Thursday, January 29, 2015

DietBet - Lose Weight to Win Cash

Normally, I am a sucker for gambling. Every Superbowl pool, March Madness bracket, even last years World Cup got me entering in for a chance to win. Any type of competition where money is involved, I'm up for the challenge. Along with the sports events, last year I was exposed to a new game called DietBet. Looking at the title alone, you know there are two key components: dieting and money. But what are the terms?

My friend at work who ran our DietBet was sure to note: This is not considered gambling because the outcome of your DietBet is based on skill, not luck. I was extremely intrigued and read the terms. $10 dollars to join. You weigh in in the first few days with a couple photos of yourself on the scale, and then you weigh out again, same procedure. Whoever meets the terms of the bet (the percentage of weight lost in the given period of time) wins! And if there is more than one winner, you split the pot! How easy is that? Well, maybe easier said than done. But my competitive nature is what allowed me to win, and split the pot with a few other people. So in the end I won the money I entered, and some.

This year we increased the stakes at a whopping $20 to enter. The pool is up to $300 and the contest is over in less than two weeks now. The terms are to lose at least 4% of your total body weight in one month. For me, that translated to about 8 lbs, which doesn't seem like a lot. But the hardest part is if you get to your goal too soon, you must maintain.

I'm sure you are probably asking how is this regulated? For one, everything is online. DietBet is a website where you can create a profile and access all of the challenges at the click of a button. There's also a handy app for smartphones where you can track everyone's progress and weigh in whenever you want. However, the only weigh-ins that matter are the first and the last. There are judges that work for DietBet that receive your photos and approve or reject. So you don't have to worry about friends or coworkers literally seeing your pictures. You receive a code word that you must include on a piece of paper next to the scale so the judges know the pictures are actually you and that you are taking them during the right times.

You may be wondering how I'm currently doing on DietBet. Right now I have hit 75% of my goal with about 1.5 more lbs to lose before the "weigh-out" in 11 days. I've noticed a slight plateau in changes so I need to rework a few things in my diet and exercise routine. But after all is said and done, if you're looking for a fun weigh to lose that holiday weight with your friends, family, or coworkers, this has worked for me in the past and is already helping me now. It's what has put me back on track with my goals, particularly my "resolution" of running a 5k in April for Alzheimer's. I have already shaved off minutes of my 5k-time and are well on the way to running the race straight through. And what's even better, I got my husband and brother and sister-in-laws to join! We have been encouraging each other and it has been really fun doing this together. Check out the website, I'll be sure to do a follow up of my results at the end of the challenge. 11 days to go and counting!

Monday, January 26, 2015

House Hunting - On Hold?

After marriage (especially almost a year and a half after marriage), most people expect one of the following from you:

a.) Have a baby
b.) Have a baby
c.) At least try to have a baby
d.) Buy a house

Now although I know I'm not exactly mentally prepared for a, b, or c, option d has definitely been on my mind. Jay and I spent most of last fall getting to know a realtor, venturing to open houses, and even coming close to putting down an offer. But as we were leaving that very house on the corner of a quiet block, I started asking myself questions. Would I really want three bedrooms on the lower level and the master on the upper? Do I want to demo and reno? What percentage is the right percentage for a down payment? Can I see us living here for 5 years? 20 years? Our entire adult life? Is this where I see us raising a family?

This is one of those instances in my married life where I've realized that everything truly happens for a reason. After taking a large step and a deep breath back, we knew this wasn't our time. We wanted to make sure we got this right instead of making any quick and impulsive decisions.

Below are a few key lessons learned from our recent home search:

a.) Save up as much money as possible. The more to put down, the better. 20% is ideal which seems pretty impossible. I commend anyone who has ever been able to save 5% or more, period. But the worst situation to be in is if you or your spouse loses your job and all of the sudden there isn't enough money for the mortgage payments.
b.) Know exactly what you are looking for. Whether it be the style of the house, the type of amenities, the layout, the work you'll want to put into it, you name it. If you are iffy on any factors, the realtor may have the ability to sway you otherwise. And no matter what they say, they're the ones making a buck or two off of you.
c.) Know your expenses. Take a look at your current expenses. And then add in all the types of things a homeowner needs to include. Like maintenance on landscape, plumbing, electrical, etc. When you rent, you don't realize how all these things add up. If a pipe bursts, you call your landlord or leasing office. But when you own, you're literally on your own. That pipe becomes your problem.
d.) Know your debt. When they run your credit to approve how much money you'll be granted for a mortgage, the bank takes a look at everything. And I mean everything. From student loans to the number of open credit cards you hold. A larger credit line almost looks like a liability (the more money you could technically borrow). I've been in the process myself of paying off some cards and cancelling them so I don't have as many active accounts. I'm a sucker for a good deal, but I have to remember you don't always need the "store" card to save a few dollars.

With all of this in mind, we have put our house hunt on hold for at least another year. We'll probably get the itch again in the fall and start re-inserting ourselves in the market. But at least we'll be a little bit more educated and hopefully in a better place to find our forever home. Take my advice for what it's worth, I'm no expert. But this past year has been eye opening and definitely a learning experience for us. And no babies anytime soon! Not quite yet at least..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Running for a Reason

After almost half a month into the new year, I can proudly conclude that I am well on my way to accomplishing one of my resolutions. The motivation for it really came to me after a vivid dream with my Grandpa. He passed away in 2014 from a battle with Alzheimer's and dementia.

The dream:
It was Christmas morning and we were all in the living room opening gifts. My grandpa was there, and he was in his normal state, long before the effects of Alzheimer's took over his mind. He was wearing his signature light wash jeans and crew-neck sweatshirt. And I still remember how piercing his blue eyes looked as he stood and smiled over us. He was telling stories and laughing, and I remember thinking "wow, he really looks great." All of the sudden, I begin crying and ask him for a hug. I tell him I miss him, and he responds back, "I miss you too. But I am always with you and watching over you everyday." This must have immediately jolted me out of the dream because I woke up pretty hysterical. It felt so real and I truly believe he was reaching out to me. This was the first person close to me that I have ever lost, and I still struggle knowing he is gone. I can still hear his voice in my mind and I try to hold tight to every single memory I have of him. The dream felt so real and it makes me believe that he is out there and making sure I am OK.

After talking to my husband and mom about it, I knew I wanted to do something in his honor in 2015. When I came across a 5k event for Alzheimer's, I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate his life. The race isn't until April 25th, so I have a good amount of time to prepare. I have already started testing my endurance by running on the tread-mill a few days a week. My goal is to get my time down to 30 minutes. That sounds like plenty to achieve 3.1 miles, but I was never a fast runner. I was always the girl who couldn't keep up with the sprinters on my soccer team, so instead I embraced my strength of kicking and potentially knocking girls over if they were in my way. Just last night I ran 3.1 in 35 minutes, shaving a minute off my initial time just a week ago. If I keep this up, I know I can do it.

This race will not only test my will and my body, but my mind as I will be thinking of one person the whole time. If my grandpa could only read this and know that I love and miss him so much. I will always keep him in my heart, and remember that he is with me. I know I will make him proud.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Problem with Resolutions

You may not remember me, considering I haven't posted anything since the end of October. Pretty lame, right? I can't put into words my writers block - life just kind of threw me into the whirlwind of the holiday season. I felt like the singer Sting at the Kennedy Center Honors, and how he all the sudden couldn't write songs anymore. Lucky for us, it didn't last forever. Lucky for me, I guess I needed the kick of the New Year to really get motivated again. Sometimes we need a life event to give us that little extra push, I'm happy mine was 2015.

Most people for the New Year decide on a major resolution. To lose weight, quit smoking, save money, get a better job. The list could go on and on. I know from my own experience that resolutions are extremely hard to keep the entire year. One would think that a single goal in 365 days could be managed and maintained. But the term "resolution" itself can be a little misleading. We tend to glorify it as this object, when to me it really is something along the lines of "I have a problem and I need to resolve it." That's where I think we're all going wrong. We think a piece of our lives is a bit of a problem and we must fix it or else. But I truly don't believe that is the case.

So instead of thinking our lives are troublesome, why can't we think of setting short-term goals? Goals that could eventually lead to something wider-spanned and long lived? Where we are not necessarily fixing something in our lives that is "broken," but making something better? A more enhanced version of ourselves? Where we can look back and say we didn't set these unattainable resolutions that remain to sit high on a pedestal?

And just to kick off this conversation, here are a few of my short-term goals. We have to start from somewhere, right?

1. Enter and complete a 5k by summertime
2. Try my extreme hardest not to "sweat the small stuff" (I'm sure my husband will be happy about this one)
3. Learn and grow in my new position at work and don't get discouraged by obstacles
4. Plan a trip that won't break the bank
5. Remember that everything happens for a reason and stay positive

I think that's a firm number - 5. I mean I could probably set 100 things easily to accomplish off the top of my head, but they don't say "baby steps" for no reason. I encourage anyone who reads this to remember that seemingly small thoughts can snowball into life-changing resolutions, all we need is the idea and belief that we can get there.

Happy New Year and here's to 2015!

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