The Money Diet, week 9: The profitable plateau

I'm not going to even pretend to be optimistic about how things have been going on my Money Diet this week, and yet, I'm not pessimistic -- hey, at least I'm not gaining weight! I'm just not losing it either. One reader commented after last week's post that maybe I'm gaining muscle, which weighs more than fat. Hmmm. I like that. I'm going to go with that.

So let's just get the weight out of the way, then we can move on.

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 247
My weight this week: 247

For those who don't know what I'm talking about and wonder why I would put my weight down in print (Is he drunk? Did he lose a bet?), this is week nine of the Money Diet. As some regular readers of WalletPop are aware, on January 1 I drew a line in my piece of pie and declared: "This is it. I'm finally going to lose weight."

And I did. At first, anyway.

My gimmick is that I'm adding up all the money I'm not spending when I get a hankering for junk food or snack food but I don't buy it. By doing that, I've managed to not eat quite a bit of food and to save quite a bit of money, (though my savings are somewhat offset when I replace the junk food with a healthier snack, like a fiber bar or nonfat yogurt).

In any case, the diet has worked, somewhat. I'm sure giving up sugary soda is part of the reason I lost 11 pounds in the first week. Ever since, though, I've been lucky to lose a pound a week, and some weeks, nothing at all. But maybe that's because I've gained muscle.

If that is the reason, I clearly need to gain even more muscle -- and fast -- if I don't want to be humiliated once again in front of my wife and daughters. A few days ago, after dinner, we were all discussing my diet when my six-year-old daughter, Lorelei, announced that she was going to show me how to exercise. Suddenly, we're both on the floor, and she's showing me how to do sit-ups.

"But I know how to do sit-ups," I protested, gasping between breaths.

Isabelle, my 8-year-old, looked at me, dubious. "Are you sure?"

"Very funny. If I ever get up, I'm going to have to chase you."

"You won't have the breath," Isabelle countered.

"Now we're going to do jumping jacks," Lorelei announced, leaping to her feet.

I staggered to my feet, and we went through the paces of maybe 10 jumping jacks, which, sadly, were enough for me.

Then she wanted to do push-ups.

Dear God, no, I thought.

But I couldn't say no, of course. No to a pony or staying up past midnight, that would be easy. If she had asked me if she could watch a scary movie or climb onto the roof, I would have had a case. But how do you say "No, thanks" when your daughter asks if you'll do push-ups with her?

Of course, I could have chosen that moment to say "Hey, I hear the telephone" or something along those lines and excuse myself, but no such luck. I wasn't thinking fast enough.

The last time I did a push-up was probably at least three presidential terms ago, and so I looked at the floor, wondering if this was going to be anything like that scene in Stripes, the 1981 comedy where Bill Murray's character feebly attempts some push-ups in his apartment and then, realizing how out of shape he is and how pathetic his life has become, winds up enlisting in the Army.

Still, I dutifully descended to the floor, and as Lorelei did her push-ups, so did I.

My first push-up went pretty well, so I did a second, suddenly brimming with confidence. But then reality caught up with me, and I did my third push-up gasping, my arms wobbling and my body floundering. Then I crashed into the carpet. And just kind of lay there.

"Mommy, is Dad okay?" Isabelle asked.

"I often wonder that myself," she said. "I mean, yes, he's fine."

So I've plateaued, but I'm at least still earning money. In fact, I'd say a lot of money this week, because there were so many times I wanted to pick up some junk food or fast food but didn't. So here we go. As I do every week, this is what I think I've saved:

  • Every week, I start with this. I still haven't bought my bag of my favorite pretzels, which I used to scarf down within about 24 hours. Actually, it was two bags, since if I bought one I would get a second one for free. But that's becoming a distant memory, or it would if my kids would just stop saying, "Do you miss your pretzels?" and calling me "Pretzel Man." I think your kids nicknaming you after your favorite snack food is probably a good sign you have a problem. Actual savings: $3.29.
  • I drove past several fast-food outlets this week, considered dropping in on some favorites but didn't. Estimated savings, and I'm going to give myself a little more than I usually do: $10.
  • Still haven't stolen any of my wife's soda supply. Estimated savings: $3.50.
  • Did some grocery shopping. Stared longingly at a bag of Doritos, wondering if they missed me half as much as I missed them. They were on sale, so I didn't save much, but it was still a good move to pass them by. Actual savings: $2.32.
  • Looked at several other snack items at the grocery store. I'll guess I saved at least a few more bucks by not picking up, say, reduced fat cookies or regular cookies, for that matter. Estimated savings: a few more bucks.
  • I usually snack at night -- though at least I'm sticking with low-calorie, no sugar cereal and nonfat yogurt -- but I skipped one night and decided that for every night I skip, I should throw $2 into what I figure I'm saving. I got excited, thinking that would motivate me to skip more evening snacks, but, you know, two bucks isn't much, and, well, I just skipped one evening. Estimated savings: $2.
That probably does it. I may not be getting thinner, but at least my wallet's getting fatter.

My total saved this week: $24.11
Total saved this year so far: $215.53

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.

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