Friday, January 8, 2010

Crash Diets Are Easy. Lifestyle Changes Are Hard.

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. Like most people, I gained an extra 5 lbs during the holidays. (The gift baskets, chocolates and other goodies we received at work from vendors haven't helped.) I've been trying to make a "lifestyle change" by incorporating exercise and healthy eating habits into my daily routine. When all I've been doing the past couple of years is sitting on my keister in front of the TV or computer, this change takes a bit of getting used to. I'm trying to get the hang of my new regimen and schedule.

I've been easing myself into a new lifestyle that is a compromise of eating/exercising moderately while very occasionally indulging in the so-called "bad" stuff. I know I won't lose weight quickly this way, but this is the only way to go. After all, I know myself - - I know I'll stick to a crash diet and exercise only for the short term because: (a) I'm a yo-yo dieter, (b) I hate exercising and (c) I love to eat, especially deep fried, salty, fatty foods. I'd rather try to aim for a lifestyle that may not be the paragon of health but is at least do-able for the long-term.

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Just as much as I don't care for the boot camp-style crash diet and exercise, I don't care for the crash-elimination of my debts either. I'd rather attack my debts at a steady pace while trying to maintain a financially responsible lifestyle. (Keyword: trying.)

I bring this up only because I was pondering whether I should use my recent windfall to pay off a significant chunk of my private student loans. After careful consideration, I've opted not to do so based purely for psychological reasons, not economic.

I have a masochistic need to self-flagellate myself for the debt I've gotten myself into. Paying off a significant portion (over 50%) of my private student loans in one fell swoop with a windfall feels like cheating. Kind of like a weight-loss contestant who uses diuretics right before his/her weigh-in. I know, I know - - The analogy is not perfect. But just as water weight will inevitably return, I'm afraid that debt paid off with "easy money" will just as easily come back in a different form. I've witnessed too many people who "pay off" their debts by using inheritance money or refinancing their homes, only to get right back into debt. I have a deep seated fear that I will be one of them.

As you know, I fell off my snowball plan in October when I paid off my credit card debt. I spent money freely in November (and especially) December, knowing that I was going to come into the windfall. I have yet to get back to my frugal ways. I feel I haven't demonstrated to myself that I am financially responsible. Until I do so, I think it would be best not to put my debts on a crash diet. Instead, I'm sending my windfall to my savings account to gain some fat.

8 comments:

444 said...

You have paid off several boatloads of debt recently. I second your decision not to pay off the student loans. They are at reasonable rates, right? I think it would be sort of like dropping the money into a hole. They'd say, "Thank you very much" and that's the last nice thing you'd ever get from paying those off (other than some increased cash flow, but I assume that is not a big problem.)

I tend to want to work money, but you already know that about me. So I think it is a good idea to do something with that money other than paying off low-interest debt.

Well-Heeled said...

I'm doing The 30 Day Shred - it's an exercise program that only takes 20 minutes a day but will take inches off your body if you do it consistently (according to all the positive reviews from bloggers out there).

I'm hold a challenge on my blog.. it might be worth it to check it out. :)

http://www.wellheeledblog.com/2010/01/06/wellheeled-blog-30day-shred-challenge/

Moving on up! said...

We've all fallen off the wagon. Gosh, If I counted how many times I have I would be crazy. I have tried eating less and exercising a bit more. I only lost 6lbs this year, but it's better than nothing. I'm tempted to try the faster version!

paranoidasteroid said...

Sign up for a race with someone! As much as I hate the idea of the 10mi we're doing in April, I also know that I am going to have to stick to my plan, or I'll die mid-race and embarass myself.

I think your decision was a good one - you know yourself better than anyone else. Maybe as a compromise you could put the interest it generates in savings toward your debts?

jpkittie said...

Get back on that bandwagon!!! you have been an inspiration for all of us out here! Do it for us (does that make sense?!?! haha)

you can do it!!!!

homeinkabul said...

Hey,

You make perfect sense. And it's always good to put it in a savings account and think about it for a while.

Money Beagle said...

I would see nothing wrong with paying off loans with all or part of your windfall should you decide to give it more consideration. I don't think it's cheating at all especially in your case, where you've been extremely organized and diligent about paying off your debt (and staying away from new debt) recently. While it's true, as others have suggested, that you might not have a cash flow issue or that you could make more by investing it in other areas (not sure what the interest rates are), you have to balance those with the peace of mind that you'd get from reducing your loan debt. If that burden weighs on you, think of it as lifting half off that from your shoulders in one fell swoop. And never having to carry it again! I think either way you can make a wise decision, and I'm sure you will, but I think what it probably boils down to is how anxious you are to get out of debt. That depends on each person. Good luck in making your decision, and be forewarned that I probably will reference your post in an upcoming post, because I've got a (much smaller) windfall coming and this exact question is being discussed in the Beagle household.

Revanche said...

The more I think about your reasoning, the more I like the logic.

Learning frugality and responsibility is more than just learning a single lesson, it's making it become a habit. If your honest self-assessment is that you haven't yet acquired the habit, then it makes sense to reroute that money to a different cause so as not to undermine your efforts.