Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekend in Review

I was up until 4am Friday morning going through letters, cards, pictures, papers of a deceased cousin whose stuff I inherited. I didn't get everything, just the papers. Her executor found out I was into genealogy and asked if I wanted all of the memorabilia, family history type stuff. I of course said yes. He sent 6 boxes filled with mostly letters, pictures, cards, papers, yearbooks, etc. It was overwhelming but kinda cool. Mixed in with every freakin letter and card she ever received are gems of family history. The letters are also full of information but I haven't had the ambition to tackle that project. There are literally HUNDREDS of letters, all handwritten so they're a nightmare to read. Anyway, I was able to throw out a bunch of stuff, organize and consolidate the rest of it so it's taking up less room in my closet. I even found $21 cash and some stuff to sell at my upcoming garage sale.

Saturday I finished up going through my cousins stuff, met up with friends for dinner ("Chinese" buffet - American gluttony at it's best) and then we went to see "Bruno" (don't waste your money or at least wait until it's cheap.) After the movie we sat out on a patio, drank pina coladas and started a fire (in a fire pit type thing.)

Today I went out to breakfast with my roommates, mowed the lawn, cleaned out the garage for the sale, cleaned up a few items that I'm selling, weeded, loaded roomies truck with mulch from the freebie mulch pile, then put said mulch in flower beds. I then rode my bike to Target, finally took a much needed shower, did three loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, swept and vacuumed.

I think I'll call this a fairly productive weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"And that's the way it is."

Walter Cronkite 1916 - 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Family Fun

I'm home for a family reunion this weekend. The reunion was yesterday and was o.k.. I'll probably write more about it at a later date. However, I realized that my family fun meter has just pegged, like about 15 minutes ago. I've had enough quality family time. Perhaps a good night sleep will reset my meter or perhaps the fact that I'm heading home tomorrow morning will reset it (hee). Either way, I've happily shut myself in my (guest) room and am blissfully alone. I love my parents, they are the most important people in my life but holy crap, they can drive me crazy. Anywho, I just needed to vent. I'll be back later with the tale of "chicken shit bingo" from the reunion!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Things I Could Do With $1100 A Month

I'm back to obsessing about my debt (I took a break to countdown to vacay.) Anyway, in addition to trying to figure out how much money I can send to my higher interest card this month, I also tried to plan for the upcoming increase minimum payment for my Chase card. I'm really trying to keep my entire budget so that I can pay for everything just from my paycheck. The money I get from my roommates, ideally, all goes to additional payments to my higher interest card or other random crap that comes up. In order to make my budget work with the increased Chase payment I have to reduce the payment to my higher interest card by $225. This works, because it's still more than the minimum payment but it still sucks.

So I got the whole Chase thing worked out but that got me thinking about how it was going to affect my higher interest card payments. I've also been wanting to figure out the "master payback plan." Basically, when in the hell am I going to dump this credit card debt? Using a snowball payment calculator and some (hopefully) reasonable guesses, it looks like I can pay off my higher interest card by Mar 2010 and the other card by Sep 2010. I did a different version of the calculations and had the first card paid off by the end of the year but the final date of Sep. 2010 was the same. So basically it looks like I will be done with first card somewhere between Dec 2009 and Mar 2010. That's good news. The bad news is, the Sep 2010 date assumes I can manage to consistently come up with $1100 each month to put towards credit card payments. That could be hard since it doesn't take into account gifts, repairs, vacations (gasp) or anything that life is notorious at throwing at us. I have an emergency fund for the big stuff but I'm concerned about the little, random stuff.

I printed off the repayment schedule to use as motivation. It's going to be hard to not slack off on occasion and send it less than $1100 but damn, I'd REALLY like to get the first card paid off by the end of the year. That would be a real victory and a great way to start the new year.

So, back to the title of this post. Crap! $1100 a month and I'm sending it away to friggin credit card companies. It's frustrating to think of all the things I could be doing with $1100 a month.

September 2010...that would be nice...that would be very nice. Maybe October 2010 I'll take my $1100 and go diving.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dive Log - Thor's Wall

Location: Thor's Wall
Date: 15 Jun 2009
Dive No.: 1st of the day, 7th of the trip, 75 lifetime
Depth: 101 feet
Bottom Time: 39 minutes
Bottom Temp: 81 degrees Fahrenheit
Starting psi: 3000

Ending psi: 900
Visibility: ~100 ft

Ok, I just have to comment on this dive. It was amazing! First of all, it's my deepest dive to date, so that alone makes it significant. I finally broke 3 digits! I basically inched my way down until I hit 100' and then ascended a bit. I didn't realize until later when I was reviewing my dive computer that I actually hit 101'.

Then there was the visibility. OMG. It was THE best vis I've ever experienced diving. It was so a crisp, focused way. Everything looked very sharp. It was breathtaking.

And finally...the life! There were fish everywhere. The site was basically a gradual slope that lead to a wall. Along the slope there were deeper ridges that you could follow down to the wall. Most of the life was at the top of the ridges, although we saw life at all depths. The variety of colors and sizes and shapes was phenomenal.

June Financial Update

Debt Reduction

As of my June update I have paid off $10,719 of my credit card debt which puts me at 40% paid. I anticipate hitting the 50% mark with my August update which will be one month sooner than I had originally estimated! I'm trying to be aggressive with paying off my higher interest credit card. Starting August I will have less money to send to it (see below) so I'd like to send as much as I can now. I had money left over from my vacation that ideally should have been returned to the "Scuba Fund". However I decided it was better to apply it to a card with 11% interest rather than sitting in a savings account earning 2%. So, I sent in $400 last week. Tonight I was able to send in another $400 and after 2 more deposits clear, I'll be able to send in another $480! My July update is gonna rock.

Chase is Evil

Like many out there, I received notice that my minimum payment for my Chase card is increasing from 2% to 5% beginning with the August payment. UGH. I can afford the increased payment but it means I have less money to send to my other, higher interest credit card. I called today to find out if they had an opt out option where I could close the account and freeze the minimum payment at the current 2%. Nope. Hmm, how surprising that Chase is unwilling to work with it's customers. I've only had this same experience...let's see...every single time I've called them. The "representative" actually had the nerve to say that "they (she kept saying 'they' instead of 'we') were just trying to get these accounts paid off sooner." Umm, what? Are you kidding me? They really want me to pay off my debt so they can no longer collect on interest? Right.

Anywho, the kicker is, I really hate Chase and I really want to pay off my debt so I can close the damn account and tell Chase to screw themselves. Paying 2.5 times more each month than I am now will certainly help, but the fact is, I have another credit card out there that is earning twice as much interest as my Chase card. I need to be sending my money to the other card. I guess I should be happy that they haven't increased my interest rate as well (yet.)

Oh, and apparently in the spirit of "just trying to get these accounts paid off sooner" Chase just increased my credit limit by $4000. Nice.

Goals for July

Keep track of all spending for the month.
I start off well the first week or so and then stop. This month I'm going to track it all.

Stick to my budget. Again, I start off ok and then slack off.

20 $0 Spend Days. 2/20 so far!

Garage sale. This one is a done deal. It's planned for the 24th and 25th. Now I need to make sure I get going and prepare for it.

Sell on eBay. I still have items to sell that I'm not going to bother trying to sell at the garage sale.

Current credit card debt: $15,798

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

First Time Buyer

I won my bid on eBay today! I bid on a personal training home study course. I've been thinking about getting certified as a personal trainer for a few months. My plan was to wait until after vacation before I really went full steam ahead. I've been watching eBay for since before my vacation and knew that there's usually a study program up for auction. I lost my first auction earlier this week. If I had lost today's as well, I would have simply purchased the materials from the certifying agency's website just to be done with it. Instead I was able to save about $75 by purchasing from eBay. Now I just have to wait for the seller to ship it all out. This is the first time I've purchased anything off of eBay so I hope it all goes well and I don't have to hassle with anything. I just want to get going. I'm looking forward to starting this next chapter of my life.

My Weight Loss Journey

I've been wanting to share this for awhile. I already posted a version of this on but never got it posted here. So for what it's worth, here's my story.

On February 26, 2006 I was reading Oxygen magazine’s “Fat Loss” special edition. In it was an article about how to lose 49 pounds by July 1. The basic premise was in order to lose weight you need to burn calories through exercise and eat fewer calories. The plan that was laid out was to lose 2 lbs per week by eliminating 500 calories and burning 500 calories each day. For whatever reason, the article made sense to me. Something clicked. I knew then and there that I was finally going to follow through on losing weight. I wasn’t ever a real dieter. I didn’t drift from one fad diet to another, losing and gaining weight; I simply kept on gaining until I topped out at 260 pounds. That night was truly the beginning of my journey. A few days later, I even had the presence of mind to mark the day in my calendar because I knew it was a significant day in my life.

It took me two years to lose 105 pounds. I’ve been hovering around 155 for a little over a year. I’ve been as low as 149 (for about 6 hours) and have sneaked up to 159 but for the most part I’m steady at 155. It’s nice because I haven’t been religiously logging all of my food this past year. I’ve been able to eat about right and exercise enough to stay right around the same weight. This is reassuring because I was very nervous about keeping the weight off. I don’t want to screw up everything I’ve accomplished.

Surprisingly, I’m still trying to get a handle on my eating. I still don’t eat when I’m hungry; I eat when I think I should eat or when I simply want to eat. I still crave food simply for the satisfaction of eating. It’s not hunger, it’s emotional or habit or …. something. This really bothers me and I’m really trying to figure out what is going on. I have a few theories but I’m just not sure. When I get home at night, I eat dinner but then keep on snacking until bed. Granted I’m snacking on almonds and carrots (not too bad) or peanut butter and jelly (not horrible, but not great) but it’s calories I don’t need. The food isn’t serving any purpose other than to allow me to eat. I’m not binging or stuffing myself to discomfort, but I’m not eating to fuel my body. I’m concerned that this need to eat simply to eat will derail me achievements. I even had a dream a few nights ago that I was looking in the mirror and my face was fuller and I knew I was gaining back the weight I had lost. It's another bump on the weight loss road and there have been many. I've made it this far. I need to have faith that I will continue with my success and figure this out as well.

What’s next? Tackling my debt. This may not seem to be related to weight loss but I really believe it is. Right about the time a reached my goal weight, I decided to change the way I approached my finances. I realized I was living beyond my means and needed to stop using my credit cards and start actively paying them off. This decision didn’t happen one memorable night like my weight loss decision did. I don’t have a date marked in my calendar of when I sat and decided to finally become fiscally responsible but I do know that it occurred very close to when I finally reached 155 lbs. I believe my weight loss success gave me the courage to take an honest look at my debt and make a plan to actively start paying it off. I also think I needed something else to control. I had taken control of my health by logging every single bite of food and every single minute of exercise and had been successful. I think I needed another area to direct my efforts so I could continue to see results. If I wasn’t going to be losing weight anymore then I needed to be losing something so why not my debt? In the past year, I haven’t used my credit card once. I’ve been on two vacations and paid for everything in cash and I’ve paid off 40% of my debt. It’s such a great feeling to know I’m making financial progress while still keeping off the weight.

So there it is, my weight loss journey to date. I’ve heard that those who are able to maintain their weight loss for 2 years have a very good chance of keeping it off permanently. So my journey is not over by any means. I have another 6 months minimum to keep off the weight and hopefully come to terms with my eating. I’ve decided that reaching my goal weight was simply the beginning of a lifelong journey. The past 3 years have been very illuminating. It’s bizarre to realize I’m just now really starting to understand who I am and what I’m capable of accomplishing. How is it a person can go 40 years and not know who they are? I really think the fat literally and figuratively insulated me from not only the external world but from allowing myself to step out and just really be who I was meant to be.

I think it’s important to realize that if I can do this, anyone can. I want people to know that I still struggle, the work continues. Just because I’ve reached my goal doesn’t mean I’m skipping through meadows, singing with the birds. But guess what? IT’S WORTH IT! I wouldn’t change a thing! My struggle with food, the skin that hangs from my stomach, the aches and pains from exercising, the several hundred dollars I’ve spent on new clothes, IT’S ALL WORTH IT!