Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Managing health

I always have the best of intentions with exercise. I get a gym membership, go for a few weeks or months, and then just really mean to go back. Or I'll rent a Pilates video, or get a yoga mat and try a few classes...but it somehow never sticks. And this is not precisely cost-effective, either in the short-term, when I'm spending money to become fit, or in the long-term, when I'll be buying blood pressure medicine or having back, hip, and knee problems from hauling around extra weight.

One possible solution that Husband and I have come up with is to buy an elliptical machine. The idea solves a lot of the problems that the other attempts have had (inconvenience of traveling to the gym, waiting on a favorite machine & dealing with drama queens once there, self-consciousness), but it creates some of its own problems. For starters, it is easy to stop a membership after only a small initial investment, but if we buy a machine, our costs are all upfront. If we want to move, as we were looking to do within a couple of years, we'd have to haul it around with us. We don't have a clear, open space to put it and use it; we'd have to clear out our spare room much more aggressively than we have done.

Also, we are facing a choice about what sort of machine to get. Consumer Reports lists two Best Buys: one that costs around $2K and is gym-quality (Precor) and one that costs around $900 (Schwinn 418) but is flimsier. I am inclined to go with quality--it'll be safer, last longer, and retain a larger resale value. On the other hand, if the convenience of having the machine doesn't surmount the excuses not to use it, that extra thousand dollars is pointless. It's a sticky dilemma, not made easier by the fact that we could afford, with our reserved savings, to go either way.

I think a possible solution would be to look for used machines, now that I am thinking this through with an eye toward frugality. We still need to clear out that space, but once it's free for us to get our elliptical, perhaps some other ambitious soul will be ready to jettison theirs.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Budgeting Bliss

Husband and I have been working, somewhat desultorily, on creating an actual paper budget. As I half-expected, our expenses look really good on paper, but in practice, there usually isn't as much left as it seems there should be. Which means, of course, that the budget isn't accurately reflecting reality.

We're still in an evaluative stage with the budget-creation, now that the wedding is over and things are getting back to a normal pattern again. As we do that, we're taking some baby steps toward frugality, but not cutting back so much that we feel deprived and might backlash into some unwise spending. Luckily, neither of us particularly enjoy shopping as a stress-reliever (although my cooking/baking habits and his video-gaming habits can both increase some budget columns).

I find that I enjoy discussing the budget/expenses with my husband; it feels familial, homey. Then again, I so rarely handle cash that all of this budgeting feels like a role-playing game, or an academic exercise--like we're playing at being grown-ups. It's very abstract to me, and unconnected with anything that's important in life. Would I choose to live differently if we had more money? You know, probably not. I like our cozy, crazy, cramped little condo (though granted, a little more counter space in the kitchen wouldn't come amiss); I like our cars, our computers, our stuff.

Back to the game, I suppose.