What Do Workout Supplements and Credit Cards Have in Common?

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis.  Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

For over two years, I operated on 4 hours of sleep a night.

I’d collapse into bed at midnight, and roll back out at 4:15am.  In sleepy darkness, I’d stumble to the kitchen where I would mix a glass of water with pre-workout supplement powder.  Thirty minutes later I’d pull out of the driveway, and feel the very large dose of stimulants kick in as I drove to the gym.  By the time I got to my first weight lifting exercise I probably could have scaled the wall if I wanted to.  This worked for a long time, but then I started to experience some very undesirable side effects.

A change was needed, so I made the decision to completely quit taking any kind of pre-workout supplement.  I expected the workouts to be harder, but I wasn’t ready  for how much the lack having my body pumped full of stimulants early in the morning would affect my entire day.   All of a sudden it was very hard to get out of bed early in the morning, and I found myself being tired all day.   The stimulants had artificially been giving me the energy to push through the day with little sleep.   It really shouldn’t have been any surprise that my body eventually began to break down.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between my experience with pre-workout supplements and my financial journey.

For the first thirteen years of marriage, our finances were artificially kept afloat by supplementing our income with credit cards.  Eventually, our credit card payments grew so large that we could no longer meet our monthly financial commitments.

A change was needed, so we enrolled in a Debt management Program and quit credit cards.  We knew that living within our means for the first time ever was going to be tough,  but we had no idea how hard it would really be.  Suddenly, we had to cut out of our lifestyle things that we had become accustomed to doing at will such as lavish vacations, leaving for the weekend and staying in hotels, purchasing material items at will, and dining out several times a week.

In both cases, an artificial stimulant was used to keep things moving forward.  A huge dose of pre-workout supplements not only gave me the energy to workout, but it also masked the fact that I wasn’t getting enough sleep.  A huge dose of funds from credit cards allowed us to spend without limits for years.  It allowed us to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  It also masked the long-term damage we were doing to our family’s finances.

With the stimulants removed, we had to start doing things the right way.

I am making a concerted effort to get more sleep.  Going to bed a little earlier, and sleeping in a little later.  I’m still not getting as much sleep as I probably should, but on most nights I now average about 6 hours of sleep.  Research has shown that getting too much sleep can actually be detrimental to your health and that sleeping for between 6.5 and 7.4 hours per night is the perfect amount. I have also learned that sleep debt is a very real condition, much like financial debt. In order to pay off sleep debt, you must sleep more than 7.4 hours per night until you have caught up. Once you have caught up, however, it is best to schedule your sleep for about 7, or in my case, 6 hours per night to reduce your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Between the increased sleep and an improved diet, I now naturally have the energy to work out and get through my day.  Sometimes, I miss the head spinning  buzz that I got from the supplements, but long-term I know this is what’s best for my body.

My wife and I have cut expenses deeper than we had imagined we ever would need to, and have worked very hard to find additional sources of income.  Add to that the teamwork we’ve developed in creating and sticking to a budget and our finances have never been in better shape.  Sure, we sometimes think of the days where we spent without a care in the world, but we know that we are on the right track for a bright financial future.

We are accomplishing our goals with nothing but our own hard work and determination.  It feels right.  It feels good.

How about you, readers? Are you surviving financially through artificial means?  What are you going to do about it?

***Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Great post! I can’t imagine surviving on 4 hours of sleep so it’s good you acknowledged the potential health issues and stopped taking those supplements. My husband is really great with money and has helped me from living beyond my means. Without him I might have a lot of credit card debt!
    Kendal @HassleFreeSaver recently posted…How to Save on Summer BBQsMy Profile

  2. I never use artificial stimulants for my workouts or my finances! Why bother deluding yourself? I rather take a realistic look at my circumstances and establish a pla to reach my goals.
    krantcents recently posted…The Road to ProsperityMy Profile

  3. I think anyone who is living off of debt is relying upon “artificial stimulants” This is a great analogy.
    Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…529 Plan Basics: An Easy to Understand Guide to College PlanningMy Profile

  4. Great job for changing your life around in so many different ways for the better! It must have really racked havoc with your body to have so little sleep and to rely on stimulants to get through the day. Working through your debt is also so hard.

    I’m lucky that I began life with parents that taught me a good foundation for frugalness and saving money. I’ve been able to live below my means. I use credit cards but I pay them off each month.
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…Paying a Hefty Price to Fall Down (aka Snowboarding)My Profile

    • I had Parents that taught me a good financial foundation as well, Christine, unfortunately I decided to chuck it out the window and do it my own way. Didn’t work out so well. But, just like using the supplements, sometimes we have to learn things the hard way. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  5. I’m cranky right now from only sleeping 7 1/2 hours last night. I don’t think I could handle such little sleep, even after supplements!

    The key word you’re using here is “artificial,” and I love it. When we are have debt, the things we have in our home are not ours. This is a realization I have with my car payment constantly. Because I owe someone else for it, I really don’t own my car. I would much rather have less, yet outright own everything I do have.
    Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances recently posted…Savings Accounts: Not Just for HumansMy Profile

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