Archive for the ‘money’ Category

Following a budget for 30 days – April 1st to April 30th

May 1, 2009

For the month of April, I managed to follow a budget that I had set for myself. The lesson of my “account for your expenses” trial a few months ago was that there is no point accounting for expenses if I didn’t follow a budget. So I eventually got around to doing it, and I’m happy to say that I managed to follow it. Despite some unforseen events, I was able to stick between the spending limits that I had allocated to different categories.

It’s not really a trial per say, because it’s one of the things that everybody knows it’s better to do it, than not do it.

I didn’t like to do it, and even after 30 days, I still feel frustrated. I can’t buy everything I want, and any visit to a book shop, or to an electronics shop is excruciating. I even caught myself thinking: that two metre wide big screen TV is only 150 euros/month, just buy it! GAH!

It wasn’t fun at all not going to the restaurant all the time. Or watching my spending when going there. One night was particularly painful. I went to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and now, because I don’t drink alcohol and eat only when I’m hungry, I only had one main course. When the bill came, I asked to pay only my share, as everybody else had had wine, several drinks, and dessert.

Asking for this was painful. There was an uneasiness at the table. I don’t know if it came from me, or from the others, but I didn’t like it. Then I was asked to share a taxi, and I said no, I’m taking the bus.

My friends asked me how come I was watching my spending after I got my new MBA job. Granted, I earn a much better living than before, but I’m still reimbursing student – and credit card- debt. And if I follow my planned budget, there shouldn’t be any improvement in my spending until January 2009. I didn’t really understand why I was being questioned for my choices, and I felt that people thought I was some kind of uncle Scrooge or something.

The same people asked me about week ends to Brittany, London, the South, etc… Right now, I had to turn them down. And this is making me feel like shit, unsuccessful, a loser, etc etc.

Anyway, at least I was able to follow my spending for the 30 days, so that’s one success in all this.

I think that this is part of the learning process, not to give in to every buying impulse I have, so I feel frustrated I am still at the beginner’s stage financially, when they all seem to be doing so well… So right now, no kite-surfing trips, no London trips, and no big screen TV 😦

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The honest review of “I Can Make You Thin” by Paul McKenna

April 12, 2009

This is my second attempt to follow the 4 principles of Paul McKenna “I can make you thin”. These are:

  1. When you are hungry, EAT
  2. EAT WHAT YOU WANT
  3. Eat CONSCIOUSLY and enjoy every mouthful
  4. When You Think You Are Full, STOP Eating

This relates a 30-day-trial experiment of the method.

***

Now that I have actually succeeded this attempt to follow the principles of “I can make you thin” by Paul McKenna for 30 days, I feel that I have more credibility in writing a review. I want to dismiss the review that I wrote in the summer of 2008, because at that time, I broke the rules so many times. Today, I can say that I gave the PaulMcKenna principles a real chance, and that I followed them unfailingly for the past 30 days. And since I am not paid to appear in his infomercials (because his “I Can Make You Thin” program on UK and US TV really are long infomercials), I can give the full and honest review of this method.

Let’s start with the critical stuff. Why? Because this will allow me to end on a (very) positive note.

Most of what I thought in Summer 2008, I still think today. First of all, Paul McKenna did not invent this method, nor is he the only one who advocates this method. As far as I am aware, the paternity (or rather the maternity in this case) of this method goes to an American woman whose name I forgot (and I don’t want to search it on the net, because it doesn’t matter). Moreover, there is a French doctor (Dr Zermati) who published a book with the similar ideas, but with much more details. I don’t know if McKenna is a good hypnotist, but I think he’s a great marketer. And there is nothing wrong with that. Marketing in itself brings value to people (this could be a biased statement because I work in marketing, but give me the opportunity to explain). I had never heard of that American woman who advocated this method. I lived 4 years in the United States, and at that time, I was very much on the lookout for ways to diet. And who else outside of France has heard of Dr Zermati who also preaches this way to lose weight? Even in France, not many people know him. In the UK and in the US, most people who want to lose weight know McKenna, and even outside of these countries, many people have heard of him. So just for that achievement of publicizing this way to become thin, he deserves praise.

(did I say I was starting with the critical stuff?)

I still think that the book doesn’t go in real depth about making the mindshift to becoming healthy. My point of reference remains “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”, by Allen Carr, in which the author goes in depth into every situation where a smoker is tempted to smoke, and gives thought directions to overcome that temptation. Paul McKenna does go into many situations where people are tempted to overeat, but as a response he gives many “NLP exercizes”, that, pardon my French, are utter bullshit. All the tapping, the “super me”, the mirror exercizes never did anything for me. And I find it lazy of him to think that he’s actually helping people this way, rather than dig into solutions that could give real mental shifts. I think the same of the CD. Not once did I listen to it during this trial. In the previous trial, I did listen to it maybe 5-10 times in the course of 30 days. BS.

I think that if he indeed went as deep as Allen Carr did with his quitting smoking book, “I Can Make You Thin” could be an easy way to stop overeating. But at this stage, it isn’t. The rules are indeed simple, but you’re on your own to figure out how to follow them. I was lucky, I eventually did. This is not the case with everybody and I know of people who struggle to apply the rules in their daily lives (even when they do the “exercizes” everyday).

Now that I’ve let this out of my system, I want to go on to the positive side.

And let me be clear : following the “I Can Make You Thin” principles to become healthy is, in my opinion, the only mentally sane way to lose weight, and a very efficient one.

There, I said it.

Figures : At the beginning of this 30 day trials, I was at 101 kilos. Indeed, three days of Indian food stuffing in Bombay had made me put on 2 kilos that I had lost effortlessly after stopping to drink alcohol. Today, I weigh 93.5 Kg. That’s 7.5 kilos lost in 30 days. That’s crazy! (crazy, as in, that’s crazy good). And for my anglo saxon readers, that’s 16 pounds.

Alcohol: Having removed alcohol completely in my previous trial was a condition for success in this trial. Paul McKenna says in his book that it is better to not drink at the beginning; for me, it was essential. Drinking makes me lose control over my eating habits, and I would overeat at parties or social dinners, or feel very hungry after coming back from a night of boozing and raid the fridge, or a kebab place. Today, I do feel hungry after a night a partying, but I only eat what satisfy my hunger.

At the end of my no-alcohol trial, I said that I will want to drink alcohol at some point again in the future, I do not know when, but I will probably. With the Paul McKenna trial, I see no reason to ever go back to overeating. The only thing I may be doing in the future is to cut some foods for health reasons, but I will definitely try and eat when I’m hungry, enjoy, and stop eating when I think I’m no longer hungry. If you’re struggling to apply the McKenna principles, and are drinking regularly, you may want to consider removing the booze for a bit (just to try it for 30 days) and then try the Paul McKenna thing.

Feelings: In the past 30 days, I went to fast food several times. I ate everything I wanted: ice cream, French fries, pizza, cheese, chocolate cake, cookies… Of course, I also ate vegetables, rice, fish, salad, fruit… But I wanted to insist on the first group, because they are usually qualified as “evil,” “naughty,” “bad.” To me, those qualifiers are insane. The only achievements of normal diets are to have introduced the concept of guilt in eating, and to have screwed up many people’s metabolism.

Today, my relationship to food is heathy. Ok, the old demon of guilt knocks in my mind every once in a while (like last night for example), but overall, I do have today a healthy relationship to food, and I hope it will continue. I do not hide to eat anymore. I do not use food as a stress reliever.

This process was not easy to achieve. The one feeling that has kept coming back throughout this trial was anger. The one post that best summed up my state of mind at the lowest point of this trial is the two word post on Day 20.

It makes sense; now that I have stopped overeating to vent my frustration, I actually did not have any outlet for anger and frustration any more; I have mentioned in this trial that overeating was my last self-destrucing behaviour as a response to challenges of life. Therefore, it was a crucial trial for me. At the end of these 30 days, I am still not sure how dealing with my anger and stress will go, and I am still on the learning curve. But I do see some opportunities in sports, maybe combat sport, blogging, writing, etc. or even finding constructive ways to express anger, because I now claim the right to be pissed off.

I want to also talk about the feelings of others. During this trial, I was confronted to the reaction of others; as usual, others are reluctant to change, so I had similar reactions to when I stopped drinking. “You shouldn’t eat between meals, it’s evil.” “How do you expect to lose weight if you eat cookies?” etc. Point is, I did lose weight. Just like the no-alcohol trial, if you want to try this, prepare yourself for some social resistance. However, following the principles of Paul McKenna is actually the most social way to become healthy. Indeed, you can go to whatever restaurant your friends choose, you can go to dinners and actually eat everything they prepared for you (including chocolate cake 🙂 )… You don’t have to keep thinking about the forbidden foods, about the ways to measure quantities… You can lead a normal life.

Finally, having removed the last bit of self-destruction in my life, and being in the mindset that from now on, I will be constructive, has had some unexpected side-effects: I took complete charge of my finances; I am super-productive at work, have mastered all my dailies and am now working on long term/bigger picture strategic issues. I don’t think it is a direct consequence, but it was certainly encouraged.

***

In conclusion, I do still view this as the only reasonable way to lose weight. It is efficient too, as I have lost 7,5 kg in a month. I stick with my summer resolution to never follow a diet ever again, and I will continue to apply those principles of eating. I love food.

Accounting for my expenses trial – Days 18 to 26

December 22, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

I still haven’t got around to do a monthly budget, but that will come soon. Hopefully.

It’s been almost 4 weeks, and I’ve got to say that I have some sense of empowerement towards my finances, that I had always considered to be out of my control until now. All it took really, to see what I spent, was to keep all those receipts, and log them in frequently.

I’m actually not paying that much in bank fees. It’s just like I thought: the “going out” account is taking a lot of my budget. Now that I’ve started paying back my obligations, I can see that the cost of debt is going to be heavy. This month is a bit particular as I had a big repayment to make on top of my student loan. I expect that it will not be such a burden in coming months.

expenses_day_24

Accounting for my expenses trial – Day 17

December 13, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

Yesterday, I talked about budgeting, and I realized a couple of hours later, that I’m going to have to allow a budget line for unexpected emergencies… Let me explain. Something really stupid happened to me: I turned off my phone to take the plane, and when I turned it back on, I put in 3 times the wrong pin code, so now it is locked. The problem is that I was stuck in a foreign city, and I swiped my credit card at least 5 or 6 times at a public pay phone to attempt to reach my friends on their mobiles… I’m not sure how much the phone company charges for that, but I’m pretty sure it’s way over what it should be. Then I realized: what if I need emergency funds for something more important? Like medical expenditure for instance… This makes me feel quite vulnerable. Right now, I know I could rely on my family if I had to, but a) I don’t like that thought and b) until when?

Accounting for my expenses trial – Days 11 to 16

December 12, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

So I am halfway through this trial.

I still enjoy it, because I see where my money is going, but I am now sure that this will have to be followed by some cost cutting, and learning how to follow a budget. I wanted to end until day 30 to make a budget, but it looks like I may have to do it now and stick to it until the end of this trial…

I am writing from an airport, waiting for a flight with more than 1 hour delay, so it looks like this is exactly the kind of things I have time to do now!!

Other than that, I will share the Excel file that I am using for it (without the numbers of course) for anybody who’s interested in downloading it. But I will post it on day 30, since I improve it everyday.

***

On another note, the thoughts shared on this blog got me a remark that I was indeed drinking too much beer. When I heard this, I thought: if I say “no”, I will sound like an alcoholic, so my only choice, I guess, is to say “yes”. Problem: being the unmeasured person that I am, i.e. having the difficulty to do what I like only half way, made me wonder whether going dry should be my next 30 day trial. I mean, this could be very interesting. You hear everywhere things like: it’s bad for your weight, it costs money, it’s not the only way to have fun with people… so I guess living it for 30 days will make me realize whether these are just things people are saying, or if this is actually true.

expenses_day_16

Accounting for my expenses trial – Day 10

December 6, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

Tonight was a case of spending way too much money when I really shouldn’t have done so. Overpriced restaurant, and keeping on ordering drinks to attempt to get the night going. I was in good company, but the night was kind of slow, and it’s like we kept on ordering to keep the pace going. I have spent 3-4 times as much as nights when I actually was dancing and getting crazy all night long; and I feel like we could have had the same kind of fun by just staying home and drink beers on our own, rather than getting crazy on the wallet.

*sigh*

expenses_day_10

Accounting for my expenses trial – Days 5 to 9

December 5, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

Ok, I know it looks like I haven’t been working on this because I have not posted in the past 5 days, but I have! First, still good at reporting all my expenses every day. Second, I took my accounting a step further (that’s my geek side) by downloading a Family Budget Planner Excel document at the following website:

http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/family-budget-planner.html

I’ve added a tab on my file, and I’ve decided to rename all my categories according to their classifications. So at least, I don’t have to worry about inventing that.

The one thing that I notice, is how little cash is wasted in those first 9 days. I mean, I used to waste cash like crazy. Whenever there were coins or bills in my pocket, I felt they had to be spent somehow, and now that I am accounting for everything, I don’t spend it. I hope this will continue, as it will do me a world of good.

Second, I have realized that there will be a necessary follow up to this trial. My first 30 days, I watch how my money is being spent, but I think that I’m going to have to do another 30 days of cost-cutting, or at least maintaining a budget.

Third, on day 1, I thought Entertainment was what could cause my financial doom, but it may be otherwise. Maybe I could save on some other ways. For example, Business expense are 25% of my expenses. These make me go overdraft, and therefore I pay interest on them, and probably some bank fees; I went to the accountant at my work place, and they said I could ask for money advance, so that I won’t pay the interest!

I am sure there will be many other ways to save money, and that I won’t have to cut down too much on the having fun !!!

Here is my graph at the moment:

expenses_day_9

Accounting for my expenses trial – Day 4

November 29, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

On the logistics side of things, I’ve deleted the column entertainment, because it only contained a beer expense, and I put it in the dining out column. All the drinks will be considered dining out.

I’ve also created a new tab on the file called “Receivables”, to make sure I don’t forget to chase for the money that I think is owed to me.

Anyway, I was having a conversation with a friend today who knows I’m doing this trial, and we were asking ourselves: how on earth do we keep our networks of friends without spending? I like the friends I have I don’t want to change them… I’ve realized I lacked creativity when it came to having fun with my crew without spending a lot.

Here is where I stand today:

expenses_day_4

Accounting for my expenses trial – Day 3

November 28, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

expenses_day_31

Spending is out of control!But it’s all stuff that I deemed necessary…

Accounting for my expenses trial – Day 2

November 27, 2008

For 30 days, I’ve decided to watch and account for all my expenses.

Today, I was out of the office for the whole afternoon, visiting a warehouse. In the middle of it, I really felt like spending my money in their soda vending machine, but then thought that it would be accounted in the evening, and therefore, I lost the will to buy a can.

I decided to account for expenses that I have made, but that I expect to be reimbursed: such as work expenses, or an overpayment of utilities that my landlord will give back to me. Why? Because accounting for it makes me want to chase it more, instead of just giving up on it. Also I am probably paying interest on those expenses (haven’t quite yet recovered from the post-MBA period of unemployement) and therefore, it will be good to see the extent of my interest expense.

As of day 2, here is what constitutes my spending:

expenses_day_2

I am a bit afraid at the amount I have spent in only 2 days, even though I know I’m going to get a lot of it back…