Losing Weight the Frugal Way Week 4

2 weeks for the price of one in this blog post.

Over the last two weeks I lost 3 lbs on the 3rd of Feb, and a further 1 lb on the 10th of Feb. I knew my weight loss would naturally slow down as my body adjusted to the increase in exercise and decrease in high calorie foods but it was still slightly sad to have only lost a pound, but that is better than a gain.

I am doing really well at the gym, I am genuinely enjoying it, but it comes at a price. Long time readers will have noticed a decline in blog posts from me, and I haven’t been on my favourite forums for weeks, I have had to strip my life of the excess, not just in terms of food but in terms of keeping on top of things.

I work, I go to the gym, I try to do my 4 times a week Couch to 5k training, I do housework, I watch wrestling at times, I have regular baths (baths are such a treat for me as I usually only have time for a quick shower) but this leaves little room for browsing the internet, which I guess is fine? I mean if anything had to be cut it would be that, but I would like a little more free time to read and to write.

The panic is, and I am getting a little off topic from weight loss now, that I pretty much need to get a weekend job. Not in that it would be a good idea, or that it would help me clear my debt quicker, but I am only earning 15p above minimum wage, my income is less than £1000 a month, and I have increased my expenses by £50 a month with my gym and personal training.

Things are tight financially.

I need to buy new trainers, my current ones are 2 years old (nearly), but I don’t have the money. I need to pay back my sister £70, ideally by her birthday in April. I don’t have that either.

And Queen are touring the UK again.

But I am already struggling with my health and weight and ability to keep on top of everything and that is without a part time job on top of a full time job!!!!!

The other worry is I currently have the time, admittedly at the expense of chilling on forums, to dedicate to exercise and batch cooking and cooking from scratch.

If I get a part time job I am scared I will put the weight back on.

I survived (for the most part) doing a No Spend Year in 2017. I can clearly commit to a year long challenge, I could in theory do it again.

But a No Spend Year is a removal of something. Getting an extra job is an addition. I don’t think my life can take any more additions.

But time is running out. My goal is to be debt free and fat free by my 30th birthday.

Yes, it is more than a year away, but I have £4000 (nearly) of debt, and I am at least 3.5 stone overweight still, minimum.

I have a long way to go and things are difficult.

 

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Christmas Preparation Part 1

I got a little bit excited/anxious today about Christmas and bought the remainder of the Jillett’s Christmas presents this morning. I did it mostly with Amazon vouchers I had earned, not as epic a saving as last time, but a nice and much appreciated £45.55 was saved on my shopping. I spent £12.35 which is probably the most I have spent on an Amazon order since February.

I say I got a bit excited/anxious as I could have saved even more money as I have about £20 in Amazon vouchers from my various side hustles (all legit, promise!) which are waiting to clear, but this second batch of presents I bought today contains my little bro’s Christmas present, and part of his Girlfriend’s present, and I am seeing them next weekend and plan to exchange presents then. I didn’t want to risk the presents not arriving in time.

I have so far spent just over £40 on Christmas 2017. I need a further £80-100 in order to buy the in law’s presents.

As for the other costs-the Boxing Day football match, sending Christmas cards, Alcohol gift bags-well, I still haven’t figured out how I can afford them. I made good headway on Friday with the job hunt, but it is artificial headway, by which I mean it seems that I have progressed, but I am still in the same position.

(I applied for 2 jobs and called a temp agency who asked me to send my C.V. over)

So despite working so hard to prioritise my debt this year, where has it got me?

Sure I paid off over £3000 in a combination of bank debt and money I owed The Boy, and yes I have cleared my overdraft…but I had to borrow £750 off The Boy on Saturday to pay my bills. That’s the rate of debt I will get in every month I am unemployed.

I once heard the average time it takes someone to find a job is 4 months. 4 x £750 = £3000. Maybe I would have been better off saving that money instead.

Today I will sit down with whatever remains of my Irish Cream, put on the Christmas CD for about the 20th time already this Winter, and wrap the presents that have already arrived.  I can toast my success in getting nearly £200 worth of presents for about £36 in cold, hard cash.

But maybe what I am toasting is I get to save face in front of my family, that I can provide them with gifts when I have zero net worth.

I’ll Drink Anything, As Long As It’s Poisonous

I am re-reading Alexis Hall’s ‘In The Red’ for something like the 5th time this year. This is because when I feel that I have f***** up my life royally due to my debt (such as facing the crisis of my contract at work ending with no savings in the bank) then I like to take comfort in the tale of someone who has been there and done that.

I said to the boy that I wouldn’t say this year has been bad, but it has been one of my most challenging years (or certainly the most challenging non childhood trauma year).

I finally told the boy’s parents that my contract is ending and they said they would have worried in the past but they know I always get another job very soon, which I interpreted as ‘We’re used to you losing jobs, but somehow you survive’. I know they didn’t mean it like that, I just seem to only be capable of assuming the worst about myself.

I feel a lot more indestructible now that I have a raincoat. What’s that expression? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes?

You know you are old as f*** when you get ridiculously excited by your raincoat. The last time I felt this excited about a coat was when I bought my fake leopard print fur coat. Despite the fact it doesn’t fit me I am still unable to part with it, as I am determined to fit into it again one day.

I have also contemplated buying another fake fur leopard print coat in a plus size and being done with it all.

Realising I have spent most of my 20’s overweight is startling. I will never get that time back. I want to be attractive.

No one has ever made a comment on my weight, apart from one person, who shall remain nameless.

The trouble is food is such an emotional thing for me. I need to be happy to lose weight. I say this because when I am low, or depressed, or my life is going down the toilet like it is now, then pretty much all that gets me through the day is knock off Bailey’s, or a cheeky cheese sandwich, or portion sizes that take liberties with the term ‘generous’.

I comfort eat, I stress eat, I may connect this desperate mastication to when I gave up smoking and used nicotine gum and now I associate the sensation with stress release.

The diet will have to start on Monday. We are having Chinese takeway for tea.

I am a Consumer, Therefore I Consume

I have been flexing my shopping muscles.

Restrained, considered purchases, contraband in terms of the no spend year but not wild and decadent items in them self, they were all practical, but still I have anxiety.

Things needed replacing in our house. The clock in the kitchen broke, we didn’t realise how essential it was to our ability to get ready until it was gone. The silicon whisk broke ages ago, but I had ‘fixed’ it, but then when a piece of the silicon found it’s way into one of my vegetable muffins I knew it needed replacing. We needed a tin opener, because our old tin opener took about half an hour and lots of strength to get round a tin.

The boy bought the clock, because he has money, whereas I have raided my penny tin several times already this month. The whisk and tin opener were partially funded by the household budget.

I bought an SD card for my phone almost exclusively funded with amazon vouchers, it cost me just £1.21 (which was primarily the postage). I needed that, yet it is still contraband according to my rules, but I am certain it will save me money in the long run as it will extend the life of my phone (and give me space for money saving apps).

And for a long time I have felt that I need a rain coat. Something that is light weight as it may rain all the time in the UK but it gets pretty humid when it does and I’m a sweaty Betty at the best of times. I wanted something that went past the waist as I had a rain coat in the past which ended at the waist which just meant all the water ran off the coat and into my pants. Fun times.

I decided to look at the Tesco website on the basis that I have been saving my Tesco Clubcard vouchers for 18 months and had a hefty £26.50 to my name.

(To anyone who is confused by this I’ll explain. Tesco’s is a big supermarket chain in the UK, I think they owned Fresh and Easy in the USA, and you can sign up for a free clubcard which gives you 1 point for every £1 you spend in their stores. I want to assure you I took advantage of some great deals they put on to gain extra points, and didn’t actually spend £2650 in their stores in the last 18 months)

So I looked on the Tesco’s website and there was a lightweight, yellow (I secretly wanted it to be yellow) rain coat which went past the waist, and yes it was £32 but I decided that the fact Tesco’s clothing range is called Florence and Fred and that the coat was sold out in every size apart from my own as a sign the Universe wanted me to have it.

So yes, I have spent £5.50 on a contraband item, AGAIN, but I feel good that the sum total of my spend on clothes this year has been £5.88 (£9.83 if you include a free item I ‘bought’ but had to pay postage for)

I think my shopping habits this year, whilst being a bit flexible with the rules of a no spend year, are a complete change for the better from the habits that got me into this mess of debt.

I am debating whether I am allowed to buy a orange scented reed room diffuser this Winter like I did last year which made me feel all Christmas-sy and made the Winter a bit more bearable. I know I’m not allowed, but maybe I can find a voucher somewhere for one.

It’s just with every purchase I make I feel anxious. I don’t feel tempted, I don’t feel ‘this feels great, let’s bend the plastic so far my credit card gets a spinal injury’ but I am scared of spending money now.

To be honest I am anxious doing anything financial apart from making money, which means it’s just as well I sold my two guitars today, one to the boy for £15 and one at a cash converters for £10 (it was a piece of crap).

I actually don’t mind selling my things at cash converters because in their buying department they have figurines of the wrestlers Jake the Snake and The Ultimate Warrior which makes me feel happy and like I am with kindred spirits.

I just want to say one more thing. Not including food/household purchases, which are split between the boy and me anyway, but if you take all the money I have paid towards my debts this year, and compare it to how much money I’ve spent on me this year, then I have spent about a third more paying back my debts then I have spending money on things like socialising and yellow-lightweight-past the waist-rain coats.

 

My goals for 2017 updated (and progress so far)

Hi Everybody,

At the start of the year the boy and I set individual goals and combined goals.

On our epic train journey back home yesterday I decided for s**** and giggles to have a look at them in my notebook and see how we are getting on.

I think the boy would be horrified if I posted his again, so lets just look at mine.

THESE ARE THE GOALS I SET FOR 2017 IN DECEMBER 2016

  1. Be able to fit into leopard print coat by Winter 2017.
  2. Pay off 2 credit cards or 1 credit card and £500 of my overdraft.
  3. Get a full time, permanent job.
  4. Take my health seriously.
  5. Blog consistently.
  6. (BONUS GOAL) Love the boy as much as humanly possible.

Let’s see how I am doing:

Be able to fit into leopard print coat by Winter 2017.

Well, I am not there yet. But I will be.

Pay off 2 credit cards or 1 credit card and £500 of my overdraft.

I think my aim here was to pay off £1000 of my debt this year. And my current debt repayment amount stands at £1196.15.

And the year isn’t even half way through.

Can I get a hooray?

Get a full time, permanent job.

Well, sort of. I have got a new job, one that I applied for and beat everyone else that was interview for, but, and I say this not to discredit it as it is a good job, but it is a fixed term contract job.

Take my health seriously.

I could do better at this. But I am trying.

Blog consistently.

Yep. There have been a few blips recently, but I’ve got this s*** covered.

(BONUS GOAL) Love the boy as much as humanly possible.

On the train I asked the boy how I was doing at this and he said I was failing miserably at it. He was joking. I hope.

If you had asked me how I was doing at achieving my goals I would have said I wasn’t doing very well at them, but look at what I’ve achieved! I’m going to smash the debt repayment total this year, and I’m making good strides in all the other areas.

Bring It On.

The Books That Are Helping Me (No Spend Year)

So as you all know I am doing a ‘No Spend Year’, which may seem like a noble pursuit but really when you are in debt you should put the plastic the f*** down and not buy anything as that is just common sense.

Like any good idea, mine was not original at all. In fact after a recent reading binge I can now tell you all about the books I have found on the subject, 3 are about proper ‘no spend years’ and 2 aren’t exactly but they fit the theme well.

My first instinct when I have a problem is always to go to a book store.

I have found five on the matter, let me know if you know of any more, I would love to hear about them.

#5 Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping – Judith Levine

This is both my ‘first’ and ‘last’ book.

It was the first book I had ever heard about on the subject of not buying anything, back in The Times Newspaper in 2006 in an article and interview after the book was released.

But it is also my ‘last’ book as I finished it yesterday (I bought it recently, with a voucher, and finished it yesterday, I didn’t start reading it in 2006, honest!)

Judith Levine decided to go a year without spending in late 2003 after what seemed like traumatic Christmas shopping, so she did for the whole of 2004 (ok, there were some slip ups, but in all the books I have read there have been some, we are human, prone to mistakes).

Her book is probably the most academic out of all the ones I have read, which is good, but probably the reason why I liked it at least, which makes me look a little thick. This might be the reason why you like it best of all.

I think she and her partner (who joined in on the challenge) go to great lengths to stick to their No Spend Year, even making their own beer, which is admirable. I think the book and Levine address the idea that people tie up so much of their identity in what they buy that when you remove that how do you know who you really are?

By that I mean this, Levine is political and everyday makes consumer choices based on what she believes in. With that removed is she being true to herself? Is she even being herself in the first place?

I guess I may struggle with that this year which is why I appreciated reading it.

#4 How I Lived A Year On Just A Pound A Day – Kath Kelly

I had seen this book doing the rounds on the Money Saving Expert website and also on my suggested results on Amazon, so recently I purchased it (again with a voucher!!!) for my Kindle.

So, not a No Spend Year, but it kinda fits the theme I think because even if all that money was spent on just her monthly food budget, that is still only £30ish a month, and me and the boy find it difficult enough keeping to £200 a month, so good on her.

Unlike all the other people in the books I have read, she kept her challenge mostly a secret, she didn’t even tell her brother despite the fact he was the reason she decided to do it (he was going to get married and she wanted to save the money up for his wedding gift).

She lives in Bristol, so the book feels like a ‘local’ book to me, even though Bristol is in a different country to the one I live in.

The book is interesting as it takes her a little while to get her groove, at first she puts on weight because she is consuming any free food that comes her way as she is afraid her food might be scarce, she manages to go on holiday for free, she manages to get a free bike after hers is stolen. A bit like Judith Levine she makes the small consumer choices she makes based on sticking to her political beliefs and ethics. In fact if recycling and preventing waste are what you are into then this book is better than Levine’s as it does more to show you how to do that.

I think even with my limited spending power there is more I could do to keep my costs as low as possible and a re-read of this book will help a lot.

#3 Save Karyn – Karyn Bosnak

You may have heard of this one. Or like me you may not have until you started getting into debt and reducing your spending.

In the early noughties Karyn Bosnak moved to New York to ‘find herself’ and had a great job as a TV producer, but still managed to rack up £20k of debt trying to live the life she thought she should.

You can guess what happened next, she lost her job, and although she got another one it paid less than half and her debts were not going anywhere.

One day she realised if 20000 strangers gave her a dollar her debt would be cleared in no time. So she set up a website asking people to give her money to put towards her debt.

I don’t know how you all feel about this. Many, many people thought she was scum for doing what she did, many set up copy cat websites, or abusive ones and as she was doing it anonymously there were people trying to track her down and someone even published her address online.

I think it would be good to read the book before you make an opinion. She made mistakes, sure, but she is completely honest about what you would get in return for helping her (it was nothing, unless you liked her blog posts, you couldn’t even claim your donations on your taxes). She was working at the time, she had set up a debt management plan, she was selling all the items she had foolishly purchased before and she was living on such a tiny amount of money that she would go pretty much eat one packet of noodles a day.

I was interested in this book. I would not make the decision she did to ask strangers for money, even if I had thought of the idea first. Because, and I mean this as no disrespect to her, but I am kinda of the opinion ‘I got myself into this mess, I’ll get myself out of it’. For me getting out of debt is my own personal journey, but I loved her book, I could recognise all the terrible ways I wasted my money like she did, just because my tastes are more Primark then Prada doesn’t mean I am/was any better.

But, I feel it follows very closely to Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’. If you need help, just ask.

#2 In The Red – Alexis Hall

This was the first book I read on the idea of ‘going a year without buying anything’, in late 2015, having borrowed it from my local library. I have had it out on loan for an extremely long time, as I can’t bear to part with it, I just keep renewing my hold on it. No one has any interest in reading it.

I’ll be honest, when I first read it I was a bit put out, as when I first read it I didn’t find Alexis Hall that likeable. She had racked up over £31k in debt through credit cards and loans to pay off the credit cards and then running up the credit cards again and again. Like me I think it is fair to say she was a t*** with money.

I then came back to the book last year, when my first thoughts about doing a no spend year where creeping into my mind. This is the book that inspired me to do it. Because after the second read I realised Alexis Hall had her problems and her choices may have been made as a result of bad times in her past. And at the end of the day she realised she had a problem, she did something major to solve it, and she learnt from it so don’t judge her.

She is a little obsessed with designer labels and the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ way of thinking, which is why I didn’t instantly warm to her because I’m a cheap skate who is an ‘own brand snob’ in that if something is available as an own brand then I will buy it as that.

But I understand how stressed she becomes by not being able to shop, I understand how the small tokens of generosity from her family keep her going (her mum gives her money for her haircuts, her partner buys her token gifts).

Although I am a little jealous that she manages to pay off about a grand a month from her debt, if I had that sort of wage I would no longer be in this problem. But I guess it’s the whole thing of people match their expenditure to their income.

#1 The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More – Michelle McGagh

When I first told people I was doing a No Spend Year, they normally said ‘Oh isn’t there a book of that?’

And I was confused as to how popular Alexis Hall’s book actually was, but then it turns out in late 2016 Michelle McGagh completed her No Spend Year, and in very early 2017 her book came out (so basically when I first had the idea and when I started my year).

So there goes my book deal 🙂

So it was a mixture of curiosity and jealousy that made me want to read her book, but after reading some reviews on Amazon which said things along the lines of ‘You can get the same financial advice on the Money Saving Expert website’ I decided that I would borrow it from my local library like a good money saver.

I can tell you it is my favourite book I have read this year.

Michelle McGagh goes hardcore no spending. No bus travel (she cycles everywhere, and I mean everywhere), no gifts (she tells people she won’t be giving or receiving during that year), only a weekly budget for two people of £30 on food and no visiting her elderly Granddad in Ireland.

And yes, she ‘technically’ spends on banned items, but in both cases I think you would agree she had no choice, and the combined total is less than £55.

The book appealed to me as it alternates between one chapter about an aspect of her no spend year, and one chapter with financial advice. So it made me happy as I got a human story, and I also learnt a little bit more about finance.

I really loved this book, and I think anyone could learn something from it.

She had no debt to speak of, other than her mortgage, and in the duration of the No Spend Year she paid off nearly 10% of her mortgage extra, which is her motivation throughout the book.

I know that as soon as I can I will own a copy of this book as I want to always have a copy to refer to. I loved it.

So here you go, the books that are guiding me and that inspired me. Let me know if you have read any others like these.

The ‘Non Essential Spends Only’ Birthday Money

For my birthday at the end of March the boy gave me £40 spending money with the instructions that it was for ‘Non Essential Purchases’ only.

Initially I was doing quite well, getting books for 37p (after vouchers), clothes for 38p (after vouchers) and hair bands because I needed hairbands, but I have decided to be strict with myself.

Because if I am honest, some non essential purchases have slipped in before and after my birthday that I hadn’t declared on the birthday money. Things which I could ‘sort of’ justify, but really at the end of the day I couldn’t in all fairness declare a No Spend Year if I allowed them.

For instance I recently bought some drinking glasses. I know I had allowed myself a small ‘Homeware’ budget as I don’t think the boy would be too impressed if, say, our tin opener broke and I refused to buy one before January 1st 2018, but I definitely was prohibiting mugs as a purchase this year (I have a mug addiction).

Drinking glasses which were definitely more style than substance are not an essential purchases.

So I clawed my way through my monthly expenses spreadsheets, looking for any purchases that made me feel guilty. Luckily because I have bought so little outside of social costs I knew where to find these expenses.

So my total birthday money spending goes like this:

Hairbands £1

Jeans and Shirt £0.38 (after voucher cost)

2 x Books on Amazon £0.37 (after voucher cost)

E Book on Amazon £1.08 

Coffee in January when I arrived early meeting the boy at his art class £3.10

Tea on my own in a cafe at Bristol Station a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing my brothers and mum £1.90

Baguette on my own at Bristol station that same weekend £3.49 (It’s gone up by 50p since last year, I blame Brexit)

Coffee in town on my own just because I had to hang around for the train station to open £2.60

Lunch at work one day when I had messed up my timings and had to buy something £3.44

2 x Mason jars to make my grown up vodka jelly look pretty and a glass tumblr to make my Friday Gin and Tonic pretty £1.50

4 x books, Vegetable scrubbing brush and a gift for my niece £1.36 (after voucher cost)

And finally today on my train journey travelling to my family home I bought a coffee £2.50. AND the train drink man tried to give me an old five pound note when they stopped being legal tender LAST WEEK. I wasn’t having any of it. I did have to say about five times ‘Could you swap it for one of the new five pound notes’ and naturally I found this really difficult, and I know that I could have taken the old five pound note to the bank to swap it but I couldn’t be bothered.

So total spends that I have deducted from the birthday money were £22.72 so I have £17.28 left.

The money had been sitting in its original envelope at home so earlier this week I took £20 of it, paid it into the bank and paid it off my credit card bill. I have a spreadsheet keeping track of the running total. OF COURSE I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR IT, I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR EVERYTHING!

So in full honesty and disclosure of naughtiness that is it this year in terms of spending that didn’t fit my predetermined ‘allowed’ categories and were very much ‘unessential’ purchases. So just over £20 has been frittered away this year so far, not bad. I used to do that in a 30 minute lunch break in 2015.

I have made £6 this week by doing surveys. I don’t use many survey sites, but there is one I like because you fill out lots of preliminary questions which means when you get sent a survey you won’t be screened out of it half way through as you have been pre-selected. This does mean you do less surveys than other sites might offer but it pays higher as well. I have enough points to exchange for a £5 Amazon voucher but I going to hold off till I reach £15 in points.

I have paid off £500 from my overdraft this year so far, which means it is half what it was in January, and thanks to that £20 payment earlier this week one of my 0% balance transfer cards is now under £1400, and my overall credit card/overdraft debt is under £5000 for the first time in, well, at least a year. I think I had been doing quite well initially in 2016 before the summer of the great unemployment.

I am about to enter a new chapter of my life. One where I am going to have to dig deep to pay back the boy, clear my overdraft, make my credit card payments AND save for Christmas (I have to save for Christmas as far in advance as I can).

I have been doing some prep by re-reading Michelle McGagh’s ‘The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More’ on the train, which in true money saving style I borrowed from the Library.

I’ll be honest, I borrowed this book from the Library because it had some quite bad reviews on Amazon, but I really like it and I will own my own copy one day. I definitely would recommend it.

Last Friday I started a little mini challenge where I was aiming to spend less than £10 on household shopping for a week. It ended yesterday and I was 64p in credit! Huzzah.

My only plan this long weekend is to relax and maybe binge repeat watch Shop Well For Less and Save Money Good Food. My sister has told me she is getting rid of some cook books and if I wanted them and I was like ‘The f*** yes!’ So I hope to be coming back with some inspirational cook books.

Sayonara