Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Sloppy Records Make It Hard to Repay Friendly Loan

DEAR HARRIETTE: Over the course of the year, I have loaned my best friend quite a bit of money. It was in little bits here and there, always with the promise that he would pay me back. Now we are about to settle, and I realize that I have no idea how much in total I loaned to him. I don't expect him to lie about it, but I know that I was pretty sloppy with this transaction considering that I really do need him to pay me back. Is it crazy for me to ask him if he has a log of the loans? What can I do to have an accurate account of how much he is to pay me back? -- Mad at Myself, Shreveport, La.

DEAR MAD AT MYSELF: You are not unusual in your challenge right now. When people do business with friends and family, it is often messy. Obviously, that is not the best approach. Since you are in this position, you are at the mercy of your friend's honesty, and more, his level of organization.

Be honest with him. Tell him that your records are flawed. Ask him if he knows the exact sum he owes you and if he actually kept records of dates and payments. If not, you will have to base the amount on the best recollection that the two of you have. Moving forward, make sure that you write these transactions down and that you include receipts for the money that changes hands if you expect to be reimbursed in the future. Being professional about your agreement keeps it clean and reduces any emotional impact.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been a yo-yo dieter and exerciser for years. Surprise, I am overweight. I just can't seem to get it in my head to move my body consistently. Then I get mad at myself when I look in the mirror and see that I am carrying around extra pounds. I feel sick at how inconsistent I have been. But that feeling hasn't gotten me to get my butt up and move. With the cold weather coming, I fear that I will do nothing for months and be in an even worse position in the spring. How can I snap out of this? I want better for myself. -- Fat and Frustrated, Los Angeles

DEAR FAT AND FRUSTRATED: What you need is motivation. Start by getting a physical so that you know what your health status is and if you have any specific concerns to take into consideration. Ask your doctor if you can get a referral for a nutritionist who can help you craft a healthy eating plan.

Next, set simple goals for yourself, nothing too big. For instance, you can promise yourself to walk each day. Start small with just 10 minutes. Walk those 10 minutes for a whole week and mark it off on your calendar. Then add five minutes. Build up to 30 over time. Invite a friend or neighbor to walk with you. Or choose another activity that is easy and manageable. Write it down and check it off when you do it. Your record of success will help you to keep moving. Consider joining Weight Watchers or another organization that supports people in meeting their health goals. You can do it!