I started reading personal finance blogs this year. Because 2014 was The Year I Was Going To Be In Control Of My Finances. This was it! I would learn how to save money, spend less on frivolous purchases and meals out, and start paying off my consumer, school, and medical loans. I scoured the Internet for budget spreadsheets and sat down to make a few financial goals.
Six months later, I’m still following the same bad consumer habits. I’m making budgets, but not really sticking to them. I’m trying to put systems in place, but wondering why they’re not working. I’m trying to take on challenges, but not putting forth the effort and dedication to see them through.
It seems to be a normal pattern in my life. I try to be super ambitious and make these lofty goals that sound fun in the before. It’s in the during that I lose my focus and perserverence. And it’s in the after that I sit here, my head down and energy depleted, another goal I let fall to the wayside because things got hard and I forgot about what I wanted in the first place.
Don’t trade what you want most for what you want right now is a quote I found in a magazine a long time ago, and it’s something I’ve carried around with me since then. What I want most? What I want most is to be more responsible with my money. I want to follow through with my goals, so I can finally reach the end of a challenge and be proud of what I accomplished. What I want most is to completely change the way I view money and consumer habits, to stop living beyond my means and trust that giving up things I think I want now for big progress in the future is worth it. I live like it isn’t. I live like the present moment and my needs rightthisinstant are more important than future moments and how I want to feel.
We’re midway through 2014 and I’ve been beating myself up a lot because I’m not where I had hoped to be by now. I had hoped to have lost some weight and adopted healthier eating habits. And I had hoped to gain control over my finances, have paid off my credit cards, and started a four-figure emergency fund.
As it stands, I’ve completed one of those goals – paying off my credit cards – thanks to a sweet income tax refund, but I’m still using my credit card more than I should. (I always pay it off, but then my other money goals get pushed aside.)
It’s hard being this honest about my struggles because it opens me up to a world of criticism. I know there are people reading this who don’t understand how I can’t just be stricter with myself. I mean, I accept the criticism will come. It’s warranted. It’s usually not helpful, but I understand where it’s coming from. But I’m six weeks in a “spendless” summer and I am not doing well at all.
I’ve become passive with how I spend my money. It’s not special to me. It’s funny because I don’t even get a lot of joy out of spending money. Sometimes, I’ll shop for clothes, pick out a few items to buy, and get to the register sick to my stomach because I know that a) I don’t need what I’m purchasing and b) that money should be going to my debt. I tell myself I don’t need to go out for lunch on Saturday, but then I do because it’s become a habit for me and good god, habits are hard to break.
I decided not to outline my spending for the past two weeks because, to be quite honest, I am embarrassed when I look at the numbers. I knew I had a lot of expenses this pay period, including celebrating my mom’s birthday, but I really completely combusted at the end of the two weeks. Just a complete mess, disintegrating all my hard work.
It’s not pretty.
I have to do something different. I have to approach this differently.
I need to learn how to live with less. I’m not even sure how to do that, quite honestly. I know where my weaknesses lie – occasional shopping trips where I declare I need work clothes! or I need vacation clothes!; eating out way too freaking often; not making budgeting and frugal living a priority – and it’s up to me to fix it. I am the only one standing in my way. I have to make living a frugal lifestyle a priority. I have to acknowledge that I am responsible for my money habits, nobody else.
Being frugal is not very fun, it’s not very sexy, it’s not very exciting. It’s boring. It’s saying no to plans with friends and turning away from the cute clothes at Target during my toiletries run and choosing my boring home-cooked meals over delicious take-out. (No matter how exciting or delicious I make food, it’s still not as exciting as take-out. Sorry.)
But the end result is worth it. Because the end result I have right now because I’m not following a frugal lifestyle isn’t worth it. This feeling of disappointment and annoyance at myself sucks. I want to stop the feeling of suck. I want to feel a change in the way I approach money and consumer habits. I want to see my debt go down, my savings go up, and my budget to feel less chaotic.
So, this blog post has been close to 1,000 words of rambling and I’ll stop here. As today is pay day, I have been thinking about how I want these next two weeks to go. I can only think in two week increments, and I think that’s okay for now. I’ve decided that, indefinitely, my goal is going to be to give myself a spending budget of $300 per pay period. That $300 will cover groceries, gas, toiletries, and any other expenses I have. (After bills are paid, anything leftover minus $300 will be put in my savings. And any money left over from the $300 at the end of the two weeks will also be deposited into my savings.) It sounds like a lot because it is, but I am trying to make this as doable as possible for me while still taking care of my debts and savings.
Gradually, I want to decrease the amount until I get to a point where I can survive on $200 or less per pay period. I want to do this until I am out of consumer, school, and medical debt and until my emergency fund is at $10,000. So, basically, for a long damn time. It won’t be easy, it won’t be fun, and I am 100% certain I will mess up along the way. There will be trips planned and expenses that pop up, but I want to hold myself to this standard as often as I can.
I still plan on doing biweekly updates on my progress because I think this stuff is interesting, and I need the accountability. At least right now. Through this process, I want to see a change in the way I view consumer habits and spending money. I truly believe I can do this and I truly want this. I’ve never been good at managing my finances, but there’s no reason why I can’t be.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your money management skills? Mine? Oh, I’d guess a 3?