This Reader Story comes from Gunnar, a filmmaker, a computer geek, a traveler and most recently an entrepreneur, who has launched the blog Wosla to inspire others to get healthy and save money.
Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.
Until recently I thought I was living the perfect life. I was making decent money doing fun things like working on short films, and I traveled a fair bit.
Physically I thought I was in reasonable shape although I hadn't done any serious exercise since giving up Judo a couple of years ago following a knee injury. I certainly didn't think I was unhealthy.
The wake-up call
A few months ago, after showering, I stepped on the new scale I'd bought and couldn't believe my eyes: 230 pounds! I'd put on 35 pounds in just over a year. I decided that I had to do something about this right away. That same day I went to the gym and bought a membership; I did go a few times, but then, like happens to so many of us, the visits to the gym became fewer and further between them. It was just so inconvenient (should read, I was just too lazy). About two months later I stepped on the scale again… 237 pounds… What to do? I decided that I had to take a serious look at where and why I had failed.
I sat down in front of the computer the next morning (which happened to be a Saturday), and hardly stepped away until Sunday evening. What I discovered about myself was eye-opening to say the least. The very first thing I did was try to remember what I had eaten during the last month. Of course that was pretty difficult, so I turned to my online bank statement. This is where I got my biggest shock. It turned out that not only had I been eating extremely unhealthily, but I had also been squandering money like there was no tomorrow. Here's a list of just a few of the things I found out about myself:
- I had spent $500 on restaurants and fast food.
- I had spent $400 on partying.
- I had spent $400 on cigarettes.
- I had spent $100 on food that I bought and then threw away.
That is $1,400 wasted on complete nonsense that was making me fat and unhealthy! Not to mention that I really couldn't afford this kind of lifestyle. That is all my disposable income, and I am still in debt! I just couldn't believe how wasteful I'd been. I had just taken a long, hard look at my life and myself, and I wasn't liking what I saw.
The big decision
At this point I had to decide what to do. I realized I'd just been jogging along, not really doing anything with my life; I'd gotten complacent. It made me depressed at first, but then I thought, “Why be depressed?” I'd found out what was wrong and it really shouldn't be hard to fix. So I started researching. I read everything I could about living healthily and how to do it.
I also thought hard about why people like myself aren't motivated enough to get healthy. I mean there's the obvious benefit of NOT DYING at an early age! But most people seem to think they'll live to be 100, no matter how unhealthy they are. I know I was guilty of that. I'd often dismiss my friends who told me I'd die from smoking with the story of my great-grandmother, who smoked a pack a day from when she was a teenager and died at 98. I led myself to believe I was somehow genetically safe from the dangers of smoking.
It turns out that just being healthy for health's sake was not motivating me. It was the thought of how much money I could save that was starting to rub off on me. Someone once said that money is the greatest motivator in the world, and I guess they are right. In my case at least, the prospect of a long and healthy life wasn't really what was driving me. So the decision was made. I would stop smoking, cut down on the partying, only go to restaurants every other week and make sure to buy healthy food at the grocery shop (and actually cook it).
The action plan
Now that I had made a decision, I had to plan how to execute it. I gathered all the resources I'd found online, and then researched some more. It was actually during this research that I stumbled upon GRS, this here article to be exact. I decided to cook once-a-week, rather than once-a-month, like that article suggests. Sundays would be the best day to cook, and with me cutting back on the parties, I'd wake up early on a Sunday and cook, rather than lie in bed past noon, order a pizza and watch TV all day, vowing never to drink again.
I had planned for three out of the four things on my list. By cooking for the whole week, I'd stop eating fast food and going to restaurants, and I'd stop throwing away food. Instead of going to parties, I'd go to the movies, bowling, a comedy club, etc. But it was giving up smoking that I was most worried about. I've done it so many times before and never lasted more than a couple of weeks. Turns out it wasn't that hard.
Thinking back, every time in the past I'd lapse and start smoking again when I was partying. I've been smoke-free for just over three months now. I didn't use any nicotine gum or nasal spray or whatever all those products are. I just quit cold turkey. I was outside smoking and was thinking about when to quit. I decided that I'd quit as soon as I'd finish the pack. I finished smoking, and as I was walking back inside, I thought to myself, “Why wait? Quit now!” So I crumpled up my cigarette pack and threw it in the garbage, and I'm proud to say I haven't smoked since.
So the smoking didn't really take any planning, but grocery shopping sure did. I sat down, exactly a week after first going over my life, and made a huge grocery list. I went out and bought more food than I'd ever bought before, then on Sunday I cooked for the whole week for the first time. I've been doing that now for over three months.
The past three months have been amazing. It was hard at first — I cut out most carbs from my diet, and stopped drinking sodas, but that was only hard for the first week. The hardest part was probably not going partying with my friends. But I adjusted quickly. My friends have also been very supportive. I've even convinced a couple of them to join me in this new healthy lifestyle. The best thing about this is that, although I'm spending a lot more on groceries now, I'm still saving $750 per month, and the last time I stepped on the scale it showed 220 pounds! That's 17 pounds gone in three months.
Not only am I saving money and getting healthier and fitter, I am also way more productive. I'm motivated, I'm starting new projects, and I'm enthusiastic about helping people get the same results as I have. I still have some way to go — my new plan is to have six-pack abs in 90 days. Financially I'm planning to get rid of all credit card debt and student loans before the end of 2014.
Are you motivated enough to change your lifestyle, with “just” the health benefits in mind? Or would the thought of saving money (or perhaps even making money) prove to be just the incentive you needed?