Money. Love it or hate it, whether you have tons or none, it is something that dictates a lot about your life. With that being said, I hate it, and it is because I have spent all of my life never having enough money. My husband and I work hard and in our house, he does the budget. It isn’t because I am not capable of running the household budget, but rather because money slips like mercury through my fingers, faster than the speed of light. Once in a while, I ask him where things stand, and these days, it is looking better than it ever has. We are not rolling in the dough, in fact, we are very far from that with our household income. We decided years ago that it was better for him to take control over the money. Many fights happened since then, but when we made the decision to have him handle the budget, we promised to never let any fights we had about money be about anything other than the money. Do you know what? It worked. There have been days where I was so angry I was shouting at him to find me the money I needed for whatever we were fighting about needing money for. We made that little rule at the start, and we have made it work for us, ever since.
I am now going to share my top 6 Budgeting Tips. They will not be things that you have never heard of before, but they have helped me stay the course and not go crazy all the time.
Don’t leave the house. I am really serious about this one. The second I walk out of the house I am 100% guaranteed that I am going to spend money. Except if I am going to work, or to visit a friend. It is a given. When I have time off, I avoid shopping temptation by staying home. I am not an avid online shopper, so this does not affect me like it might for other people. When I do make online purchases, they are planned, not impulse purchases.
Make a grocery list. Use the weekly flyers. Cut the coupons. Go the extra mile to get whatever deals that you can find. If you can sign up for email coupon sites or local couponing groups, you can swap the ones you don’t need for some that you do.
Pack your lunch. Eating out should be a treat, not an everyday event. If you make a meal, the leftovers can be your lunch the next day. I do this a lot. I get bored of sandwiches, so when I prep cook, it is for my lunches. I recently discovered that I need carbs at lunch. I will have to be planning ahead more for this, as I thought the sleepiness after lunch was my blood sugars being too high. I checked. They weren’t. The next day I added the right kind of carbs, and I wasn’t falling asleep at my desk. Who knew?
Find ways to earn money to save up for something extra. I have done a bit of pet sitting for friends, but it can be anything that you can do. I have also done overtime at the day job when I was planning something that I couldn’t afford from the regular budget. The household budget has been so rigid for so long that it is now a habit for me to stop and think before I make plans to figure out where the money for such and such is going to come from.
Make use of points. Whether you collect air miles, scene points for movies points at your local grocery store or pharmacy, spend them wisely. I have one that I let accumulate until I have enough saved to buy makeup with. I have others that I cash in when I am low on funds and need to make a purchase that I can’t wait until payday for. If you are spending money to buy coffee every day (another way to save money is to make it at home) then get the card and claim your free coffee when it is earned. Or, pay a gift forward to a friend in need with points. Save them to purchase Christmas or Birthday gifts. Whatever you use them for, if the points are used, and it is something that you want instead of need, then it is a valuable way to spend them.
When you are paying down your debt load, pay extra when you can. Choose one of two things when you start to target your debt load, either the smallest total balance and continue paying each one off one at a time while paying the regular payments to the other bills. The other factor to weigh into this decision is the interest rate for each separate debt load. When it comes to making ground, it makes sense to start small and remove the smaller totals first. This builds momentum because you are seeing results as each bill is paid off. Then you can change tactics when you only have larger bills left, and tackle the one that is charging you the highest interest rate first. When you are improving your credit rating, then call the companies that you want to keep doing business with, and ask them what they can do to help you save money, and keep doing business with them. They may lower your interest rate that they charge, and if you have problems spending, ask them to lower your balance when you hit the balance that you can manage.
My bonus tip is to live within your means. Think before you shop. Wants are not needs. If you don’t overspend, you won’t have to pay down the debt if there is none there, to begin with. This is practical advice, but not always possible. Emergencies happen and need to be dealt with. If you have your debt under control, having to find a way to cover an emergency is not as stressful when you have wiggle room to manage to pay down a new and unexpected bill.
I am writing this story for 2 different reasons. One is that it is something that might help someone like me figure out how to manage their money better. My husband uses a computer program to keep track of it all, but he also writes out the budget by hand months in advance to help him plan ahead. The other one is to slip in another introduction for a third Guest Blogging adventure. I have teamed up with Carla Gardiner who was the first Blogger to respond to my open invitation to guest blogging. I have written a story for her blog. It is a bit familiar to the information I have shared here on this blog, with my own little spin to make it just different enough that you should go read it, to make sure you don’t miss out on any of my stories. I really had fun with this one, and there is a science fiction reference or two in it. You can read What are you doing with your towel? on Carla’s Blog.
While you are there, check out what she is up to. She is so you can well imagine that she has her own stories to tell, in her own way, from living life through her own journey. I do read her blog, and I am in the #100Coffees group with her, it is where we met. She and I were brainstorming, as I am not quite what her ideal audience member would look like. While chatting, I was inspired to write about reinventing myself and to share budgeting tips. These topics were chosen based on sharing the audiences of both blogs. So here is the first part. Please do take the time to visit her blog also. The Blogging community has always been a delightful way to help other bloggers with Guest Posting such as this one, and I look forward to participating in more writing adventures in my own journey.
Trust Your Gut is a series of stories about real people with weight issues, and complications arising from those issues. It will explain what the person is facing, what their options are, what they have decided to do to take action, and why they chose the path they are on. Each person’s story will be based on truth, so it won’t all be happy, but it will be real. The goal of this series is to get people talking about options that are available for people that have weight issues, on either end of the scale. If you would like to contribute to this series, there is a contact form linked on my Home page for this blog. I know there are people out there that want to help people like them, as I do.
The names here may or may not reflect the person’s real name. If someone wants to remain unknown, we will choose a different name for that person’s story. The goal is to help people, and anonymity is a valid personal choice for contributors. I will use a person’s name only if they give permission to do so.
Here is the first of many Trust Your Gut stories, I am starting with my own, Tish’s Story.
I have always struggled with my weight. My issues began as a child. I have always been overweight. Growing up, dessert was used as a reward for eating all my supper. I used to gobble all of my supper as fast as I could and be the first one done so I could have my dessert. When I was in grade eleven, my mom and I went through weight watchers together. I was at goal weight when I graduated from high school and went to university. Then I was in charge of what happened. I got sick, in my first year. I fought mononucleosis and tonsillitis at the same time. While I was sick, my throat was very sore. When I was able to be at class, I dozed while taking notes. Doctors wanted me to eat, they were concerned that my sore throat would prevent me from eating and that the illnesses could cause an unhealthy weight loss. I was told to eat whatever I wanted, as long as I was eating.
I took that literally and ate whatever I wanted during my university years. When I finally graduated, it was six years later. Cafeteria food didn’t always win with the healthier choices. It was hard to choose salad over french fries. When I moved off campus and into my own apartment, I had more control over what I was eating, and a budget to deal with. Eating healthy is not easy to do when you are on a budget. I still struggle with that now, but it is easier with a larger budget for groceries. At that time, it was easier to have fast food and the less healthy options for groceries, because they would be more affordable.
As my weight ballooned more and more out of control, I developed other health issues. I became a Type 2 Diabetic. I was also diagnosed with thyroid disease. I take one pill a day for this, and I will have to forever. I am OK with that. Then I tested positive for sleep apnea. I have not started any medical treatment for this condition. These health issues are a normal combination for someone who is considered on the BMI scale to be morbidly obese.
The first time I heard that term, it had shock value. I didn’t know how to react. A term like that is really hard to apply to yourself. Being so overweight that you could die from it. It’s a lot to absorb when you don’t feel like it applies to you. I know I am overweight, don’t get me wrong. But there is some denial there too. Until the scale hits a certain number.
For me, and this is hard for me to put out there, I weighed more than 300 lbs. There, I wrote it. It is just a number, but it is a really significant one. I remember sharing a different, lower weight with a friend in university, who replied, “No, you can’t weigh that much. You don’t look like you weigh that at all. You carry it well.” This added to my denial of my weight problems. I didn’t look like I weighed that much, so it was OK to keep going like I was.
Only it didn’t stop there. I was close to 320 lbs at my highest weight. At that point in my life, I made a decision, after finding an ad on facebook for Trim Healthy Mama (THM). What I was doing wasn’t working, so it was time for me to make some changes. That was my aha moment, as it is commonly called. What I was doing was not working so I had to make a change.
I have implemented several changes in my journey to becoming a healthier person. I am following the Trim Healthy Mama plan. If you want to learn more, this is a link for your own research: https://trimhealthymama.com/
I am not on plan 100% of the time, but I have adapted it in my life over the last year. I have successfully lost 15-20 pounds since I started making small changes. I am bouncing between the two, and on the verge of two-ville (299.99 lbs). That is retaking my first small victory, to be under 300 lbs. The next goal is 290. Going by 10 lbs at a time is reasonable goal setting at this stage. Too large of a goal will cause self-defeat because it is too long between accomplishments. When I no longer have 20 lbs to lose, I will decrease the goals accordingly. I have a lot of work ahead of me, and a long way to go.
Another change I have made was to become more active. For a few years, I have been going to Zumba Classes twice a week. I did extra walking also, my Zumba teacher has dogs, and there was a steady time that I was going to visit and help her walk the dogs. She and her rescue dogs were rescuing me from being a couch potato. 🙂 In the spring I hope to adopt a rescue dog of my own, so I can start having a reason to walk every day.
I started noticing a trend from people I know, or people that are my friends through social media; and even on tv, the new show This is Us. Weight loss surgery is something that people are doing. This is why I decided to start this blog series. Weight loss surgery is not for me, and I have my reasons at this point for saying so. I can still move, therefore if I put in the work, I can make changes to lose the weight. I am not fooling myself. I see what happens when I do work really hard, and I have had success with THM. When I work hard I see results. It is up to me. So with that mindset, I am doing it. For me and my health.
Being a type 2 diabetic is something I would not wish on anyone. While I am on THM, I have noticed some trends in my blood sugars, the most significant one being I have sugar lows. This is a new and scary side to being a diabetic. It also means that there is hope that my body can start effectively producing and using its own insulin. I have been on insulin for about ten years now. I take 2 types, one short acting, and one long acting. I went from 2 needles a day to 5. This is what a person fears the most when they hear the words from a doctor, confirming that they are a diabetic. That you have to take insulin. You have to take needles. It is hard to adapt to this at first. What do you tell people, when you are taking insulin? Stabbing sounds violent. It is what I said at first. Then I decided it wasn’t the correct term, it was more like jabbing. Then it clicked. One morning I was trudging into the bathroom to take my insulin, and I blurted out to my roommate, ” I have to go Jabba the gut.” It stuck, and he thought it was hilarious. I have a fantastic sense of humour, and I do love a good pun. It takes an unpleasant necessary action and makes it funny.
A good sense of humour is something I can be proud of. It is a part of me that keeps me going. Laughter is something I do enjoy sharing. I take great pride in delivering a successful pun or joke. Sometimes people don’t know that my joke was actually thought about before I tell it. 😉 Some people think I tell too many stories, and don’t want to wait for the punch line. My sense of humour is a huge part of my coping mechanism, and I rely on it heavily, pun intended. It is a great deflector, to take the focus off me and my health, and to laugh about something else instead.
It is no laughing matter. Wearing size 24/26 clothing, and having to take 5 needles a day is no fun. I have started my weight loss journey, and I am going to keep going. I owe it to myself. No matter what your weight issues are, they are yours. You have to decide that your health is worth the effort. You are worth it. Whether your issue is being overweight, like myself, or if you are on the other end of the scale, and underweight, you are worth more than what the number is on the scale.
I wanted to start this series to try and help people like me. I have chosen my path, and I intend to keep on it. It won’t be straight and narrow, I am a curvy woman who likes to choose the path less travelled; when I am not forging a new path on my own. I am hoping that by sharing my story, and other people’s stories, that this series will make people with weight issues start thinking and talking about it. It is an issue for a lot of people, and by sharing our stories and information, we can help someone out there that needs to make some changes but doesn’t know where to start, or what options are out there. I intend to write more Trust Your Gut stories, with help from other people, so that someone out there can have their aha moment, and start making changes towards their own healthier lifestyle.
That is a picture of Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole. It is one of my favourite Trim Healthy Mama recipes. Last year I stumbled across this plan, and thought I’d give it a whirl. I can say it works, as long as you work at it. I have been bouncing between fifteen and twenty pounds lost in the last year. From playing with it. I am never 100% on plan. But I have made some changes, and feel better when I try hard. So this is one of the reasons I am working harder at it this year.
I need to plan ahead for grocery shopping and cooking meals to stay on track. I have started prep cooking on weekends. Prep cooking for two doesn’t have to be complicated, unless the other person doesn’t want to eat what you have made. At first, I was disappointed with my husband for not wanting to do this with me. I had to take a step back, and think about how to progress with it, and keep us both happy.
There was a point when I realized that I was merely existing and not really living my life to its fullest potential. I came to that conclusion for myself, about myself. Not for him. So he will have to deal with his choices, like I am dealing with mine. I am choosing to try harder. Which means sometimes I cook his and hers lasagna. Other times we make spaghetti sauce and he makes pasta, while I have spaghetti squash with mine. Sometimes we eat the same thing. Sometimes I eat things that are not on plan, with him. Other times I make what I want and he has to feed himself. We manage.
Adapting the grocery list and budget for this was challenging. We use coupons when we have them. We circle what we want in the flyers before making our grocery list. And when I am on top of things, I pick a couple of recipes and add missing ingredients to my grocery list. That is work too. Not hard work, but it is time consuming. So it helps to have a time set aside for this. We like to go get the groceries together. One reason is that we are on a budget, and if I go alone, a sale could cause me to “forget” the budget. He keeps me within the guidelines of the budget. Also, it is good to have help getting it all in the house and put away.
Storage is another issue we have. Living in a mini home, we have to maximize the space we have. That is an ongoing struggle. It is part of the reason I am involved with the cleaning and organizational challenges. There would be more prep cooking done if I had the space and money for more storage containers. Also time. I would love to cook all weekend, but then, there is the cleanup. So that slows me down sometimes.
I have learned that one or two casseroles a week gives me enough food for lunches all week, and for some suppers. Which is reasonable. Until he doesn’t want anything I made. Which on the wrong day makes me angry. But I am learning to let that go, it’s not me he doesn’t want, it’s the food I made. Which by the way, is really tasty, the recipes rock! He just misses potatoes and veggies and meat. Together. I do eat sweet potatoes more than white potatoes, now. Sometimes we bake some of each. He turns his nose up at spinach. That’s why I make his and hers lasagna. He eats traditional, and I eat Lazy Lasagna, which does have spinach and no noodles. I have been teaching him to cook some things, so if he decides he wants something different, he has choices.
Ideally, there would be a way to cook enough for a whole month at a time, have containers to keep it in the freezer, and have him join me on this journey. Reality is that he doesn’t like spinach. So, in this like other aspects of our marriage, we choose to compromise. Sometimes that is the only answer, until he realizes I am right. Which he will, eventually, I have no doubt. Seeing is believing, and we will be seeing results this year. I plan on working hard at all of my goals for 2017.
I live in Canada. Black Friday was not always something that happened here. We used to only have the Boxing Day sales every year. But, with the world being more socially connected, Canadians decided to try this Black Friday thing. We have sales. The purpose in starting it here was to help the Canadian economy by giving shoppers the opportunity to find deals and sales here at home, and in theory it makes sense.
The timing is good. If you are able to get your Christmas shopping and major household purchases done on Black Friday, you stand to save a good amount of money. There is a lot of hype about Black Friday. Now it is going through right until Tuesday. Sure, I like a good sale as much as the next person , but when you live on a budget, it is hard to plan for such things.
There are times I think about shopping. I have already written that I can be an impulse shopper. These days it applies mostly to food. I have been following a plan, and making my own meals to eat healthier. When I make food for the week it is called prep cooking. In a household of 2 with only me on plan, I do the prep cooking on a much smaller scale than I would like to. One or two recipes a week gets my breakfasts and lunches ready so I am able to stay on track and have a quicker exit to go to work in the mornings. When I work hard at it, it works. I have seen the results from the changes I have been making. It is encouraging to see it work, and frustrating when it gets stalled or goes in reverse. I have been stuck in a rut this past month. It is that time of year, when the undiagnosed seasonal depression kicks in.
I could have seasonal depression. I do get gloomy in the winter. I still go through the motions, go to work, eat, sleep, repeat, but I don’t have a lot of energy in the winter. I am also terrified of falling on ice outside. I have a lot of padding built in right now to break the fall if it happens, but it is not something I have had good experiences with. So if I could hibernate, wake up for Christmas and New Years, and them resume hibernation until the spring comes, that would be OK with me. Maybe stretch my legs and get a box of chocolates in February, you get the idea.
Did I do any Black Friday shopping today? I worked for most of those shopping hours. After work, I came home and made supper. There are leftovers, and I am trying a new recipe this weekend. There was a bit of planning in supper, because the spaghetti sauce will be an ingredient in the casserole I am making tomorrow. Right after supper we did go down the road to the grocery store. When I climbed in the car this morning, I was told by my husband to be ready to go get groceries when he got home from work. He heard a Black Friday ad on the radio while he was warming up the car, for the grocery store. There is a sale on cheese and chicken. So we got our groceries tonight. Sans list, free style. Which means there will be this or that needed between now and next payday. But the groceries are done, and a sale on chicken and cheese makes us both happy.
We keep telling ourselves, if we work real hard, and keep paying down our bills, maybe next year we can get to experience The Black Friday shopping in Canada (or get in on the Boxing Day sales). I don’t know if there will ever be a time that we will be able to do it. But we keep working hard anyway, because we have to keep paying the bills. They don’t pay themselves, and they won’t just go away.
What would I buy if I had the money? A new car, it is hard to manage with one car and two people. A new fridge and stove. A new bedroom set, we haven’t got that grown up purchase done yet. Cell phones, yes, you read that right, we do not have cell phones because it is an expense we cannot afford. Peppermint plants for every room ( I read they keep spiders, mice and bugs away). Clothes are a given. Sneakers for sure. A new purse and some new shoes. Make up. But something I really want is more of those glass containers that I could store my prep cooking in. We have some, but I was thinking today that if we could Black Friday some more of those, it would be beneficial for the days that I FEEL like prep cooking, I could do more and have some food frozen for the weeks I don’t feel like it.
At least the cheese and chicken freeze well. Would I buy more of both tomorrow? In a heartbeat. I go through a fair bit of cheese and chicken with this plan, and I have to have the ingredients on hand for when I want to cook. At least when we took the groceries in there seemed to be a decent amount. It is expensive to eat healthy, and I am trying really hard to improve my whole life. It is not easy, but it has to be done, and I am the only one that can do it. I hate coming home from the grocery store and having a fairly large amount of money spent and only 2 bags of food to show for it. It irritates the Scottish half of me. If I am going to spend money, I want to feel I got my money’s worth. Today that worked out OK. Maybe next year we can start working on the want list instead of scrambling to cover the needs list. Maybe next year.
I hope if you are reading this you were able to enjoy The Black Friday events on either side of the Canada US border that you got some deals that will make you happy because it was something practical that you really needed, or will use. The cheese and chicken were very practical for us, and will be put to good use. It will help me get back on track, and that is more important to me than any sale, because it is going to help me achieve my healthy lifestyle goals. There is no price tag on my health.