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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?

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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?

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Remodeling Your Home

24 Aug

My husband and I are currently in contract for our first home. As exciting as it is, it is also incredibly nerve-wrecking to watch money being pulled out of your bank account,  schedule and attend meetings and fret over renovations that need to be made. We are hoping that this is a property we can fix-up and enjoy for at least the next few years.  We were also okay with moving into places that may need some work, which is the type of co-op we ended up choosing. I have a dream that this will end up as a money-maker, but I am realistic and also would just love to break even at the end of it all.

When purchasing a home that needs repairs, you definitely need to consider how much you want to spend before you put an offer down on the property. Here are some important questions to keep in mind to determine whether or not you want to even take on a remodel:

1. Is it worth it? 

  • Do I plan on staying in the property long-term or do I plan on flipping the property?
  • Is the house listed at a lower price than comps that have already been updated?
  • Will renovations have any impact on the resale value of the home? Or will I out-price myself?
  • How many things need to be renovated and at what cost? Are they expensive renovations or not?

2. Can I afford it?

  • Do I have the money on-hand after purchasing the home? Or do I plan on taking out an additional loan?
  • Do I need to put any of my purchases on credit?
  • Are these renovations going to be upscale, middle of the line or a homeowner’s special?
  • Are any of these renovations or updates that I can do myself or will I require contractors, permits, etc?

3. Can I Live With It?

  • Will I be able to live in my home while renovations take place? Or do I need to stay elsewhere?
  • Am I prepared to go without certain things on certain days?

As for us, we will be paying for our renovations out of our own pockets once all is said and done—we are not taking out any additional loans or putting anything on credit. For me, this is the only way to go.

How do you feel about the costs related to renovating your home? Are there any other considerations future homeowners should think about?

Getting Ready for Our “Frugal” Vacation

12 Aug

My husband and I have been looking at co-ops for quite some time and have gone back and forth in terms of what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. This meant that although we are dying to travel somewhere awesome, we aren’t ready to spend the money for a trip with that kind of price tag. This also means that we will be embarking on our budget-friendly vacation pretty soon—an incredible camping trip throughout an area of our state that we rarely venture to. I have already discussed a few things about making a trip affordable by:

  • Discussing a variety of ways to make your overall trip cheaper here
  • General campsite costs and how to make them cheaper here and here

Now with a few weeks left to go, we are going to start putting our general itinerary together and have a lot of different things to consider. Again, as I’ve discussed previously, you can definitely make camping trips even cheaper than we’re making ours, but these tips are still applicable to you.

Start off with a Budget

We love the outdoors. One might think the outdoors is frugal friendly but the cost of everything you may or may not need adds up really fast! If you’ve never spent any time outdoors before, you might not have any of the equipment that is necessary and that can cost a pretty penny. Budgets will vary quite a bit depending on a a number of factors such as:

  • Cost to travel (i.e. gas, tolls)
  • Cost of food (i.e. eating out and on the road vs. cooking)
  • Cost of campsite rentals (depends upon where you stay, when, for how long, with how many people, etc)
  • Activities you will participate in that cost money (i.e. rowing)
  • Purchases that may be required (i.e. tent(s), supplies)

Unfortunately, my cheaper vacation is adding up very quickly! This actually has to do with a major activity I want to participate in that is very costly but it is what it is. Remember, our trip is nine nights so it’s quite long and involves two people.

Budget: $1300.00

Take Care of Big Ticket Items First

Of course, my budget of $1300 might seem outrageous for a camping trip but remember:

  • There are only two of us splitting various campsite rentals over a period of nine nights. I discussed how to keep this cost down in my other posts. Cost: $209.00 ($23.22/night—extremely cheap if you look at it that way!)
  • Since we are driving quite a bit, we will be using quite a bit of money in terms of gas and tolls. Cost allotted: $300.00 (Though I sure hope it’s less than that!)
  • I have decided to do this because I really want to and I do not want my miserly ways to get in the way of an awesome thing—the hot air balloon ride for $235.00 a person or $470.00

As you can see, there isn’t much money leftover for anything else. This already totals $979.00, meaning I only have $321.00 left to spend!

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

There are still tons of things to think about when you’re camping such as:

Food: We eat a lot and I am a picky eater. Ideally, I would love to cook every day and night but I think there will be days when we want breaks from that. Budgeted: $150.00-$200.00

Additional Purchases and Activities: $121.00-$171.00.

We are extremely lucky that we either have or can borrow most of the things that we need for our trip. Remember: If you plan on going camping regularly, many of the items you may need or plan to use will probably end up being purchases that will last you for many years.  Keep in mind the following items that you may or may not take with you:

  • Tent(s) — make sure it has a rain shield and that you have a tarp for the ground
  • Sleeping bag(s) and pad(s) — you might want something softer to sleep on if you plan on staying long
  • Cooking supplies, food and something to store it in to prevent animals from getting to it
  • First aid and personal hygiene supplies

You can find a simple list here.

If you know you are going camping, it is easier to buy things over time than have to buy them all at once. If you do this, you can also look for sales, especially during the off seasons or holidays, that might allow you to pick-up some great deals. More importantly, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t be afraid to ask around! You may be able to borrow almost everything you need for your camping trip from friends and family.

It’ll Be Here Soon

Our camping trip will be here soon and I am so excited to go on vacation since I haven’t had off in nearly a year!

Have you undertaken a huge camping trip before? What are some ways you saved money on your trip?

Thankful—Because We Didn’t Purchase Something

29 Jul

My husband and I have been looking for our “dream home” for a few months now. To be honest, I have been scouting homes for over a year but we have been seriously looking at homes for the past two months.

I put dream home in quotes because my dream home is not here. Nope. I cannot afford a house here so our “dream home” has really been limited to co-ops and, if we were lucky, a cheap condo. We were pre-approved and one of the first co-ops we saw—well, we loved it. It was a two-bedroom co-op that needed some work here or there but overall, it was nice. It had a terrace, which I was practically dying for and the only catch was that there was no washer/dryer unit on-site. It was at the top of our price range and we both really liked it. But after consulting with a plumber, we decided it was not worth it at all and we sadly let go of our “dream home.”

I would say that a few weeks after that, my perception completely changed. And I am glad we did not pursue that co-op!

Our current rent is probably right on average for what we would pay in our neighborhood. I started thinking to myself, “If I don’t plan on living here forever and these are not places that I absolutely love, why do I intend on paying more every month to live there?” Our rent is somewhere between 26-27% of our net income, which is actually a pretty good number considering a recent article I read talked about how much rent eats up the budget of those who live in my city.

So I thought up a new plan which is as follows:

  1. We began looking at one bedroom places instead of more expensive, two-bedroom places. We also stopped looking at expensive one-bedroom units. This not only saves us money on the down payment and mortgage but it also saves us money on the maintenance.
  2. I decided that our cut-off was now going to be $220,000 instead of the $350,000 we had started at and had been pre-approved for, since we can, in actuality, make those payments every month. I also decided to focus on places where the maintenance was on the lower-end of the scale, which for us is $600 or less.

I am incredibly interested in a place we looked at the other day. It’s listed for $199,000 and the maintenance is $473.55. I am hoping to get that price down by at least $10,000, though I’m not sure yet how negotiable the seller is since he is also willing to rent it out at the same price that I pay for rent now, which is $1,300/month. Doing a little big of math, I figured:

  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 25% or $47,500. The mortgage would be $670.09 at a rate of 3.875% (co-ops do not get rates as good as houses.) With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1143.64, saving me more than $200 every month in rent. At least 50% of the maintenance every month is tax deductible, as well as the mortgage interest.
  • Purchasing the property for $190,000 would allow me to put down 30% or $57,000. The mortgage would be $625.42 at a rate of 3.875%. With the maintenance at $473.55, my total payment every month would be $1098.97, and everything else mentioned above also applies here obviously.

My thinking, for now, is that inevitably, I will get the money back that I used as a down payment when I sell the property in the future. In the meanwhile, I can pay for a mortgage and maintenance that is not only less than my rent but that will provide me with $2500-$3000 per year in tax deductions. In the meanwhile, I can save more money toward something else. Most housing did not experience any depreciation in my neighborhood so that is not of any concern to me.

So overall, this house hunting experience, which has left me largely frustrated, has also allowed me to reevaluate what I really want and what I am willing to settle for at this time. I think that going with a smarter decision, even if we don’t like it as much, will work out better for us in the end.

And really, I should thank the realtor from the first property—she was so obnoxious that she completely turned us off from the property all together!

It’s Time to Lighten Up

16 Jul

Toward the end of last year, I had this whole idea that I needed to make a budget because we didn’t really keep track of where our money was going. We had always saved money but I didn’t actually know how much we were spending on random things here or there. This resulted in the creation of a budget that could be flexible here or there. We have been pretty good at sticking to the budget with the occasional exception here or there.

I became focused. The goal? Purchase a home. We need to put down twenty percent. We have had the twenty percent for months. But I hadn’t been able to let go. Keep saving, I thought. So we have been saving. And saving. All of my paychecks go directly into the savings account, untouched. I kept telling myself I would start an IRA only to find myself putting it off so I could get to the next big number in my savings account.

But what have we been doing?

Basically, nothing.

I realized I started to detest spending money, even on things we needed or that we would enjoy. We needed a new couch for quite some time but I was very reluctant to actually purchase one. I didn’t want to use the state pass I purchased in order to visit the parks because I didn’t want to spend the money on gas to get there. Essentially, we would put off having fun or doing something that might be fun for us because I didn’t want to spend the money.

I decided that I need to stop being so tightfisted because it was having an impact on my life. I don’t really spend much on activities—so why can’t I let go once in awhile? What’s the point in having a little extra money in the bank if I’m a lot less happy for it. We aren’t anywhere near struggling financially so why am I keeping myself from taking a day trip to the lake? It seems so ridiculous.

I think every once in awhile you need to take a step back and reevaluate your goals in life. Once your needs have been covered, it’s time to establish your wants. What do you want?

I want to enjoy my time doing things with the people I love.

And that is what I plan to do this day forward.

The “Cheaper” Wedding – Part One

6 Jul

When my husband and I decided to get married, we had some differences in our thought processes.

Him: “Wedding! I want a wedding!”
Me: “No wedding! Courthouse!”

As you can see, our thinking varied quite a bit from the beginning.

Once we decided to actually have a wedding, we were pretty lazy about it. I am not the girl that is often stereotyped as planning her dream wedding her entire life. In fact, I found myself resenting most of the things I had to do in order to get through the process. I found myself harboring resentment whenever something had to do be done or if a problem arose. In the end, I really enjoyed our wedding and many of our friends told us it was the most fun they have ever had at a wedding.

Having a wedding, however, can be an overwhelmingly expensive ordeal. My husband and I paid for almost the entire wedding ourselves and living in an expensive city did not make things any easier. I lost count of how many times people told us “you’ll get it back” or “it’s only once” as an excuse to spend even more money. In the end, we found ourselves sticking to our budget and making our wedding work for us. According to Reuters, the average cost of a U.S. wedding was $27,021 and in New York the average skyrockets to $65,824. With numbers this overwhelming, one might wonder how they can have their “dream” wedding on a budget.

Budgeting – The First & Most Important Step

Many people advise against being “house poor” in the same way I would advise against being “wedding poor.” Could my husband and I have had a wedding for $65,824 without going into debt? Absolutely, if we wanted to wipe out our savings accounts. However, many people end up going into debt for weddings which is something I cannot fathom. I cannot wrap my head around the idea of starting a life together in massive amounts of debt or, if you’re already in debt, adding to that monstrosity.

The biggest thing people need to give up is the sense of entitlement that they deserve or are somehow owed a big wedding if they cannot afford it. My mom and all of her siblings either eloped or had courthouse weddings; my husband’s family loves to have big, catered affairs. We were obviously used to very different things and had to really assert ourselves in terms of what we wanted and ignoring other people.

At the beginning, I was a little unrealistic to the cost of our wedding once I came up with a theme. I had a budget but once we got into the actual planning a couple of months before our wedding, I realized I’d have to adjust my budget appropriately. Given that we were having a wedding where the average cost is $65,824, I realized that having a wedding around $13,000 wasn’t the end of the world for us. So how can you begin your initial budgeting?

LOCATION

The biggest thing you need to budget for first is your location. For this, you need to take several factors into account:

  • Are you having a ceremony and reception in the same place or at different locations?
  • Are you having food catered at the location or are you able to bring in your own catering?
  • Is there an additional cost for a rental on top of catering or is everything batched together?
  • Does the rental space come with anything, such as tables, chairs, etc?
  • Is it accessible to the people you are inviting?
  • And most importantly, can you afford this location?

My husband and I saved a lot of money and time by having our ceremony immediately before our reception. After searching for hours, I found an incredibly affordable place that I could rent out for four hours. The cost of the rental was approximately $1400 and we paid for one more additional hour in case we ran over our time, which we ended up using in its entirety anyway. One way we saved money was by simply asking them if we could have our ceremony directly outside of the building—and the answer was yes! I found that most people rented out a separate area for $500 extra and you had to pay for the entire thing even if it was being used for a short ceremony. Additionally, nothing else in the area rented for anywhere close to $1400—in fact, most rentals were $5,000 and above. Even though it was a little further away then I wanted it to be, people could still access our wedding by public transportation or taxi if they didn’t have their own vehicles.

We detest catering halls so finding this place which felt like you were outdoors was amazing and well-worth the research I put into it. The best part about it was that we were allowed to bring in our own catering company or could cater food any way we wanted to. This one thing saved us a ton of money and will be discussed in my next wedding post.