I know people can be really negative about New Year’s Resolutions. I, too, have joined in the fun, joking about how I couldn’t wait for February so I could once again nab a treadmill at the gym. But for all the jokes, sometimes the clean slate of the New Year coupled with a bone-deep realization that something has to change produce magical results. That is what 2017 was for me.
Not that I didn’t work really, really hard to make it happen. There were times when I would be frustrated and wonder if it was all going to be worth it. When that thought crept into my head, I would remind myself that if I wanted to change my life I had to change my life. And I really wanted to change my life.
Not every aspect of my life, of course. I had some great things going for me. I had a great group of friends, and a good relationship with my family. I made a good salary—although I felt stagnant in my job. I was putting money away for retirement.
But my debt just never seemed to go away. And my health! I started 2017 at the exact weight I weighed in January of 2012. In those intervening five years I had lost almost 50 pounds and gotten in great shape, completing two sprint triathlons, only to gain it all back and once again be winded climbing one flight of stairs!
Things had to change and for that to happen, I had to change. And I did.
My Debt ( ↓ $43,916)
When I started the year, my non-mortgage debt was $59,043. Most of that was student loans ($31,342) with the rest ($27,701) a mix of credit cards, a car loan, and a home equity loan.
Initially, my plan was to pay everything off but my student loans by October 2018 (22 months). My motivation was that I wanted to move to a new city by the end of 2018, one that I have always wanted to live in but which has a much higher cost of living. This means life there would be easier with less debt.
My plans changed when I started listening to Dave Ramsey and realized that what I had first thought was ambitious was pretty lame. Given my salary, I calculated that if I stopped spending on all non-essentials and put all but $1,000 of my emergency fund toward my debt, I could pay off everything—including my student loans—in 16 months.
Was I crazy? Could I really do it? All those people doing their debt-free screams did it. Why not me?
Funny enough, cutting back on my spending, while tedious, was easier than pulling the money out of my emergency fund. I had been super clever (not!) and invested the money instead of treating it as money I should be able to access quickly. But I did withdraw it and with that $15,000 plus my tax return, a bonus, and any extra I could find, in the last 12 months I have paid off $43,916 in debt.
This leaves me with just $15,127 left to pay off over the next four months. I am confident that I will do it despite the math being a little fuzzy at this point. Why so confident? Because since deciding to do this, things I thought impossible have been not only possible but sometimes fairly easy. Worrying I will fail is a waste of time. I need to stay focused on making it happen. If I hit a speed bump, I will deal with it then.
My Weight ( ↓ 36.2 lbs.)
I am not big on journaling but I did so fairly regularly in the first half of the year (actually, up until I started this blog). On January 1, 2017, I wrote that I had decided to try Keto, a low carb- high fat approach to eating, because I was so hungry and tired and irritable on a restricted calorie diet that the promise of achieving weight loss without hunger was irresistible.
What sticks out the most from this entry is this sentence: “I no longer want to be a food failure.” Wow. I was not in a good place.
I can’t tell you that the first few months of eating low carb-high fat were easy, or that the weight just fell off. When you go from eating a lot of carbs to eating very few, there is a period of transition (known as “Keto flu”) as your body adjusts to using ketones for fuel instead of glucose. How long this takes depends on a lot of factors. In my case, I think it took at least three months based on how crappy I felt.
Fortunately, while I may not have had a lot of energy, it was remarkable how quickly the carb cravings went away. And even though it was a very slow weight loss, I was losing. At my current rate, by the end of 2018, I will be just 18 lbs. shy of my goal weight. That’s an achievement worth waiting for!
No Longer a Failure with Food
The best part about Keto is that my relationship with food is the best it’s been since the 1970s (seriously, I have been overeating since I was in kindergarten). I started Keto to lose weight but I’m sticking with it because I no longer feel like a food failure.
I used to spend so much time thinking about food—it was almost like it was a drug I was addicted to. On Friday nights, I would stop at the grocery story for my sweet and salty fix and drive straight home to consume it, practically vibrating with anticipation. After I had eaten it all, I would feel terrible. I was nauseous, of course, but I also hated myself for being so weak.
Now, this just doesn’t happen. I eat when I am hungry, and stop when I am full. And I continue to lose weight. Who would give that up for a slice of bread? Not me.
Paying off debt and losing weight weren’t my only resolutions. While not perfect, I am pretty pleased with my progress on all but one of the others (and that last one just isn’t for me).
Plan a Career Pivot
While I technically have the exact same job I had this time last year, a lot has changed. I have taken on new responsibilities that have definitely made things more challenging (in a good way). These skills will help me with finding a job in the city I plan to move to (and could even lead to a position with my current employer in the new city). It isn’t perfect but I no longer feel like I’m stagnating.
Get to Bed Earlier
My resolution was to get to bed by 11:30 on nights when I had to work the next morning and 1 am on other nights. Progress has been hit and miss (what can I say—I’m a night owl!). I am keeping this as a resolution in 2018 and vow to do better.
I didn’t really tackle this one until August but ever since then, I have been very pleased with my progress. In fact, my story was highlighted on Problogger.com along with four other bloggers who started in 2017.
Blogging is definitely staying on the list!
Watch Less TV and Read/Listen to Podcasts More
I have this one down. Not only am I reading more but I am reading non-fiction which for years I stayed away from. Podcasts have been a great addition too, especially on my commute to and from work. I even listen at 1.25 speed so I can consume even more!
Spend More Time on My Side Hustle
This one I have done okay on. I met my goal for number of clients for the year and for that I am pleased. I still think I could have pushed myself harder, however. It is staying on the list!
Exercise 90-120 Minutes/Week Including Some Strength Training
This is one I need to work harder on. I have done okay on getting in the number of minutes but have focused mostly on cardio and not strength-training. Once I am out of debt, I may try to find a trainer to work with. I think having someone hold me accountable is key.
I failed at this. Miserably. I don’t think I have meditated since July. I get the science that says it helps you focus but I hate sitting still. If it works for you, then go for it. As for me, it will not stay on the list.
A New Me
I still have some work to do but 2017 taught me a lot. Mostly, that I am more capable of kicking butt than I would have ever thought possible. I know 2018 is going to be just as amazing!
© 2017-2019 Good Life. Better.
This is seriously inspiring. I was going to just list out my financial goals, but now I think I will write them out. Blogging definitely helps with the accountability of sticking to them for the whole year.
Thank you! Knowing exactly why I was doing it was key. If I had just said to myself “life will be easier without debt” it would have been less motivating. I needed to say “debt is preventing me from doing xyz.” And the strategy of monitoring is so amazingly powerful! I give myself gold stars (because you are never too old for gold stars!)
I made a lot of progress in 2017 as well. One thing I still need to work on is my weight. I got started a few days ago on Weight Watchers and I’m down 2.6 lbs already!
That’s great! I’m glad you made progress in 2017 and are continuing into 2018!