinds of debt that many others are dealing with, $6K may be a mere drop in the bucket. That being said, I hope that everyone realizes that carrying ANY credit card debt from month-to-month is too much. After all, we’re not talking school loans or mortgages here. This is not good debt. This is you’re-throwing-your-money-away-kind of debt. This is the kind of debt that comes back to get you. And I can tell you now from personal experience that being stressed over credit card debt is not exactly what I would call a boon to weight loss.

I'mma getchu!

Fortunately, not too long after I made the decision to salvage my physical health, I resolved to do something about my rapidly declining financial health as well. Unfortunately, life did not take a break while I was getting to that point. In order to leave my horrible, soul-crushing post-college job, I actually had to pay the company in order to quit before my 2-year contract was up (can I get a “WTF?”). Daxter had a life-threatening accident when he was 14-weeks-old, putting him in the doggy ICU for three exorbitantly expensive days (and of course, I hadn’t gotten pet insurance yet. Fail.) My father generously loaned me some money to help me out in the interim, so that’s an entirely different debt that I’m working towards paying off.

While these things may have slowed down my progress slightly, I am still moving forward. Er, downward. My credit score is still high, since I have never defaulted or had a late payment, and I’m continuing to whittle down at the balance I owe. It’s taken a while, but over the past eight months I’ve managed to reduce my credit card debt by two-thirds. By the end of 2011, barring any surprises, I should be free & clear of all non-mortgage debt (holy crap, just typing that out feels amazing!) And that’s all in spite of my lingering penchant for purchasing unnecessarily expensive things, haha.

Froofy
Because we all know they aren’t buying their own sweaters and designer dog beds.

Okay, okay. I jest, but believe it or not I really am trying harder than ever to stick to an actual budget and watch my spending. I use Mint.com to track my purchases and accounts, and have the app on my phone as well. I’m also tracking my debts and payments in an Excel spreadsheet to make sure I am not overspending the funds that I need to keep in my checking account for things like, oh, my third of the mortgage. But it’s difficult. Not only is it hard to restrain myself from spending mindlessly, but it is challenging to maintain my healthy lifestyle while on a budget. Eating locally, organically, and/or healthily is relatively expensive. Race registrations are expensive. And let’s not even get started on my sushi requirement. I know that I don’t really NEED to buy organic apples or new running shoes or my own juicer, but it doesn’t mean I don’t WANT those things. And that whole indulgent personality thing? It just makes it hard to tell myself “no”.

need

I’m working on it.

Do you feel that a tendency to overindulge when it comes to food sets you up to overindulge when it comes to spending? Please don’t feel pressured to share, but if you feel comfortable doing so, I’d be so, so interested to hear from others who are going through or have gone through anything similar when it comes to debt.

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Posted on Jun 22, 2011 in Food, Weight Loss 101 | 38 comments

Weight Loss 101: Eat Real Food, Not Your Savings

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So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about eating healthy and finances. As in, how do you eat REAL food without going REALLY broke? And then yesterday Ali tweeted at me that she had similar concerns: How do you eat healthy without going bankrupt at the grocery store? Which obviously got me thinking about it even more. I’ll be the first to admit (and I’m sure that my sister will be the second, haha!) that I am not exactly the most frugally minded person. Sure, I can appreciate a good deal as much as the next person, but for the most part I adhere to the mindset that I would rather pay more for better quality, faster service, or convenience, than have to deal with the opposites of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a rockin’ deal as much as the next person, but some things aren’t worth the hassle to me. Hence why it’s more likely you’d find me leisurely perusing the displays at Nordstrom than getting sweaty and harried pawing through the racks at Marshall’s, haha.

That being said, I’m not exactly rolling in it over here. And real food is expensive! Ramen is cheap, produce is not. So while I often ignore my own advice, I do feel like this is an area where saving money really matters. And I feel there are some surefire ways to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to healthy eating.

Number 1: Eat at home.

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Uh, duh. This should probably go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway: If you want to save money, don’t go out to eat. Shop for your own groceries, and prepare your own food. I spent just over $20 at the store yesterday and will be covered for meals for three days. When you break that amount down, you’re talking about something like $2 – $3 a meal!

Number 2: Meal plan.

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I’ve admitted in the past that I’m not very good at creating and following meal plans. I try to pretend it’s because I’m all spontaneous and like to be creative with my meals, but really I’m just lazy and unorganized hahaha. This week I tried to make an exception, however, because I’m taking off for the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO on Friday morning! So going grocery shopping mid-week, while a complete necessity given the state of food options in my house, wasn’t the most ideal situation. I didn’t want to buy things that were just going to spoil when I left! I feel that the biggest money-suck when it comes to eating real food is having it spoil because you weren’t able to utilize it in time. Meal planning is the absolute best way to avoid this.

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Number 3: Make (and stick to!) a grocery list.

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My list yesterday was super short because I was literally only shopping for a few days’ worth of food. But if I hadn’t done up a list, I would have walked out with so much unnecessary, unusable food.

Number 4: Buy generic.

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Stacy’s pita chips are priced at $2.99 a bag. Giant’s Nature’s Promise brand pita chips at priced at $2.49 a bag. Which product should you purchase? Seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, sure 50 cents might not seem like that much, but it adds up. Fast. And this rule applies across the spectrum: groceries, pharmacy items, etc. People will pay a lot more just for a particular brand slapped on the packaging, when the generic version is just as good (and oftentimes, the same manufacturer makes both products anyway. So you are LITERALLY just choosing between a branded and a generic version of the exact same thing.)

Number 5: Stretch your meat.

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There are lots of creative ways to make the expensive items you buy, like meat, last longer. Cara gave me the tip of adding ~2 cups of mashed chickpeas (which you can snag for about $0.89 a can!) to turkey burgers to bulk ‘em up and stretch ‘em out. I took that tip as inspiration for my own dinner last night, which involved bulking up my T-burgers with tons of veggies that I already had!

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I chopped up green onion, red onion, button mushrooms, and grated baby carrots and added it all to the mix. Not only did it make for big, thick patties, the mushrooms kept the meat SUPER moist (often a complaint when it comes to turkey burgers — thanks for that tip, Aunt Lynda!), but the meal was healthified with the addition of extra veggies, AND it helped alleviate that whole food-spoilage thing mentioned previously by letting me use up more items that were just waiting to spoil in the fridge! Win-win-win.

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With the addition of asparagus that I subbed the grocery-listed bibb lettuce for because it was a much better deal, and potatoes that I already had lying around, we have a complete meal, with enough leftovers to last me for lunch today AND tomorrow (and would have lasted another dinner, too, if I hadn’t been a piggy and had two patties last night. Whoops! Hahaha.)

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I really need to get on this meal-planning train much more regularly. That way I’ll have more money leftover for the massages I apparently desperately need! ;)

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What are your tips for saving money but still eating healthy? Another thing I should probably look into doing more is deal-shopping (going to different stores for specific items) and couponing, two things I’m terrible at! Any advice on those fronts?

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Posted on Mar 1, 2011 in Dear Diary | 7 comments

Money, Money, Money

Guess what my evening last night involved? Hehe. Yup, doing my taxes. O, the joy. Well, honestly, I can’t say that it’s really that bad for me at this point. I mean, I’m pretty simple when it comes to taxes. I’m not self-employed, I’m not diligent enough to keep all my receipts (well, this is probably a bad thing) and I’m not generous enough to make lots and lots of charitable donations (though I did pull out my li’l donation to DonorsChoose.org for this year’s return. Whatup DC public school reading programs!)

So all this tax-doing and return-getting (w00t!) and whatnot has made me think really hard about how I spend my money. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not super great about budgeting my money (well, that’s probably not true. I’m sure my sister would be the first one to tell you that, haha!) I really love to shop, and I have an amazing but accursed Amazon Prime membership that makes it entirely too easy to just click-click-buy. But one of the things that I’m trying to do this year is manage my money better so that I can make some significant purchases in the future, like a new car:

I currently have my little eyes set on test-driving the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, and Toyota Yaris when the time comes. I know that I want an ittybitty car (the better to park you with, my dear!) but something that comes with a hatchback is a definite must (for the doggies!), with back seats that can fold all the way down and I’d also prefer 4-door. Luckily for me, my very first car was a stick shift that I inherited from my brother so I can save a few pesos on manual transmission. Regardless, with the price range I’m looking at, I know that I’m going to need to save up about $4,000 for the down payment I’d want to put down, so I really have to start kicking my financial booty into gear.

I recognize that this particular post might not seem specifically weight-loss related, but I argue that it is. After all, cleaning up your diet, buying whole foods (and shopping at Whole Foods), registering for races, buying running gear, and so on can all start to take a serious toll on your wallet! Inspired by Julie’s post yesterday, I decided to think about what I would really do with my money if I budgeted it better (i.e. fewer impulse buys at Nordstrom, haha.) I do know that one thing I would definitely do is start buying completely fully organic produce instead of having to make decisions about the “Dirty Dozen” vs. the “Clean Fifteen” like I do now.

As a sidenote, if you’re looking to start cleaning up your produce (literally), FitSugar.com has posted a freakin’ adorable chart to help you decide which fruits & veggies should be bought organic versus what you can get away with buying conventionally:

I mean, seriously. How cute is this!?!

I think today’s Question of the Day is pretty obvious: What are your personal financial tips? Do you have a budget? If so, do you stick to that budget? How do you guys save money when you’re working toward a big purchase?

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