Friday, January 06, 2006

Changing The Budget

Yet another change that we're facing in 2006 is with the household budget. My company is switching from paying us twice a month from paying us every two weeks.

Most of the employees are excited about it. The way they see it, it means they're getting paid more often, which, in their minds, equates with being paid more. Plus, the faster they get their money, the faster they can pay those bills.

Only when you stop and think about it, it really isn't so hot. Because if you're not careful, and you get really excited about that paycheck you get on the 20th, and go buy stuff with it, you're forgetting that you won't be paid again until the 4th--the day your landlord considers your rent late.

So we've had to mark the calendar for the entire year--what days we're getting paid, and whether that paycheck needs to go to rent or bills.

Of course, getting paid more frequently also doesn't really mean getting paid more. It actually means getting paid less. This is because you're getting 26 paychecks a year instead of 24--in other words, your paycheck is being spread thinner.

So it's great the two months you get three paychecks, but in the meantime, it's like getting a monthly pay cut, because the two paychecks you get are smaller in order to pay for the two extra checks on the bonus months.

It's like what your mom had to do to your dinner when those unexpected guests go up to get the food to go around.

This means we get to change the budget to get by on less. And it means we get to change the budget to get by differently because of the different way the paychecks fall.

Not only that, but as I mentioned before, a lot of the difficulties we had the last half of the year came from our having been a bit overzealous in our budget. In our anxiousness to pay down debt, we (well, mainly I) failed to adequately budget for those oh-so-slightly important things like car repairs and clothes and such.

The take-home lesson from that: When you make your budget, keep it real.

At least if you want to be able to stick with it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Biggest Loser

So when I was talking with my doctor about the whole Viral Meningitis thing, we got talking about weight loss. My other doctor, who went into private practice just a couple of days after he saw me, mentioned that the doctor who he was referring me to did physical therapy and sports medicine stuff.

So I took advantage of the appointment to see if this guy and I were on the same page. I didn't tell him anything, I just asked questions, as if I didn't know boo, to see if I liked his answers. I did.

At one point, he talked about the TV show The Biggest Loser. He said his favorite thing about it was the way it showed that losing weight is hard. You don't just skip lunch every day and wind up skinny. You get determined. You work. You don't just do a little bit of stuff and hope it happens. You decide you're going to do it and then you make it happen.

The tale of the tape is now updated. I weigh 250. That's 12 pounds lighter than my starting weight last year, but it's up almost 20 pounds from my lowest point last year.

The measurements are updated, too. They're opposite last year--last year, my chest was 47.5 and my waist was 48.5.

I also added biceps--not because I think it has any significance, but because I'm a guy, and we guys just have some weird obsession with biceps.

Watching The Biggest Loser tonight, watching those two families work off between 50 and 90 pounds per person in five months, I was reassured that such weight loss is possible and advisable. I was also reminded that it takes, like my doctor said, dedication and hard work.

Last year, I had it. I was on track. I'd lost four inches off my waist. I was headed there. Then, life happened.

This year, I'm happening to life.

I have two milestones I'm shooting for this year. The first is, like last year, to be down to 220 by my birthday at mid-year. This year, I have a 12 pound head start. Then, the next goal is under 200 by the end of the year.

50 pounds in 50 weeks.

This year, it's happening.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Turnaround Man: Year Two

So among the things I'm doing differently this year:

In addition to tracking things online, I'm using an exercise/food journal. Basically, I picked up a small weekly calendar at a dollar store and am tracking my exercise and eating each day in it. Also, since I only weigh myself and measure myself once a week, it becomes the perfect place to store that weekly number.

There are places online that will track that kind of stuff for is one, and nearly every weight loss website has some kind of cool graphical representation of the blogger's weight loss. If you see one of those you like you can just click on it. I do like fitday's, though, because of how thorough you can be in tracking even the percentage of your nutritional requirements.

Also, I'm using checklists. I really like checklists. There's a great feeling that comes from checking this off on a list. Even better is crossing things off.

Actually, you know what's best of all? When I used to manage my own store, I made my to-do list a .txt file on the computer. Each morning I would open the file and leave it on my desktop all day. As I would finish each thing, I would delete it. By the end of the day, the window was clean and I knew I was done. Then I'd close it without saving it and it would be ready for the next day.

Since I'm using a written list, I don't get to do that. But I do block out the squares completely instead of just putting a wimpy little check. It just feels more "done" to me when I do it that way.

Alright, I've got to go block out the "blog" square now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

365 Concluded. 365 Begins!

One year ago, I started this little blog because I had some stuff I wanted to do. Get out of debt, lose some weight. You know. The typical New Year's resolutions everyone makes every year.

Only this blog kept me honest, and I did them. I really lost weight. I really started building muscle. My waist got smaller and I started getting shoulders. And by taking control of my money, making a budget, and paying off my debt instead of adding to it, I actually started ending the month with money still in the bank, and could do extravagant things--like go to the doctors when I needed to--with impunity.

Of course, life happened. And about halfway through the year I got a church assignment that messed up a lot of what I was trying to do. It stopped the exercising cold. Since the assignment was for early in the morning, I was too tired at night to blog. Plus, a couple of financial things came up that, while we were able to afford them, slowed some of the debt reduction.

But that's life, right? That stuff happened.

So even though I gained back some of the weight, the point is I'm still twenty pounds lighter right now than I was a year ago. And even though the debt's not all paid off, the point is I now have all my medical bills paid off and can afford to pay them as they come, and have almost half the debt I started the year with.

In other words, things have really turned around.

But now that I have my new schedule, and I've figured out the ins and outs of this new assignment, the trick is getting back on track with the new assignment. In other words, how do I still lose weight?

Also, they're switching me to a pay schedule that's every two weeks instead of twice a month. The old schedule made budgeting a breeze--One paycheck went to rent, and one went to bills. An every two weeks pay schedule is going to complicate things more.

Plus, there were problems with my original budget. It was as aggressive as I could make it, and consequently, it didn't leave room for things it should have. You know, things you need all the time. Like clothes and car repairs.

So the new pay schedule will bring a new budget. And the new daily schedule will bring, well, a new daily schedule. One that still allows time for exercise and fiction writing.

Fiction writing, in the new year, will happen every night. What may not happen is blogging.

But it is going to happen. Because I've learned that this blog is the best way to keep me on track that I have--when I lay off of it, I've laid off of everything.

But I also got a lot of the nuts-and-bolts posts out of my system last year. Hopefully, this year will be more practical stuff. You know--how all this stuff plays out in the real world.

How do you lose weight when you're on a food budget? How do you pay off the debt and keep a hectic schedule and still have fun?

Hopefully, this year we'll find out together.

I'm not going to be posting daily. Tuesdays, for example, probably aren't going to happen. And, though today's an exception, Sundays will always be out. Don't even bother checking.

But I'm going to be here. I hope some of you I lost during my absence find their way back. And I hope I find a lot of new readers this year.

But mostly, I'm excited to see what we can accomplish this year. The last year was a great foundation. Now let's see how we can build on it.