Monday, July 19, 2010

Momentum Monday-Week 2

Happy Monday, friends!

This week I have much better news on the weight loss front, but we've made a bit less progress in saving for Disney. This has been entirely, intentional, though. Let me explain.....

So it turns out I was right last week when I gave you all my reasons (NOT excuses) for why my weight loss was so minimal. I really hated to sound like I was in denial, but I have done WW enough times in the past that I knew exactly what to expect. I knew I had followed the plan perfectly and I knew, without a doubt, that my weigh-in last week was skewed by the factors I had mentioned. Seriously...when it comes to WW, I've been there, done that. I knew things just weren't what they should have been.

Which is why this week's weight loss may seem really high. It's not. I think what this week's weigh-in represents is that ACTUAL amount I had lost my first week, but had then began retaining water (gotta love being a woman) again right before my weigh-in. I had "pseudo-gained" a couple of pounds back the way every woman is privileged to do monthly. RIGHT BEFORE MY FIRST WEIGH-IN!!!! Perfect.

So while last week was artificially deflated, this week is artificially inflated. Don't get me wrong...I've lost all the weight, I just don't think I lost it all this week. So...without further ado.....

My weight loss for this week was: -6.9 lbs!!
Weight Loss Total: -8.5 lbs!! Now we're talking!

Moving on the saving for Disney. This part of our plan is going to be on a temporary "freeze" until our move is completed. All of a sudden we are facing expenses like Uhaul rentals, installation fees, security deposits and patio furniture for the backyard we've never had (a big splurge, but we finally have a yard! I want to enjoy it!). Therefore, I am not going to be able to "find" any extra money in the budget.

That being said, it's amazing how much loose change you find in the nooks and crannies of your house when you start packing it up to move. I don't know when I decided that coins were disposable, but apparently I did, because so far we have found $8 in change lying around our home!!! Apparently we were hosting some sort of Treasure Hunt around our place but didn't even know it. So that money was added to our fund and our Disney savings now stands at: $317.42!!

Still moving in the right direction, even though we're not able to contribute much to it at the moment. Moving into a house is honestly nearly as exciting and even MORE of a true blessing than Disneyland could ever be, though, so I don't care one bit that it's putting a little cramp in my "Saving for Disney" style. Don't worry, though....I'm still working on it. I will likely find even more change before this move is over, and I happen to know my girlfriend Stephanie has a few bags of cans waiting for my boys to return (we aren't proud...that's free money, folks!). I also know that once we are officially moved in, we are going to be having a garage sale (August 20-21st! If you know me personally, mark your calendars!) that will hopefully help us make up for all the "lost" time during the move.

So there you have it. Momentum Monday #2! I hope you are all feeling momentum towards your goals today, as well!



Sunday, July 18, 2010

Survey Says!

UPDATED: Thanks to my sweet friend April, I found out that the original link I used for Lightspeed was the members link and didn't allow non-members to register anywhere! I'm so sorry for that! I have fixed the link and it should now take you directly to the registration site. (Thanks for letting me know, April....sorry I was driving you crazy with wrong info!!)

Every single time I have typed the word "survey" on this blog, I have spelled it "survery". I don't know why. My head knows that "survey" does not have that extra 'r'. Apparently my fingers do not. (Yep. I'm totally throwing my fingers under the bus.)

So I've been promising some information on surveys, and I am finally making good on that promise. I know that you've been losing sleep over it, so I apologize for the delay. There is a great likelihood that this blog post will put you to sleep, so that should make up for it.

I'm joking.

I hope.

So first, a little background. You know how companies are always throwing around terms like "market research"? One of the ways that they research the market is by surveying people online, getting their opinions on products, brands, commercials and even TV shows. Since these companies are generally busy producing said items, they rely on other, third party companies to actually round up the survey participants. These are the survey websites I will be telling you about today.

All of these survey websites are generally the same. There are slight variations, but the basic premise is this: You sign up to be a member of their survey "panel", give them some general information about yourself, and then they contact you when they have a survey they feel you would qualify to take. You qualify for a survey if you fit into the demographic they are looking for for said survey. If you are indeed, chosen for the survey and complete it, you will be reimbursed. Reimbursement varies and is generally based on the length of the survey or the narrowness of the demographic they are trying to meet.

Here is where the sites begin to differ from each other. Some of them reimburse in plain old dollars. You take a survey and a dollar amount is entered into your account (usually between 1-5 dollars). Some of them reimburse you for points. You then get to use your "points" to "purchase" prizes. The prizes are generally gift cards, but you can also choose to trade in your points for a deposit into your PayPal account.

When I first started signing up for survey sites, I was signing up for all of them. I very literally could have spent my entire day taking surveys and little else. There are dozens of these sites out there. I decided to narrow down the sites from which I would take surveys to just a handful. I chose the ones that I have found to have the most user-friendly interface and have offered me the most opportunites for surveys. These sites also have good reputations amongst other survey takers.

The sites I currently participate in are:

LightSpeed Survey (my personal favorite)
Valued Opinions
Opinion Outpost

A few things you should be aware of before diving into the world of online surveying:

#1) They take participation in the surveys very seriously. The companies need serious answers, not some jokers who are just going to fly through the survey clicking the same answer over and over without bothering to read the questions.

#2) Because of this, it takes awhile for your money to go from "pending" status to "available" status. They need to receive feedback from the company you've surveyed for, making sure that your answers are legit and you appear to have taken your time. If you are in a hurry for your money, taking surveys online is NOT for you. I want you to know up front that it takes awhile. This works for me. Just keeps me from spending it, anyway. If you are needing money to pay your power bill this month, find another way to earn money.

#3) You will need to give a lot of personal information. A lot of people are very uncomfortable with this, and I understand that. The ONLY companies who have my name are the survey sites themselves and only for reimbursement purposes. The surveys have NEVER asked my name. NO ONE has asked me for my SSN or anything delicate. They DO need to know what demographic you fit into, so they will ask you for your age, your household income, whether you own or rent, your ethnicity, etc. Different surveys ask different questions. I have not felt uncomfortable answering any of them. You may, and if survey sites are not for you, which is totally understandable.

I have had a lot of fun taking online surveys. I found out about a lot of fun new products coming to the marketplace (from companies like Nintendo Wii, Loreal, Pantene and Doritos). I have gotten to see TV shows before they are even on TV (and yes....I then get paid to tell them what I think of the TV show), and been able to give my opinions on new (often funny) commercials that are going to be hitting our televisions soon. I have found it fun to take a survey about a product and then see it on the shelves a few weeks later....I feel like I've got insider information.

I may have just given away what a super nerd I am. Oh, well. You were bound to find out sooner or later (if you hadn't already).

So now you've read the world's longest blog post. I feel like I should be reimburse you for that somehow. Maybe the information I've given to you today will help you earn a few extra bucks and we can call it even.


Friday, July 16, 2010

What a Flake!

Oh my goodness, I totally flaked on posting this week!

I promise it is not a sign of things to come. I have an excuse. And it's a good one.

You see, when I blogged on Monday, I had no idea that later that evening, God would be miraculously orchestrating some things for us which would be allowing us to MOVE! This may not sound like a big deal to some of you, but the details are amazing.

Ever since Mark and I became parents and realized we wanted our kids to be home with me every day (no, we did not realize we wanted that until AFTER we had children...which means we've been scrambling to catch up ever since), we have lived "without" some things that most people consider necessities. Don't get me wrong....we have plenty, but we only have one car, we don't vacation (which explains why I'm writing a blog about saving pennies to get to Disneyland) and we don't own a home. In fact, we don't even live in a house. We still live in an apartment. We thought about purchasing a house a few years ago and were thisclose to making it happen. We qualified for a loan and were spending some time with a realtor, looking at houses. Fortunately, God protected us from making that mistake because looking back, we were going to be putting ourselves in an ugly situation financially. We would have had NO breathing room in our budget and likely would have found ourselves another statistic in the housing crisis this country is facing.

So we have continued to afford to live in an apartment, and until recently, when the boys started moving on from the sweet toddler stage to the destructive balls of testosterone stage of life, it wasn't a problem. We wanted something else, but we did not NEED something else.

So in February when my parents' neighbor, Katie told them she was moving out of her house and was looking to rent it out, my Dad told her we might be interested. She jumped at the chance to have tenants who she knew, who she trusted and who would not require she go through a property management company. All of those things meant she was not only willing to rent to us, but she was willing to rent to us CHEAP. Unfortunately, we had this little problem of a lease which had been signed in November for the term of a year. We approached our property management company and asked for mercy. They said "No Way." We took a couple of other approaches to getting out of the lease (all of them legal and ethical but too boring to list on this blog), but we had no success. We resigned ourselves to living here until the Fall and prayed that somehow it would still work out for us to take advantage of the opportunity.

Fast-forward to Monday night. Out of the clear, blue sky, our property management company left a letter on our door saying they had reconsidered and were going to allow us to break our lease. We would be responsible for no additional monies, only rent up until the day we leave. And the day we leave? Gets to be determined by us! We don't have to give 30 days notice!!!

So as excited as I am about my weight loss and saving for Disneyland, they all of a sudden went to the back burner as I started making phone calls about getting utilities moved and researching cable companies. Finding boxes and reorganizing our schedule (mostly just clearing it) to make time for packing, packing and more packing. Our plan is to be moved out of here and into the new home the weekend of August 1st, which means we have 2 weeks to pack up a home that we have filled to the brim.

So I forgot to/did not have time to blog.

But don't worry....I'm not going anywhere! Talk about "MOMENTUM"!! I'm losing weight! I'm saving money! I'm moving into a house! With a yard! And a garage! And Central Air! And an extra bedroom! I'm on fire! Thank the LORD!

So I'll be back on Monday for "Momentum Monday" with my status updates and I'll get the survey sites post up this weekend sometime.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Momentum Monday-Week 1

It's been 6 days since I started on the path to weight loss. Every time I start Weight Watchers (and sadly, I've started it a few times), I am reminded of how (relatively) easy it is to stick to and be successful with. You can customize it to fit your lifestyle and your personal food preferences. I am a TERRIBLY picky eater, and joining any sort of diet that pre-makes my food for me would not only be cost-prohibitive, but I probably wouldn't like most of what they made for me. Weight Watchers makes sure I eat lean proteins, whole grains and fruits & veggies, but I get to choose which ones.

Which brings me to today. My first weigh in! I woke up this morning very excited to jump on the scale. Seriously. The first week of weigh in is usually a huge encouragement. You start seeing the pounds drop off the scale and it makes you want to see more. Not only that, but the first week is usually a big initial drop of weight, because you drop a bunch of the water weight your body has been holding onto because of all the (likely) processed foods (therefore...sodium!!) you've been eating. This has been my experience in the past. Today did not follow that trend. Don't get me wrong. I lost weight, and I'm glad for that. I didn't lose as much as I expected to, and that's a little disappointing. In fact, when I finally did step on the scale, I was so bummed I almost didn't want to blog. I kept trying to think of excuses to not blog today. But I'd made a commitment and what good is accountability if you avoid it?? So I'm blogging, just like I said I would.

So....without further ado.......this week's loss was (drum roll please...): 1.6 lbs!!!
Total weight lost so far: 1.6 lbs!!!

I have some legitimate reasons for why my weight loss was less than expected. I wasn't going to post them on here because I didn't want to sound like I was making excuses, but then I decided that it might be important. I want to be an encouragement to anyone reading this blog that weight loss is possible, and that Weight Watchers is a great program. So here are some reasons (NOT excuses) as to why my weight loss was less than expected:
-It's only been 6 days, as opposed to the usual week between weigh ins. This is because I started on Tuesday last week because of the holiday weekend.
-I am still retaining water. For a reason totally unrelated to the food I've eaten. I'll leave it at that.

So we'll see. I know I've followed the plan and have counted EVERY point I've eaten. And honestly....I lost weight!! Just because it wasn't as much as I wanted to lose does not mean I'm not moving in the right direction.

Moving on.....
Saving money for Disney has been a huge success this week, do in large part to the fact that we finally got around to celebrating my husband's birthday with his family. Not every week will contain that kind of jump that this one did. This week, we added:

-$25.70 that I cashed out from one of my survey sites (SurveyHead)
-$60.50 from "found" checks that I blogged about last week
-$4 given to my kiddos for the fund from their Auntie Reen and their Papa (my Dad)
-$75 in Disney gift cards from Mark's mom

This puts us at the amount saved for Disney a grand total of: $309.20!!!

That number makes me a lot happier than my weight loss number. Honestly, though....both numbers are moving in the right direction and THAT'S what I need to focus on!!!

Enjoy your Monday, friends! I'll be back tomorrow with a post about survey sites! Right now I'm off to Wii Fit!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Plan Coming Together

So far, so good!

I know I'm only 3 days in, but I'm feeling so much momentum, it's hard not to be enthusiastic. All of you reading this blog have been amazing! I wish I could somehow convey how much it means to have people rooting for you. Not to mention the success stories I've been getting emails and comments makes me feel like I can really do this!

Even though I started Weight Watchers officially on Tuesday, I didn't re-join until last night. The truth is, I wasn't sure I was going to. My plan had been to try and follow WW based on what materials I already had and what information I already knew. I'm not sure what exactly changed my mind, but I'm so glad I did! It's another source of inspiration for this battle I have ahead of me. I love to cook, so I enjoy browsing through the (literally) thousands of recipes WW has online so I can lose weight and still make fun, interesting things for my family to eat.

Seriously....if you don't already know about Weight Watchers, and you need to lose any weight...go check it out. It's the best plan out there.

The saving of money got a boost last night as I realized I had a couple of checks from customers on my fridge. I had forgotten they were there, and we have been surviving just fine without depositing them into the account. Soooo....they have officially moved over into the "found money" category! We'll cash the checks (so my customers can balance their checkbooks) and that money will go right into our Disney fund! Even my kids are getting in on the action. They each received a dollar from my Aunt Maureen yesterday. Normally this would go towards a trip to the dollar store, but they each decided they wanted it to go to Disneyland! Love it!

What I've decided to do is make every Monday the day I will post my progress. I'll call it "Momentum Monday" and I'll post how much weight I've lost that week and where our Disney fund stands for the week. I'm looking forward to watching both of those numbers grow! During the course of every week, I plan to share with you any tips, deals or ideas that have contributed to my success. I have some very specific posts ahead of me that will give details on topics like the online surveys, but I hope to also be able to share random gems of information as I come across them. Sometimes it can be the smallest tip that can make the biggest difference. Remember when we all discovered "Skinny Cow" ice cream sandwiches?? A seemingly small thing suddenly gave all of us Weight Watchers an amazing gift.

So....along those lines.....
My new favorite "diet" beverage? Snapple's "Trop-a-rocka"!! If you watched "Celebrity Apprentice", you know that this was Bret Michael's season-winning flavor creation. I have to be honest....I was skeptical, but my Mom bought some awhile ago for a family BBQ and I am HOOKED! It does not taste like diet, yet it is. I've heard that its a wonderful treat when blended with ice. Kind of like a slushie, but without the empty calories. It's not always easy to find, but it's worth seeking it out. I've been successful at finding it at Fred Meyer so far, so start there. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Plan

Today is the day!

I'm actually really excited, which I wasn't sure I'd be. Normally the idea of exercise and no more Taco Bell would fill me with sadness, but I'm feeling good about things this time! Maybe because I have a greater goal in mind beyond just the weight loss itself.

So now to give you an idea of what my plans are.

First...the weight loss. I am going to do Weight Watchers. Again. No need to reinvent the wheel. I have lost over 60 pounds on WW before and I know it works. I know I can afford it and I know that I generally don't feel deprived while on it. I have failed on WW only for the same reasons I would have failed on ANY diet....laziness. This time I have Disney keeping me motivated. I will also begin utilizing my 24 Hour gym membership again and using my Wii Fit more. The weight loss is requiring less creativity because I've done it before. As I've been saying..."It's not about what I don't KNOW, it's about what I don't DO." I'm going to start doing. I have a lot of weight to lose, but for the purposes of this blog and this trip to Disney, I am setting my goal at 60 lbs. I don't want to set myself up for failure by setting a goal that is unrealistic.

Second....the money. THIS is going to require much more creativity because of the fact that our family budget simply does not support a trip to Disney. Not in a timely manner, anyway. And not in the manner in which I am hoping to go. I don't want our budget to be so tight that there is no room for splurging and fun. I don't want our hotel to have roaches and I don't want to eat fast food for every meal. I want to have a vacation. Here are some ways I will be saving for our trip:

**Birthdays and Christmas. Our family members have been informed that all Christmas and birthday gifts this year are to be monetary contributions, Disney gift cards or items which we would have need to purchase for the trip anyway.

**Craigslist and ebay. We have a lot of stuff around our home that could very easily be someone else's treasure. We're going to clean out some closets and add to the Disney fund simultaneously. Win-Win. Win.

**Couponing to Disney. The day after my Mom reminded me of our impending trip, I started googling like mad. Terms like "Disneyland for cheapskates" and "Disneyland when you have no money". This delightful blog popped up on my list and I instantly decided that this woman and I were kindred. She has been a tremendous source of inspiration and information. So I will be "Couponing to Disney".

**Online surveys. Couponing to Disney also linked to some sites that have already earned my quite a few dollars. They are online survey sites that pay you for taking.....(you guessed it) surveys. there are LOTS of these sites out there and not all of them are legit. I will give you details in a future post about which sites are worth your time. I have been working these sites for about 3 weeks and I've earned about $80 so far. They work. Each site requires you reach a certain dollar amount before they will "cash you out", so for future reference, I will not be including the amount I have earned from any survey sites until I have the cash in hand. So, for example, when I give you the amount saved so far today, it will not include the $80 mentioned above. I haven't cashed out any site yet.

**"Found Money". Recently my MIL gave us $15 for picking her up at the airport (she didn't have to...she insisted). Since that money was not in the budget, we just stuck it in the Disney fund. Can deposits fall into this category. Loose change falls into this category. Any money that we never planned on having or using will fall into this category and will go right into the Disney fund. Even if it's only a penny. Pennies add up!

**My Scentsy business. I sell Scentsy and we have decided that all commissions between now and Disney will go into the Disney fund. So if you feel inspired to help us on our journey to Disney, buy some Scentsy from me. You'll love it! :) I'll put a link on my sidebar to my website and that will be all you'll hear about Scentsy from me. That's not what this blog is for. But I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention it!

So far, the cash we have IN HAND that we have saved for Disney is: $144.02!!! Not bad for 3 weeks work! (And like I said...that doesn't include the survey money yet).

So those are my plans. I had intended to include a little bit more information in this post, but it's already REALLY long, so I'll save that for another time. Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Down to Disney

Well over 5 years ago my son, Elijah was born. At the time we didn't realize how quickly he would be followed by Micah, our youngest son. Eighteen months later we had TWO little guys and we were overwhelmed by sleepless nights, diaper changes and strained peas. It was not something we had expected and I had to make a list for myself of all the reasons I would (eventually) be glad to have had my children so close together:

#1) We would only have to go through "The Diaper Season" once, and then it would be over with.

#2) They would be great buddies who would always have a playmate.

and my favorite reason.....

#3) They would both be ready to take to Disneyland at approximately the same time!!!!

While they were both still too young to sing their ABC's, my Mom and I were already planning their first trip to Disneyland. We decided that the perfect time would be spring of 2011. Elijah would be 6 and Micah would be 4 and a half, which sounded like ideal ages. It also sounded like a long time away. We weren't sure we could wait so long, but we didn't want to take the kids when they were too young to enjoy it. So we scribbled "Disneyland" onto our mental calendars for May, 2011 and went on with life.

Recently my Mom and I were at the Disney store together and she reminded me of our plans for next year. I was simultaneously filled with excitement and fear. When she and I had made our plans 4 years ago, I was sure that Mark and I would have won some sort of lottery by now, making Disneyland easily affordable. I was also sure that my 472nd attempt at Weight Watchers would have finally been a success and I would be at a weight that would make it easy to chase two young boys around a theme park for a week. Sadly, neither of those things have come to pass and it seems as though I'm going to have some major work ahead of me if I want to make this dream a reality.

Which is why I've created this blog. I have money to save. I have weight to lose. And I am TERRIBLE at both of those things! I am going to need to be held accountable, and there is nothing like announcing my ambitions to the internet to make me feel like I have to accomplish them. Pride can be an ugly thing, but when it motivates me to lose weight and save money so that I don't have to feel like a failure in front of the world wide web, then it's a good thing!

So tomorrow is the day. The day I begin counting my pennies and counting my calories. In the morning, I will be giving you more details about what my specific goals are and how I plan to accomplish them. This post was was to introduce you to why. I really want to hear from any of you reading, so feel free to comment! This blog was created to be a source of accountability and encouragement, so I would honestly love it if you could help me with either or both.

Thanks for joining me on my journey "Down to Disney"! See you tomorrow!


Saturday, June 26, 2010


I've had an idea. I want to take my family to Disneyland. I want to have a great time, not worrying if I'll run out of money or energy. We're going in May, 2011, and I have a lot to save and a lot to lose. This blog is going to help hold me accountable.

I'm making my way Down to Disney.

Come with me!