What My Life Is Like With Terrible Credit

Final Notice Credit

photo credit freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles

I am a person living with debt that I can’t pay and terrible creditI am a single mother of a now 17-year-old son soon to be 18. Over the years there was never enough money and debt just seemed to keep piling up and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I needed the car to get my son to daycare, then me to work. It  seemed every time I turned around there was a repair that needed to be made on it. My one credit card with the highest balance which is now in collections was typically used for repairs to my vehicle at the time.

I was working full-time to pay some of the mechanic’s bills as well as to keep paying my everyday bills and putting food on the table which was hardly enough. That meant that the repair bills often ended up on the credit card. I eventually refrained from using that credit card because the balance was just too high but luckily had a low-interest rate of only 10%. What’s worse is the car had to be junked as it was no longer in a state of repair. I haven’t had a vehicle since that time in 2001.

Employment Status

I lost my full-time job of 10 years in 2006 but I was lucky to find another job within weeks of this happening.  One year later that job was gone when the company started lay-offs (they eventually went bankrupt 2 years later). Before I lost that job, I was going to consolidate my other 2 credit cards (each had balances of about $2,000 on them) with the one I was no longer using but had the better interest rate. My plan was then to direct as much money to it as I could each month so that within 5 years I’d have it paid off.

But then when I lost that job, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I managed to hold on through my Employment Insurance (EI) which was for 40 weeks, but when I hadn’t found any work during that time period and my EI ran out. I then had to apply for and go on social assistance. At that point I was barely getting enough to pay the bills to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table, it was the credit cards that suffered.

At first I was directing about $25 to the 3 credit cards but since it wasn’t putting a dent in the debt and often was leaving me short come month-end, I stopped that. The other 2 credit cards are now also in collections. I have one credit card in good standing however, I have not used it in a year and do not intend on using it. My attitude towards credit cards has changed dramatically these past 5 years.

Social Assistance

I was on social assistance for nearly 3 years. At one point while on social assistance I wasn’t allowed to job search because of a medical issue. Once I was given the go ahead I looked for work again. In May 2010 I finally found part-time employment at Wal-Mart. From May 2010 until November 2011 my wages were topped up by social assistance. However, the 2-3 months where I really could have used the money from Ontario Works (OW) I didn’t qualify because of my reported employment income when it was highest at work due to increased hours because of the Christmas season. So, January through March I struggled financially.

Then OW decided that my child support should not have been directed to them so they turned it back over to me. Adding that into my work income that they use in their calculations (OW using 50 cents of every dollar earned from employment) it no longer was worth staying with OW because I would have been lucky to get anything from them except for maybe one to two months a year. I decided to have them close my file.

Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

I basically live pay cheque to pay cheque while working retail January through to March (April, May), my hours are reduced to the minimum. I’m part-time so right now I’m getting only 12 hours per week. The problem is that with everyone in the same position any available shifts that come up are quickly grabbed and no one is giving up shifts unless necessary. The only time I saw hours upwards to 37 per week was the week before Easter, the week before school started, during the anniversary sale, and then the month of December. When I need to buy something that’s not in my budget, I have to figure out what can be cut that month. My bills (other than the credit card debt) are paid each month.

Terrible Credit and Potential Bankruptcy

I’m at the point where I feel I need to speak with a trustee in bankruptcy. The total of the debt between the 3 cards in collections is around $32,000. That’s more than I made when I was working full-time and my work income these past few years has been no more than $12,000 give or take. It’ll never get paid off and this year I lose the child tax benefit as my son will be turning 18. That is going to remove close to $400 from my monthly “income“.

When the debts were still with the credit card companies I tried many times to get them to cut me some slack based on my situation. For a couple of years the credit card with my bank at the time was understanding and allowed me to pay what I could. Then that credit card company started demanding payment for the balance just as the other two were already doing (those 2 just weren’t cooperative) and eventually all 3 turned them over to collection agencies (which have changed so many times I’m no longer clear which one is with who).

If my son decides he’s not going to continue his education the child support of $344 will also end. That means that ANYTHING I can save each month has to be put aside to cover my expenses when those months come around where my work income is less than $500 per month. I’m lucky right now my rent is subsidized but that won’t last forever and then I’ll be in big trouble.

Job Search

Meanwhile, I continue to search for full-time employment or part-time if I can find something that works around my current job schedule. Despite responding to job postings and sending out resumes I rarely get called for interviews. I really believe it’s because of my age and even though my résumé is modified they can still guess roughly how old I am from the information that is provided. I’ve talked to others I’ve worked with before who have lost their jobs and they are finding it tough to secure employment as well.

My résumé has been prepared twice now by professionals and after the changes I’ve received a couple of opportunities but nothing that has offered me full-time employment. I’ve done plenty of reading online regarding resumes/cover letters and taken out books from the library in hopes of making sure I have a top-notch resume and interview skills, but with no luck. It doesn’t help that my experience and skill level with certain computer software is not high which most of the jobs in my field require or desire in a job role. I simply can’t afford to take computer classes and the self-study I do just doesn’t seem to be enough.

How I Manage My Money

I know my schedule about 2-3 weeks ahead of time so I can figure out close to what I’ll earn. I guesstimate what my monthly income will be then subtract the fixed expenses I have to pay each month. The remaining money is what I have to work with for groceries, miscellaneous, clothing etc. I avoid paying full price for anything if it can be helped. I complete most of my shopping at work since I have my employee discount so I price match whenever possible to help save money on groceries.

If my pantry is getting low on an item but I can’t find a good price for it when I look at all the weekly flyers I’ll put off purchasing it until I can get it at a good price. I use coupons as much as I can matching them up with the weekly flyers to try and get more bang for the buck. I check my bank account before I go shopping to determine what has yet to come out of the bank and what is in there so I have an idea what I have to spend on that week’s groceries.

Update on managing money since submitting her post

I’m budgeting now and planning my weekly shopping around the flyer inserts. I use coupons more than I ever have and I no longer rush into buying something. My hours at work have increased to about 20 per week as more people are giving up shifts which I can pick up. I’m also going to open a savings account and at least 10% of each pay I’ll direct to that account. If there is any money left at the end of the month after paying all the categories in my budget the money will go into emergency savings for when it is needed.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I’ve lived without a credit card for over a year now and should I choose to get one in the future the first one would be a secured credit card with a low credit limit to start rebuilding credit. Since I’ve been fine paying debit or cash all these months I’d use the credit card but then make the payment to it immediately (as we suggest to customers when we motivate them to apply for the Walmart credit card) so I’d earn the reward dollars and not carry a balance.

Looking back now over 5 years having been without full-time employment, 3 of those years were with no employment whatsoever and with losing 2 sources of income this year I’m at wit’s end. I have come to the point that I do feel bankruptcy is the only way to go in order to start my financial life over. I have talked to two co-workers who have gone the bankruptcy route and they are advising me I should look into my options. Neither of them were in as much of a bind as I am (and both are married and have a spouse’s income to fall back on), yet they felt bankruptcy was best for them rather than a consumer proposal.

I kept thinking things would improve if I knew back in 2008 what I know now. I believe I would have considered my options in regards to bankruptcy the moment I had to go on social assistance. At least I wouldn’t have stressed about the debt all these years. The past few years, I feel like I’ve existed, and have not been living.

March Post Update

Since I wrote to you in February, I did meet with a trustee in bankruptcy. The trustee told me that the one thing I have going for me is that the creditors a) can’t go after assets as I don’t have any b) I had already done what he would have said to do and that was change banks to one where I owed nothing c) he said that the only thing they could do is garnish my wages.

Even if they figured out where I worked it would take  them upwards of 6 months to a year to get the court to approve garnishing my wages. So in that regard, my declaring bankruptcy isn’t something I need to do just yet if I don’t want to. The fact that I’m losing one if not two income sources this year is a concern. He said I could wait until later in the year to file or wait until I got my income tax refund for this year (this was in February, and he told me I wouldn’t want to file until I had that refund.  If I filed then, I would lose both my refund for 2012 and 2013.

By waiting until I had my 2012 refund I would lose only my 2013 refund if I filed before the year ended). I’ve thought long and hard about waiting to file for bankruptcy — but I’m leaning towards doing it in April. My reasoning is my income tax refund can pay the monthly bankruptcy fee in full for those 9 months I’d be in bankruptcy. Any money from work I can then direct towards monthly bills and building up some savings for the lean months. My son works part-time now which has eased up on some things that I used to pay for him as he buys them himself now. I just want to file bankruptcy, get it over with, then start fresh and eliminate that stress from my life.

Contribution by: This is a Canadian Budget Binder fan who would like to remain anonymous.

Editor’s Note: The contributor wanted to share her life with terrible credit in hopes that others who are in her position don’t feel alone and can learn something from her story. It’s always nice to hear success stories but it’s also important to hear the stories of those people who don’t know where to turn and feel like they have “just been existing”. Life is about learning from mistakes we make and hoping that we don’t make them a second time. I believe by sharing her story today she has opened the gate and now she has to walk her path which she has started with budgeting. I wish you all the luck in your journey towards fixing your credit and understanding your personal finances.

Questions:

  • How did you turn your credit around?
  • What tips do you have to share with other readers that might have terrible credit and on the verge of bankruptcy?
  • What motivation can you give to our contributor today?

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How I Reduced Our Grocery Budget From $1100 To $600 In 6 Months

Stocked Pantry Grocery Budget

Our Family

We are on a very tight budget with food being the second greatest expense, preceded only by our mortgage. My husband and I have spent most of our family years raising our kids and figured we would have plenty of time to save for retirement. Retirement has arrived for my husband and is staring me in the face and we are trying to get our financial house in order. Our kids are the joy of our lives but raising 4 of them has proven to be costlier than we would ever have imagined. This is our story about how we are beginning to climb out of debt and onto the road towards financial freedom. It is never too late to take control of your financial future.

My family is a single income family of 5 (two parents and three grown kids at home). Last summer, I sat bemoaning my situation (out of control debt and never enough money at the end of the month) and wondering where my money, which in theory should be sufficient to meet our needs, went. I am a professional person and make a modestly decent income, but through the wonder of the internet, I saw families with smaller incomes seeming to be not only debt free, but to be prospering. Something had to give.

How Digging Our Family Out Of Debt Began

During the course of my research, I stumbled upon a blog post about someone who had managed to unload $35,000 of debt. I was intrigued and inspired. He referred to a guy named Dave Ramsey and Financial Freedom University. This was right up my alley.

I borrowed the book from the library and shared his strategy with my husband. Together, we made a plan and informed the family that things were about to change.

In September, we tracked our spending in an effort to understand where we spent our money. We simply recorded the total of all spending. We have always been quite frugal shoppers and discretionary spending on non-essentials has been minimal. This was borne out by what I saw on paper. What to do?  What to do?

The one area where I believed we could trim our spending was on groceries.  In September, we spent $997.86 on groceries and $112.39 on take-out food = $1110.25. Although, I knew we could not stop eating, there was no bill stating we were obliged to pay so much for food. This was the one area I felt I could affect some significant change. The question was how?  My sons are very resistant to rice and beans, in general and a meat based diet, for 5 adults, is very expensive. I challenged myself to get that specific category of spending under control.

Enter Mr. CBB and the Grocery Game Challenge -The Grocery Budget

I began to track all my spending on groceries and played with fine tuning menu planning and watched what other people were doing to see what I could learn from them. While I couldn’t reduce my spending at that time by growing my food, I could analyse what I did right and wrong and make improvements there.

Grocery shopping now became a game to play where I competed against myselfThe key was to create a strategy where I could maximize the buying power of my dollar, all while minimizing the number of dollars I spent. Nothing motivates a competitive person like seeing your progress in print and the feedback one gets from Mr. CBB is like getting stickers for a job well done. I have always created a menu plan and shopped from a grocery list but I needed to figure out how to maximize my spending power even more.

Enter Cassie Howard at Mrs.January.com

Cassie has made an art form of extreme shopping Canadian style. She talks in-depth about how to shop for groceries and save money by purchasing items when they are on sale at rock bottom prices (not all sales are equal), buying sufficient quantities to last from one sale to the next, and where possible, using coupons to reduce costs even further.

In January, I recorded the regular price of all items I purchased along with the sale price I actually paid and all savings from coupon purchases. I found that by shopping the flyers and purchasing only items on sale, forgetting about brand loyalty, I saved approximately 35% on average (over purchasing all items on my list at one store and receiving the benefit of sales only incidentally).

In addition, coupons netted me an 8-10% savings above the 35%. I recorded every item I purchased and was thrilled to see that I had cut my spending down to $951.97. It doesn’t sound like much of a reduction at this point, but my house was overflowing with food which I had been able to purchase for the same amount of money simply by changing my shopping habits.

February’s challenge was to reduce my spending to $700.00 for the month. In conjunction with that, I decided to try cooking ahead to fill my freezer. My work schedule involves working 7 nights in a row followed by 7 nights off. By night 5 of my schedule, I usually am too tired, don’t want to cook and end up buying take out because I don’t have a plan. You know what they say “Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail”. Well now I was a woman with a plan and I planned to succeed.

Freezer Meals

Enter Once a Month Cooking

This time, I happened upon a site called “Good Cheap Eats“. This blogger spoke about her practise of doing a semi-annual “clean your pantry challenge”. Her goals include 1) saving money 2) working through her pantry inventory (to prevent waste as food usefulness expires) and 3) encouraging independence in her kids. I was stoked!

I committed right there and then to cleaning out my pantry /freezer. First, I inventoried my pantry and freezer. Then, I organized the contents and made a menu plan which incorporated the ingredients I had on hand.  I am a very busy person and this took me part of a morning, but once I was done, I had all the information I needed to create a plan (plus I was able to clean out useless items taking up valuable real estate in my cupboard). All inventory lists were fastened to the refrigerator door so that they would be easily referred to and I was in business.

Menu plans were based primarily upon what was in stock already and the grocery list included only filler items needed to complete a meal (milk, fresh produce, etc.). Of course, the decision about what to buy was made referring to flyers. I don’t purchase newspapers so I refer to Cassie Howard’s site. The coupon match-up section not only has items on sale with corresponding coupons, she has links available to see current flyers of major grocery retailers.

I spent most of one day cooking and ended up with 30 meals either ready to go into the slow cooker/oven or cooked and ready for reheating. Although, it is a tiresome process when you do it, freedom from cooking and major clean-up for many days of the month, more than compensates. I also decided, 1 week into the month, to cut another $100 from my budget and challenged myself to spend $600 or less. The official amount spent for the month of February was an incredible $605.95.

Rice and Beans Meal

What have I learned?

The most important lesson was that reducing my grocery budget, in the face of a lot of resistance from my kids, was possible. By learning the best possible prices for meat and other grocery items in my area and refusing to pay more than that price, I was able to slash my spending.

By using coupons, I was able to push my savings even further. To date, in the first two months of 2013, I have saved $180.03 by using coupons. Over the course of the year, that could reach more than $1000.00 in savings. If I won $1000, I would dance a jig around my living room.

By having a plan of attack and taking the time to prepare things ahead of time, I avoided the temptation to blow my budget with expensive take-out meals of convenience. I also managed to find a rice and bean dish which my boys will eat and have begun to serve that dish once every 2 weeks. I will continue to search for budget friendly menu items to reduce my budget even further.  Further, because they see that I am so excited about my successes, they have realized that “resistance is futile”, to quote the Borg, and have come on board with my program.

This process has been a lot of work but I have effectively trimmed $500 from my monthly grocery budget. That is equivalent to working an extra 20 hours per month (net after taxes) for me and since this project has not taken an extra 20 hours per month, I am ahead of the game.

Where will I go from here?

I plan to maintain my grocery budget at $600 per month. Now that I have a sustainable budget, I think the next phase of the plan will be to roll all grocery savings directly into debt repayment. Ultimately, my husband and I plan to be completely debt free by December 2015. We will have trimmed our budget to what we will be able to live on in our retirement years (hopefully our kids will be independent and feeding themselves by then) and all extra income will be directed to fattening up the nest egg until I can retire in 2021. Lowering the grocery budget and digging my family out of debt first then focusing on saving will be well worth it in the end. You never know, we might even be able to squeeze in a few trips before then.

Post Contribution By: Donna R. Hi, I live and work in Hamilton, Ontario.  My family consists of 4 mostly grown kids in post-secondary school (three of whom still live at home), my husband who is retired, our pampered pussy-cat, Sarah, and me.

 

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How I Support My Family On One Income

love mom

This is a Guest Post written by Tanya a fan who wanted to share her story about how she supports her family on one income in hopes to inspire others.

Tanya’s Story:

I live in Prince Edward Island with my two young children. Money wasn’t always streaming in to my bank account, but we were able to get by. The bills were being paid, we had just bought a house and we were comfortable. When I was pregnant with my second child, I ended up being put on sick leave. With my pay gone and my sick benefits nowhere in site yet, things started to get tight. With only my husband’s salary to go on, one child in full-time day care (I was on bed rest) and another child on the way, the bills started to add up. We started using my credit cards to cover the extra expenses, always saying we would pay them off as soon as possible, but the balances started to add up.It didn’t help that my husband refused to even try a budget – if he wanted to eat out, he did; if there was a movie he wanted to rent, he rented it.

By the time I went back to work (I work by contract), all of our bills were late, credit cards were maxed and we had one consolidation loan under our belts. Over the next few years, I tried to cut corners when possible, but with two of us having access to the bank accounts it was hard. I’m not saying it was all on my husband, but I do think I tried harder.This past year, my husband and I separated; as soon as he realized it was over, he opened his own bank account and I was left with all of our bills (minus his car payment), the mortgage and our kids to support. With my job, I sometimes only work 3-6 months a year. Even when I’m not employed, our son (who has special needs) has to be in day care full-time for his benefit. Now, I am back to one income and still have all of our debts without any financial support from my ex.

When my husband and I separated a few months ago, my household dropped to a one pay cheque home. With two young children (one with special needs) to care for, it was important that I quickly learn how to cut corners. Working full-time, I used to be guilty of throwing together a lot of quick meals made from canned goods and bringing home take-out meals. Although canned goods can be inexpensive, most times they run at least $1 apiece, which can quickly add up.

woman cutting vegetables
Saving Money and Time In The Grocery Budget

I had the idea of cooking large meals and freezing them in portion sizes. In the mornings, I will take enough for myself and my children out. By the time supper time arrives, I simply need to pop them into the microwave. This is so easy for me, and a big money saver! This method also helps with lunches while at work. I just pack one freezer meal in my lunch bag, and when noon hits, microwave and enjoy! I have found that by taking hot meals with me, I have cut way back on using the cafeteria where most of my co-workers spend a bit of money. I often wonder how much it costs my co-workers who eat out of the cafeteria all week-long.

Ways That Helps Me Raise My Family On One Income

  • If you have a cell phone contract, you can still lower your package to the absolute minimum. I save $20/month doing this.
  • With your home phone, try using one that has an answering machine; between dropping voice mail and call waiting, I am saving approximately $15/month.
  • If you absolutely can’t do without your satellite/cable, try getting the cheapest pkg – you can get so many programs online now for free
  • Instead of buying my daughter milk at school for 50 cents/day, I recently started sending a container of milk with her
  • My kids like cereal, but I find it can go stale fast – take a trip to your local Dollarama and pick up some plastic containers – keeps the food fresh and the critters out!  I use mine not only for cereal, but for things like noodles, flour and pancake mix
  • I always wash our clothes in cold water and hang them out on the line for as long as possible during the year – saves on hot water and electricity big time!
  • I buy all of my spices at a bulk store…why pay $5 for a little jar when you can get the same amount for 50 cents?
  • I check local thrift stores a couple of times a month; when my desk chair broke, I managed to find one at a Salvation Army store for only $5!  You can also find great deals on clothing and other necessities.
  • To save on haircuts, I purchased a trimmer set for $20 and use it for my son.
  • When possible, I use u-picks for fruits and vegetables – you can save so much over buying prepackaged in stores
  • When grocery shopping, check the pricing labels carefully.  A lot of stores now have the price/unit on the tags to help you compare items.

This helps a lot when you have two similar items that are different sizes/prices let’s you know the better deal! (Ex: buying two small containers of margarine vs one large). I am going to start a budget soon since I am back to work again. I have limited eating out to special occasions, have taken a firm stand with my daughter over “treats” and am looking to downsize from a van to a compact car to save on gas. I have switched my bank account to unlimited transactions; for only $4 more/month in fees, I went from only having 20 free transactions/month ($1/transaction after that)to not having to worry about getting a huge fee.

I’m hoping to start getting back on track financially while supporting my family on one income because my kids deserve a stable environment.

It's Not About How Much Money You Make It's How You Spend It

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Taking My Life Back While Getting Fit On A Budget!

Guest Post: Bonnie

Taking back my life and getting fit, You bet I am! My name is Bonnie and I’m a 53-year-old woman who has been overweight most of her life including childhood. I have a love hate relationship with food and used it as comfort source towards painful issues. I’ve been on many diet programs and have managed to lose some weight but no long-term successes. I realized the number one reason for the continued failures was my inability to embrace the healthy lifestyle as a “permanent change” and not a temporary fix.

Where It All Began 

It started back in 2007 when my husband took sick and diagnosed with end stage liver failure and liver cancer. I was so busy caring for him that my life was put on the back burner. I was filling my emotional void with fast and fatty foods, even if I wasn’t hungry. We eventually both lost our jobs due to his illness and I had to care for him as his memory was slowing drifting away. Shortly after we became homeless until our daughter and grandson opened their home to us. My husband was placed on the transplant list to hopefully get a new liver before he passed away which we had been told was likely around the 3 month mark. Two months to the day of receiving the pager we got the call that a matching liver had been found and he was to be immediately taken to the transplant centre to prep for the 8 hour surgery. He has since made a slow but miraculous recovery but then my health began to fail rapidly.

I ended up being diagnosed with

  • Arthritis of the hands, feet, knees and elbows
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Swellings of the feet and ankles
  • Blood pressure readings ranged high and low

Ultimately, as I was trying to walk on my sore legs and feet I tore my meniscus in my one knee. All of the above landed me in a scooter to grocery shop and a cane just to walk from one room to another. From that point forward the weight slowly would creep up to a serious level that I never thought possible. Eventually I couldn’t move or sleep without 6 pillows propped up under me as I couldn’t breathe. I also wheezed alot in the evenings yet I still didn’t do anything to save myself.

It was the week before Easter 2012, I woke up and life just hit me like a ton of bricks. “I’m going to die if I don’t do something to save myself from these habits I’ve created”, I thought to myself. My doctor had mentioned that maybe I should consider bariatric surgery. I was stunned and thought,”wow,am I honestly that overweight”.  On April 12,2012 I began my journey to a new healthy me to take back my life. Our mind is a powerful medium and similar to quitting smoking you must motivate and push yourself to achieve your goals one day at a time and without pressure.

Beginning My Journey

When I first started this journey I couldn’t even walk the simple 10 minutes to get to the mailbox each day. I gave up for the first few weeks due to so much pain and huffing and puffing but I didn’t let that stop me. Things have improved since and I now walk at least 2 hours each day. I split my walks up into smaller time frames as my knees and feet still give me grief  from time to time but I accomplish my daily goals, something I never dreamed of months ago.

Myths about Spending Money to Get Fit and Healthy

I would like to dispel the myth that unless you are rich you can’t afford to eat healthy. Yes some items are higher priced than cheap boxed, canned and processed foods but there are ways around that. My Grocery Budget is now based around mostly fresh fruits and vegetables that are on sale or in season. Our weekly menu plan is based on what vegetables and proteins are on sale for the week.

Ways To Save Money On Food

If you have access to a yard you can sow and grow lots of vegetables for cheap except for exercise tending to your garden and water. I didn’t have that option this year to garden so I plan my shopping by using local shopping flyers, plan a shopping list and  save time and money by price matching and of course budgeting. I also tend to keep an eye out for reduced meat and vegetables that I can easily store in my freezer for later use.

Example

I bought a several 1 lb packages  of fish reduced by 50% from the grocery store and then froze them for later use.

Money Saving Tip: I buy my yogurt on sale and in larger containers and portion them out in reuseable single serve containers.

Canadian Coupons

I use coupons to stockpile my paper, hygiene and cleaning products which enables me to save up a bit of money for the items that don’t come with coupons. This is where the grocery savings in my budget makes sense to me. I buy brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal, etc in bulk and save money by not purchasing smaller bags.

Eating Out and The Budget

The number was staggering after I took a hard look at the amount of money we spent eating out each month in our budget. If anyone were to do the lunch and dinner comparison they would see eating at home potentially not only has health benefits but can save you so much money. We would eat out about 2 times for lunch and dinner each week. The average cost for these splurges were a mind-blowing $100 a week a total of $400 a month in our budget. Can you imagine all the food I could buy each month with $400 added to my current grocery budget? 

Frugal Healthy Cooking At Home

An example of a cheap healthy meal I now make at home for a total of $2.35 per person is:

  • 1/4 medium turnip baked to make turnip fries $0.75,
  • 1 cup of fresh green beans $0.35,
  • 1 cup of brown rice $0.15, 4 oz chicken breast $1.10

If I went to McDonald’s for a value meal it would have cost me $8.02. Before beginning this journey to take my life back I wasn’t the chef in the kitchen like I am today. I typically ate out of boxes, cans, jars, and at fast food joints.

What I Used To Eat Then….

There was no stopping me when it came to burgers, fries, poutine, pizzas, Kraft dinner,white breads, pastas, rice, as well as diet pop, yep diet pop. I ate lots of processed foods high in sodium and other ingredients I can’t even pronounce. Eating convenience foods was likely one of the worst things I could have done for my body. Now I enjoy cooking frugal easy low-fat healthy meals everyday.

What I Eat Now…..

Now I have a healthy meal plan and I  eat as clean as possible. My new healthy lifestyle includes foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey, fish, whole grains, fat-free yoghurt, fat-free milk and reduced fat cheeses. I limit my frozen and canned fruit and vegetables due to my sodium level intake. I do however have many bags of frozen fruits and veggies in the freezer which I recently used smart source insert coupons to purchase them for $1.00. The fruits are great for smoothies or mixed with some fat-free yoghurt. This lifestyle change does take planning and getting used to, I won’t lie. I can equate it to couponing for the first time, overwhelming at first but in a short period it becomes second nature.

You Don’t Need Money and A Gym To Get Fit!

Another myth is you can’t lose weight and get fit unless you spend money by joining a gym in which I have no desire to. I walk and hike every day and these exercise methods cost me nothing. I enjoy hiking and have found plenty of amazing well-kept trails in and around our city and it’s lots of fun. While on my hike I sometimes pack a healthy picnic lunch and a refillable 32 oz water bottle and make an afternoon out of it.

The best thing about hiking and picnic lunches:

  • It doesn’t cost any money
  • You get amazing health benefits
  • Stress of everyday living vanishes

My life stressors are forgotten within 10 minutes of entering the trails. It’s also a great way to reconnect with your spouse or significant other. Another great free way to get fit is to bike ride. If you own a bike and use it you’re already ahead of the health game. If not there are lots of used bikes for sale at great prices on Kijiji or even free on free-cycle.

The Results

Its been 4  1/2 months and I have lost 70 lbs so far and although my feet and ankles still swell I am optimistic that as the weight melts off the swelling will improve. I recently went to the family doctor and my blood pressure is sitting at 120/80 which is perfect, especially for a 53-year-old woman who had high blood pressure 4 months ago. My resting heart rate has slowed considerably which speaks volumes on the benefits of my free cardio workouts every day.

I love the foods, exercise and energy that this new life has given me. I wish I had not wasted so much time but I can’t go back, only forward. I hope telling my story will make a difference in someone else’s life who thinks that they cant do it, they aren’t strong, don’t have enough money or aren’t motivated. I am living proof that you can go after what you dream no matter your age, wealth or health. With hard work and determination you can accomplish your goals even if one step at a time. Anything can be accomplished with hard work, determination and a refusal to fail no matter how impossible the big picture looks in the beginning.

I have done this without fad diets, gimmicks, pills, surgery or any other weight-loss aids. Clean eating, portion control, lots of walking and a fierce desire to save my life. Whatever your path is, don’t give up. We may have different methods of getting there but we will meet and celebrate at the finish line. Now its onward and upwards to reaching my final goal  a weight loss of 100 lbs. As of today September 3rd, 2012 I am 75.5 lbs lighter!

There is so much available for people who desire to eat healthy and get fit. We have to reach out and change the way we think. Taking my life back and getting fit while setting goals just like a budget are steps I am willing to take… to be me again.

You can Join Bonnie and her over 1600 Fans on her journey at “Losing It Like Bonnie” on Facebook.

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