Aug
31

Bring On the Belt Tightening

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By the time folks are reading this post, it will be September (Crap! Already?), and I will be embarking on a new adventure– a first for me. I will be working toward making a budget and striving to be a fiscally responsible human being. How about that?

So I say “working toward” because I can’t actually make a budget until I figure out what kind of money we need to meet our expenses. I can’t cut back on unnecessary spending until I figure out where it’s really being spent. I have some idea, of course. I pay our bills. I pay attention. But expenses, lately, because of our new situation, have not been, let’s say, “normal.” We’ve just spent a whole bunch of money getting our new place together which meant paying for the move itself, buying some furniture and a new television and registering Charlie in a new pre-school, and  yada yada– or more accurately–cha-ching, cha-ching.

I’ve just come to a point where I’ve lost all perspective on our financial situation. And I want to get it back.

Oh, we’re not in dire straits thanks to what amounts to either dumb luck or divine intervention in buying and then eventually selling our Studio City townhouse when we did. But I’ve now been unemployed for two years (and there was a six month stretch when my  husband was unemployed right along with me), so obviously, we have been dipping into our savings regularly to pay our bills, especially now that we’ve moved out of my parents’ house. I’d really like to get a handle on things before the savings is all gone, especially since said savings is really our only hope of home ownership in the future.

I need to do this because I’ve been whining about having to go back to work full time and wishing I didn’t have to. And yet, ask me if I really have to work full time? Ask me how much money I need to bring in in order for us not to operate in the red? I don’t know. I operate under assumptions and guesstimates. It would make my decision making on the career front a whole lot easier if I actually knew dollars and cents. But I don’t. Not yet.

I need to do this because aside from our current situation, money has always kind of been an issue. Since I was old enough to work and make my own money, I’ve been a spender. I come by it honestly; I don’t come from a long line of savers. Luckily, I married a man who, while not penny pinching or frugal, at least keeps me in check. I still spend, and to be honest, more than I should. Not outrageously crazy, but more than I need to, and enough to keep us from actually saving anything.

I have a particular weakness for handbags. Even when I have no desire to shop or try on clothes, a new bag will always catch my eye. Yep. I love me my Isabella Fiore, my Francesco Biasia, my Ellington, and, more recently, my B. Makowsky. No, I do not change bags to match outfits or have a ridiculous amount of them (that’s how I justify the expense– I carry a bag every day for a season– and I’ve even sold some used ones on eBay when I was done with them!), but I will shell out what most would consider an absurd amount of money for a handbag. Weakness, I tell you.

Today, I bought myself a Coach bag. But when I couldn’t even admit to my best friend how much it cost, well, I knew it would be going back. *Sigh.

Okay, I’m getting a little off the track here, but not really. I bought that bag today because (aside from the weakness thing) I knew that starting tomorrow I would be tracking my spending. It was a last impulse splurge before the belt tightening,  Pretty typical for me whenever I get the urge to start “being better about spending.”

This is usually how I roll: I make a list of the things I deem “necessary” for the moment, and then I say, “Okay, I am going out to purchase these things and then I’ll have everything I “need” (and by “need” I mean want). Just these things on this list. THEN, no more spending!”

Naturally, it’s not too long before I come up with yet another list.

In truth, I have always been a little bit afraid to go on a budget. I’ve always feared it would turn me into of those people who watches every penny and obsesses over dime spent. The kind of person who can’t simply split a check at a restaurant, but brings that uncomfortableness with the “Well I had the chicken salad and a coke, so that makes $11. 62 for me.” The kind of person who can’t buy something she truly needs because it’s not on sale. The kind of person who can’t go to a nice restaurant because she doesn’t have a coupon.

I like being the kind of person who can say, “Let me get the check” once in a while. I like being the kind of person who indulges herself on occasion with a facial or a massage- or yes, even a nice new designer bag.

I’m afraid a budget will wreak havoc on my lifestyle.  I don’t want an Excel spreadsheet to tell me I can’t get my hair highlighted, or meet my friend for lunch, or get a manicure, or…or…or.

I’m quite aware that I sound like a brat, but I’m just trying to be honest.

I’m very afraid of those four little words: NOT IN THE BUDGET.

Budgets stink.

Or maybe not.

I don’t know.

I’ve never tried.

That’s kind of the point.

I want to smarter about addressing this issue. So instead of my usual route of trying to go cold turkey on the spending, I am going to start simply tracking it. Every dime.

First, I think by writing down every time I spend money and what I spend it on, it will make me think twice about spending it. Naturally, I will be trying to cut down on my spending in tandem with the tracking. There are just no hard and fast rules about what I can and can not spend– only that I have to write it down when I spend it.

Second, it will help me to get a clear picture of where our money goes. When I’ve got a clear picture in front of me, I will be able to see what kind of changes I can make in my spending habits that will help toward saving without making me feel like I’m being bullied by my checkbook.  And, more importantly, I will be able to make some important decisions about our financial future as well as my career path.

So I’m just starting there. Tracking. I will probably have to do it for at least a month or two before patterns can begin to emerge or necessary changes jump out at me. I think, anyway. Again, all new here.

Then, I’ll take it from there. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be ready for the next step. Hopefully.

As always, I will keep you posted.

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Categories : journeys in life

Comments

  1. LeeWee says:

    I REALLY need to join you in this crusade. I feel like things have gotten totally out of my control and I blame part of it on Quicken, direct deposit and automatic withdrawals. I guess I could also blame my handbag obsession as well. What’s with that anyway?

    [Reply]

    Kelly Reply:

    PLEASE join me, LeeLee. Like I said, this month and probably next I’m only being moderately cautious about spending and meticulously recording every penny. You can do that much, right? t’s the best place to start.
    Mom needs to join us too :-)

    [Reply]

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