Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gung Hay Fat Chow

That's happy new year, if you're Chinese. I'm not, but a whole lot of very many people are, and to them, I wish a joyous and prosperous year. But what I really want to think about today is money. Being a first-time home buyer, this was the first year that I did my taxes with the assorted credits one benefits from when you sign your name on that deed. I had anticipated having a lot of money to pay in taxes because I had taken an early withdrawal from my retirement account in order to purchase my home. (I think this was a smart thing to do and I think more people should do that if they have the opportunity to buy a house, even if you have to pay taxes on it. Your tax credits will cover what you owe many times over, believe me.) So anyway, fearing a horrible tax bill, I had an additional amount held back from my checks and that, combined with the lovely tax credits, resulted in about a $5,000 refund. So yay! What I want to do with that refund is buy the best used car I can afford for said $5,000 and drive it till the wheels fall off, avoiding a car payment altogether. I am leaning toward a 2005 Honda Civic. I also like Toyota Corolla. I think I should test drive a few cars. Anyway, that's an option. The other option is to use the $5000 to pay off all my bills, or to do some combination and buy a cheaper car (yes, there are cheaper cars) and use part of the money to pay off some of my bills. I really, really strongly desire to get out of debt this year. Romans 13:8: "Owe no man anything but to love one another." I have a free to me car to drive (my parents' handicapped van) until the end of June. I've already paid off one account, so I'm doing that snowball thing where you pay off one account with the highest interest and then use the payment you used to make for the account that is now paid off to make double payments on the next highest interest rate until that is paid off, and so on. The only problem with that is that it is slow. I want this debt off my books now. (I don't regret incurring the debt, by the way. I used it to take myself and my 22 year old daughter around Europe and it was a fabulous trip that I am so happy we did.) Still I hate paying interest and I hate knowing that I am in the hole. So I'd like to get those accounts paid off, and then I could take the roughly $500/month I'm paying out in payments and use it to make an emergency fund. I could get $10,000 in 20 months with discipline. And after that? I could start saving for vacations again. I could pay someone to clean the house and mow the lawn. I can get new furniture once the pets are all gone. One thing I know? I will never go back to wasting it all on clothes I don't need, restaurants where the food is consumed and forgotten, assorted crap for the home that ends up getting donated to charity...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Progress Report and Lent

So when I renewed my commitment to restoring my health and reducing my weight on January 1st, I think I weighed about 361 lbs. Does that shock you? I probably shouldn't tell you that my highest weight was 406 lbs at my 5'2" height. It's documented in my medical chart. Not surprisingly, I felt like I was dying. I probably was. So fast forward to now. January 1st I gave up sugar, flour, gluten, processed food of any kind, meat, and dairy. I still eat an occasional egg from happy chickens (my neighbor's hens.) Of all those things, sugar and processed food are without a doubt the hardest. If I want beans, I need to make them from scratch. If I want to make a tortilla out of leftover green smoothie and flax seeds, I need to make it and dehydrate it. And sugar? Sugar is ubiquitous. It is in every product and every recipe. I struggle to find a salad dressing or any condiment that doesn't have it (thank goodness for carrot-ginger dressing! It's already really sweet from the carrot.) I can use dates to sweeten things but I have not done so much because I want to lose the taste for concentrated sweetness. I have also avoided restaurants (saving money plus so hard to find places I can eat) but my sweet sister has treated me to a few vegan meals out. I really love A.N.D. Cafe on Burnside. Cons: it's tiny and you have to wait for a table, and the wait to get your food is really long too. Pros: the food is awesome and they have lots of gluten free options. Anyway, it's been 48 days since I started again. (Yes, I started again. I will always start again. I will never give up.) I weigh in on Mondays and I was 338. This puts me ahead of my goal, which is to take off 10 lbs or more per month. At that pace, I will reach my ultimate goal by Christmas 2016. That will be quite a Christmas present! Since January 1st, that would be about 23 lbs, so right on track with time to spare. It hasn't been easy, but I'm extremely determined. I stayed on track during Valentine's Day. My sweet daughter sent me sugarless gum instead of chocolate, bless her! So that brings me to Lent. I have a theme for this Lent and that theme is Enlightenment. Really, that is my theme for the year! I want to enlighten my body (quite literally!) and lighten up in my possessions and in stress and worry. I am lightening up in debt (they're going DOWN, just like the scale.) I am also going to redouble my commitment to my job that I LOVE and I am so happy and lucky to have. Quite simply, I need to focus on working while I'm at work and not being distracted by checking email,etc. So no non-work related internet period. Truthfully, this should have already been happening but it slipped away from me. I am going to make that my Lenten sacrifice, along with t.v. shows I don't think are pleasing to God. I am going to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. So for the possession enlightenment, I am getting rid of 40 things every day of Lent except the Sabbaths. I will try to sell some at my estate sale, and what ever does not get bought will be donated, but it is on it's way to new homes. This is probably going to be very hard for me because I tend to cling to possessions. But the truth is, if you don't let them go, your possessions will possess you. I have a wonderful friend, salt of the earth (I need to call her, actually!) and she has so many neat things that she has gotten at thrift shops or inherited or bought, but her house is so overflowing with things that you can't appreciate any of it. She has beautiful china that is dirty all over the house and linens that are dirty on the basement floor. She just has one son but they have enough clothes for 10 people. She is not a wealthy person. She is on food stamps and barely getting by. And yet she has wasted money on these treasures that have become burdens. In the past, that was me, too. I had every craft, but no time or place to do it because my house was full of junk. Cleaning anything took 50 times longer because I had to move and arrange so much stuff. My parents passed away and I am tasked with going through their things and getting rid of most of it and keeping a small amount of the useful and the beautiful and the things that just remind me of them so much that I can't bear to part with them: my mother's art, my father's carefully amassed record collection. Getting rid of their things feels like losing them all over again. It is just. so. hard. I have failed miserably at it so far. Now it is imperative that I make substantial progress and get it done. I am working at it every Saturday until it is done. Maybe my plan is too ambitious. Maybe I will fail spectacularly. But I want big results so I am making a big effort. Like my food plan: no one can say that is easy. But I already feel better. I can walk farther. It's working and the pounds are coming off. Through the grace of God I am sticking to it. So I am going to work to make this Lent substantial and meaningful. Bring on the enlightenment.