Avoiding Financial Temptations

money-256312_640 I’m not sure if it’s because Todd and I have made the conscious decision to be more financially responsible that I’m noticing this or not, but it’s become pretty obvious to me that our society is littered with financial temptations. Whether it’s things like payday loans, great sales on things we don’t need, super-special Groupon deals, or a tempting credit card limit increase, it seems like there’s no end to the amount of financial landmines out there, looking to trip us up. No wonder so many young people get themselves in financial trouble at an early age. Temptation is…well…tempting, isn’t it? Creating a budget is tough. Sticking to that budget is even tougher, particularly when you’ve got your credit card company offering you credit limit increases and you’re getting daily emails from Groupon about the latest and greatest local “deals”. Just yesterday I received yet another teaser from my credit card company, reminding me, yet again, that I’m eligible for an increase. I’ll be honest…for a minute there, an image of Todd and I buying plane tickets and taking off on an impromptu winter vacation flashed through my mind. And then…reality. Sure, that vacation would be great (and is much-needed by us both), the greatness would be vastly overshadowed by how much it would suck to return home afterwards and be faced with the reality of even more consumer debt than we’re already dealing with. I gave my head a quick shake and deleted the email. My fleeting sadness was replaced with a feeling of satisfaction…knowing that we’re going in the right direction. And sure, vacations feel great, but being in control of one’s finances feels even greater. Cheesy, but true. It’s that whole short term discomfort for long term gain thing again. The way I’ve been personally able to avoid these temptations is to remove them as options in my mind. Sure, I flirted a little bit with the old “increased credit limit” monster but when it came right down to it, I knew that it really wasn’t a reasonable option for us. I delete those “great deal” emails as soon as they come in (though I haven’t been strong enough to click “unsubscribe” just yet). I remind myself often of our end goal. I take a look at how far we’ve come with our finances, rather than focusing on how far we have left to go. Some days its easier than others, I’ll fully admit that. But we all know that this whole financial responsibility thing isn’t easy, otherwise we could have done it a long time ago, amiright?

What about you? Do you have any financial temptations that you struggle with? I would love to hear that I’m not alone with this one….

Until next time,

~Kelly

Letting Go of Financial Embarassment

So Todd and I have been doing this whole budgeting thing for nearly three months now, and it’s been going really well. Our system of using cash for variable expenses has been working. We’re paying off our bills. We’re sticking to the budget. We’re building our savings. We’re more aware of our financial choices and are focused on making smarter ones. By all accounts, all is going pretty darn good.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this whole thing is that there is a certain amount of embarrassment attached to financial matters. Not just mine, but for other people as well. I’ve quickly learned, however, that this embarrassment is simply something that one has to shove to the side if you’re going to be successful at this budgeting/financial responsibility game.

I admit that when we first started using the cash system I felt a little bit embarrassed when I counted out my money at the cash register, particularly when I was spending a larger amount of money, like at the grocery store. I mean — cash? Seriously? WHO USES CASH ANYMORE??? I’m sure I saw a cashier or two roll her eyes as I dug around in my bag looking for change. Cash is just so…90s, isn’t it? I mean…plastic is totally where it’s at.

Except plastic is the reason why there are a lot of people in financial trouble, and certainly one of the reasons why Todd and I needed to make some major adjustments. So I’ve been working hard to let go of that embarrassment. I mean, shouldn’t it be MORE embarrassing to pay for a pack of gum with a credit card than cold, hard cash?

It all came to a head for me over the Christmas holidays. For New Year’s Eve, Todd and I planned a board game and home made sushi night with our three girls. I’d budgeted for the sushi supplies and we hit up the grocery store. The only thing we couldn’t get at our chosen store was smoked salmon…everyone’s favourite sushi ingredient.

We decided to head to a different store to see if we could get what we needed. I mentally noted that I only had 8-ish dollars left in my grocery budget. Of course, we had other money, it’s not like it was our last $8.00 in the world, but I’m committed to this whole sticking within my budget thing, dang it. Of course, truth be told, I was perfectly willing to go over budget and chip in some of my own personal spending money for this sushi venture; after all, it was a special occasion.

So without paying much attention to the price of the smoked salmon, I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the cash register.

Imagine how tickled I was to discover that the salmon came to exactly $7.99! And then I remembered — sure, I’ve got the exact amount I need, but it’s all in change. Small change at that. I pulled my handful of change out of my bag and started counting, albeit with some discomfort. Todd and I often joke around a lot when we’re waiting in lineups and such, and this was no exception. While I kept counting, he feigned impatience, cracking jokes in an attempt to embarrass me. I noticed that the gentleman waiting in line behind us was showing some signs of true impatience. I cringed inside more than a teensy bit.

As I finished counting the very last of my change, equaling precisely $8.00, I turned to the somewhat grouchy gentleman behind me, giggled, and said “Exact change! It was meant to be.” Todd and I skipped off, laughing together at how this random guy likely thought this crazy chick was spending the very last of all of her money on smoked salmon, of all things.

Financial embarrassment? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

….

….

….

….anymore.

 

*cough*
I’d love to hear if anyone else out there have experienced any moments of financial embarrassment, and if so, what you’ve done to move past them.

Until next time,

~Kelly

Changing Habits to Stay on Budget

Now that 2015 has started, Todd and I are now officially in our new budget mode. To be honest, it doesn’t really look any different than our “practice budget mode” that we started back in November and December of last year. We were able to embrace our new plan pretty easily, and even managed to stay on track over the holidays (a Christmas Miracle!).

One of the things that has become necessary for us to stay on track with our budget is to make some changes to our daily habits. This has been extremely helpful to me in avoiding unnecessary purchases.

As I already wrote about, I have stopped purchasing my daily coffee on the way to work, and instead make coffee at home. This one small habitual change will save me hundreds of dollars over the course of the year. Squeee! Although, since this blog is about full disclosure I will admit that there were some Starbucks indulgences over the Christmas holidays, which came out of my own personal spending money. Not a big deal, after all, I had the money to make the purchases, but I know that this is something that I need to avoid doing on a daily basis. So now that the holidays are over, I’m back to using my French press at home every morning.

Another change I’ve made is how I spend my lunch hours. I work next to a large grocery store (complete with a cosmetics, housewares, and clothing section) and in the past, I would often wander over there on my lunch break, to “pick up a few things” and end up walking out having spent a lot more than I’d initially planned. Now that we’re on a tight grocery budget, and I’m on a stricter personal spending budget, I no longer spend my lunch breaks wandering the aisles of the grocery store. There are days when I still go there, but it’s for the specific purpose of picking up something that is required (and in budget) like fresh veggies or milk. No more aimless wandering and temptation to spend.

Another thing that Todd has started doing is leaving his cash at home during the day. Having cash on hand meant being far more tempted to pick up junk food for an afternoon snack, or ignore his packed-from-home lunch and grab something far less healthy (and more expensive). Sure, it’s easy to discount those small candy bar purchases but as we’ve seen with my own coffee example, those small purchases add up over time.

Changing habits requires a conscious effort in the beginning, but soon those habits are replaced with others. Now my lunch breaks are spent going for walks or lunching with my husband instead. Quality time with my man AND it’s free! What more could a gal ask for?

What habits have you changed for the sake of saving money?

Until next time,

~Kelly

Short Term Discomfort For Long Term Gain

I’ll fully admit that I’m not always the best when it comes to delayed gratification. I mean, I know that I’m not as bad as some people out there in the world, but I do know that one of my weaknesses is a “but I wanna be happy right now, future be damned” mentality.

Which, you know, really kind of sucks when you’re trying to clean up your financial life, because doing that requires all kinds of self-discipline and delayed gratification skills.

What in the blue hell have I gotten myself into?

Learning to manage finances is an exercise in many things. Self control. Organization. Determination. Discipline. Learning new skills. One needs all of these things in order to make a comprehensive financial plan and stick to it. It is also necessary to learn how to delay gratification. It’s a skill that I think a lot of people in our society lack. I mean, we’re all so focused on “now, now, now” that we don’t stop to consider how “now” is affecting the future. We put tough things off until “later”, in favour of “now”. Don’t believe how impatient we all are as a society? How often have you gotten frustrated — this week — when someone hasn’t returned a text or an email right away?

*raises hand* I know this happens to me fairly regularly.

I’ve been thinking about how money management and delayed gratification is similar to losing weight and getting in shape, which I’ve also done.  The battle of “but I want those new shoes RIGHT NOW!!” is the same as the battle of, “I want that bowl of ice cream RIGHT NOW!!” when we know in our hearts that these wants are contrary to our long term goal, whether it be saving for a family vacation or finally fitting into those size ___ pants.

The lesson here is that we just have to keep our eye on the prize. If we can stay focused on that long term goal (whether it be saving money, getting into shape, or whatever), then the short term discomforts will seem more worth it. Sometimes life is about being comfortable in the moment, but sometimes it’s also about sacrificing those immediate comforts because you know it will lead to something even better down the road.

Until next time,

~Kelly

 

Date Night: Wendy’s

The wife and I don’t normally eat out. She’s an incredible cook and loves to prepare food, so it’s really a win-win situation: making dinner yourself is a lot cheaper than buying it at a restaurant. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be able to get out of the house and treat yourself to a meal prepared by somebody else.

With our new budget in place, one would think that eating out at restaurants would be completely off the table. However, as a married couple we also know the importance of going out on a date. Thus, we have a small amount inserted into the budget to allow for a monthly “date night”. It could be a movie, a concert, or a dinner out. It’s not much and, if we want, we can let it carry-over from one month to the next. But it’s there and it’s important.

So having said all that, we’re still working within a budget. That means we’re not going out to 5-star restaurants. Instead, we plan on simply making the most of whatever we decide to do regardless of where we do it.

We’ve never been much for couponing. We get them in the mail and go through them, but up until recently we never really looked at them very closely. Now? Well now we’re analyzing them to ensure we’re buying what we want at the best possible price. And yes, that includes “date night”.

Recently we got a coupon flyer for Wendy’s. Kelly is not a fast-food fan by any stretch, but she doesn’t mind the occasional meal at Wendy’s. This flyer had a free chili or baked potato with the purchase of a regularly priced meal. She enjoys both chili and baked potatoes, so I jokingly suggested that I take her out to Wendy’s for a dinner date. Without missing a beat, she said “yes”.

Dinner For Two

Dinner for two!

Again, it doesn’t really matter where we go for our dinner date. It’s all about us and just getting out of the house. So we went to Wendy’s and used the coupon. The meal itself was under $10 and “filled the hole”. Was it a romantic dinner? No, but it served the purpose and we enjoyed having some time together out of the house, eating a meal that we didn’t have to prepare.

One of the things that people always say but usually forget is that money does not buy happiness. Financial issues make up one of the biggest reasons for divorce. If you can ensure the relationship is strong when money is tight, then you’ll be able to grow the relationship along with your savings account.

Date night at Wendy’s may not sound ideal to some, but when you’re on a budget it’s all about making the most of your time together, regardless of where you are. We only spent $10 and enjoyed a meal out together, recognizing that it was more about the “who” than the “what” and the “where”. There’s nothing wrong with that.

~Todd

It’s “later”, NOW!

Procrastination.

Some people use that term as a way to explain away their laziness. For others, it’s a legitimate reason for things not getting done. Is it a GOOD reason? No, but it’s legitimate because people do it. It’s not tangible, but it’s not an imaginary thing.

Why didn’t we get our finances in order sooner? We procrastinated.

I have said for years that I would get my finances under control. Yet, for some strange reason I couldn’t seem to create a budget and stick to it. I kept saying to myself that I would do it later, while in the meantime I’d watch my overdraft fees hit my bank account every month and I’d ignore phone calls that I knew were from bill collectors.

Well…it’s “later” NOW, people.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t get their finances in order is because they simply don’t take the time to break down their finances and work out a plan. It takes a lot of work to really go through your weekly/monthly financial details with a fine tooth comb.

People are afraid of the truth, as was the case with me. I didn’t want to see a negative number staring at me in the face on an Excel spreadsheet, yet I was somehow okay with seeing that negative balance whenever I signed into my online banking. Even though I was in overdraft, I still saw that there were funds available for me to use. It just didn’t compute.

“I’ll get back to a zero balance later.”

And when it comes to budgeting, it’s not simply a matter of saying, “I’ll spend this much on these things because I get paid this much”. If this is to really work, you need to take into account every little detail. Keep receipts of everything you spend money on so you can find out where your money is actually going.

“I’ll keep my receipts later.”

And creating a budget itself takes time. You think you’re done, but then you remember three or four other things that need to be added. Toiletries, oil changes, clothes, pet food…little things that don’t seem like they’d add up to much on the surface, but until you know exactly how much you’re spending on everything they’re more added expenses that you didn’t budget for.

“I’ll add them to my budget later.”

No…now is the time. You’re reading this because (a) you’re in a similar situation and you want to see if this new way of fiscal planning can work for you, (b) you’re interested in finding new ways to save money, or (c) you want to be inspired.

Stop procrastinating. Have that conversation with your significant other. Use the extra hour or two it might take to really build a budget that’s realistic and obtainable. Stop being content with simply getting by when you know you can do better.

It’s “later”, NOW…and I, for one, am glad that I’ve stopped the procrastination cycle. Financial freedom, here we come!

~Todd