Saturday, January 17, 2009


Last year I turned 46. It was quite a surprise because for some reason, I’d spent the entire previous year thinking I was already 46. So I was thinking I was turning 47 until someone set me straight.

It was kind of like having a reverse birthday. I got to be 46 all over again (only this time it was for real). Some people do it on purpose. I wish I were that smart.

It was a tough year in some other ways, because things really tightened up in the economy. Fortunately, we’d already been tightening up in our budget.

The year before, we’d finally decided to quit buying things we couldn’t afford. If we couldn’t pay for it, we couldn’t afford it, so we wouldn’t get it. We’d quit spending, and by the end of last year, finally paid the last of them off, along with the Explorer, and a small business loan.

It wasn’t easy. We’d had to make some tough decisions, putting things off until the timing was better. I slashed payroll and started moping floors and cleaning toilets again.

As it turns out, that’s pretty good for the soul. Keeps you humble. It’s hard to feel like a big shot, when you have to go clean up after someone took a big… um, you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, we started with the smallest bill, and one by one, worked our way through them, getting rid of all those minimum payments. That made even more room in the budget, and finally we were taking big hunks out of the bigger bills.

It took a lot of hard work, but we stayed focused on the goal—to be debt free. We’re not there yet, but things are a lot better. Now it takes about half the money to make budget than it used to take. It’s a lot more fun when you don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul all the time.

Anyone can do it, too. Just pick up Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover” and start following his baby steps. It will change your life.

I think handling your finances correctly is a lot like getting in shape. Some people are carrying too much fat on their bodies. I was carrying too much fat in our finances—in the form of credit card debts, car payments, and business debt.

Just like being too heavy can cause new problems like diabetes and heart disease, excessive debt put such strain on our finances that we got further and further behind. It almost became terminal.

Clearly, a radical procedure was necessary, so we had what Dave calls a plasectomy—cutting up the cards and mailing them all back. We also had to seriously change our buying habits. If we didn’t need it, we didn’t get it. If we needed it, but didn’t have the cash, we still didn’t get it.

Sometimes we almost feel entitled to things. If we want it, we get it, even if we don’t have the money. It’s the American way. But that’s what’s thrown our country into the recent mortgage crisis. I think it’s why a lot of us our fat, too.

Now, we’re much more cautious about buying “stuff” we don’t really need. My wife and I rediscovered the library. Did you know you can actually check out and read books there that you don’t have to buy?

I also discovered the Goodwill store—my wife was already their best customer. Right now, everything I have on (except my tennis shoes) came from there, including my socks and underwear. Don’t worry, the underwear was brand new—and still in the bag.

We stopped having trash picked up out at the house, and every other day or so, I bring trash in town to my dumpster. Why have two, when we didn’t fill up either one? It saved almost $400 a year.

If you want to call me, you’ll have to call my cell, because we’re saving about $900 a year after dropping our land line phone. I started selling the extra firewood I cut in my spare time and worked weekends as a police officer.

It’s kind of like someone who needs to lose a hundred pounds to be healthy and has lost the first 50. It took a lot of changes. They had to start making better choices about eating right and exercising every day.

Now, they’re feeling better and have a lot more breathing room. They’re not there yet, but they’re well on their way. Now they know how to do it so it’s just a matter of time before they lose the other 50. Same with us.

Some people put the weight back on. I don’t ever want to get back into debt like that. To keep that from happening, I’m going to continue to work the plan. If we want it, we’ll save for it.

We’re going to run lean and mean, because fat is fat, wherever you find it. In my case, it was sloppy, excessive debt. We’ve had to work pretty hard to run that extra weight off. How about you? Is there any fat in your life you need to work off?

Sixty other people thought so as they weighed in for Biggest Loser “6” at the end of Week One. Over half of them lost more than 1% of their body weight, which is an amazing start. The average weight loss was 3.38 pounds!

First place went to the returning Bill Lewis, 68, who lost a crazy 5.6% of his body weight and 13.6 pounds. He’s pretty motivated, because after doing Biggest Loser “3” and “4” with us, he took a hiatus and had quite a set-back.

In his words, he “stopped working out and ate what he wanted.” Now he’s back to fix that, and is off to a very good start. I think he’d tell you that he’s a good example of both what to do, and what not to do. I’m pretty sure that this time, he’ll make it permanent.

Bill won a $20 Wal-Mart gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance. Terry and State Farm also gave all the participants special pedometers to help them with their workouts!

Second place went to Gary Goodman, 66, who lost 3.7% of his body weight and 7.8 pounds. Third place went to the ever-present Ericka Hollis, 36, who’s looking great, and lost another 3.6% of her body weight and 6.0 pounds.

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