So You Think You Want To Lose Weight...

Every New Year, millions of people decide they want (or need) to go on a diet. But unfortunately, 80% of those with good intentions will have failed within a month and never look back. Personally, I think starting a diet during the coldest time of the year is not really a great idea. In the winter we all have our "fat" clothes and can hide in them for months. I think the best time of the year to diet is in the summer, like right after Memorial Weekend. The days are long and warm, and most people get outside and are more active during the nice weather. That being said, losing weight is not about being more active, its about simple calories in and out.


Your body burns calories even if you don't do anything particularly active, this is your basal metabolism rate (BMR). It is easy to calculate how many calories you burn by knowing your weight, your height and age.

1. Calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate):

    • Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )
    • Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )
2. Multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
    •    Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
    •    Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
    •    Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
    •    Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
    •    Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): BMR x 1.9
3. Your final number is the approximate number of calories you need each day to maintain your weight.


My BMR without the activity factor is 1231 calories. Since I am moderately active, if I multiplied by the factor 1.55, my calorie intake could be 1908 calories. However, I know from experience if I ate 1900 calories a day, I would gain weight. I also know from experience that I will maintain weight if I eat about 1500 calories a day. I can lose weight at 1200 calories a day (which is the least amount anyone should eat), but the food choices must be healthy and it helps if I burn about 500 calories with walking or biking each day.


You might wonder how to measure your calories and activity now that you've determined what your BMR is and how much you can eat. I use the free app on my phone and computer, https://www.myfitnesspal.com/. You can enter all your activity and meals in one app. You can also enter photos and share with your other friends on the app. It tracks your progress and even calculates your macros (fat, protein, carbs) so you know if you're eating the right proportion of foods to maximize weight loss. I modified my goal in the settings so its 45% carbs, 30% fats and 25% protein.


From my experience last year - starting in May, I ate 1200 calories a day for 100 days and lost 25 lbs. The key for me was to make sure I ate enough protein each day and to measure my food portions so I didn't overeat. Generally, a serving of anything is about the size of your fist. It was a struggle to eat enough proteins at first but I learned to make my snacks a protein source like peanuts, chicken or beef jerky, fat free cottage cheese, almonds, protein bars and protein beverage mixes. I also cut back on breads since I got plenty of carbs in other foods. I did not give up alcohol. I had up to two or three drinks, but I alternated with a glass of water in between.


So, If you're determined to start a diet in the cold of January, do a little prep first. Download myfitnesspal and figure out how many calories you can eat to lose weight. Buy lots of protein snacks. Be prepared to stay out of restaurants for two months at least, until your will power can resist others eating really fattening foods next to you.


Good Luck







10 Tips to Stop Shopping

After reviewing our budget for the last year, one thing is clear - I need to spend less. So that will be my resolution in 2018 to cut out all spending on non-essentials. It will be a challenge to change my addiction to reading emails, feeds and facebook - but it will be worth it when I can add up our spending at the end of next year. That is the carrot on the stick.


But to achieve this goal will require changes, which have begun already. Here  are ten easy painless tips to stop shopping next year:
  1. Unsubscribe from all emails from retailers. Lucky for us, almost all emails contain a tiny little link on the bottom to unsubscribe from their email list. If they don't have a link, I just tag them as JUNK and hopefully it won't clutter my mailbox. Some companies state it may take a week to remove you from the list but it shouldn't happen. I happen to have a lot of emails all dump into one email box so I get multiples of some emails. You need to unsubscribe from each separate email. Its best to do this when you are feeling motivated to quit shopping online, just unsubscribe even if you are afraid of missing a deal, if its good enough you'll find out about it some other way.
  2. If unsubscribing isn't getting all your emails, you can use a free service call https://unroll.me/ and it will review your emails and you can unsubscribe with one link.
  3. Remove feeds from bloggers that promote shopping, spending and deals. I log in to Feedly every day and get hundreds of website update feeds. By unfollowing deal bloggers you will find you don't spend nearly as much time reading about deals and being tempted to spend money.
  4. Discard all mail from retailers - catalogs, postcards, flyers, circulars and deals. Don't even read them, straight into the garbage they go.
  5. Do not go to stores. Part of the no spending effort, also involves no shopping. Don't go just to watch someone else shop, or even to get your steps for the day in the mall. Walk outside to get your exercise. Stay out of stores.
  6. In addition to the money you save by not shopping, you will find it is a big time saver. Take that time and do something useful with it. Instead of reading emails, facebook and feeds, I will go for a 15 minute walk. Or read a book. Or write a blog entry. Try to make your new found time a new better habit.
  7. Delete retail apps on your phone. Retailers have found out we spend more when we are members of reward clubs. To spend less its really simple to just delete apps on your phone that make it easy to spend money. If you can order ahead to get your starbucks and jump the line and pick it up, and you've already paid on your app - you are probably spending too much. I know I did. I've deleted all reward club apps for restaurants, stores, and receipt logging apps.
  8. Delete payment apps on your phone. The easier it is to pay, the more you spend. You need to make it harder to pay and involve your conscience to realize you're spending. Your awareness of shopping and spending will increase if you have to carry cash, or a wallet instead of mearly swiping your phone over the register.
  9. If you think you need to shop and buy something, check around your house in your stockpile for the item. If you already have the item, you probably don't need another one. If its broken, fix it. Or try to find a suitable substitute. Can you borrow the item you think you need?
  10. Make your self wait if you feel you must buy something. At least a day or preferably a week. Justify your purchase, but don't research it trying to find the best price, maybe ask someone else to, or just get it from Amazon which is usually the best price anyway.
Good Luck!

How Much Did You Spend at Amazon This Year?

As the year winds down, I'm putting together a summary of our expenses for 2017. One of the most shocking discoveries is the amount of money we (mostly me) spent shopping. I'm ashamed to admit that we spent almost 20% of our money on "shopping". Most of it on stuff that would be considered non-essential. I bought two new laptops this year, bringing my total computers to nine. Does anyone really need that many computers? I used to justify it by printing coupons a lot, but I don't really need that many computers.


Amazon $ spent #items
2006 $913.92 29
2007 $1,480.41 46
2008 $2,920.07 53
2009 $658.17 44
2010 $1,506.67 40
2011 $1,166.29 42
2012 $2,512.45 49
2013 $1,336.77 55
2014 $2,178.44 67
2015 $1,750.34 65
2016 $923.15 42
2017 $3,201.32 87






Anyway, the largest culprit is Amazon. I started shopping at Amazon in 1998, and started using Prime in 2006. Over the years, it was  about 40 items a year and our average spent there was about $1750. Which I think it a lot. Well, this year the number of items doubled and the amount spent almost doubled. That doesn't even include the shopping I did at Columbia.com and Underarmour.com, or all the other websites we bought sporting goods, clothing, electronics and household supplies. But that's a story for later.


Here is how you can check how much you spent at Amazon this year:
  • Log in to your Amazon account.


  • Select YOUR ACCOUNT to view details
  • Select Order History Downloads

  • Enter the dates you want to download, then click Request Report.


  • Click download, wait for report to generate
  • Click Open on the download into Excel or other spreadsheet software.
  • When you have your report, scroll over to column AD and click the top header to highlight the total item column, and it will show you key information at the bottom of your screen.
  • At the bottom you can see your average per item, the count of items and the sum of the dollars spent on items.
The first step to make improvements in the future, is to measure the past. It's interesting to view the items and notice how many are non-essential. If you're like me, it's most of them. I already have that type of item or a good substitute. The problem is the retailers have great marketing strategies and have infiltrated our lives with the desire to shop. Creating awareness of your shopping habits is a first step in tackling your shopping addiction. I'll share my strategy to quit shopping next year in another blog post shortly.


Happy New Year!


Make Your Credit Score Increase With One Small Change



Some things stay the same forever, until we do something to change things. Like my weight. It was the same for about ten years, until I finally went on a diet and lost 23 lbs this summer. It required changing my foods, practicing portion control and drinking more water daily for about 100 days. I've maintained my weight loss and decided to try to lose a few more pounds so I have a weight loss cushion for the upcoming holiday food binges that are certain to happen.

The other thing that pretty much has been the same forever is our credit score. It's a good score, and there's no need to improve it. Except when you are really close to perfect, its tempting to strive for it. A perfect credit score is 850. I'm not sure if its even attainable for anybody. I know there are a bunch of factors how its determined exactly. I just know it pops up on Mint every time you login, and its on other banking apps so we get reminded fairly often what it is. But there is no need for that because it hasn't changed for us. But low and behold, for the first time in as far back as I remember our credit score increased from 828 to 834 this week. Granted we haven't really done anything to try to improve our score since we didn't have plans to buy anything that would require good credit. So, it was quite the surprise when I checked our net worth on Mint and a new credit score popped up. We haven't done anything to make it change except maybe one small thing I did in the last month. We don't have any loans, mortgages or credit card debt so that didn't affect it.

The only thing I did different was pay off the credit cards on a weekly basis whenever I noticed a new balance on Mint. Usually, I let all the charges accrue and then just pay when I think they might be due. We pay all our cards off online so I never really know when they are due. I know that's not a good practice to not have due date awareness, so I don't recommend it. But, this past month I've been just paying them off pretty much immediately because we had some travel where were offline for a week. So I paid them before, and then paid them after, and then again a week later.

Now for the disclaimer, I'm not sure paying off cards weekly was what triggered the score to increase, but is the only variance in our finances. My theory is that although we still spend thousands monthly through credit cards and utilize our credit, the amount of time any balance is outstanding has greatly decreased by paying off balances immediately. 

It couldn't hurt to try if you too are trying to increase your credit score.




Practice Makes Perfect

It's been a year now since we lost our wonderful dog. We still miss her terribly, hug your pet today.

And, on to more mundane activities. A few minutes after our 5:30am alarm clock went off, we heard the crackle of the power transformer outside and the power was out. Apparently it will be out all morning. Lucky us, out of half of million people in Tampa, we're one of the 31 households with no power. Across the street still has power, and over a block has power - just not our side of the block.
However, I'm going to look at this as a lucky practice run for the summer lightning, storms and hurricanes that probably will affect us again. We happen to have dozens of glade candles still in the stock pile room for gifts, but they turned out to be handy for light this morning. We also have a couple plug in flashlights. Luckily, no activities requiring water involve electricity - except the coffee which DH had set on a timer to be completed at 5:25am. I thought we would be ready quicker than usual, but indecision on plan B for breakfast with no microwave or toaster, made cold cereal the choice. We took our real breakfast - a hard boiled egg and turkey bacon to work to eat later - minus the toast. The thought crossed my mind if we should get a generator someday, since we do have 3 refrigerators and a chest freezer full of food if there were a long outage, but I think I'll do that after about 24 hours of no power. We could always store stuff at our neighbors house across the street, since they still have power.

So,  a little list of Hurricane preparedness things to do when you lose power.
  1. Candles and flashlight. Also need a lighter or match handy to light that candle.
  2. You could preprogram the electric company into your phone, they let you text when your power is out. In Tampa, if you have TECO just text OUT to 35069.
  3. Don't open your refrigerator or freezer, and if you must make it quick.
  4. Unplug electronics that may be damaged from a power surge when power is restored.
  5. Keep window coverings down to prevent sun from heating up the house.
  6. Minimize opening doors to outside, keep the cool air trapped in your home.

We managed to get ready and eat and get to work, all without power in the house. Amazing.


2017 Florida Hurricane Sales Tax Holiday 6/2 - 6/4/2017




The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 2, 2017, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 4, 2017. During this holiday period, qualifying items related to disaster preparedness are exempt from sales tax. However, the sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of any of the qualifying items. Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment, or airport.


Qualifying Items
Selling for $10 or less:- Reusable ice (reusable ice packs)

Selling for $20 or less:- Any portable self-powered light source (powered by battery, solar, hand-crank, or gas):

Flashlights Lanterns Candles

Selling for $25 or less:- Any gas or diesel fuel container, including LP gas and kerosene containers

Selling for $30 or less:- Batteries, including rechargeable batteries, listed sizes only (excluding automobile and boat batteries):

AA-cell C-cell D-cell 6-volt 9-volt - Coolers and ice chests (food-storage; nonelectrical)

Selling for $50 or less:- Tarpaulins (tarps)- Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible waterproof sheeting - Ground anchor systems

- Tie-down kits- Bungee cords - Ratchet straps- Radios (powered by battery, solar, or hand-crank)
Two-way Weather band
Selling for $750 or less:- Portable generators used to provide light or communications, or to preserve food in the event of a power outage.


First-aid kits (always exempt)



See more Information at LINK

Tampa Bay Rays 2017 Promotion

Batter Up! If the Tampa Bay Rays get 10 strikeouts, you'll get a FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal of your choice from a participating Burger King. 

Within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game, bring in one of these qualifying items to any Kane's Showroom and get a coupon for a FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal from Burger King:
Ticket Stub
Seat Locator Receipt (for Flex Pack Cardholders)
Web Voucher (printed or on phone)
http://www.kanesstrikeout.com/

PLEASE NOTE: Limit one FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal coupon per person per ticket stub/receipt/web voucher, per game. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age & you must redeem your ticket stub/receipt at Kane's within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game date.
Click Here To View The Strikeout Contest Rules

The Kanes stores usually let you redeem several printouts at one time so if the RAYS do 10 strikeouts in successive games, just bring the vouchers in at the same time. Bring your spouse too.

2016 How Much Were Our Household Expenses?


It might not look like much, but that 10 foot vinyl fence gate cost about a thousand dollars. It was one of the few remaining costs to prepare our forever home for retirement. It will last longer than we will, barring a hurricane. The fence was the big project this year. If you remember we put on a metal roof in 2015. So the only thing left to buy big is a new vehicle before we retire. Actually, our 2004 Camry would probably last the rest of our life, but we feel like we deserve to have a new vehicle to travel around the country. It will be our last vehicle and we expect it to last over 20 years.

Some of you may wonder why or how we bother to track our expenses. Actually, it is critical for anyone who is frugal and wishes to spend less than they earn. And if you are retired, you don't earn much from pensions and social security and your investments, so awareness is essential. As an Analyst by trade, I know you can't improve what you don't measure. If you can't even bother yourself to measure where you're at; you have little hope to improve. This philosophy applies to finances, health, exercise and diet.

If you monitor your expenses, there is immense peace and lack of anxiety about money if you have a good idea what goes in and out of your household moneywise. We use two different applications - both are free. Mint to monitor our spending and calculate our year end expenses. Personal Capital has some really nice retirement calculators and you can add in different income streams and expenses for certain amounts of time to really get a good idea of your readiness for retirement. Both can be accessed from your computer on their websites, or thru apps on your tablet or smartphone.

2016 was an expensive year, very expensive with the fence and shed purchase over $11,000. I'm not adding this to the budget because the projects were paid with our savings account. Even so we spent a lot on miscellaneous stuff. Way to much was spent on clothing. And our stockpiles are getting depleted so more was spent on household supplies and groceries. And of course we spend way too much on beer, it is over half of our grocery spending. We eat out two times a week on Friday and Saturday at our favorite little pub (The Firehouse) where we enjoy the best Buffalo chicken wings and a pitcher of Bud - this expense is from our allowance. We each pay for one night, its $21 including tip for 20 wings and a pitcher. Quite the bargain, its hard to go out anywhere else. Anyway, it turns out we spent more this year than last, about $45,000 for our household.
We do not have any debt, so we don't have any car payments (our cars are 13 and 19 years old), our house was paid off six years ago and now our home is completely ready for retirement as we have remodeled all rooms, fence, roof and appliances. Our dog died this year too so that expense has disappeared. Our health expenses were higher this year due to dental costs, we each had a crown replaced and we had some cleanings. Our health insurance remains inexpensive as we pay $30/month for a PPO plan through the State of Florida, our employer. The home expenses don't include the cost of the fence and the shed, but they do include the costs of removing some trees along the fence line, paint to remodel the doghouse into a nice sun porch, and AC service, a new dishwasher, plumbing maintenance and carpet cleaning.

The biggest category that needs to come under control is the Cash and ATM category in miscellaneous spending. We like to use cash to stay off the grid, but it doesn't show up in any of my apps (like mint, or personal capital). We also spend quite a bit on haircuts for DH, but I'm afraid he is too vain to let me cut his hair every 3 weeks (@$19 a pop). He is going bald so maybe in a few years this expense will diminish. We did cut back on our auto insurance coverage level, going from 300/100 to 100/50 since we drive so little (opting to walk, ride MC or ride bicycles to work).

We are already very frugal and generally do not employ home services, instead electing to take care of our own lawn, pool, house cleaning, tree maintenance, obtaining and splitting of firewood, home maintenance jobs such as plumbing, electric, carpentry and painting. With the excellent videos available on Youtube, one can really do almost any task with some basic training. I figure if a person who doesn't even have a college degree or HS degree can do a job, I certainly should be able to figure it out. The one exception is when special equipment is needed that is too expensive to rent. We did hire a tree guy to remove a 40 ft tall tree that was too dangerous for us to do ourselves.

Anyway, our expenses every year have been trending higher, but just barely, I'm going to attribute this to higher prices of goods and services. But we must remain vigilant these last few years before we retire to keep our spending in check, I would actually like to keep it below 40K per year.

2013 we spent 32K
2014 we spent 34K
2015 we spent 43K
2016 we spent 45K

Our plan for this next year 2017 is to start adding cash payments into mint.com as a manual payment. I also want to be better at always assigning and splitting ATM transactions so they are all accounted for before we forget and move on. I'm going to try to not buy any clothes or shoes this year, because I have plenty to last for years. We have a decent deal on cable/internet at $124/month but that contract will end in March of 2018 and it will be time to shop. DH will not give up his live sports channels, so until live streaming is "easy" on the big TV, its an expense we'll have to keep.

Well, that's about it for 2016, another year on the books.
 
 
 

How Prepared Are You For A Hurricane?

 
The weather news is all about Hurricane Matthew that is bearing down on the Florida Atlantic coast. Matthew is stirring down in the Caribbean now and has Florida solidly in the forecast cone. While this system will probably not impact Tampa Bay (other than some wind and rain), it is still a good time to get ready for what ever the rest of the season brings us. Are you ready for a hurricane to happen now? Here are some checklist items to help you prepare for a storm -
  •  Do you have plenty of cash in small bills stashed in the event there is no power, or you need to barter to get things you need during a disaster? Most ATM's will run out of cash, businesses may not be open and your best bet to buy stuff will be from people hawking stuff on the corner - for cash.
  • Do you have plenty of dry food (cans, dry mixes, dry milk, beverage mixes, pet food), enough for a weeks worth of meals? Make sure you have an old fashioned manual can opener too, or be sure all your cans are pop tops.
  • Do you have water or drinks enough for 3 days (at least a gallon a day per person)? This doesn't include bathing or cooking water, so a clean source of water for that is important too - fill your tub or sink for cleaning.
  • Do you have a bug out bag in case you need to leave your home - a change of clothes, cash, medications, sturdy shoes (not just sandals), silverware,etc.
  • Do you have a weapon to protect your life and/or property in the event of a disaster and there are no police services?
  • Do you have your automobile's full of gasoline, a spare 5 gallon can of gas, a full canister of propane for your grill?
  • Do you have flashlights and batteries that work? First Aid kit?
  • Do you have some basic tools, keys, portable Radio and Telephones?
  • Are your important documents secured in a waterproof safe or in a safety deposit box at the bank? Can you scan them and take the data device with you?
The www.weather.org site has the most up to date information.

Great Books I've Read This Year


Summer is a great time to read and if you love to devour books like I do, you're always on the lookout for a new list of great reads. My goal this year is to read 100 books and I'm well on my way with 64 completed. I usually have a hardcover I read at lunch, an audiobook I listen to as I work, and a different ebook or hardcover for the evening reading hours - so I usually have 3 going at once! I should easily reach my goal of 100 in the remaining four months of the year 2016. Not all the books I've read have been great so I filtered out my favorites that I would rate a 5 star.

Here you go!


Title
Author
The Guilty (Will Robie, #4)
David Baldacci
James Baldwin
Far From True (Promise Falls Trilogy,  #2)
Linwood Barclay
Julian Barnes
Off The Grid (Joe Pickett, #16)
C.J. Box
Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)
Lee Child
Among Thieves: A Novel
John Clarkson
Michael Connelly
Susan H. Crawford
The Gangster (Isaac Bell, #9)
Clive Cussler
Matthew Desmond
Allen Eskens
Janet Fitch
Mary Gaitskill
Robert Galbraith
Justin Halpern
Kent Haruf
Ethan Hawke
Noah Hawley
Ken Ilgunas
Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
David Lagercrantz
Kate Clifford Larson
Brad Meltzer
Vladimir Nabokov
Thomas Perry
Eleanor H. Porter
Judgement Cometh (Joe Dillard, #8)
Scott Pratt
Crimson Shore (Agent Pendergast, #15)
Douglas Preston
Extreme Prey (Lucas Davenport, #26)
John Sandford
Ruta Sepetys
The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon, #16)
Daniel Silva
Rebecca Skloot
Colm Tóibín
John Vaillant

 Bookmark this page until you've read them all!