Archive | September, 2012

Saving on Low Carb Diets

26 Sep

My husband is fat.

It’s blunt. And I put it out there. But it’s true. And he’s the first to say it.

My husband has been overweight since I met him many years ago. In fact, when he used to stand on his Wii Board to work out using Wii Fit, it would tell him he was technically considered obese. If you look at him, you probably wouldn’t guess that, but according to his BMI, he is obese. (Please don’t forget that BMI is not a good factor for everyone. He is a big dude.) When I first met my husband, he told me that he used to be over three hundred pounds! I could not believe it, except for the fact I caught a rare picture or two of him looking much bigger than he currently looked. He told me that he lost weight doing his own version of Atkin’s.

What Is Atkin’s?

I’m sure you have already heard of Atkin’s, which is a low carbohydrate diet that is supposed to induce rapid weight loss by reducing your intake of carbohydrates and stimulating ketosis. His intent was to merely use this as a launch pad to eventually transition into another phase of eating, which Atkin’s is supposed to let you do.

Why Atkin’s?

My husband eventually stopped losing weight and once he transitioned off of Atkin’s, put some of the weight he lost back on—approximately thirty pounds. After almost two years of struggling to lose LITERALLY a single pound, he decided to go back on Atkin’s as a lifestyle choice, not just a short-term diet. He decided to do this upon our return from vacation and he has already lost over five pounds, which makes us both very happy.

Here is the thing about my husband: he eats less than I do, he eats better than I do and he works out anywhere from three to four days a week. Here is the thing about me: I eat like crap, I eat all insane hours of the day/night and never work out. I’ve never been overweight. He has always been overweight. I have never, ever seen someone struggle as much as him to lose a single pound. It breaks my heart and almost seems a little unfair that I could sit down with a Slurpee and chips while he chomps on a salad and the end results stay the same.  He has an insane amount of self-control when it comes to eating, whereas I do not. It seems that for whatever reason, his body only responds to his version of Atkin’s. He has been restricting himself to 30 g of carbohydrates a day, which I could NEVER do.

Atkin’s – Not a Friend of Your Wallet

If you look up a list of foods that are low in carbohydrates, you will find that list incredibly small. Atkin’s severely limits what you can eat. In fact, I had to make a list of things that I could purchase from the store for my guy and that list was quite short. I have to look up recipes so that he can get some variety in his diet.

This means that your ability to shop sales is also quite limited. So what can you do?

1. Make an All-Encompassing List First

The first thing I did was list everything, within reason, that was low in carbohydrates that my husband could eat. Depending on the carbohydrate limit for the day and what foods you like, this can vary a bit. Generally, your list will include meat, fish, cheese, eggs and certain vegetables. My husband needs to still get in some carbs everyday, especially because he goes to the gym, so he limits himself to the lowest carbohydrate breads he can find. If you’re looking for a start, this list has a pretty good overview.

2. Find Your Sales & Stock Up

Once you know what you are looking for, start searching for your sales. Luckily, there were some decent meat sales this week and it’s even easier when the person on the low carb diet isn’t as picky of an eater as I am! Freeze as much as you can, especially if you know there won’t be another good sale for awhile.

3. Check Your Labels and Make Note for Next Time

You will find that all foods are not created equal. If you buy that fake cheese or fake hot dog crap, it is loaded with who knows what and tends to have carbs (or a bit more in carbs) than the regular stuff does. When you find something that is low in carbohydrates, such as a certain brand of bread or snacks, make note of the item so that you’ll be able to pick up the item again next time. I have seen nearly identical looking things vary greatly in carbs.

4. Make Meal Plans Wisely

In order to make the most of your food, you really need to look into low carbohydrate recipes. After awhile, if you just eat burgers wrapped in lettuce, you’re going to get tired of them.  If you have ground beef or turkey, try to find as many recipes as you can using those ingredients. Simply Google recipes and start writing them down!

 

Have you found changing your lifestyle and how you eat to be difficult on your wallet? Do costs prohibit you from eating the way that you want?

Why Purchasing a Co-op Isn’t For Everyone

23 Sep

I have been looking at real estate for the past year. I know my neighborhood, considering I have been living here my entire life, and I know what I like. I know more than anything I would like a house. But, my husband and I cannot afford that. We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and purchasing a home right now is not an option. In fact, where we live, it may never be an option. This is something I have reluctantly come to terms with at this point in my life.

I have always read pieces, blogs, message boards—you name it, I’ve probably read it—written by people who tell you to never purchase a co-op. It kind of makes me chuckle, because they make it sound like you always have an option. My own father tells me I should buy a house when it’s obvious we cannot afford one. Theoretically, it may be better for you, since you can do what you want to your own home but it’s not always the most practical choice.

Right now my husband and I are in contract to purchase a co-op. And without reservation, I can honestly say I will never purchase a co-op again. I have now become a naysayer!

Why Did I Look At Co-ops In the First Place?

In certain parts of the States, I am sure you will find people who have never even heard of a co-op. The idea that you are not actually owning something and in fact, just own shares of a corporation, would probably completely bewilder people. The fact that you must abide by and answer to a group of people who decide how you should live (also known as the cooperative board) may seem outrageous to people.

For us, it’s just a fact of life. Co-ops are ubiquitous where we live. The buildings in my neighborhood (that look like apartment buildings, yes) are almost entirely co-ops—not condos. There is a certain precedent for this. And they will continue to exist primarily because this is a launching pad or a way of life for some people. Co-ops are the only thing that my husband and I could reasonably afford. In fact, the mortgage and the maintenance will be lower than our rent.

What Has Changed My Mind

I knew that I would be charged fees for everything—but I had to start keeping a log.

Sure, you have to pay the bank. Closing costs. Fees for this. Fees for that. My eyes glaze over just thinking about it.

And yes, you have to pay the lawyer. Good times.

And then, lest you forget, the management company. We have to pay them for the application ($400), we have to pay them for one other thing that I already forgot about ($250) and we have to pay them separately to fill out one page—ONE PAGE—$150. They give you a list (yes, a list) of things they want from you—as intrusive as a physical examination from a doctor—that paint your financial history. Tax returns. Pay stubs. W-2s. You need a million references. Not enough, you say? Well it’s a good thing you have to make seven copies of every document so the board can have enough copies to go around and know your entire life story.

Everything takes so long and everything is such a huge hurdle. After we submit everything, we need to also have an interview with a board, where they will decide whether or not we are worthy.

And really, this is more than a month away. After all is said and done, the board can reject us. That’s right—after paying the fees, after paying the lawyer, after putting 10% of the purchase price into escrow, the board can simply say no for whatever reason they feel like.

Only the Strong Survive

Purchasing a co-op is a very long, drawn-out process that is definitely not for everyone. I say that I would never do it again but I guess I would if I had no other option. But if I did have an option, I would never do it again. Sometimes I look at my husband and tell him I regret doing this. I’m not sure if I really regret it or if I am just complaining because things are getting so tough with the co-op. But I think I will be happy once all is said and done and we finally move into our new home.

Have you ever though twice about purchasing a property? Do co-ops exist in your area?

Taking a Different Route – Job Hunting

13 Sep

My husband and I have essentially been employed full-time for awhile. When I first met him, he was working as a garbage man for a privately-owned company so he wasn’t making a lot of money. He had a degree in something he didn’t particularly care for or want to use (Political Science) because he’d been pushed into the idea that he should go to law school. He didn’t want to go to law school. He decided, right around the time that I had met him, that he wanted to actually pursue writing so he began taking classes in journalism. While he was doing this, he voluntarily wrote reviews for games on a semi-popular website, which gave him experience in an area he wanted to pursue.

I pushed him, in a good way, to constantly apply for writing jobs. He landed his first job in the financial field, writing about something he didn’t even like. However, he didn’t mind it and it was a great way to get some real writing experience while making more money than he had been making. Every day I found myself on websites, looking for a job for him in a field that he wanted. Finally, I found what was nearly his dream job working for a video game company. Alas, he wasn’t chosen but was offered another position in the company, only to be called two weeks later telling him their original choice had vacated the position without warning and he was offered the position. He has been there for over four years and is regularly praised for his writing. He has earned small raises, including bonuses, throughout his four years there.

I began this blog entry with his story because he is actually quite successful and well-liked at his current position. They often praise his abilities and offer him new things to do occasionally outside of his realm. It seemed that he didn’t have a difficult time landing full-time work in his field; in fact, he applied to a job at another global company (his company is also worldwide) and they loved his portfolio so much that even when he turned down the offer, they called him back two weeks later, asking him to reconsider because his portfolio was the only one they really enjoyed.

So what is the problem?

My husband and I would like to increase our income. Since we are in the process of purchasing a co-op and obtaining a home loan, we can’t really entertain the idea of applying for different jobs right now. I always read about people online getting freelance work—everyone and their mom has a freelance job now. I cannot tell you how long my husband has been trying to obtain a freelance position. He has applied time after time to countless websites, job offers, gigs, etc only to never hear back. He has only been able to obtain really crappy jobs that aren’t even worth the output—like writing $7 articles.

At the same time, I would like to increase my income as well. I have a license in an area that supposedly has a shortage, which is just a bunch of nonsense. I have applied to a ton of jobs, check the websites of various places regularly and search for jobs in a variety of places. Sometimes a place will call you, after you send your resume which clearly states everything you know how to do on it, and then have no interest in you because you lack experience in the “right” area and they aren’t willing to train you. Right now, more than ever, I feel like I am in a money crunch. I have been looking for a part-time job for ages and I can’t seem to get one.

So—Taking a Different Route You Say?

I decided enough was enough. Today I started off going through my usual sites looking for jobs.

Then I stopped. And I did something differently.

I went to the job sites of particular places and e-mailed them my resume anyway. They didn’t have any particular job openings in my field that were posted but I figured what the hell—if they don’t have a position then why don’t I just send it anyway? Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone is leaving. Maybe they don’t update their website. Who knows? I wrote up a nice little e-mail as a cover letter and attached my resume.

I sent it to one place.

And then I did the same and sent it to another, this time including the fact that I had heard about the place from a particular person higher in the chain of command.

I stopped looking for these little places and tried one more time to apply to a real place. Yes, I found a place that wasn’t too far. They had a position that I could apply for so I set-up an account, filled out their entire online application, uploaded my resume—it was completely finished. And then…

…and then, just like that, I got to the end once I submitted it and it stated, “Sorry…” My blood was ready to boil. The website would not accept the application online for that particular position!

And then I went back to submitting my resume to the tiny places, finding their e-mail addresses on their websites.

And then one place called.

And then another.

And I started to set-up interviews within two hours of submitting my resume.

Long Story, Short Summary

Sometimes, you just need to break out of the mold. Sometimes you just really need to do something differently. What I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere—I needed to be more personal and attack it from another angle. I am going to interview at one place tomorrow and I need to call the other place back and set-up an interview for that position as well. I hope I can pick-up some side work because we could desperately use it.

So maybe that’s why my husband needs. If you’re also struggling to find a second job (or even a first one) maybe it’s time to do something differently. For me, that day is today. Wish me luck on my interviews!

Shopping at the Outlet Malls

12 Sep

We are back from our camping vacation. We actually cut it short a bit and stayed in a motel one night but overall, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go on the hot air balloon ride due to the weather but that saved us some money and allowed us to go do some much needed shopping.

I noticed that the clothes department in my own apartment was rather lacking. The clothing that I do own has been starting to look ratty. I do not buy clothing very often—in fact, it’s a pretty rare event. My sister even commented on how awful my socks were looking—socks! (To be fair, I don’t think I’ve bought a pair of socks in years.) The thing is, I am cheap and I don’t like spending money on clothing. On top of that, I find clothes shopping incredibly difficult. I am tall, so I often need long jeans, as regulars can be too short—but then the long jeans fit awkwardly in certain areas. Of course, that applies to shirts too—shirts look too short on you or you need to buy a larger size that is too big in some areas but not others. As you can tell, I love shopping. (Not in this lifetime!)

But over the years, I have found that buying “cheap crap” is exactly that. Clothes end up with holes very easily. The clothes get all stretched out and weird. The second hand stores around here are absolute garbage. Funnily enough, I have been to some nice stores with amazing clothing; unfortunately, none of these stores have been anyway near me. I decided to do the next best thing for me: visit the outlet malls.

I really had no idea what I was looking for when I got there but I decided that I could have used ANY type of clothing. I ended up buying four pairs of pants from the DKNY outlet that were $20.00 each. I bought a pair of jeans from GAP for $25. I bought a few other things but the pants were a definite win for me. Outlet malls can be fun but they’re easy to get sucked into and there are definitely ways to avoid overspending.

How Can I Avoid Overspending?

(1) Make a budget before you go. I did not do this because I had a general spending limit in mind but if you are really looking to buy things from the outlet mall without breaking the bank, you really need to make a budget first. If you need to, stick to cash and keep the credit cards away.

(2) Decide what you are looking for and where you want to go before you get there. It’s easy to find things you love once you get to the mall and just buy them immediately. In order to avoid that, try to narrow down what your focus is for the day. If you’re looking for pants and sneakers, avoid checking out shirts and dresses. Additionally, most outlet malls have tons of stores—the one we went to had over one hundred of them. Unless you plan on staying there all day, you should really decide what stores you want to check out. If you’re not looking for kitchenware, don’t waltz into the store “just because” — you’re just looking to spend money then!

(3) When you know what you are looking for, shop around first—go back and buy the items later. My husband was actually looking for a new pair of hiking sneakers since his boots, which have lasted for many years, are starting to fall apart and feel uncomfortable. We visited a few different stores that had these types of shoes and ultimately, he went back to the one with the best price for what he wanted. Don’t necessarily settle on the first thing you see or fall in love with—since you’re in one central place, it’s easy to walk back to the other stores if you don’t find anything better.

Do you like going to outlets? Why or why not? Any tips?