10 Free Ways to Lose Weight

You don’t have to break the bank to lose weight.

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It’s bathing suit time again. I’ve always joked that I have a November weight and an April weight because every year I think about what I’ll look like on the beach and I don’t want to look like a whale, but I also don’t like paying for stuff I won’t use, and I’ve been through them all.

I’ve dropped a bazillion dollars on gym fees, but I’ve found going to the gym makes me self conscious. There are these beautiful gazelle-like creatures lifting and jogging and their sweat smells like cotton candy and I’m in the corner on the oldest treadmill they have, huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf next to a 90 year old woman whose kicking my butt so I usually just sneak out, go home and eat a pint of double dutch chocolate ice cream with half a jar of peanut butter on top in my shame.fitness

Then there is the on-line subscription I’ve had to weight watchers. Although I love weight watchers and totally believe their system works to lose weight and maintain it, I never liked having to pay 3 months in advance and then a monthly fee after that to log my food and calculate my points. I always do great for three months, then notice I pretty much eat the same things over and over and think I can get rid of my subscription and just keep eating those things, but the moment I quit logging my meals, I start putting weight back on.

Thankfully there are other products I have found that work just as well for me that are free. Here are ten of those free ways to lose and maintain weight:

  1. My Fitness Pal: This app has to be my all-time favorite. Free to download in the google play store, you can log your food, keep up with your caloric intake, weight, exercise, steps, and even macros (the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in your food). You can upgrade for $9.99 a month for premium features, but I’ve lost just as much using the free service.
  2. S Health: This came standard on my Samsung cell phone. It isn’t my favorite, but it has many of the same features as my fitness pal and is doable.
  3. Spark People: Sparkpeople.com is a wonderful, free community where you can interact with others, share recipes, log food and exercise and use a multitude of diets.
  4. Pinterest: Are you kidding me? There is no reason to eat crappy food when there are thousands of healthy alternative recipes and tons of exercise routines on Pinterest.
  5. Community race tracks: There are several tracks in my town that the community uses to walk, run or exercise on. Many high schools or universities have open tracks, parks and other areas. My father-in-law always enjoyed walking, when he got older and it was too hot for him to walk outside, he went to Wal-Mart and walked the aisles and bought a water going out the door.
  6. Home Fitness: This one is a no-brainer, exercise at home and eat healthy. Old-school push-ups and jumping jacks can go a long way. Even walking in place and swinging your arms with some heavy cans of soup in them can get you on the right path.When I was in high school, I ran the stairs in my house, jumped rope and jumped up and down doing squats on a stool my mom kept in the kitchen. For years, I got home from work at 6am and there was a Yoga show on. I did the exercises with them and it helped me wind down after a long night at work.
  7. Youtube: There are literally hundreds of channels on Youtube with free exercises.  I wanted to buy DDP Yoga, but I wanted to preview it before I spent the money on it, so I searched it on Youtube. There are several people who film themselves doing the exercises with the DVDs and lots of previews and recipes from Dallas Page himself.
  8. Water Your Body: This is another app I love. I do not have an internal sense of when I need to drink something. I am literally never thirsty and tend to drink only when I eat. This leads to constant dehydration, dry skin, poor oral health, cracked lips, organ sickness, slow metabolism and water retention. Water your body app has an alarm that goes off about every hour to remind me to drink something. When I do, I can log what I drink to make sure I am drinking an appropriate amount every day.
  9. Noom: Noom Coach is an app that coaches you through eating better, exercising, logging your food and exercise. Noom gives you goals to master and really nurses you through your weight loss journey.
  10. The Gabriel Method: This one can cost you money if you so choose, but there are several free products John Gabriel offers on your weight loss journey, from recipes to e-books, this guys, no more dieting, psychological approach and delicious recipes are great. He often has free webinars you can attend, (and some that cost tons) but I love his approach and takes so much stress off of your health goals. No more pints of peanut butter chocolate shame, but tons of peanut butter chocolate recipes that are actually good for you and so good!

Why I Just Dumped All My Subscriptions

How much do you spend on subscriptions?

How much do you spend a month on subscriptions? I have been looking at my YNAB category for monthly subscriptions and I’ve noticed it is getting a little out of hand. Subscriptions have been around forever; from magazines to monthly deliveries of goodies and snacks, subscriptions are a convenient way to get what you want delivered to you for a fee.

The problem is, those subscriptions can add up. I have always had a personal love-affair with subscriptions. I love my Amazon Prime, for all the services I get and the free shipping alone, I think it is totally worth the annual fee. But there are other subscriptions I have had that were just a convenience and wasted money. At one time or another, (not all at once) I have had television streaming subscriptions,  beauty sample subscriptions, fitness apps, ancestry.com, an audible book subscription, kindle unlimited, Blue Apron and my cable and internet, which most consider a subscription service. If you total that up that is $325 a month in subscription services. WHOA!!! That’s a lotta moolata!!

Ajsubscriptions it is now, I have cancelled all my services.

It will be nice to take that extra $300 a month and stick it into my growing buffer. I even decided for the summer to cancel Blue Apron, we will be so busy that quick wraps and fresh fruit will be our main meal; plus if you live in a humid environment like me, you’ve got to be crazy to turn your oven on in the summer.

Cable and Internet is something that all financial gurus suggest you cancel; they almost make you feel guilty for having it! Yes, you can save $1200 or more a year if you don’t have it. Yes, you have so much more time to do things without mindlessly staring at your television. Yes, you can get streaming subscriptions that are cheaper than cable. Blah, blah, blah… I am financially secure enough, I’m keeping it, and I regret nothing!

Here’s the thing, if you have a service that you absolutely love, something you feel is totally worth the money and something you use every day and it doesn’t affect your bottom line, keep it! After all, it’s your money, don’t let people make you feel guilty how you use it. My rule is “How many hours do I have to work to pay for this? Is it worth my time?” That’s how I make many of my decision. I hope it helps you as well.

Tasty Tuesday:Garlic-buttered Kale

I know what you are thinking, “um, there is nothing ‘tasty’ about kale”, but you’d be wrong! I was recently introduced to kale and I really didn’t want to try it, especially since it reminded me of turnips and collards, which have never been my friend. But with some health issues looming, I had to figure out how to get more “greens” in my diet and less junk; but I didn’t want to break the bank either

I have learned eating healthier is less expensive than what you would think. I mean the whole reason I would share a recipe on a financial blog is for the money you can save, right? So I gave this recipe a shot and it is so good, I now cook it twice a week. It takes all of about seven minutes to cook and even my son will eat it. The best part about it is the cost, which is about$1.47 per person for 4 servings.

  • 2 cloves garlic – .79
  • 4 T butter
  • 1-1 1/2 bunch kale – $2.00
  • 1 T olive oil

Staple items: Olive oil – $4.00-$8.00, Butter $2.79-$4.88, salt & pepper-$3.00

  • Remove the ribs inside the kale and chop kale into bite sized pieces
  • Mince the garlic
  • Add 1 T olive oil to a medium high pan, add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper
  • sweat the garlic 1-2 minutes
  • Add the kale to the pan, add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir until the kale begins to wilt, add 1/4 c water and cook 1-2 minutes longer
  • Place a strainer over a bowl and empty the kale, garlic mixture into the strainer, press out as much liquid as you can; discard the liquid.
  • Heat the butter in the pan and place the kale back into the pan, coat the kale with the butter and cook another 1-2 minutes, adding another pinch of salt and pepper, taste it first, it tends to get salty!!
  • remove from heat and serve

This side dish goes great with a grilled or roasted meat. A small tenderloin will run $7-$10. If you are a two vegetable kind of family, add some steamed green beans at .99/lb. Your whole meal is $4.21 per person for 4 servings.

 

 

The Importance of a Buffer

age of money
YNAB ages your dollars, basically it is rate of spending vs. rate of deposit. Read more here.

Are you living paycheck to paycheck? I’d say many people do in an American society of debt overload and over indulgence do. We just weren’t raised to be savers. We look at our grandparents and great grandparents who still cut the bruised parts of fruit out and finish eating the rest and shake our heads. We think, “I will buy you a whole basket of peaches if you’ll just NOT EAT THAT!” We throw out vacuums when the belt breaks, think buying a brand new car on loan is cheaper than fixing the one that’s paid for and go pick up a burger at the local fast food joint when we just don’t want to cook. But saving is important, and over indulgence has entire generations in financial ruin. That’s why it’s important to create a buffer.

A buffer is a category you create in your budget; it’s rule four for my favorite budgeting software, YNAB. It’s different than saving for rainy day expenses, those expenses that only come up annually, or on an as-needed basis, like doctor visits and vet bills (which you should be planning for them as well!) It’s the one to six month’s salary you save so you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck, and you add to it each and every paycheck. It can be a small amount, or it can be large, It’s totally possible and most people can raise a one month’s salary buffer within 6-9 months of budgeting.

The question is, why is it so important? There are many reasons why you want to have a buffer, number one being a little thing called Murphy’s Law, which the financial guru Dave Ramsey suggests always happens where money is concerned. Murphy’s Law is an old adage, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.  What if you get fired, hurt, sick, there’s a death in the family, you have to have hip replacement, your car catches fire, your house catches fire, you hit someone with your car, and so on and so on. There are so many reasons to have that extra money handy, just in case those paychecks stop rolling in.

How much do you want to save in your buffer? Start with one and keep adding to it, you can never have too much “just in case” money. When I started using YNAB, I usually had about $30 on payday, debt, no savings, no investments, nothing. Now, three years later, we are debt free (minus our mortgage), we have an ever-growing, fully funded buffer , a separate emergency fund of $1000 and still manage to save for our 52 week savings plan. We did remove all but about $200 of our investments from Lending Club and Betterment and just put it in to savings and CD ladders. We still have the $200 because they were notes that wouldn’t sell on Lending Club so they’ll just sit there til they pay out, (one of my issues with Lending Club).

Where do you want to keep your buffer? You can keep it right in your checking account, along with your rainy day funds and your every day expenses funds.You can also consider moving it to a savings account, simply to earn a higher interest rate off of it. Either way, you want to have it tangible if you need it. YNABers aren’t usually fans of lots of accounts, it can get messy and confusing, but I am also not a fan of putting all my eggs into one basket, especially in this day with identity theft and debit card thieves out there. Basically, it’s your money, put it where you want it.

BONUS THOUGHT: You know those people who say you shouldn’t save while you still have debt? Well, I think they are wrong, especially in this particular circumstance. You may have a problem come up way before you will be out of debt, and if you need to choose between adding an extra $10 to your credit card payment and adding an extra $10 to your buffer, until it’s funded with at least a month’s worth of wages, I would choose the buffer.

The True Cost of Eating Real Food

As you know, I’ve been eating more “real food” since I’ve started using Blue Apron. This weekend, my family and I visited the local farmers’ market for some fresh produce for the week and grabbed some nice rib-eyes for Mother’s Day at Earth Fare, our local whole foods store. Between both stores, we spent $81.00. We later picked all of our spring onions from the garden and decided to try this pickled green onion recipe and needed some mustard seed so we went to our local Winn Dixie. While we were there my men decided to take advantage of the low blood sugar attack I was having and load up on some snacks I normally only get in moderation and pick up a few extra things we needed like milk and bread. $160 later, I was floored! I started looking at the receipt at all the processed foods and how much they cost and was shocked. Yes, I said it! Processed foods cost more!

All I hear are people saying, “I try to eat healthy, but I just can’t afford it”.Well, I did some math, and quality and quantity are both higher with “real” food. I use to clip coupons to death, stock up on foods I didn’t really love because it was on sale. I still clip coupons, but I really only use coupons on meat, staples, and rare produce coupons. Now I find that I spend less at the store and I waste less food. I think it’s because before my brain didn’t recognize a box of something as food so at lot of it went to waste, but my brain definitely recognizes cucumbers and oranges and blocks of cheese and wants to eat them.

Here are some examples of how we wasted precious dollars buying junk at the store the other day and what we should have bought instead:

  • My son bought two packs of beef jerky, they were $7 each for about 6-8 pieces of jerky. You could get venison back-strap or top round and make your own with a much larger yield for that price. A round steak is about $6.00 per pound. You could get 1.5 lbs of meat, plus your marinade ingredients if you didn’t have them at home for the same price.
  • Next big thing we just HAD to have is ice cream which was close to $7 a quart. My husband’s favorite is banana split, so we will use this as an example. 1 bunch of bananas is around $1.31, give or take depending on how many pounds you get. Strawberries this week were 2 pints for $4 and I got a pineapple for $2.99 at the farmer’s market. Take 2 bananas, 1/4 the pineapple and 1/2 the pint of strawberries, freeze them. Put them in your Vitamix or your banana ice cream maker with a little frozen yogurt or some milk,$3.50 for 1 gallon this week, less than $3 if you drink almond or coconut milk. You can do it separate so you have 3 flavors, or all together like I do to get that nice swirly flavor effect. You’ve made homemade, healthier ice cream and you don’t even have to worry about the extra calories of the chocolate sauce you know you’re going to dump on there. If you freeze the entire bunch, berries and pineapple, you’ve doubled the amount of ice cream (about 2 qts.) for $3.80 more, if you don’t freeze them, you still have fruit left over for smoothies, pineapple whips or fresh toppings on your cereal.
  • My husband is addicted to Diet Coke. It cost him $7.99 for a 20 pack! If he drank water or tea we’d have saved tons! I only drink water with a squirt of lemon, lime, or oranges, whatever is in the fridge, it’s free almost everywhere, oh and I don’t buy bottled water at home, I just have a filtering pitcher.  When I want something fizzy I drink kombucha tea (my favorite is lemon ginger). You can make this yourself; but, eww it’s just not for me. One bottle is $3 for 2 servings, still a little high for my taste, but sometimes you just need some fizz and it’s worth it to not have to grow that THING in my kitchen; just google it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
  • Chips! Chips are $5 a bag now – shame! Some of the best tasting chips you can make at home. Take you some flour tortillas, $2.79, cut them up into strips, toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper and bake at 450 for about 10 minutes. So crispy! So tasty! Great with salsa, or hummus or even on top of soup. I also like to get red potatoes $2.99 and slice them very, very thin. Spritz them with olive oil spray, salt and pepper them and cook them the same way. These are very good. Lastly, cheese! Put down some parchment paper, put down finely shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack ($3.39 pre-shredded)in a little circle and cook in the oven til they are bubbly brown. When they cool, they will crisp like chips.

If I would have taken my own advice and looked at real food v. processed, I would have seen that I could have saved us $52 on JUNK in these four categories and a whole lot of calories and chemicals. It looks like it is really IS better to buy/eat real food after all.

 

Get Relaxed: Get Back to Nature

     If you are trying to find a way to do things on the cheap these days, consider getting back to nature. An average family of four at Disney World will easily run you into the thousands, but a nice and quiet weekend in the mountains will cost you only half. Saving money on the grocery bill by getting back to nature is possible as well. Being “nature friendly” can save you big bucks. Here are some ways how.

Build your own food garden: Building your own food garden can be a productive and fulfilling way to save a little money. Even if you live in an apartment, window boxes full of herbs and fruit are possible. Some great things to grow on your patio are tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, lettuce, and herbs. If you have a bigger area, consider peas, squash, cucumbers, okra, and watermelon. There are lots of great websites to help. One of my favorite, www.FrugalDad.com  has great directions on a table top garden.

Visit a State Park Some of the greatest (and cheapest) times are spent at a State Park. Most smaller parks only charge $1 admission, maybe a little more, and the wildlife and activities are well worth it. Parks offer swimming, picnicking and usually have barbecues and pavilions, hiking trails, beaches, canyons, and mountains. Palo Duro Canyons in Canyon, Texas has a musical every year in their amphitheatre that is very good as well as horseback riding and hiking. Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico offers one of the most unique and large caverns in America and well worth the trip. Also, if you live right down the road from a state park, many offer a monthly or annual pass.

Go Fishing Fishing is an excellent way to save money. A one day fishing license usually runs only a dollar. Catching your own fish can be a great stress relief, even if you don’t catch anything. Also, when you do catch fish, keep them and eat them. Fish is a great lean protein filled with Omega 3s your body needs. If you aren’t into fish, consider donating them to someone who does, or just let them go for someone else to enjoy.

Go Canoeing Canoeing is a very relaxing and fun thing to do with friends and family. It brings you together with your canoe partner, helping you grow as a team. It is also great to sit back and enjoy the scenery. If you aren’t into canoeing, consider tubing instead. It is just as fun and relaxing without all the extra work; just remember that in a tube, you can’t put dry clothes or snacks.

Plant flowers with your kids, parents, or friends A garden is a wonderful way to get back to nature. Somehow getting down and dirty and knowing you are responsible for making something grow is a great way for personal growth and doing it with someone you care about helps you get closer to one another. Children love to plant flowers and to see all the neat bugs and critters that are in the dirt!

Go to the beach Everyone loves the beach but have you ever just gone with nothing but a towel? Many times when we go to the beach it becomes such a hassle. Where are we going to sit? Who is bringing the chairs? Where are we going to go for lunch? Forget all that, go to the beach with bare minimums. Lay on the towel and watch the waves, listen the the gulls and children laughing. Recognize the vast power of the ocean and get lost in it. When you get hungry, just get up and go home, or bring a sack lunch or a picnic basket, but nothing more than that. Find the simplicity of the beach and you will enjoy it so much more.

Find your way back to nature and the world will open for you. You will find it is cheaper to vacation there and a stress relief to boot. Get back in touch with your loved ones and find a way to grow closer together through nature.

Birthday Parties on the Cheapskate Side

Your child feels satisfied they had the best birthday party of the year

How many birthday parties have you attended and the parents tell you “It cost me $200 for this place for an hour, that’s not even enough time to cut the cake”. Why not have a party on the cheapskate side of life. Always your own decorations and homemade cakes are a way to save, but if you don’t bake, try buying premade cupcakes at a bakery which is often times cheaper than ordering a cake. Here are my top 10 ideas for birthday places:

  1. Have a house party Most people dread having to plan a party at home because of the clean up but having a party at home can save travel expenses and you can plan your own time frame. You can have friends volunteer to help with the clean up and, honestly, you have to clean up at the expensive party themed venues anyway.
  2. Go fishing if you live in a rural area or near a rural area here is a great party. Make some “cane poles” which are poles usually made out of bamboo but could easily be made with inexpensive dowel rods or yard sticks with holes drilled in the tips, fishing line and a little gold hook. I like to take kitchen sponges and cut an X into them, slide them onto the end of the pole and keep the hook in the sponge when not in use to avoid tangles. Children love to splash their feet in the water or stand on the edge, and even if they catch nothing, they still have a great time. Later, cut the cake at the picnic table nearby.
  3. The park even New York City has a park. A playground is a great place for kids to unwind and play and usually there are even grills nearby if you decided to have hot dogs or hamburgers; although, I always suggest a cake and chips party on the cheap side.
  4. A fellowship hall at church if you are a member of a church, many times you can just ask to borrow the fellowship hall on a Saturday night. Plan some old time party games like “Pin the tail on the donkey” or a pinata and save yourself the hassle of cleaning up at home before and after. Ask some church members to volunteer to help clean up or bake.
  5. A swimming pool Summer parties are always a blast by the pool. Don’t have a pool? Find the local public pool and ask your guests to bring admission. Take the gifts home and open them later – there is no rule for this, it’s your party. Kids would rather swim anyway.
  6. Go to your local museum many times kids just want to be together. Many local museums have donation boxes and no admission charges. Donate a small portion, take the kids to the museum for the day and go back to the house or park for cake and presents.
  7. A pajama party Call your children’s parents and tell them the surprise is on the guests, not the birthday child. Surprise your guests by having your birthday boy or girl wake their guests, have them pick one item of clothes to put on and take off to pick up the next child. When you have all your guests present and pj’s accounted for, take them on a daily adventure of free things in the pajamas. The kids have a blast running around town in pajamas all day and it costs you nothing but gas and snacks.
  8. Go to the beach if you live near the beach, take your kids to the beach for the day. If you find a public beach with a pavilion, you can have snacks and cake there but be sure to bring extra sunscreen and supervision.
  9. Group Bowling Rates call ahead and reserve a few lanes at the bowling alley. If you plan it for an off time, and ask for a group discount, you’ll most likely get it. Have your guests bring the money for their shoes, usually $1 dollar and you pay for the lanes. Pull out the gutter guards and begin the cheering!
  10. Go to the mall Have your guests meet you at the mall food court.  Put your guests in smaller groups with an adult and let them explore the mall together; have everyone meet back in one hour for cake and presents. Their parents can give them shopping money, you have time to get things in order, and they have fun running a muck at the mall, supervised of course.

These are all great tips that are nearly free to you and the kids still have a blast. Your child feels satisfied they had the best birthday party of the year because its not “another party at the skating rink” they’ve been to ten times this year.