The Money Diet: week 7, and back on track

I'm going to begin with a story.

Yesterday morning, I got a glimpse into why it's important to try to lose weight. My 8-year-old daughter was about to board her school bus and realized her homework was in her school bag, back at our house. And so I told her how sorry I was, but that she'd have to just do without it. Then I quickly felt like a jerk because her voice quivered and she started to get teary- eyed.

Knowing the school bus would be in our neighborhood for another several minutes, picking up other kids, I asked if I could meet the bus on another street. The bus driver agreed.

After grabbing her backpack, I wanted to hop in the car and drive over to meet the bus driver, but that wasn't an option. My wife had left the house early with our family car; my own dilapidated automobile was in a far-flung part of our driveway, buried in a snow heap.

I was going to have to make a run for it.

And so the long and short of my story is that I had about five minutes to run down a very long street and into my house, grab the pink backpack, race back down my street and then veer left and race down another street. As anyone who's been reading this series, The Money Diet, knows, I'm kind of a big man. Meaning, I could stand to lose a few pounds, if "few" can mean a few dozen.

Running is something I generally only do if a rabid dog is chasing me. So as I raced through the streets of my neighborhood, only slipping on the ice and falling into a snowbank once, I kept thinking: Boy, I need to get into shape.

Actually, that's not true. Near the last half of my run, I was so winded, I couldn't think straight. If you could have read my thoughts, you probably would have seen something closer to: Help... medic... oxygen...

Meanwhile, a few neighbors passed by in their cars, staring at me and probably wondering if they should call 911.

The good news, is I managed to reach the bus in time, handing off the backpack to my very relieved daughter. And I didn't have a heart attack or pass out in front of my girls, their friends and the school bus driver, so I suppose that could be considered some small victory. Maybe I'm getting closer to the fitness level where I need to be.

Now let's get back to the Money Diet. As regular readers know, I resolved on January 1 to finally get serious about losing weight. I battled my weight in my 20s, successfully shedding what I thought was a lot of weight -- twice -- but then I got married and started putting on pounds immediately. Married life will do that to you, I guess. So I'd spent most of my 30s watching the numbers on my scale go up -- and up -- and up -- until finally, just before my 40th birthday, I decided I was going to buckle down and lose the weight.

So I came up with this "Money Diet" idea, where I'm using my wallet as a motivational tool to help me lose weight. Every time I don't spend money on junk food or fast food, I count that as money I've saved. At the end of every week, I add up how much money I didn't spend. It's a gimmick, but if it works, I figure, "Who cares?"

Well, last week, as regular readers know, I didn't do so well. I don't know quite how it happened, but I had a weekend where I just conveniently forgot I was trying to lose weight, and I wound up going to McDonald's, then Papa John's for pizza and the following day, KFC (it was Super Bowl Sunday, in my defense). Also, in one evening, I scarfed down an entire box of Wheat Thins (Reduced Fat, but an entire box is an entire box). Not surprisingly, I re-gained four pounds.

Well, this week, I'm pleased to say that I re-focused. I re-lost those four pounds, plus another pound.

So here's where I am:

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 252
My weight this week: 247

Phew. And here's what I think I probably saved:
  • Bag of my favorite pretzels that I used to buy every week (and sometimes twice a week). Still haven't purchased them. Actual savings: $3.29.
  • Didn't buy Reduced Fat Wheat Thins this week. Maybe later, when I trust myself. Estimated savings (since I can't remember the actual price): $3
  • Didn't take any of my two daughters' Valentine's Day candy. Not one piece. Hard to say what I saved here. My 8-year-old asked for a big box of Valentine's Day candy, and I felt like I should get my youngest the same thing. So I wound up spending $12 on candy for them, candy they still haven't completely finished off (so it's still in our kitchen, taunting me). Let's just say that my estimated savings of Valentine's Day chocolate that I haven't filched adds up to: $3
  • Haven't sneaked into the kitchen and eaten any of the Girl Scout cookies that we felt obligated to buy since our daughters are Scouts. Estimated savings, again, I'll go with: $3
  • Drove to a McDonald's after taking one of my daughters to the YMCA (at least my kids get regular exercise), and I bought my wife and kids lunch, but I didn't buy myself anything, which is news I'll be reporting to the Vatican, since I do believe this would constitute a miracle. Estimated savings: $5
  • I drink Diet Coke and generic store-branded diet soda, but my wife always has a supply of Coca-Cola, and I didn't steal any, as I used to -- quite frequently. Estimated savings: $3.50.
  • Ate at a restaurant over the weekend with my wife, kids, parents and other relatives. Didn't order french fries or dessert. OK, no one ordered dessert, but I'm still going to count that. Estimated savings: $5
There may be more that I could add to the list -- in fact, I'm sure there is -- but that looks about right. So let's tally it up and see how I did.

My total saved this week: $25.79
Total saved this year so far: $170.44

It's interesting how consistent I've been. Just about every week, my tally comes to around $25 saved. I never thought I'd budgeted for my snack and junk food tastes, but I guess in a way, I'd been doing just that.

At any rate, I'm very pleased with how this dieting is going, although I probably won't get too excited until I can knock off another 10 or 20 pounds. What I really need to do -- as I say almost every week -- is get back to the gym. Or at least I should try to start exercising regularly in some way. I guess I could start by shoveling out my car.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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