It's been two weeks since my last Keto/weight loss update so it's time for an update. I hid the columns from 1/1/18 to 2/17/19 on my spreadsheet as it was becoming impossible to read (yes there is more than a 1 lb loss between 260 and 234 haha) and I wanted to make it easy to see this week's changes as well as totals. Here we go...
5.6 pounds guys... in two weeks I lost 5.6 pounds! That's awesome news and I'm absolutely thrilled. Even better I went down almost a full point on the BMI scale AND lost inches. I did go up in my chest measurement but I think that I just mis-measured last time as it was exactly what it was the previous measurement day again. That means I've now lost 31.6 pounds and 21.2 inches total. I would really like to get to 50 pounds down by Gaufest in June but I'm trying to not to set unreachable goals (that would be at least 2 pounds per week every single week until then which is not guaranteed even if you are eating perfectly, on any diet plan). Instead my goal is to continue my progress towards 50 pounds gone by the end of the summer and if I get close before then I will adjust the goal to a larger number (such as "below 200 by the end of summer"... for the first time in a decade. That would be beyond wonderful to get there.)
For the last two weeks:
Another thing that I'm tracking is how well my weight loss correlates with what's going on in my life as those might be useful once I have more information. If I lose a lot less weight when I feel my sleep has been horrible than when its been ok or great then I will know that I need to focus more on that for instance. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest...
Compliance/Remaining "Keto": 9
Quick Keto Meal Idea:
For lunches this past set of meal preps I've done a number of lettuce wraps: salsa chicken, beef taco, tuna salad, ham and cheese, etc. It's a quick and simple way to eat something you would normally have with a lot of carbs- like tacos or sandwiches- or to mix up the same ingredients in a new way. A few pieces of leaf lettuce and leftovers packs a lunchbox in minutes which is definitely something I can get behind.
Try some of the following...
What other fillings for lettuce wraps do you do in your household? Let me know!
Until next time,
I went to Los Angeles this past weekend and so the girls needed to stay with their Oma and Papaw while I was away. I wanted to take you along on my 5 minute packing routine for when they travel as we've got it down to a science just about at this point- the girls have been traveling regularly since birth just about. Check over on the "The Pups" tab for quick links in the future if you're interested in what we're currently using as well as quick links to any pup/pet related posts. You can also check out their Instagram feed directly from that page if you're interested in cute puppy pictures.
Car Seat/Travel Carrier: Pet Gear I-Go-2 Travel Carrier
Travel Sleep Containment: Unleashed Pets Portable Foldable Pet Playpen
Diaper Bag: Overland Dog Gear Week Away Tote
Water Bottle: H2O4K9 Stainless Steel K9 Water Bottle
Travel Bowls: Dexas Popware for Pets Elevated Pet Feeders
Travel Waterer: Petmate Pet Cafe Gravity Waterer 0.25 G
Food Storage: Gamma2 Travel-tainer
There are several upcoming review posts in the works for the items we've been using recently so be on the lookout for them if you're interested. I try to utilize items for multiple trips before reviewing so it takes quite a while on travel items like these sadly but you'll get a full look at the good and bad over time by doing this which is something I look for when determining what to purchase for my pups so I wanted to make sure to offer those perspectives.
Until next time,
Fetch Rewards is the newest app to be reviewed in this series all about getting more for the purchases you already make. This particular app rewards you with points for grocery receipts. By grocery receipts they mean your normal grocery stores but also convenience stores, liquor stores, drug stores, and more. According to their website, the thing that sets them apart from other couponing apps is that you don't have to sort through a list of offers to select from and are not limited to a specific set of stores. I have to admit, this appealed to my time-saving self quite a bit so I downloaded it to give it a try.
Once I opened the app I was a little confused by the layout of the homepage. It appeared to me that the point they had stressed was an outright lie- I would have to choose offers! I was quite disappointed but after working with the app for a while I realized that my original disappointment was unwarranted. The app should have a better set of instructions or be laid out a little differently in my opinion for optimum understanding of how to use all the features. Since it doesn't appear that it's going to happen right away we're going to have to do a little more explanation here than we normally would when reviewing an app.
Logging into the app takes you to the first photo with a list of special offers and brands with current offers. When you click the plus sign it will add it to the "Plan" screen. This is what was originally confusing for me. I couldn't figure out how to add things from my planner to a specific receipt. The answer= you don't have to. The purpose of the plan screen is just like it sounds, you can plan purchases ahead of time if you'd like to take advantage of extra points off- but you don't have to add them to any list in order to get the points back. Sometimes when you upload a receipt they will even let you know that if you purchase something else on your next trip then you will get additional points or qualify for points with an item on your current receipt. Those items go onto the Plan tab as well for easy recall. Just check them off and a 'clear' button will appear so that you can remove them from the list for the next week. I probably should have figured it out sooner if I'm honest but now you don't need to go through that small frustration.
This is the Scan tab. I want to say right up front that I didn't actually spend $842 for just my food in two months. This includes a trip to Walmart where they counted the entire trip even though only a few things were grocery related as well as a purchase for work of a little over $300 that I scanned in without thinking as I was going through my receipts from the evening one night. I didn't actually get any offers on that receipt but did get an extra 250 points for adding it to the app (you get points just for uploading even if there are no offers that match your receipt, I've had either 100 or 250 point offers for uploading so far). I wanted to be 100% upfront on that so that you wouldn't think my spending was astronomical and that's why I was able to cash out on the app.
On this screen you can scroll through uploaded receipts, see statistics for your points, and upload new ones. The little blue button takes you to a screen showing how to connect your email and Amazon accounts to the app for additional points. I did not do that for these (but totally should have, I had a lot of purchases for the house that were e-commerce this month as I've been fixing it up and finding better prices online for needed items) so my numbers would have gone up if I had.
The orange camera button is the one that we're looking for on this screen. Click it to open the camera, align the receipt and snap a photo. That's it, no need to add additional information, do survey info (some apps require one or both of those as we'll see in later installments of this series) or etc. It will upload the receipt and you'll get a read out of the number of points it qualified in less than a minute.
We'll come back to Rewards tab in a minute. Next we're looking at the "My Account" tab which will have your name, phone number, email and the number of points you have currently. You can also add a photo if you'd like. I hadn't done so when I did the walk through yet.
Signing up for Fetch Rewards also signs you up for SingleCare which is a prescription savings plan. Prescription savings plans can be helpful if you aren't able to get good prices on your medication with your prescription drug plan or don't have one. I would caution you to be careful with how you use them though as you typically won't get credit for the purchase on your insurance deductibles and out of pocket maximums so you may pay more money in total for the year if you don't take everything into consideration. Becoming an informed consumer in our current medical environment is extremely important and is one of the things I stress to employees in my day job (HR Manager) each year.
You can also adjust app settings, visit the Help Center and rate the app from this screen if you scroll down into the "Learn More" area you can see visible on the bottom of my screen shot.
And now we can get to the part everyone came here for... the Rewards!
The first screen is rewards options arranged by category, the second by points level and the last is a listing of all the Rewards you have claimed. I chose an Amazon gift card as you can see.
I clicked over into the 10,000 point category so that you could see a few of the rewards options. Typically its going to be at around 1,000 points equaling $1 which means that your average receipt with no additional offers on it will net you either $0.10 or $0.25. That's higher than the last one reviewed (but that one was all receipts rather than just these categories of store). Another neat thing is that they allow you to donate to charities if you don't want your cash back. I haven't seen this feature elsewhere but think its lovely.
And as always- proof that I actually got the reward they promised me.
As for what I think of the app... I like it. I wish it was either better laid out or explained for first time users but other than that its actually really simple to get points and I earned an average of $5 per month using this app for grocery spending that I was already doing. If I bought more name brand items I would be getting more money back from them but that's not how I shop personally. I like to buy mostly fresh vegetables, meat and the occasional seasoning packet or canned or frozen veggie from the inside aisles but most of my shopping is done on the outside edges of the store where few coupons or offers are available. It's nice that I can still get a little bit of money back on even these kinds of purchases though. Staying at this rate of rewards earning would put me at about $60 a year in money I didn't have to do anything for other than give them a photo of my receipts. An easy trade for me. This app is one that will be staying on my phone.
If you're interested in trying it out and want to get 2,000 bonus points after you upload your first receipt just use my referral code: HE3JP
Until next time,
I all but live in my car... legitimately. Last year I put almost 35,000 miles on it (super glad I had a hybrid or the gas would have killed me!) between work, side hustles, choruses and folk dance, and errands around town. There were two small road trips in there to be completely fair but they were both only a couple days long so didn't make a huge impact on that number. All that is said mostly so that you understand why I have so much stuff in my car. :)
This year I'm trying to keep my car organized, clean and clutter free. I haven't done super well on that if I'm honest but as part of the KonMari challenge I set for myself I thought that my car should count as a space that needed de-cluttering. Unfortunately I lost the footage for almost all of the actual sorting and organizing part of the challenge (nooooooo!) but I did manage to get footage of the afters and in some cases I had photos from in progress. That's the case for my car thankfully.
When I cleaned out my car I really only had things in the trunk and center console surprisingly so this was the fastest area I de-cluttered in the entire process. It's rather cold here at the moment so I brought everything inside onto the couch to go through.
The coat and 'Heather' bag both have places they should be living other than in my car so they were put away immediately which left me with a minimal amount of sorting and some folding to do. The first thing I did was go through the trunk organizer (the blue contraption with white daisies on it). In it I had a lot of things that I haven't even looked at in a year including some medications. Oops. Those obviously had expired so they were disposed of as well as a package of dried out hand wipes, old papers and notebooks from classes and seminars, and various odds and ends that must have seemed important to carry around at the time I put them in my car.
Next up was my emergency hygiene kit. You'd be surprised how often I have to break into this. Since I'm away from the house so often having a travel size of a few important things like makeup wipes, toothpaste, tissues and a deodorant in my car along with an extra pair of contacts and some feminine hygiene items means no worries or last minute dashes into a drug store if I'm in need of something. This saves me time and money and has been a part of my emergency kit since I was a teacher.
This kit is stored in the front pouch of my trunk organizer bin for quick access. On the side pockets I have sun screens- in case I have little ones in the back seat- and a bag carrier tool that I haven't had a chance to try out yet. I may end up getting rid of it but I do want to see how it works before I do that.
I put all of the bags, ID tags, and shirts for side hustles I'm trying out into the Favor pizza bag so that they would be available if I had time to pick up a shift. That is stored behind the organizer on top of where the car's battery is located. With a hybrid my trunk space was basically halved from other cars of the same model so there is a ledge that is perfect for storing items like that bag. Then I added a first aid kit, my Bible, a bag with pencils & highlighters (for chorus rehearsal), and the car's emergency kit (road hazard triangle, tools, jumper cables, and etc.) in the front two compartments of the organizer and an insulated cooler bag went into the last compartment. I used Marie Kondo's method of folding to fold all of my reusable grocery bags into the cooler bag and I was good to go. I don't believe she actually has a tutorial on how to fold reusable shopping bags but I used her method of making a rectangle, tucking in any bits that overhang it and them folding in thirds. Here's a video showing how I did this.
The entire process took about half an hour and having a clutter free car trunk has actually helped keep me accountable to my goal of keeping the rest of the car clean and organized. Right now I have to get it washed and vacuumed but other than that I would say it's clean and presentable. I just took a new hire to lunch in it and had no second glances from him or anxiety from me about the state of my car and I didn't have to make sure it was clean the night before. Steps in the right direction for someone as prone to a cluttered car as I have been known to be in the past.
Did you include your car in your de-cluttering efforts? Let me know, I'm curious if I'm the only one who prioritized that space or not.
Until next time,
Continuing on from last week’s clothing decluttering post we’re moving on to the second task on Marie Kondo’s list: Books.
I used to have a ton of books. I had three bookshelves stacked two deep in books while I was in college. When I got engaged had found a job in Dongducheon, South Korea to be near my ex I realized that the logistics of me storing all of those books for an indefinite amount of time was just not going to work. So I gave away and donated about half of them. After coming back to the US and unpacking two households (my college apartment plus our joint things from Korea) I once again consolidated the books, halving them again as there was simply no way we could continue to bring them from home to home. All this to say that I’m not new to decluttering books… but I’m also good at collecting them. I love books. Curing up with a good book and a cup of tea on a cold evening is one of my favorite pastimes.
This time around I had a full bookcase to begin the decluttering process with. In Marie Kondo style I started pulling them all out of the shelves. I didn’t have enough room to take down the teaching books (that I also actually needed to keep whether or not they brought me joy… a departure from her method) so those stayed on the shelf. Oops, not a perfect KonMari decluttering here either but it worked nonetheless.
The KonMari method would have had me ‘wake up’ the books by touching them all then, without opening the books, hold them and decide if they ‘spark joy’ or not. If they don’t then you discard them. Simple, quick and you would think fairly easy. I found this one less easy than it sounds on paper because there are books that I have not for regular use or because they bring me joy but because they are useful- a concordance, sheet music, teaching materials and books, etc. There are also some books that don’t themselves bring me joy but doing the activity that it helps me to do does bring joy- singing the songs from my music collection, cooking, etc. I also have books that I am saving for when my nieces visit, for use in my classroom and for my future children. None of those really felt like they fit into her plan for decluttering books. Perhaps I misunderstood her idea of sparking joy here but I definitely kept books that didn’t spark joy when everything was said and done.
Books were just hard and to be honest I didn’t like her method when applied to them. It did force me to think about the books I kept though which I’m going to take as the lesson of the day and move on to another area. I had some books that don’t fit my life any longer- ballet books for instance, I no longer teach ballet and don’t see that in my immediate future or cookbooks full of recipes that contain gluten… I’m never going to use them, I can’t- all of those made their way to the sell & donate piles as well as a few others. Another handful of books are heading to my sister for the girls to enjoy now rather than when they visit. All in all I got rid of a large box of books, I would estimate 25-30.
Next up is supposed to be Papers, and we’ll get to that next week, but I actually did a quick declutter of my car first as I was about to go out of town and all the decluttering and organizing had me itching to put it to rights before I left. I’m actually not sure if the car would be considered part of Komono or not part of my home at all actually but I spend quite a bit of time in my car commuting to work, chorus, dance and doctor’s appointments so having it cluttered can actually affect my whole day.
Until next time,
I moved into my new space towards the end of 2018 and as such needed to trial out different set ups for my new space. I'm lucky in that, in my new home, I have a room that is a dedicated office space but a lot of the tips and strategies that I have used can be used in multipurpose spaces as well.
Things that I would change if money was no option and I taught purely for the love of it (someday ladies and gents, someday):
Here is a link to the light I use on my laptop for online teaching. It's technically a selfie light but works great as a clip on light to pair with my on-board camera.
Until next time,
My referral code is: HEATH0116
Since most of my belongings were in storage for nearly two years while I was trying to find and buy a home I had a LOT of stuff that I really didn’t need and was not likely to use again anytime soon. Finishing the unpacking coincided everyone’s suggestion to read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as one of my 12 non-fiction books for 2019. I finished the book in just a few days and, of course, started using the KonMari method to declutter my home.
Her process is simple: gather all items together that are alike and sort through them, deciding which items ‘spark joy’ and which don’t. Those that do not you thank for their service to you and let go from your life (often in donations). That’s my summary, on her website she lists them as:
There is also a specific order you must go in if you are following her method of decluttering, and it doesn’t follow a location system but rather goes by item categories:
Since the first step was clothing that’s where I started. I had recorded the entire process but unfortunately the footage was corrupted so I lost it all. Instead I recorded a video of the aftermath of finishing the decluttering showing you my closet and all the drawers holding clothing so that you can see her filing system. I also discussed some of the things I did differently than she suggests. They are:
That’s pretty much it though. While it did take a long time, I enjoyed the process and found a lot of value in going through everything. My local charity also found value in me doing it as I had a backseat full of bags just from the clothing (which includes shoes and accessories as well) over haul. Finally, the process of going through all of my things has made me more mindful of not only what I purchase clothing wise but also why I am purchasing it. I needed a new pair of slacks and I almost didn’t get them, despite needing them, as they didn’t really meet the need of ‘sparking joy’ that is, they weren’t really my favorite style. I did end up getting them as I actually needed them and hadn’t been able to find a better alternative but I was mindful about it and the incident has made me realize I need to be more pro-active in my clothing purchases rather than reactive so that I can find things that really suit my taste and budget as well rather than just making a purchase out of necessity that I may not be happy with.
Next up was books, which was a fast but insightful evening. We’ll talk about that next week though. Have you tried decluttering your closet yet? What did you learn if so? Did you have any tweaks like I did?
Until next time,
P.S. As a bonus for this week I have an extra video on how to fold plus size clothing using Mari Kondo's filing method of folding clothing in drawers. I really like this method and have used a similar method for years (her method has one additional fold than mine did). Here it is if you, like me, find yourself needing to tweak the folding method on some items to get them to fit into the drawers better... or if you just want a run through of how to fold with her method. I tried to be comprehensive.
February was a good month financially but its temporary as the majority of the progress I made is going to be undone in March due to needing new flooring.... it was supposed to hit the budget in February but took longer than expected. They're actually being installed today which I'm super excited about.
Every month I give you a net worth chart from January 2018 to present but its become unreadable at this point due to the sheet number of months on this journey so we're going to shrink it down a bit. For reference I had a net worth of -$26,291.16 in January of 2018 and for February 2019 that net worth is -$2,068.96 giving me a net worth gain of $24,222.20 which I'm thrilled with. I should to be net worth positive this year despite the flooring set back.
On the debt side here's how it breaks out. I'm most wanting the student loans gone as there are 4 of them lumped into that sum (I've paid off all of my undergraduate degree already so I'm not working on my Master's degree loans) and even knocking out one of those suckers could free up a nice chunk of change to start a faster snowball on the rest of them and my credit card.
Am I happy that I racked up that much consumer debt? Of course not. I did so mostly when I was first divorced... I used my card to move to Texas, get items that I thought I needed for my new life and generally get myself through the first year when I wasn't making great money choices as my brain was just trying to cope with the aftermath of my world imploding. It's not a good excuse- but its an excuse nonetheless. Now I'm working to reverse that mistake a little at a time. Like I said, I've done really well the last year or so with net worth changes but so much of my monthly payments have to go towards interest that sometimes it seems like I'm crawling when I just want to sprint to the finish line. Patience isn't always easy.
Also, don't buy a new car... I know that's personal finance 101 but its one of my dumbest money mistakes of all time. I let fear and anxiety push me into making a decision- that I convinced myself was a good financial one when it was really an emotional decision- that was not in my own best interest. I had my car totaled in a hit-and-run and only a few days of rental post declaration to find a replacement so I went to the dealership to look at cars and ended up buying a hybrid that I am now horribly upside down on. I won't do that again in the future (the new car, not the hybrid, that I love- gas budget line is AWESOME). Expensive lesson learned.
This month I brought in $134.71 from side hustles without putting any real effort into it as I've been prepping for a crazy amount of things recently so took my side hustling down to slow burner status until near the end of the month. I had several trips to plan, decluttering and organizing my house (then repacking it all due to the flooring situation), learning new music, work projects, getting Learning with Heather Mac planned out (my next project which is in the works) and so much more. This year is going to be amazing!
I had $124 of that from Facebook sales of items I was decluttering (1-2 minutes to post online per item and then just click to refresh the posts weekly so once they were up maybe 5 minutes of work a week and arranging to meet up with buyers at McDonald's or etc. while I was already heading out so not much added time or cost) and the rest was from cash back apps like CoinOut and Fetch- which I'm reviewing soon. I did work a few hours in February for VIPKID to get back in the swing of things for this month but I won't receive much money and it will get to me in March. I have 14 classes this weekend though so I'd say I'm back to work again. I plan on working 2 weekends and 2 weeknights in March so should see a few hundred on next month's side hustles income again. It's good to be back in the classroom and I'm loving my office so once the floors are done and everything has been put back to rights I'll give you guys a tour on my YouTube channel.
I plan on trying to work in another new side hustle trial during March and April depending on my travel schedule. The pups are going to be visiting their Oma several times in the next couple months as I'll be in and out of DFW for various trips over the next couple months- exciting but not great for my current side hustle list (outside of VIPKID of course which can be done basically everywhere so long as you have a set schedule... I taught in my hotel in Montreal last year!). What kinds of side hustles do you guys do? What do you suggest I try out this year?
Until next time,