Month: May 2015

Creating My Own Success Story

I’ve been a member at my local gym for a few years now. One of my favorite things they do every month is issue a newsletter. On cover of each newsletter is a success story. The personal trainer writes up a half page “this is why this client the awesome” story accompanied by an excited {typically flexing} picture of the client.

I love these stories. Every month for the last few years, I’ve grabbed the newsletter for the success story. If you look through the backseat of my car, trunk or around my apartment, you’ll find them floating around. In one of the early months of working out at the gym, a distant but close enough friend was featured. I was so inspired. Her picture is still on the wall at the gym.

I wanted that to be me.

I knew I needed to make better progress with my fitness goals and I wanted to be featured in that freaking newsletter. After thinking over the finances, I signed up for personal training. It had been a year since I joined the gym and I was doing okay. But I wanted to do better. I had it scheduled to start the Monday after taking the Bar Exam. Perfect. All my stress and bad stress eating would be behind me and I could make all this progress and be featured in that newsletter.

Here we go.

I started initially with once per month. It wasn’t a lot, but it was all I was comfortable committing to. I was unemployed at the time and didn’t have a hustle game. This was money going out the door and I had nothing coming in. They gave me a bunch of free personal training sessions, so I was really training about once per week. When my free sessions stopped, I caved. I liked the consistency of once per week, so I signed up to pay for those extra sessions for 6 months.

I loved my trainer, we got along great and we made some serious progress. In the 6 months I trained with her, I lost like 30 lbs. I was doing great. Then I got a job, and my trainer quit working at my gym. Talk about an upheaval. I continued with a few different trainers to finish out my 1 year contract, while still achieving and maintaining some solid results.

But Guess What.

I never graced the cover of that newsletter.

Because I didn’t sign up for a full 1 year contract for at least 1 session per week, I wasn’t eligible to be featured as a success story. The success stories, as I was too naive to see, were an advertisement for how you need personal training to succeed. They wanted to show that you needed a trainer and that you had to commit to at least once per week for a year to achieve these results.

By dropping to once/month or agreeing to a 6 month contract (which they allegedly aren’t able to do) I was a story not worth selling. I was proof that people could take a little push and run with it.

On the money side, I only spent $1290 (gosh, that’s a lot) when they wanted me to spend $2064. By skipping out on those three extra training sessions for 6 months, I was no good to them.

… .Fast forward to today. …

In the last year, I’ve let other things push aside my health and fitness goals. I’m got really focused on this thing called paying off my student loans and started a blog. {Hey!} I did well at my job and let the structure of a traditional work day get in my way of a good work out. Lately, I’ve let my increased responsibilities at work cloud my ability to deal with other crap. Nut shell: I’ve let excuses get in my way.

My big goal for 2015 was to keep pushing with my fitness goals. I said I wanted to lose 40 whole pounds. I haven’t been doing a great job with that. I had a 5k race last weekend for goodness sake and in total, I ran 5 miles in my training leading up to it. {There wasn’t much running. My race wasn’t pretty. Serious side stitch. Oof!}

To increase my motivation and drive, I finagled my way into 4 personal training sessions at the gym again. And at the end of the 3rd training session, I got the sales pitch.

The numbers are the same: $2064 for a year.

That’s an extra bill of $172/month that I don’t currently have. That’s $172/month that I won’t be saving. That’s $172/month to put me and my health at priority number 1.

That seems like a lot, even though I want to be priority #1.

In the essence of frugal, I don’t know if it would be worth it. Can’t I find a better way?

I already have the gym membership. I know how to use most of the equipment. I know how to lift things up and put them down. I know how to push myself IF I can get my butt to the gym. There are numerous websites out there to help me create new workouts. I know how to eat right and have been meal planning for a few months now.

The things I lack are accountability and a schedule. Do I need to pay a personal trainer $2064 for that?

I don’t think so. I can do this.

As I paid off debt, I kept seeing similarities between debt and weight loss. To kill debt, you must track what you are doing. There will be setbacks, but the end goal is what is important. It’s going to hurt, but it hurts in a good way.

I know how to pay off debt. If I can have the great success I did with my student loans, why can’t I find that with my weight? For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that losing weight is different. Maybe it is different. Maybe it’s harder, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use all the skills I learned while paying off debt to get my weight under control.

GOAL: Still Achievable

If I start today, everything I hope to achieve for the year is still possible. At 1.5 lbs per week, I can lose 40 lbs by the day I leave for my Cruise in November. If I wait another day, it gets more and more difficult.

Today is the first day of my success story. I’ll be on the front of that damn newsletter even if I have to photoshop the publication myself.

Challenge Initiated 🙂

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April 2015 Recap & Net Worth

Take a big whiff. Do you smell that? Mmmmm. April. My first month without student loans. Smells pretty good. Feels pretty good. Certainly no regrets on my end.

An interesting thing happened as I settled into April. I spent money. I didn’t want to closely watch what I was spending, just for a month. I wanted to let the month be what it was. I had a few lunches with friends. Hubs and I went out a few nights for dinner. We spent a night out with drinks to see my favorite comedian. Then my best friend from law school told me she got her dream job and was moving back home out of state. Naturally, that meant we had to have an emergency lunch date and then meet up that weekend to celebrate with dinner and drinks.

To me, that all felt like out of control spending, like I was bleeding money. It made me anxious, but I justified the spending as a release valve. Many of the expenses felt overdue or like a place I needed to spend. So I didn’t beat myself up about it. But then a crazy thing happened. When Hubs and I tallied up our spending at the end of the month, we were only over our 3 month spending average by $20. All that spending, and we didn’t break the bank. Could we have been better? Yes. Does this mean that there is room for improvement in our everyday spending? Absolutely. However, there is so much upside to this information that I can’t help but think of it as an incredibly positive experience. It also makes me question why I haven’t been tracking my spending for longer.

The Law is after me, and that’s okay. 

Well, I don’t know if the Law is really after me, but the Government is. A few days after I received confirmation that my loans were in fact paid in full, I got a wonderful letter from my state tax authority saying that I screwed up my taxes in 2011. Oops. Of course, I didn’t screw up in a way that would result in a sweet windfall 4 years later. Nope. I screwed up and owe just over $1000. Does this mean that I’m back in debt? kinda, yes, maybe? Whatever.

The payment isn’t due for another 2 months, so I did the sensible thing: I waited until the last possible moment to pay it. I’ve got it all set up to have an equal amount from each paycheck go into a separate account. Then I scheduled the payment to be sent the day before the deadline. #winning!

My favorite part about all of this is that I had an unexpected bill arrive at my doorstep for a modestly hefty sum and I didn’t have to worry about it. I was annoyed to have a sudden bill for $1000 and that my house fund is $1000.14 poorer because of this. But as Dave Ramsey says, I don’t have a tax emergency and a money emergency. I just have a tax emergency. Can you imagine the struggle of coming up with $1000 in 2 months if you were living paycheck to paycheck? Tough. Not this girl. I’ll pay the bill and move on.

[flashback]

April 2014: I owed $34,985 on my student loans.

April 2013: I hadn’t graduated yet!

April 2015: I’m SAVING!

I’m starting to get into a groove of tracking my net worth. The awareness is great, but the progress is even better. I’m looking forward to the day my investments carry enough weight to swing with the market. Sure, I’ve had good months and bad months as the market goes, but my money army is still small. Even during bad market months, I’ve contributed enough to cancel out any drops in value. With the ho hum nature of the markets over the last few months, my net worth has grown in a linear trend. This month is no different. Survey Says!

Progress Progress!

Progress Progress!

Assets!

  • Retirement: $15,808 Starting to gain momentum here now that I have cash to save. It feels pretty good to see an increase of over $1000 in a single month. Next month, I could skip right over $16k and jump right into $17k! Yes, that would be nice. I might make an extra contribution just to make sure my monthly numbers never see the light of $16k.
  • Taxable: $8,531 No official updates until June, but I checked the fund price and I was down overall for the last 4 months. Not by much, but enough to make me a little grumpy.
  • Auto Value: $13,845 The initial value was determined by Kelley Blue Book. I drop the value by $50/month.
  • House Fund: $2,204 Here we go! $2,204 is a quality first start out of the gate, but its not going to get me where I need to go in the time I have to get there. Did all that money I was throwing on my student loans really disappear that quickly? I may have to reevaluate the plan if I can only set aside this much every month.
    • Round Two Progress:
      • Baby Saver: $2125 ✔
      • Middle Saver: $5828. $79 down, $5749 to go!
  • Emergency Fund: DELETED After a few heart to hearts with myself, I decided to eliminate this account. Hubs saved his own emergency fund. I don’t need my own separate emergency fund, just for the sake of having an emergency fund. That’s just silly.
  • HSA: $3,972 I figured out how to invest part of my HSA this month. Now that this account has a little weight behind it, I felt it was a waste of cash to have it sitting in the savings account function. I’m so happy I started this account when I got my job. This is the easiest (nearly) $4000 I’ve ever saved!
  • Car Fund: $275 I bumped this back up to $50 per month to match the depreciation.

Liabilities!

  • Student Loan: $0! My debt payoff is official. I am student loan free!
  • Car Loan: $11,717 Minimum payment as promised.

Overall:

  • Net worth: $32,869. Up $4,223 from last month. 

I flew right past $30k, and that feels magnificent. Though, I have a feeling this saving thing is going to be harder than I thought. My money is going a lot of different places, as expected, and I don’t have the same powerful punch that I did before. Either way, I’m still making progress with my net worth. $4,223 is a good bump and that’s with essentially no help from the market.

  • Net worth increase: $155/day
    • This is averaging high due to my Bonus in January and a final loan push from Hubs.  I’ve been able to ride the wave above $100/day with some certainty. Now, let’s keep it high!

How was your April? Tell me, tell me!