11 January 2013

Discipline and pizza

As I type this, there are two guys peering in my living room window watching me blog. Perhaps they are not watching my blog so much as trying not to crash through my living room wall. They are on one of those giant mechanized lifts that one might use to trim trees. They almost ran over my car with it too. And you guys know how sensitive I am about my car. They are lugging around gutters pretending to do building maintenance, but I am pretty sure they are just trying to wake Abigail from her nap.

Today's blog post is all about discipline. Whenever I edit people's work and they say something to the effect of, "This is what I am going to talk about in my writing!" I always tell them, "Don't tell us what you will tell us, just tell us!" But I need a transition from the construction crew in their puffy vests and yellow hats staring at me, and I'm not in the mood to come up with something more creative.

I have lots of little goals in my life, but the two biggest, baddest, hardest are to loose weight and pay off the law school debt as quickly as possible. They each take a lot of discipline. The discipline to avoid buying extraneous shit and the discipline to avoid eating extraneous shit. Lately the two have converged into one strong craving: pizza and cupcakes. Since Tuesday, I have been craving pizza and cupcakes. A $5 hot-n-ready from Little Caeser's and cupcakes. It took nearly all my discipline to avoid indulging after I spent Wednesday desperately trying to avoid a migraine. As I was chatting with Abigail's developmental therapist, I realized I had some pretty significant aurora going on, so I downed a handful of Tylenol and Aspirin, closed all the blinds, put on a baseball cap, and canceled all of our appointments for the rest of the day. When Abigail took a nap, I took a nap. I got away with "just" a bad headache. But I didn't get anything else done, including grocery shopping. And for some reason, after the nap, I was dying for sugar. Pizza was a holdover from Tuesday when I spent the entire day reorganizing my apartment and didn't cook dinner. And I thought it took a lot of discipline to avoid pizza on Tuesday. It took nearly everything to stay away from pizza and cupcakes on Wednesday. My only excuse yesterday is epic laziness.

You'd think that after a week of successful discipline combined with my goals of saving money and loosing weight would give me an off-the-charts level of discipline. Two different sets of goals and motivations coming together backed by a week of successes to strengthen me for one epic temptation. But the opposite actually occurs. It's as though it takes twice as much discipline to say, "no" and my money discipline and fitness discipline are halved when they met. I feel like I'm working twice as hard to say no to pizza as I am to Matt's omnipresent bag of Oreos.

After one of the most un-frugal holiday seasons we've had in a long time, I re-read our copies of Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door to re-inspire myself. We cut the data plan from Matt's smart phone, saving us about $20/month (though we'll miss the maps app when we're lost downtown), and we scoured our apartment for things we don't really use and sold some of our books, dvds, clothes, and baby toys to resale shops and listed a few items on Craigslist. (It baffles and angers me that after so many moves we still have stuff we don't want/use. But anyway).

About a week ago I was reading the chapter in The Millionaire Next Door that discusses the benefits of a frugal wife. A majority of millionaires had stay-at-home wives, and while they were bringing home the money, the offense, their wives acted as the defense. The authors point out that hardly any of the millionaires they interviewed had spendthirft wives. The wives were the key component to being wealthy, everyone agreed. One of the millionaires they interviewed said, "I can't get my wife to spend money!" As soon as I read that, I decided that I wanted Matt to use those words to describe me. I want him to be casually sitting around with his brothers or his friends when the conversation swings to wives spending money. I imagine that everyone starts joking about all the clothes, shoes, and what-have-you that their wives like to buy, the time they spend at Target or the mall picking things up. And without any bias, I imagine that it dawns on my husband that his wife doesn't engage in those habits. That she doesn't fritter away money. And I hope he says, realizing the truth of it as the words leave his mouth, "I can't get my wife to spend money!"

I haven't lost any of the things I gained during and in the days following the 31 Days campaign. I still make my own bread, tortillas, and crackers (except Abigail's goldfish crackers, as the World's Pickiest Eater deigns to eat any other crackers), body wash, and hand soap. I did attempt to make my own dishwashing detergent, but have been trying to work out the kinks of that mess. When I first started, I had to hand wash about 1/2 of my dishes after they came out of the dishwasher. After endless tweaks, I'm down to washing about 1/4 and planning to try a new recipe this weekend. But anyway.

Some things are easy to stay in budget with, like clothes. I don't really like clothes or clothes shopping, plus as I loose weight, I continually re-discover old clothes in my closet. It doesn't take much discipline. Things I struggle with include Abigail's toy/development budget, the food budget, and the household budget (non-food items like toilet paper and an orange peeler, but also sheets, stamps, etc).

Our food budget is big enough to handle luxury items like steak, string cheese, dried fruit, and nuts, but only if I buy things like cereal and spaghetti sauce on sale and avoid pre-packaged foods like Hamburger Helper or chicken nuggets. Making my own bread, etc, lets us buy more fruit (which can be very expensive per serving), cheap meats like chicken, and stock up on items when they go on sale (assuming we have the cupboard space). Buying things like ice cream, chips, and cookies out of the food budget instead of our personal allowances means we'll likely run out of money before we run out of month. Which means we'll have to borrow money from ourselves. When we have to borrow money from ourselves, we take it out of our meager savings account. The savings account is meager because we're trying to pay off our law school debt as quickly as possible.

It isn't complicated, it just takes discipline. The same kind of discipline it takes to eat salad instead of grilled cheese or to workout when I'm sore. If I want to be the type of wife who doesn't spend money, then I need to corral up some discipline. But just when I think I have it in my grasp, just when I have a good weigh-in, I run 3 miles, I end the month with $10 remaining in the food budget, I do my Bible readings, and I finish everything on my to-do list, just when I think I am finally disciplined, cue pizza. Damnable pizza.

Discipline, like telling Abigail to stop screaming in aisle 3, is never a one-time event. You don't just work your butt off, achieve discipline, then move on to your next task. I'm the type of person who would rather get in, finish the project, and move on. I don't like to dwell or repeat myself. I don't want to tell Abigail in aisles 4, 5, and 6 to stop screaming. I don't want to have to deal with her angry yells next time we go grocery shopping. I want to say "no" to pizza once and never have to talk to pizza again.

But I haven't indulged. And I've worked out every day this week. And I stayed on top of my other resolutions (praying as a family and as a couple, cutting off electronics at 9pm and reading for an hour, and counting calories. Plus I believe that I'll be able to open my Etsy shop by Feb 1st, which isn't even a resolution). I can make it. I compromised with myself pay for pizza out of the entertainment budget and get it on Saturday (designated cheat day) and make my own cupcakes (to save money). I will halve the cupcake recipe so as not to have many leftovers and I'll keep the extraneous calories to a minimum by drinking water and going for a run in the morning. It takes discipline, but whenever I want to cave in, I'll think about how far I've made it. And then there's always the construction crew out my living room window. Heaven knows I don't need a bunch of fat, sweaty construction men knowing my dirty little pizza secret.

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