Frugal

Tired Of The Chokehold

To be totally honest, I am so sick and tired of paying off debt. It feels like a never-ending journey. It’s quite the phenomenon how quickly you can rack up debt, but how it takes forever to get rid of. No this isn’t a rant (well, it kind of is) about my debt paydown, but more how I conquer debt fatigue. Because folks, it’s very real.

I’ve been in debt for my entire adult life (wow, typing that just made me even more dedicated to getting out of deb). I’ve talked a bit about my dance with debt and how it wreaked havoc on my credit score. I started accruing debt my very first year in college. It started with student loans; innocent enough, right? Well, it quickly included consumer debt; credit cards. And honestly, it was basically a downwards spiral. I’m not naturally a saver, nor am I naturally frugal, so during my spendy years, I was not only totally ignoring my financial situation, but actively contributing to it’s demise…I know, a bit dramatic, but debt talk needs a bit of theatrics.

I did eventual get my head out of my ass out of the sand, but whoa, the damage had most certainly been done. By the time I figured I should start trying to do something about my debt and try to eventually live a life of minimal financial stress, I realized I had ways to go.

I researched different debt payoff methods; not going to get into debt avalanche vs debt snowball here, don’t worry. I opted for the debt avalanche method and am using ReadyforZero to help me. It’s great because I don’t have to put too much thought into it. I figured out how quickly I want out of debt, now (unrealistic); and how much I could put towards it every month; over $1000 which is unfortunately, not enough to get out of debt in less than three years. But, I have a plan in place and I’m sticking to the plan.

But….

I’m tired. Bone tired. Half of the time I wake up and think of all of things I can’t do (since I’m no longer accruing debt and all of my extra money is going towards debt) and I think, “This sucks. I just want to go and have dinner and drinks with my friends and not think about the cost, and I can’t.”

I have created mechanisms to fight this debt fatigue. Yes, I follow a budget (thanks YNAB) and every single penny is accounted for. I’ve budgeted for ” fun” money to combat said debt fatigue, but this fun money isn’t nearly as much as it was. True, my previous “fun” money was funded mostly by credit cards. I sometimes, okay often, feel deprived. When I was in my financial dark ages, I did whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Now, I act like a responsible adult and do activities that are in my budget.

I know a lot of hardcore PF bloggers have tackled their debt by cutting out “fun” money categories completely, but I just can’t. However, I’ve armed myself with several anti-spend weapons to keep my budget in check, continue with my debt payoff plan and still feel like I have a life. Like living in zombie-land, you must be prepared for all situations.

Anti-spend weapon #1: Embrace free activities. Mr. MyCountdown and I are all over every free activity we can find. Okay, so we don’t go to every free activity, but we live close enough to a major metropolitan area that there is always a plethora of things to do that are if not free, than really cheap. Spring through fall are the best. There’s free outdoor concerts everywhere, free festivals, street fairs and the list goes on. There’s literally something to do every weekend. During the colder winter months, if we can’t find a free activity, we make sure it’s pretty cheap or we stay home.

Anti-spend weapon #2: We never ever leave the house hungry. Never. We don’t want to get caught out of the house so hungry that we wind up eating bad fast food or salty, expensive restaurant food and then regret it as soon as we get home. If we plan to go to a festival, free park concert or such and only plan to be gone for about four hours, we eat plentifully at home (and quench our thirst) before leaving, making plans to come back home for the next meal of the day. If we’re gone longer, we bring snacks along for the car ride to hold us over until we get home. In fact, we have non-perishable snacks that live  permanently in the trunk of our car. I always bring my water bottle so I don’t have to purchase a drink while walking around. Okay, criminal activity exposed here: I even sneak my water bottle in my purse so I don’t have to purchase water if bringing outside beverages is a no no. And yes, I’ve been caught plenty of times and been asked to leave my water bottle at the gate, and no that hasn’t stopped me from doing it still (I just refuse to buy a $3-$5 bottle of water because I’m thirsty).

Anti-spend weapon #3: Family and friend activities. Our favorite activity is hosting friends and family and going to others homes as well. We always do it potluck style, that way food and drinks (I always supply an inexpensive bottle of wine to the festivities because, well, wine is always good) are incorporated into our general grocery budget, instead of our “fun” money category, which is extremely limited. We have game night, watch movies and even bust out the home karaoke machine (that’s when the party really gets going). We also enjoy these activities because it allows family and friends with children to join in the festivities.

Anti-spend weapon #4: Inexpensive or free hobbies. Both Mr. MyCountdown and I enjoy spending time outdoors and a great afternoon for us is typically going for a nice run, bike ride or long hike outside (with the Mr. taking pictures), or bringing a blanket with a few books to the park for a read and a nap. On cold, rainy or snowy days, the only thing I’m typically interested in doing is curling up on the couch with one of my cats and whatever novel I’m reading (you can also partake in less PG, but explicitly more fun adult activities with your significant other on these kinds of afternoons too 😉 ) and all the above are totally free.

Anti-spend weapon #5: Continually envision and focus on what my life will look like once I’m out of debt and all of my hard-earned money is mine to keep.

So yes, I have extreme debt fatigue at times. I’m pretty sure many folks in a similar situation do, but this is how I battle the ever-present fatigue.

What anti-spend weapons do you wield to defeat the “spendy” monsters and keep you on track with your financial goals? 

Brr! Exercising In The Cold

This past weekend was quite nice. The weather was sunny and perfect, probably the last of the warmer weekends we’ll get; I got to witness the supermoon eclipse (woo hoo) and Mr. MyCountdown and I went for a nice run together on Sunday (we often run separately due to our different work schedules) which was fun.

I’m generally pretty active for a variety of reasons. The obvious, health. Also, I work long hours and regular activity keeps my stress down to manageable levels and makes it so others can tolerate me :). I’m all for the frugal…okay, free physical activities. However, finding the best exercise is difficult depending on the season. I live in the Midwest and spring, summer and fall are great times for exercising outdoors, but winters can be awfully brutal. I hate to admit it, I’m not as hardcore as Mr. MyCountdown who runs outdoors every single day, no matter the weather. When the temps start to drop and the snow comes, I want to hide inside.

The changing weather has me thinking about my winter workout routine. How do you keep up with your exercising and blow off steam in a cramped condo in the middle of winter? This past winter, I tightened my boot straps and braved the cold weather more than I typically do. I figured if the Mr. could do it, so could I. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating and I ended up having a bit of fun out in the cold.

If you’re going to brave the winter elements, it’s imperative that you dress appropriately. If you don’t, not only is your workout likely to be cut short because you’re freezing, but you may also be subjecting yourself to harmful elements. First, dress in several layers and make sure the layers are made of sweat wicking material; you need to stay warm and dry. Avoid wearing any cotton (this is good advice in general when exercising if you want to avoid chafing – ouch!).

Cover up any exposed skin. Put Vaseline on your face and wear a face mask (try not to scare the neighbors since you may look like a cat burglar) to protect your skin from wind, rain and snow.

Wear a light, but water-proof outer jacket. If the wind is really blowing, you may want to take a scarf to wrap around your neck in addition to the face mask and outer layer jacket.

It’s important that you wear a headlamp so you stay visible, always carry your phone (though my iPhone stopped working this past winter when we were out running in minus ten degree weather; I guess there is such a thing as it being too cold outside), cash and your ID. Also, try not to venture too far from home in case the weather gets so bad that you have to abort your workout.

When I’m heading out in cold weather (I’m talking ten degrees or below), my gear is as follows:

  • Two or three thin, sweat-wicking bottom layers
  • Two pairs of socks, the one directly touching skin is wicking material
  • Four tops total; one short-sleeve wicking top, three long-sleeve wicking tops, one thin waterproof outer jacket with a hood and a very high collar
  • Two pairs of gloves; the outer pair is mittens!
  • Face mask, and a scarf if it’s really windy
  • Waterproof trail running shoes for grip.
  • Huge head lamp so the drivers don’t hit me!

One rule of thumb when dressing for an outdoor excursion is to dress for about twenty-five degrees warmer than what it actually is; this takes into account your rising body temperature as you exercise.

But what if it’s just too cold to go outdoors (like that minus ten degree day I did; that’s just crazy)?

I also took advantage of home workouts. There are tons of great workout videos online for free that can make you really work up a sweat. One of my favorite resources is the free Nike Training app. Boy oh boy, this app has some workouts that will make you cry get into shape.

You can also try one of these killer body weight circuits that Alyssa, from My Mixed Up Money, created.

For all the cold weather folks, how do you stay active when the temperature drops?