Over the weekend, I told the future husband that I think I’m losing my taste for spending money. I’m on track to come in $230 under budget this month, and I can’t think of anything that I really need to spend that on. We talked about how it’s similar to the taste for junk food. In our heavier days, each of us ate fast food regularly. When I ate McD’s on a regular basis, I would crave it every day. As I drove past the two or three McD’s on my commute, I’d have a fight with myself over those darn french fries: “eat healthy at home,” “get the fries; they’re so yummy,” “you should eat all those veggies you bought,” “but the fries!!” This would repeat until I just gave in at Franchise Number Three and went through the darn drive-thru. Now that I’m in the habit of cooking and have a great partner who reinforces my healthy tendencies, I can’t really stand McDonald’s or any fast food chain. I can smell that corporate-y, manufactured smell as soon as I drive on the lot, and I have no desire to eat it. I’ve lost my taste for most junk food.
Now, I’m really excited because, after just two months of better financial habits, I think I’m loosing my taste for junk spending. When I’m driving home, I’m no longer tempted to stop off at Barnes and Noble or Target for a quick pick-me-up. I’ve cut my cash allowance in half and don’t feel like I’m spending any less. I think all the good habits I’m developing — like sticking to a list, thinking through any purchases, looking for small ways to increase my income — are crowding out my old ways. I know I used to go shopping when I was bored or grumpy, not even fun clothes shopping, just quick trips into Target or a bookstore. I also know I used to run to the grocery store for any little thing.
A few years ago, a friend of mine and I developed a philosophy of “rock bottom renewal.” Basically, we felt you had to hit rock-bottom with your eating habits before you’d really commit to a new diet. Sometimes, we even gorged ourselves during rock-bottom weekends so that we’d feel completely ready for whatever diet we had picked. I think, in the back of my mind, I knew January was a rock-bottom spending month.We’d just gotten through Christmas, and I thought I should have been cutting back. Instead, money just seemed to flow through my fingers. The rock-bottom moment came on Martin Luther King Day when I had the future step-kids. We got manicures, went shopping, ate lunch out, and went to the movies for a grand total of around $120. The future husband had given me his credit card, but I felt guilty about how much we were spending and put about half of it on my card. Mind you, this was not the kids’ fault at all. They would have been happy with whatever I had suggested doing, and they would have been fine with me saying, “let’s pick one fun thing to do today.” Instead, I was the one who wanted to make sure they had a great day and just said “yes” to any idea that popped in my head. Shortly after that, I read an article in Real Simple about saving money, and shortly after that my new financial diet began.
To see if I really am losing my taste for junk, I decided to add up all my spending in January for four variable categories: cash, groceries, eating out, and “all the extras.” I looked over the credit card statements for all three cards, plus my checking account. The dates aren’t exact, but I think the totals are a pretty accurate snapshot of all my bad habits. When I was done, I just about threw up. You’re about to see why! So, how much did I spend in January?
- Cash: $160. I spent my normal allotment. On what? I have no idea. Probably lunches and odds and ends.
- Eating Out: $42.57. This was for one girls’ night where I know I ordered one more martini than I should have.
- Groceries: $998.51. That’s right! Over the course of eleven trips to the store, I spent close to $1000. Were we eating lobster and caviar every night? No, I’m not sure that I could tell you what we were eating. I’d shop with a list, but I planned new meals most nights, bought all sorts of quirky ingredients, and threw away leftovers.
- All the Extras: $499.81. This includes that MLK Day spree, three trips to the bookstore, two trips to Target, party supplies for a birthday, a new kate spade wallet, and (I’m really embarrassed here) an over-limit charge on one card that came from sheer carelessness. I couldn’t tell you what books I bought or what I bought at Target. Out of all of that, I budgeted for one trip to the bookstore, one gift, one trip to Target, and the wallet.
- TOTAL: $1700.89. That’s right! After Christmas, we when should have been cutting back, I spent seventeen hundred dollars. How much of that did I really need? A comparison to March clarifies!
In March, I stuck to my new financial goals, launched this blog, made money snowflaking, and managed to pay $900 on my credit cards. Every category is a much healthier amount!
- Cash: $120. I cut $40 here and didn’t feel any difference.
- Eating out: $25. That was for one, much more sensible girls’ lunch.
- Groceries: $500. I spent exactly the budget on groceries for the month. I only went to the store once a week or so. I also didn’t plan as many new meals, forcing myself to be more creative with what we had in the house some nights.
- All the Extras: $95. What a difference! I can tell you what each purchase was too: a magazine subscription, extra money for my flight to Missouri, one trip to Target for cleaning supplies, and one gift.
- TOTAL: $740.
That means my bad spending habits were roughly $1000 a month. I think that’s probably pretty true for the whole time I’ve lived in Ohio. I kept sending big payments to my cards and still felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Just think about what I could have done with that $16,000! Oh yikes! I don’t want to think about that! The good news is that I feel like I’ve set myself up for success with support from the future husband, my family, and this blog. It took some courage to come clean about my bad habits, but now I have more energy and am really excited about the future. Just like with eating healthy, spending healthy is making me feel ten times better about myself. Here’s to hoping I really have lost my taste for junk!