My dietary equivalent of the no-fly list

Last night I was reading another blogger discussing the perfect cereal. It reminded me how much I love and adore cold cereal. Left to my own devices, I could easily, happily subsist on cold cereal and skim milk. There is far and away plenty of variety to keep me from getting bored, but I have the added bonus of being someone who can eat the same meals for weeks at a stretch without getting bored.

Is is entirely possible there are people in the world who continue happy, somewhat healthy lives living on cold cereal and milk. Unfortunately, I am not a member of this mythical slice of the population. Since I am diabetic, my intake of sugar and carbohydrates must be monitored and controlled. Cereal, even the healthiest, plainest, devoid of sugar versions of cereal are not the best choices of fuel for me. And if I can’t have even the semi-sweetened version (cheerios, raisin bran), cereal has become yet another item on my dietary equivalent of a no-fly list.

Once I gave up skim milk as a dietary staple, it was not that difficult to forego cereal. Of course, now that I am no longer eating cereal, M has taken up eating granola. For the majority of our years together, M has pretty much never eaten cold cereal. Now, it’s a regular thing for him to be eating granola of various types with his protein powder drinks. Thankfully I am far enough away from dairy products and the cereal I love to not be jealous or even wistful about what I’m not able to able to justify and include as part of my diet. Part of me thinks of it as a “cannot” eat it, but in reality it is more a “should not” eat it. I can eat whatever I wish, but there are going to be consequences for falling off the healthier eating wagon.

Which is why I find eating so complicated and tricky. Every body is different, and what works for me to keep body in its healthiest place is not necessarily tastebuds’ happy place. A typical healthy, balanced diet honestly has too many carbs for my unmedicated system to handle without blood sugar creeping upward and scale bouncing back and forth with the same 3 lbs. gained and lost. I have read labels. I have counted calories. I have counted carbs and protein grams. It’s not so much nothing works – I have learned a lot and gained good insight from the experiences and the experiments – but it becomes an additional burden and stressor upon me, another way for me to fail and weaken my firewalls against negative girl.

For awhile now I have known that I must do something to break the cycle. RD, my most fabulous dietician and friend, has told me over and over that maintaining a high protein and low carbohydrate diet is necessary and the transition is not easy. Some people are successful in going cold-turkey, but I am in some big giant camp of special snowflakes who want what they want and go down fighting, kicking, and screaming every step of the way to the healthier lifestyle place.

For almost a year now I have been working at this. For almost a year I have had mixed amounts of success, but I have made some progress. I eat a lot more vegetables. I eat more fruit than sugary snacks. I gave up dairy, not because anyone suggested I do so, but because I don’t really like most of the dairy I was eating (greek yogurt) and I only drank milk in coffee and with cereal or cookies. Giving up cereal and cookies has become a mandatory thing, coffee was not that difficult with the daily protein shakes and amino energy powder, and dairy therefore just got left by the roadside. Pasta became a once a quarter event where it was once a weekly meal. Still, bread and crackers and snacking lingered, and despite my daily protein shakes, I was still light on daily protein intake.

I’ve been working with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky for a few months now, and in a fit of frustration with myself I decided I would try what I referred to as my nuclear option – his crash course to drop 10 lbs. in a 3 week period of time.

Except I couldn’t locate it anywhere on my computer. It must have been a couple of laptops ago, or M wiped it off my former laptop when his PC crashed and we switched things around. I reached out and asked Dr. Spencer for the information again, and after some discussion, he prepared my smoothie solution which is accommodates my picky eating habits yet is based on a protocol he has been using for his in-clinic obesity patients. The eating plan is specific and fairly strict; I refer to it as the “fuck moderation” eating strategy. I’m sure Dr. Spencer will has a kinder, gentler name for it.

I have never been a follower of fad diets, and this is about as close as I come to that. However, I also know that this solution is not a long-term or permanent solution to my eating habits. This will be 4 to 5 weeks, max. My expectation is that being away from “regular” processed foods for this period will ease my craving and addictive habits toward them and allow me to make better choices. By the end of this 4 or 5 weeks I should have a better idea of what tolerable hunger is really like and more resistance to my eating triggers. A girl can hope, right? And think positively about the success potential.

While Dr. Spencer’s protocol indicates 3 meals per day – 2 protein shakes (up to 4 scoops protein powder) and a “lean and green” dinner with 6 to 8 oz. of lean protein, I had to modify this for my life and lifestyle and have essentially 4 meals per day, with a single scoop protein shake before my morning workouts, then 1.5 scoops for breakfast and lunch shakes. Small cakes, really, and again, every body is different in its unique needs. I require fuel for workouts first thing in the morning, and within the confines of how much fuel I am consuming under this protocol, I am making it work for me.

But even with my own personalization, this first week was not without setbacks; it is far and away a learning curve with my addictions and habits are lifetime ingrained and very powerful. I have snacked between lunch and dinner – a package of peanut butter toast crackers in my desk at work. I could not resist a piece of warm french bread with or the croutons on my salad while lunching with a client. A small slice of pizza at a working lunch. A 100 calorie bag of skinny pop after dinner.

I am not going to self-flagellate about my missteps; shit happens. But I am pleased with the 3 days where I did stay on track, stuck to the plan. I found myself not especially hungry-hungry, more addictive mind whispering that it was mid afternoon and time for a snack. Or seeing M’s spread cheese in the refrigerator and wanting to go raid his stash of crackers, which are actually a better, lower carb choice than saltines or snacking crackers. It became easier to simply look at my watch to and calculate how much time had passed since my last meal and get up and freshen my glass of water. This is my new, evolving method to overcome the urge to snack – I get up and walk around, add ice and water to my glass and just drink it down.

Even the imperfect eating days, I understand the circumstances and that this is a new thing for me. Like all things in life, I cannot change the past; I can only view each day as a new opportunity to do better.

I did have a social visit with my scale this morning – down 2.9 lbs. since last I weighed myself 10 days ago. Since I tend to trade the same couple of pounds back and forth, I cannot get excited about this as progress this week. However, I have my reminder sticky back in place to weigh in each morning going forward. Thinking about my A1c results and my daily meter readings, I should not be surprised about the uptick. A big giant part of this fuck moderation eating strategy can be traced directly to that result. If I had not been getting concerned about the up-tick in my meter readings, I probably would still be trying to do a better job monitoring and tracking my food intake. Fluctuations happen; trends are easy to spot with regular data collection. Or so says fab trainer J and equally fab RD.

Which is another tangential thing that has arisen in my electronic communications with friends. My village is staffed with younger folks – even Dr. Spencer is mid-30s at best – and some of my friends are dubious about how much genuine assistance I am receiving from such youth.

Hmmm.

First thought: why on earth would I pay professionals for help if their advice and directives (when followed) fail to produce results? Second thought: why the immediate discount because of their youth?

The first thought was intriguing and complicated, because now being mid-50s (as they are and older) trying to transform my health seems almost a waste of time and resources. Which shocked me, frankly. I mean, when I asked if it would be better to simply sit around and wait to die they kinda/sorta backpedaled. Retirement is looming large in their minds, saving for that is a priority. Their doctors tell them walking 30 minutes 5 days per week is enough. Portion control and balanced diets are adequate for their overall health. I don’t need a trainer to teach me to walk, right? The internet is full of resources and recipes to make healthy, tasty meals. I don’t need a dietician for that. Obesity? I’m not that fat. I surely don’t need an obesity doctor.

Their health issues are not mine, and such basic directions may indeed impact them in very positive ways. I have been there, done that; it didn’t work. What I have now, with my village, is working. Results matter.

But beyond that, let’s do some math. Being a numbers person, some immediate facts and figures came to mind.

Under the high deductible plan I have had for the past year, I have a $3500 deductible every year before insurance even kicks in. When I was taking Insulin, I was taking 2 different types. The cost for a 3 month supply at the was $1058 for 5 vials and $929 for 3 boxes of the fast acting insulin pens. Add to that the oral medications for diabetes, blood pressure (protect the kidneys), syringes, pen needles, test strips, lancets – my total bill for 3 months of medications and supplies was $2387. I know because I called and received exact pricing for drug costs when I started with Kaiser last December. Strange thing about that? I could do better getting most of my supplies on my own without using my Kaiser insurance at Costco or Sam’s club pharmacy.

So, doing the math of using my insurance for prescriptions alone, that’s $9548 for the year of insulin and diabetes care medications and supplies. My deductible is $3500 and my copay is 30% after paying that, so I’m now at $5314.40 annually in prescription medications and supplies to manage my chronic health condition.

Not using that amount of medication more than covers the annual cost of working with trainer J twice a week.

I feel no particular need or compulsion to justify my choices and decisions, yet I do want to understand their perspective, as narrow and illogical as it may seem. These are people with whom I have years and years of money, budgeting, and financial decision-making discussions with through the years. I could understand their fretting about the financial impacts of personal training if I were not putting in the effort to go to the gym and practice what I am learning. I’m in the gym 4 of the 5 days I’m not working with J and quite literally working my ass off. Same is true of RD and Dr. Spencer. I am truly not the princess type, but in this regard I have ben flailing around on my own for so long I absolutely need and require personalized help for forward progress to happen. The argument for return on my investment simply does not compute.

What they do not seem to grasp, and this could be where the big disconnect comes from, I would not be off medication without the level of exercise I pursue. I will not stay off medication if I do not modify and improve upon my eating habits. The trade off in quality of life is not something that can be measured monetarily.

Bottom line for me: we are in different places in our lives. Our outlooks, health, lifestyle choices differ pretty dramatically. On this we simply have to agree to disagree. Choices I make are correct for me, even if they don’t make sense to them and their money-hoarding mindset.

As for the discount because of youth, I think this is a combination of things. The friends I’m thinking of are being slowly downsized and outsourced in their careers and opportunities for jobs and replacement of equivalent income is nearly impossible. It is a very frightening situation. Intellectually, we all know its purely an economic formula; younger, less experienced people are a lot less expensive to hire. Emotionally, it has created an almost crippling sort of fear to find that age discrimination is alive and well and mostly ignored in the workplace. Making less income at what should be the peak of their careers, facing the prospect of an underfunded retirement or being forced out of the job market creates unexpected, unanticipated anxiety and stress in their lives.

I understand that all too well, and I feel for them.

But my village has skills and experience that I lack. Trainer J is a veteran gym guy, with lots of weight lifting experience and education under his belt and acquiring more with every passing week. RD is a registered dietician and spends his days working with people who really do not want to change their eating habits but the consequences of not following his recommendations and advice are dire. Dr. Spencer is an obesity doctor and works with a lot of patients safely modifying their lifestyle through diet, exercise, and medication support.

In their areas of expertise, all of them know far more about diet and exercise than I do, now and probably well into the future at best, probably forever is more likely. Since I am not capable or willing to experiment long enough to objectively evaluate all the sources of information out there, I have had to choose teachers, guides, information gatekeepers. Aside from their education and experience, I truly feel their real talent is their ability to package and present information to me in ways that make sense to me. Maybe a lot of their other clients are enjoying far more success in shorter periods of time, and quite possibly I remain the village idiot in the various training and healthier eating tribes. But so what? Someone is always going to be ahead or behind the average curve. The day I stopped comparing myself to my peers in the groups was the day i began to feel satisfied and allowed myself to be happy to learn what I learn, know what I know now. I try to follow their advice and directions, and I report back when and where I’m having issues. Chasing miracle cures or immediate results is not me, and my expectation of just trying to implement and seeing small, incremental successes has helped enormously. Still imperfect, but I am so much better than I was a year ago. If I learn that from a couple of 27 year olds and a newish physician then great! Yay for the wisdom and education and experience of youth.

Despite my description and reactions to the discussions here, they were not contentious or heated. One friend just received notice that his job is being eliminated at the end of this year, his third such layoff in the last 10 years. While we are the same age he and his wife were married awhile before starting a family and he has 2 children in private school. I sympathize and asked about prospects and at the present time there are none. His situation is sad to me, but our life and lifestyle choices are very different. Another friend is in bracing for round 3 of layoffs in her firm and expects to not miss the cut this time around. After nearly 26 years with the same firm, she’s completely paralyzed with fear about what to do next, how to even go about looking for another job.

Scary times, indeed.

These economic realities are partly why I started my better health quest in the first place. I knew I would be looking for other work at some point, and whether it’s ever acknowledged or not, obesity bias is a thing. Added to the fact that I am an older worker, not classical or mainstream pretty, and find trying to be charming on demand a huge drain on my mental and emotional resources, I was really worried about making a living when I decided to try and get myself into better physical shape. Whether my anxiety was a product of negative girl’s doom-and-gloom outlook or a reality that I just did not quite come face-to-face with, it was a strong impetus for change.

From where I’m standing (at my treadmill desk) right now – happier, healthier, and stronger – it is impossible for me to see a downside to my decision or to the village I have assembled. I know it’s a luxury, but far better than pricey spa treatments many of my friends promote. This afternoon I’m going to the mall to return a blouse my shoulders and upper arms are hulking out of, yet across the bustling and around the waist it fits just fine and is a complete and total 180 on my typical experience. And I’m going out on this mall adventure in another pair of jeans from the smaller size box.

Kind of impossible to argue about the expense and youth of my village when I am enjoying success and tangible results. Along with a chocolate and peanut butter protein shake for lunch.

All is well and the sun is shining in my realm.

Drunken sailor alert

M and I are hosting yet another bbq this weekend. Tomorrow night is a potluck with long-time local friends and Saturday night we are hosting G and K, K’s sister, stepmother, and their significant others (C and A are both working). I actually rescheduled with my trainer tonight to get our shop on and buy guest food.

It never ceases to amaze me how M and I have no difficulty scrounging around in the pantry and freezers and putting together meals for ourselves. Sure we might be eating oatmeal and broccoli for dinner, but at least it’s in the realm of healthy even if it is not particularly conventional meal planning. Mention the word “guest” and I completely freak and start feverishly scouring the cabinets and freezers for ingredients for a sensible meal. After our houseguest-palooza, we are pretty short on mainstays for feeding other people. If it were just G and K we’d be eating from the freezer and supplementing with a simple salad or doing something theme-oriented like deep fry night. But with K’s family coming (the first time we have met them), a major grocery shop was in order.

After visiting 5 stores, we are $394.52 poorer yet ready for our dinner gatherings this weekend as well as meals for the next couple of weeks for just M and I. And to be fair only $238.16 was actual food. M has lost almost 40 pounds recently and desperately needed some new clothing, fluffbuckets can been pretty demanding about ensuring they are fed daily, and M will never let this household run out of toilet paper.

Still, with the haircut I’m taking in compensation from my full-time job, this seems like an especially alarming amount of money to spend in one evening of restocking the household. If I had spread it out over several days I would still feel concerned, but it would be somehow easier to accept. Instead I’m updating my budget file and contemplating what a diet of beans and rice might do to my overall health efforts … except I do not eat beans (except canned green beans and I am even fussy about those). Our purchases are within budget. That’s my spending panacea – I am within budget.

Realistically, the pay change means we will become much more mindful of our spending. Since it will most likely impact our vacation/leisure pursuits and home enhancement projects, we will feel the pinch a lot more when those wants have to be downsized or postponed. We rarely eat out anymore, and most of our entertaining is here at home with the kids and friends who could care less if we are having burgers or filet mignon. We also do not drink alcohol or utilize tobacco products, which I understand can take quite a bite out of the budget. Our big splurge is probably buying organic, especially produce and dairy products. I can justify that far more easily than my weekly lunches out. Well, the gym and my personal training sessions are a splurge as well, but I know I can hustle up enough extra work with my side gigs or making cuts in other spending to ensure those activities continue.

Thinking about it and reviewing our purchases, I have no regrets about anything we acquired. A pair of pants will be returned to Costco tomorrow and the organic baby bok choi and cucumbers we forgot will be acquired. I think with that we should be good until the middle of the month.

Our really austerity program begins in August, when the true effects of the pay cut take hold. We live on the prior month’s income, and I have no intention of cutting our retirement or long-term savings. I will devise a new spending plan once I see the impact in black and white, but we will manage.

I just don’t want to have to manage, yanno? I’m still angry about this turn of events and it shows in my cavalier attitude tonight about spending money for needs and quasi-needs. This too shall pass.

November: what’s a budget again?

Honestly, the gift shopping has unleashed our general propensity to spend money is from its restraints. I have a serious case of buy-buy-buy right now and must simply start telling myself NO! and meaning it.

There is a certain amount of emotional logic behind it that I understand. Full-time job is depressingly AWFUL right now and I have minimal escape outlets. I exercise more, because I have eaten a fun-size candy bar from the Halloween stash every single day for the last week. While this in itself is a significant improvement from other periods in my life (when multiple king sized candy bars would have been consumed), it is still a setback in overall health and wellness. While I cannot go into specific details here, those in real life who have heard the sordid details completely agree that my anger, frustration, worry, and stress are warranted. That said, I still need to get a better grip.

In my defense of the past few days spendapalooza, the majority of my purchases have been prefunded. Previously established Christmas budget for gifts and decor bling have not yet been exceeded, but I do not know if they will hold through a several days of shopping in Las Vegas. Or does that come from my vacation spending budget? Either way, I have shopping dollars set aside for our trip. To my way of thinking, we do not drink alcohol or gamble when we are there, so other than interesting restaurants and shopping at stores we do not have nearby ours is a pretty low-key Vegas experience.

Tonight we went over to the mall to return a couple of dresses I’d ordered online that were disastrous mistakes. I knew they were risky, but the dresses ran large and shapeless and I am not yet into wearing anything that M describes as a “housedress” on first glimpse. M is generous in his praise and usually very thoughtfully diplomatic in his “OMG that’s hideous!” opinions. Tonight, though, he was simply brutally honest in his “that is just awful” upon seeing me draped in this material. Back they went.

After the return experience, we stopped by the apple store to look at Mac mini computers. M has been having a daily battle with his PC. I don’t know if it’s a virus, malware, or just plain bad luck, but every single day there is a string of curse words and angry, raised voice yelling at his computer when he’s trying to download his run information from the very fancy GPS watch he wears. Every. Single. Day. Last night I decided I have had enough with his machine and resolved to replace it. I love my Macbook Pro, but M did not want to spend that kind of cash on an informational entertainment value box for himself. While I have never had the issues he does with a PC, I am also pretty conservative in my computer habits. I don’t Facebook or frequent social media sites, and M is all over social media between his running groups and other hobbies and probably more susceptible to malware and such. We have been discussing getting a Mac, and after last night’s meltdown over his PC’s issue I decided it was either acquire a Mac for him or marriage counseling. The Mac seems cheaper.

So into the apple store we wander, and while we knew we would be walking out with the Mac mini, I made the mistake of picking up one of a new iPad Air. I think I may be in love. Pure, unadulterated want, because M and I both have 4th generation iPads and I also have an iPad mini that I won in a giveaway a couple of months back. I use both my iPads pretty sparingly, the full size one is my entertainment while exercising and the mini gets carted as an e-reader. The helpful apple guy says they do take trade ins, so maybe I’ll give up both my devices for a single iPad air. After Christmas. Maybe. Definitely at least after vacation. I must have some will power left somewhere.

The Mac purchase was planned and funded, only it was on the timeline for after Christmas. But now it’s here, across from me, with its own little keyboard and touchy pad. The former PC monitor is working fine attached to it and M has been making positive exclamations and happy-sounding noises since its arrival.

I am disappointed in myself, because I am usually much more disciplined about shopping and spending. I do tend to lose my mind completely when Christmas shopping starts, because it’s like an addiction that it difficult to curb once the cycle of shopping and spending gets started. M’s new computer is a want, but anything that makes him this happy is worthwhile to me. Our plan is to take his older box to geek squad or equivalent and let them clean it up, clean it out, then gift it to one of our friends whose kids share his laptop.

And while I’m not blowing money we did not have available and earmarked for the purposed spending, it always makes me nervous when I go into shopping overdrive. The addictive spender in me is always lurking and waiting for her opportunity to just go batshit crazy.

 

Let’s go CRAZY – end of month spending frenzy

I truly have no idea what has gotten into me today, but I have spent A LOT of money in the last 12 hours. Possibly 10% of it is for items we actually need. The rest of it? We will definitely use it, but NEED? No, I don’t think so.

The damage:

  • Supplements – $42
  • Hair goo (aka “product”) – $205.20
  • Yoga membership – $1000
  • iPhone for M – $727.74

I look at that and frown. I wonder about how casually I pulled out my credit card and input the information and did not really give it another thought. My inner frugalista, if she exists, has gone into witness protection, because I did not hear a single gasp or other restraining sound throughout any of these transactions. The only one I could in any way, shape, or form justify as a “need” is the supplements, although I could make a rational argument on the hair goo. Anyone with naturally wavy/fluffy/frizzy hair understands the importance of hair goo that tames/smooths/flattens such unruliness into a manageable style without head shaving or sporting a style so short it would pass muster for a man in a military inspection. I also bought the biggest bottles possible of shampoo and conditioner, which added $84 to the cost, and spending $120 on my hair in one purchases sounds a little less extravagant.

None of these purchases, while wildly luxurious to everyone I know personally, is outside the scope of our budget. They might not have been budgeted completely this month, but we are not in any danger of eating cat food now or during our older and grayer years because of these purchases. Other than the mortgage we have no debt, we pay our credit cards in full each month, we save consistently, and we have a healthy amount of discretionary spending each month. Part of the reason I work as much as I do is to be comfortable enough to periodically indulge in our wants.

M went a little pale at the cost of the iPhone, but I knew he would strongly desire the larger phone when it became available and had set the funds aside for the purchase. Since upgrading at a discount is due until this time next year, I read all the disclosures about AT&T’s Next program and did the math. Buying it for full cost now and perhaps selling his older model ourselves just made more sense. This was a planned purchase, but I thought the wait time would be longer.

The yoga membership, however, is a bit of a surprise. My last membership concluded at the end of June and coincided with a change in ownership. The new owner is a tough and smart businesswoman, and she has done some significant improvements to the studio. However, before today, the best membership deal she offered was 10 months for $699, prepaid in one lump sum, whereas my prior membership was 2 years for $1500. Cost would would have gone from $62.50/month to $70/month. Compared with her ACH transfer memberships ($90/month with 3 month commitment, or $80/month with 6 month commitment) and punch-card classes ($150 for 10 classes), it was a pretty good deal but not THAT good. Thinking about it now, I was unwilling to financially prioritize my Bikram practice. When my membership expired I told myself I would take advantage of fee online yoga videos or take advantage of the groupons and free monthly yoga classes offered by other studios around town. What a joke! In 4 months I have done virtually no stretching and not even looked for free yoga classes anywhere else.

This morning I got an email offering a BOGO year of unlimited classes for $1000 for the first 5 clients. Doing the math, this brought the cost down to $41.67 per month for 2 years, so I whipped out my credit card and made my purchase. In some ways it is also a bit of a gamble, because the studio could fold and close its doors before my 2 years is up. But it’s a risk I am willing to accept to return to regular practice at a reasonable cost, and I am super excited about getting back into the hot room and resuming my practice.

So there you have it – my reckless behavior for the month. I suppose I am due, because I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I only fool around with my husband (married sex never seems quite as exciting and daring as those who are dating). Thankfully it’s the last day of September and I will be restrained from another spree. However, October starts tomorrow and Halloween and all its decadent candy and crap is just a few weeks away. We will be dropping a fair amount of money on candy bars for our expected guests, but hopefully I will have restraint and self-control to not breakdown and consume mass quantities before, during, or after the trick or treating is done.

Yep, M and I are definitely edgy, thrill-seeking folks living on the wild side … just typing that makes me laugh we are so mundane in our habits.

Spending high

This has been an expensive weekend. Probably 98% of it is planned or budgeted spending, but it still does something to me when we do a lot of buying in a short period of time. My “shoppers high” becomes engaged and I can feel the addictive response to shop more, buy more, keep going, keep spending to maintain that artificial glow.

M is a distance runner and requires replacement shoes, insoles, and socks on a fairly regular schedule. This weekend the stars and moon aligned and made for all those purchases happen.

  • Shoes: the newest pair of shoes were $120. This is a new style for him, but after 10 miles in the last 2 days in them, they are definitely keepers. Only I found last year’s version of the same shoe (which I also wear – one pair for rowing/gym and one pair for walking/kicking around) for $55 on Amazon.com, which we ordered because if they work at least as well as the current model, he’d be happy to have those and an extra pair on the shelf to keep him going for a longer period at a reduced price. Wonderful. Fingers and toes crossed he likes them and I can get a second pair for the same price, meaning no new shoes will be needed for 9 months to a year, depending on his mileage. He’s amping up here, going from 2-5 miles per day, every day, to 10-25 miles per day, every day.
  • Socks: M wears specialized toe socks that are not cheap anywhere. If I am very lucky I can find them for $7 per paid, but right now I am not very lucky and am paying $10 per pair. *sigh* We try to rotate them, but there is no getting around that high of mileage is very hard on socks. I purchased 6 pairs of regular, 4 pair of wool, and 2 new experimental styles. Total damage was $130. For socks. Hopefully we get at least a year out of them.
  • Gear: M is pretty good about the gear, and I have shopping alerts for the running shorts he prefers and successfully acquired 10 pairs for $7 each last year, so we’re good on that. Shirts we buy at Costco when they have something he likes, and his UnderArmour heatgears have been holding up pretty well and he has 2 or 3 in reserve from the last time I found them on good sale. It’s other little things, like the specialized headscarf things we found yesterday that can add up and get expensive. Fortunately my son works in a boutique and we get his discount on purchases. However, call me weird but I do not like to take advantage that way, and I only use it for specialty items that catch M’s eye whenever we stop in for something or to say hi. With the discounts they were ONLY $21 for 2, and thus far M says they do what he wants (protects his shaved head from sunburn) and keeps the sweat from dripping into his eyes. Win!
  • Insoles: M needs new insoles every 6 months to a year. Like his shoes, he tends to rotate and cycle a couple of sets and only purchase new ones every so often. This weekend, $30 later, a new set has been added to his rotation.
  • Supplements: I have a budget line item for vitamins, protein powders, running fuel goodies. We use the same protein powder, so it’s both of us on that, but M also takes a variety of supplements and needs chomps or other fuel for his longer and longer runs. He is currently experimenting with new flavors of chomps, but we also found some other products and bought a couple of packages to test before we buy an entire box. I have a list of things I’m searching for be price for online.

It has not been all about M and his fitness expenses, because I am still in denial about the Kate Spade Saturday bag I ordered until it actually arrives and I decide whether it’s staying or not. Food prices are rising and we tend to pursue both fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and produce as well as organic mean and staples as well. The cherries and other fruits are wonderful this time of year, and we eat a lot of it while it’s available. No complaints, though; it’s good for us.

But I also saw and fell hard for bedroom furniture we saw yesterday. M liked it a lot as well, but unfortunately the sizes of what we really want are just off enough that we cannot go with it. Frustrating. It doesn’t help that times like this, when something I love is just sooooo close but not quite that M reminds me that spending $3000 on furniture we love but cannot make work in our bedroom is not a good idea. I really don’t want to hear it! I am in lust and want to remodel the house to make it work! Or let’s go somewhere else and buy something really super high end expensive that I don’t like as much, won’t be as happy with, and will regret just to satisfy my spending lust.

In the midst of spending lust, the last thing I want to hear is the voice of reason. In my mind it is like heroin withdrawal light … very, Very, VERY light … but still my brain pumps out all sorts of tragedy and drama hormones. *sigh* Thankfully it will pass. Eventually.

I am baking some brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies to assuage my addiction. Thankfully I am sort of lukewarm on these (I love traditional tollhouse, with chopped pecans), but my son and his crew love them to pieces. I shall be the oh-so-popular mom in the morning when I drop them off.

 

 

oh the Drama ….

We tend to be relatively low-maintenance around here. M and I have our dust-ups like any other couple, the kids come home with issues or problems to talk over. Friends have problems and we try to be good listeners and help when and where we can. But drama tends to be something that happens at arm’s length, almost like it touches us second-hand through one of the kids or close friends.

Work has me feeling a little tense. Nothing serious, but like the sound of a dripping faucet will drive even the most patient person insane subjected to it long enough. Whenever my boss has personal issues or something going on at home, he tends to get on everyone’s nerves at work with amplified passive-aggressive behavior. Whenever this happens, and it is like 3 or 4 times a year, my response tends to be something abnormal like the urge to spend money. On something. Anything. It is a triggering type of stress I have come a long way in overcoming and controlling, but I recognize the signs.

If that was not bad enough, I received another note from my future sister-in-mother-in-law land inviting me to lunch. Just me, her, her two sisters, and her mother. I have not yet responded to the invitation, but I want to ask if I can invite my former mother-in-law and sister-in-law as well. I am feeling a bit outnumbered and do not want to be hostile towards her. My boss trying to tip me over the edge of crazy somehow is not putting me into a good frame of mind to meet with my daughter’s future in-laws so they can lean on me to lean on her to make some wedding plans.

Yes, hostile is a good word toward how I am feeling toward her right this minute. I will reply tomorrow. Maybe. Perhaps i’ll go with M on a 10 mile hike before then, so I will be dazed with thirst and fatigue and be therefore agreeable to anything that includes food and drink.

Just to set the stage … this was my frame of mind before we set off to Costco this evening: frustrated, hostile, and itching to spend money. On something. Anything.

It is the Friday prior to a 3-day weekend and Costco was out of a lot of our organic lettuce, organic milk, and never-seem-to-expire hotdog buns. However, they did have the organic chicken burritos M likes and the organic pretzels we have been impatiently waiting for weeks to return. We try to buy organic whenever we can find it, and our local Costco has a pretty good selection of produce much of the time. Tonight they made it up to me with organic red and green grapes. The biggest splurge, though, was in a set of gardening tools (shovel, pitchfork, and 2 hand shovels and 1 hand trowel) that have a gorgeous ash handle and shiny stainless steel shovel and fork parts. So attractive we plan to hang them on the side of our little storage house as a decorative attire when not actually in use. That and 3 short sleeved t-shirts I will wear to work. Our firm has a very casual dress code and everyone wears t-shirts and jeans or shorts year round. It is really time to replace a few of mine, as they are getting ratty.

Unfortunately my grocery shopping and splurging on garden tools and t-shirts has not really alleviated my sense of dread on dealing with my daughter’s future in-laws. I feel sure I like them, A’s mother and her immediate family. Or I at least like them well enough, and I truly believe her heart is in the right place. That said, I know my daughter, and I know my daughter is reasonable unless pushed too hard, at which time she becomes the LaBrea tar pits of stubborn. It seems to be falling to me to make her future mother-in-law understand that relaxing, backing off, and not bugging the kids about when they are going to do some wedding planning is far better than the bull-in-china-shop approach presently underway.

I sort of wish I drank alcohol, because tonight would be the night for a glass of wine or a shot of something stronger. But I don’t. So I’m going to have to settle for another glass of water and to see if I have another bottle of dill pickles stashed in the pantry. Yes, it’s been a very stressful week. Thank goodness I have a 3 days weekend to recover from thoughts of strangling my boss or being less diplomatic and possibly unkind with my future sister-in-mother-in-law hood.

(Edited for dumb typos that jumped off the page as soon as I posted.)

Spending High – the embarrassingly unfrugal buying edition

M and I went to a home and garden show in a nearby town yesterday. It was nice, a different layout than what we are used to at the other big home and garden shows we have attended in the last 2+ years since we purchased our home. This one was primarily outside, with a few vendors inside fairground buildings. It was also smaller, yet had significant numbers of landscaping vendors. As always we came away with more ideas for our yard and a few business cards, which is the best we hope for most of the time. Since a woman gave us a VIP ticket she did not need before we could purchase our tickets, we got in for free, saving us $14. We had also parked on the stree outside the fairgrounds, so we avoided the $5 parking fee. Other than $3.20 for 2 bottles of Smartwater (litre size bottles – 2 for $3 plus tax) on the way back to the car. It was 90 degrees yesterday; I should have planned better. 

This is just setting the stage for my next spending tale, so I feel like I am generally a sensible person when it comes to making and spending money.

After the home and garden show, after coming home and recharging with a lot more water and sitting in our air conditioned home, M and I decided to go out for a late lunch or early dinner meal at a local burger joint. While he was catching up with friends far and wide and their weekend activities, I was researching HE front loading washing machines, which led to additional research to their paired dryers. 

A little backstory on what escalated this formerly low priority replacement issue.

When M and I purchased our home, my full-time job bosses purchased a washer and dryer unit for our new home. Now, we had been renting for a number of years, but we had a washer and dryer in storage. They are older units and definitely not the energy star rated equipment of current technology, so we gratefully accepted the gift. The set we have is LG and the washer is an HE top loader, meaning no agitator and much lower water consumption. M went from distrust of the technology to hostility toward it, flatly stating that it was not very efficient in cleaning our clothes. While I did not 100% agree with that assessment, over the course of the last 2 years I have come to feel it is not a good fit for us, our clothes, our lifestyle. My issue was more that it did not seem to always rinse the detergent out of our clothes, so we have gotten into the habit of running the second rinse. We also use the more costly Tide pods rather than dry or liquid detergent because M has never measured soap. Never. We are talking 20+ years of him doing laundry and just pouring detergent from the bottle or box onto the clothes. Since he now does the majority of the laundry, the pods might actually be more cost efficient in laundry. The incomplete rinse with one cycle is not a result of too much detergent.

Friday night M comes in from his daily run. Since the weather is heating up, so is the sweat factor. Friday night, though, M absolutely REEKED. He out and out STUNK in the most awful, disgusting way. It was not the sweat that offended so harshly; it smelled like he had not washed his running clothes before dressing to go run again. 

With our gym clothes, we are fastidious. Once M settled on a running gear he liked and would wear I kept my eyes on email notifications for sales and bought in bulk when good prices came. For example, I found the exact NB shorts he likes on clearance for $4/pair and bought the last 6 in his size, which for 6 was less than we paid for the first pair he test-drove. Same with the Under Armor heatgear shirts … found them for $10 and told M he would have to wear gray for awhile because they were cheap. M does not care; cheap is better. End result is he now has enough gear to go nearly 2 weeks without washing his running clothes. I would have to put the basket outside if it ever came to that, but my point is he sweats in something it goes into the wash immediately. I am the same way, although I do not seem to sweat as voluminously as he does in my own fitness pursuits. 

The gym clothes were my wake-up call on the top loading washing. When clothes go through the washer, are immediately put into the dryer, and still smell faintly mildew-like there is a problem. We changed detergents, we added another pod specifically made for sweaty, stinky clothes, and finally, we got into the habit of the second rinse. I thought it was working well enough to put off the planned replacement into the future. Until Friday night and M came home in cloths that made me want to leave the house until he ran them through the laundry cycle, which may or may not help. For whatever reason our washing machine is not getting our clothes clean enough. 

Hence my search for a front loading washer and the matching dryer.

If I were an actual personal finance blogger, they would be circling with torches and preparing to burn me alive for being un-frugal and fiscally irresponsible when I have equipment that works. Unless I was outside with a washboard and bar of soap to clean clothes, I have no excuse for this purchase. Yes, I am exaggerating, but in essence they are correct. My washer and dryer are just over 2 years old and function perfectly. This is where the “personal” in personal finance comes into play. Existing equipment is not working well enough for us.

So I spent 2 hours yesterday doing research on washing machines. I did not want the super ultra jumbo sized washer suitable for a family with young children, but I also did not want the ultra compact newlywed version either. I was planning on a large sized front loading machine that was not a Samsung. After reading reviews on a few sites as well as customer reviews after purchasing, I decided on an LG ultra large model with a steaming feature in the dryer. This was important to me; I hate to iron and with M being the primary laundry guy things end up in piles or in baskets after exiting the dryer (he hates the fold, hang-up, put away part of the process and would live out of laundry baskets if I allowed it). This set is going to be with us for a really long time, so I better get something with the features I want most. Except those models are expensive. Of course. I cannot seem to have more economical tastes. M also wanted the risers if possible, which surprised and delighted me. I figured he would be the one to cheap-out on that little luxury and I was preparing my arguments for why I felt we needed to just buy a riser with drawer. 

After our meal yesterday I suggested we stop by Home Depot to look at a physical model of the machine I thought we wanted. Reading online reviews and looking at pictures is one thing, but I like to see the big-ticket stuff live and in person before ordering online. They did not have the ultra large version in stock or on display, only the super ultra jumbo mode. The machines are basically the same, except the ultra large is smaller. We looked at the super jumbo and talked to a sales clerk about the various features and sales specials they were having, then went off on our merry way. To Lowe’s, to see if they had the smaller version. 

My plan all along had been to purchase the machine from Lowe’s. My Chase Freedom rewards card has 5% bonus cash back this quarter on purchases from Lowe’s and restaurants, and there was also a special offering an additional 5% cash back. Since there is a purchase limit for bonus rewards, I could expect about $150 in cash back, because this purchase was definitely going to exceed the $1500 limit. Still, it’s $150 I would have if I purchased other than Lowe’s, and they always price match with Home Depot. 

Once we looked at another set of super ultra jumbo machines, we came home and I started checking online prices. No one has them in stock, it will be 30 days before delivery, but we can live with that. Lowe’s also had a better sale price than Home Depot, so we were good there. Then I check the super ultra jumbo price against the ultra large machine and found … everything about the ultra large was more expensive than the super ultra jumbo. The machines themselves were $160 more. The risers were $70 more (each). 

M and I huddled and discussed. We measured our laundry room. I reread reviews. We talked about energy efficiency and what having GINORMOUS machines would mean to us. And in the end, we decided that the cost difference was enough to tip us to the larger machines. Our laundry room will comfortably fit the larger physical sizes. We may just have to adjust our habits to doing laundry less often. But really, the primary consideration was M just really wanted the bigger units. I ordered them and expect delivery in 35 days, sooner if the units arrive at Lowe’s sooner.

Final cost: $2983.32. UGH. I feel a tiny bit of queasy seeing it in print there. This is both appliances ($1100 x 2), the risers ($149 x 2), the cords and hoses, and 5 year extended warranties ($120 x 2). There are some silver linings as well, though.

I get 2% cash back because I used ebates. I get $165 credit card rewards because it’s Lowe’s bonus category quarter plus Lowe’s extra bonus on $1500, plus the usual 1% back on the rest. My utilities are offering appliance rebates, which means an additional $150 in rebates. So basically I save a little about 12.5% with rebates and rewards. 

The existing washer and dryer will go up on local FB garage sale sites and craigslist once I receive notice that the new appliances are in the store in preparation for delivery. Not sure how to price them yet, but proceeds from that should pay for the risers, extended warranties, and hoses/cords I was required to buy to take advantage of free delivery and installation.

It is challenging to see our appliance savings effectively emptied in one purchase, but I will work at rebuilding it over the next few months. I believe we will be much happier with this equipment, and that’s important. Still, I can feel the “spending high” and its addictive allure, which always worries me and makes me hyper-vigilant about examining our future spending plans. Like the purchase of my MacBook Pro and all its accessories, it is an exciting feeling to have a fun new toy. Again, this was a planned purchase, we did not go into debt over it, and I have been careful and watching for my impulse spending triggers. I will have a pang at the end of the month when my bank statements officially report to me than my savings balance has decreased, but I feel no regret about the money invested.

Talking about it here makes me realize I should shift funds from our vacation accounts to replenish both electronics and appliances categories. Since M does not want to go to Orlando, our need for adventuring funds has been significantly diminished. I must be over that disappointment, because it does not bother me at all that we will not be going to Florida. We will be doing other things in other places this year, but they are closer to home and should not require theme park tickets.