Both diet/exercise and financial, which were both sparked in June of 2009 when my husband and I finally decided we wanted to have a child.
We faced several serious obstacles: regarding my health, I was very overweight and had severe PCOS, which basically made me anovulatory. He has a chronic, painful genetic disease that half his children would develop (it is a dominant gene, so no “carriers”). Because of this, we knew that getting pregnant would involve a lab and would be expensive. We also were in significant debt. Furthermore, we wanted him to be able to stay home when the baby came: not so much because we think it’s the best thing for the child (though I don’t think it’s worse than daycare) but because we felt and feel like it would be the best thing for our family. Dual-working + daycare seems so hectic, and we want to enjoy our child thoroughly. All babies are hectic, of course, but someone having to take off work every time the baby gets sick or the daycare can’t be used for other reasons is just added chaos.
So we had a lot of things we needed to fix. I revamped my life to lose weight. This did involve some real sacrifices: I went from working 60+ hours a week to around 45, and because of this, some kids got a less thorough education. If teachers truly make a difference, there may well be some kids who would have gone to college but didn’t or would have felt like someone cared who didn’t or would have stayed in high school but didn’t because I made this choice. My social life also suffered: there were some good friends that I just no longer had the time to keep up with.
I mention this only because one of my greatest realizations in all of this was that making something a priority means letting other stuff go. And that was hard. But taking the time to always go to the grocery store instead of eating out, to exercise, to get enough sleep, to not get so stressed about stuff that I ate medicinally meant being less of a good teacher and less of a good friend. I think it was worth it, but it would be a lie to pretend their wasn’t a cost. I don’t think it’s nearly as noticeable to others as it is to me–I’m still a good teacher and I hope a good friend–but it was a change.
Anyway, once I made that shift, the weight came off pretty easily and I got down to a near-normal BMI and much improved my health. We started getting the money together at the same time. We restructured our budget from the ground up, using only my base salary. My husband’s entire salary plus any bonuses/stipends I made all went into paying off debt and then into savings. To do this, my husband took over extremely careful record keeping. It was a real wrench at first–we went from living like middle class people to working class people–but one we got used to it, it really wasn’t a lower quality of life. We have splurges and manage to buy most anything we want–it just takes longer, and we no longer buy stuff we don’t really want–the impulsive stuff.
Anyway, getting pregnant was its own complicated set of procedures, but I am almost ten weeks now, so things are looking pretty good. We still have no debt, a significant nest egg, and we are confident we can live on just my salary when he quits his job. Three years ago I never would have dreamed my life would be like this now.