Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hip Hip Hooray for Budget Day!

Nothing soothes my worries as soundly as Budget Day! With check stubs in hand, the hum of the bright computer monitor beckons my fingers to the number pad like a pig to slop. Ahhh yes, Budget Day has quickly become my favorite day of the week… favorite ‘week’ day anyways. It’s funny because I don’t even realize I’ve come to a point of questioning if we are making the right decisions, if this will all work out, is it’s all worth it, until we hit that re-energizing moment. (Queue the choir build-up here) When we’ve sat down and plugged in the numbers from our check into our allotted payments and other categories for saving. Then freedom escapes me like a giant sigh… (HALLELUJAH!!) Like solving a nasty math problem that’s been hounding you for days. “Why is six afraid of seven? ……because seven ate nine!” (Yes, that is my version of a ‘math’ problem. But seriously, why is there no Numbers In Distress outreach program available that could have kept seven from going rogue anyways?!) Somehow, it all works out and I can quiet my nagging mind (without the use of a large glass of wine). Victory is becoming ours!

            Slowly, I can feel this new reality sinking in. Yesterday was my first trip to the grocery store with my hubby since our financial diet began. It wasn’t as hard as I had thought it would be to ignore my impulses. Especially since I never actually left the car…(kidding!) I actually felt good about saying no to myself and even pointed out things that I would’ve liked to buy but that were not something that we needed. I admit, it might have looked a little odd from a bystander’s point of view to see some ‘crazy’ lady gazing forlornly at a fresh loaf of Artisans Sourdough like it was my long lost love…but you know… I moved on…eventually.

            We also had to plan and put aside money for our trip to the fair this past weekend. I had bought my husband tickets for Larry The Cable guy back in April for his birthday. So we saved up in our ‘entertainment’ fund, took advantage of our free fair entry for our whole family and took our little monkey to check it out. We had a blast and I never felt like we skimped or missed out on anything, although we still came home with half of what we had taken to spend left over! (A great feat in itself!) I think the biggest thing is that we are both making conscious decisions with our later in mind instead of just the NOW in front of us.

*Enjoying the fair food*

            I do feel like there are a lot of things we have to say no to, but at the same time I’m amazed that we are living our life without feeling like we’re on lock down. And we’re still managing to put extra money towards paying off our debts. I love it!

            With all of that being said, I am about to enter my own personal money war zone. The Holidays! I will elaborate more on that in a later post, but let me just say this will be a REAL test for me. I am the #1 fan of the Holidays. I love crafting and creating, decorating my home and sharing in family traditions and I can easily find myself spending a lot of green in the process! Luckily, we have already been putting aside in anticipation of this season of spending. But it will take more than reining in my overly zealous buying habits. I don’t think I’ll get to the point of desperately rifling through the dumpsters at the JoAnn’s, but I’m going to have to put my creative mind to work finding ways to still indulge my inner child but at a much lower cost.
*Decorating for Fall*
          I have to admit though, as long as I have a crackling fire (well mine doesn’t crackle since it’s behind glass and ignites with the flip of a switch butttttttt this is MY daydream, dangit! And no, this luxury is not lost on us since our last home we lived in had an old brick fireplace with an iron insert that we never could figure out the flu system on and a fan that was about as quiet as a hydroplane), a cup of sweet peppermint cocoa warming my hands, Christmas music playing softly in the background, surrounded by the family and friends that I love, an ever-growing little snuggle bug curled up in my lap, my husband’s hand in mine and at least one good snowfall this season… my heart will be full and happy J

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Budget Blunder 1.0

It really was bound to happen…I mean I’d be kidding myself if I ever thought otherwise. Last weekend was my first financial slip up. It wasn’t big or bad and it didn’t blow my house down, but it was a lapse in my budget judgment none the less. My mom and I had a girls night planned for a few months now. We had to road trip to our destination so I made sure when I worked out my ‘allowance’ for the trip, it included everything; gas, food, and some spending money.  It’s also pretty easy to guess what it was that did me in…. As I approached the cash register, with a small pile of, (you guessed it!) fall/winter basics for my little cub, I didn’t need a sixth sense to tell me I was going to be over my limit. It’s kind of funny because when I was counting out my cash before I left, somehow I accidentally grabbed an extra bill. I didn’t know it until I was burning rubber on the open road, belting out Judds tunes, taking my first of a few wrong turns. (Even with my trusty GPS, Marge, telling me I was supposed to take the OTHER exit and then forcefully repeating over and over to “Make a u-turn if possible. Make a u-turn if possible.” Like she’s never taken a wrong turn in her tiny little car computer brained LIFE! ) Anyways, my husband called and said our totals were off somehow. I checked my wallet and sure enough, that little critter had snuck right in there! Maybe, subconsciously I was setting myself up for failure. It was an honest mistake but just knowing I had that extra bill to fall back on…you know…just in case, might have been what did me in. 
Anyways, snap back to my counter approaching journey, and I knew by the shear amount of items in my greedy paws that my total was too close to call. I ‘sort of’ added it up as I was picking them out, but it was all stuff that was ‘on sale’ so it didn’t seem like I was going too crazy.  Plus, it was all basics he would need soon anyways. Never mind the fact that I already had three different consignment stores on my to-do list for fall that I had planned on checking out first, before I bought anything else. Although, who knows if I would find anything there anyways. I knew I liked what I found here so this was a sure bet! Who passes up a sure bet? Especially when it’s waffle knit and on sale? And sometimes those darn price signs can be so confusing anyways. I mean half the time you get up there and find out something you picked up was actually $5 cheaper anyways! (Okay, maybe that’s more like 1/16th of the time but this moment definitely has the potential for surprise savings) And, this is an outlet mall so everything is even cheaper…right, right?!
So, with my impossible to resist persuasion skills squashing down the angel on my shoulder, I watched that total climb to $10 above my permitted amount. Ten bucks…yeah that’s it…but really it could’ve been $100 for how I felt after I left that store. That was my first real test for myself and… I failed.
It’s really not that big of a deal and I got over it but the fact of the matter is, this budgeting stuff is really going to be harder than I thought. One thing I’m really going to have to learn is how to say “No”.  Not to everyone else, but to that ‘over spending-if it’s on sale I can find a need for it-I’ve been meaning to get one of those’-person in the mirror. No matter how convincing my awesomely dominating persuasion skills may be.  I mean does my little guy really care if he’s wearing this shirt or that shirt? No matter how adorable and totally cute I deem it, he could care less as long as he’s got a diaper to poop in.  (Actually  he’s decided he’s not really a fan of those either.)
I don’t know that I can count on that fashion financial budget blunder incident being my last default in the Big Debt Beat Down, but I can certainly say lesson learned!
It wouldn’t be fair of me, though, to only give recognition to my failures in the past few weeks and not give myself a little pat on the back for my triumphs, (such as fishing out the last remaining lotion at the bottom of the bottle) however small they may be!
Last week I was so tired at work (thanks in part to my little early bird deciding he was ready to get this show on the road a couple hours earlier than normal) I honestly thought my eyeballs might melt right onto my keyboard, but I trudged through without my RockStar and instead settled for a vending machine coffee from the break room. Bought with the change I scrounged out of the ashtray turned change holder of my husband’s car. (Yes! I was THAT desperate! For anyone who’s bought a vending machine coffee, you know the gamble I was taking!) 
             Since we’ve cancelled Netflix almost three weeks ago, I still haven’t rented a single movie! While I love the $1 a night price of the Redbox, those bargain deal DVD’s have been known to sometimes take three or four days to make their way back to the henhouse.
Part of our monthly dividends includes putting aside for clothing and shoes and we’ve been meaning to buy our little big foot some new sneakers all summer. We’ve gotten away with his crocs for the good part of these last few months but have run into a few snags when they just wouldn’t cut it and his Paul Bunyon sized tootsies just won’t squeeze into his old shoes any longer. So yesterday I took him to three different shoe stores until I found the right pair for the right price. And not only did I pass up the adorable $30 Nike kicks, but I managed to walk away from the store with only ONE pair! Even my step was a little lighter as we walked out of that store, and it wasn’t just because I only had one bag to carry.
I also have to acknowledge my amazing husband who has been doing all of the grocery shopping himself (I don’t quite trust myself yet to partake in that venture as I’m just not sure those greedy little grocery elves have stopped following me, making items that are not on my list mysteriously appear in the cart). He’s gotten so good in the last month, I’m pretty sure he’s on the verge of entering into “Extreme Couponing” territory!  (Minus the ten deep stockpiles and emotional hoarding tendencies).  
For all of the little changes we are making to keep ourselves budget savvy, it’s all a small part of something so much bigger. And although I did have one little set back, it showed me the only person standing between me and victory is myself. At the end of the day, I do have to hold myself accountable but also remember that this budget plan is part of a process and my life isn’t going to transform in a day. There are bound to be a few speed bumps and roadblocks.  And besides, as they say, it’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s the decision you make to get back up that counts!