I thought quarantine life would do wonders for my budget. I'm getting, like, 3 weeks to the gallon in gas, I'm not eating out for lunch, and I'm not buying new work clothes. I figured I'd be swimming in spare cash.
I forgot about Amazon.
I didn't realize how many home improvement projects I'd suddenly be compelled to undertake.
And I certainly didn't factor in just how much food my kids would consume by being home 24/7.
I recently moved into a new home, and the move alone comes with costs. Neil also recently moved into a new place. Making two houses a home(s) can be costly. We've spent more than we really should have on decorating our new homes and making them perfect for our needs. I'll confess that I've used the fake money (credit card) more often than I should've, telling myself that Future Lori can deal with it.
Hello, I am Future Lori. And I'm dealing with it.
So part of my Jump Into July self-improvement plan is to Embrace the Budget. Of course it needed a title. I thought of several catchy project names - Balance the Bank, Curb the Cashflow, Manage My Money - but "Embrace the Budget" fit the best for what I'm trying to do. Rather than fight against the total of income vs expenses, I want to embrace what I have. I want to live within my means and learn to be happy with spending less and shopping more carefully.
Oddly enough, our topic of conversation in this morning's Women of Rotary Coffee Chat was smart shopping strategies, and they shared this quote:
Buy less, choose well, make it last. - Vivienne Westwood
This is my goal. I have SO MUCH. I couldn't even fit all my clothes in my new closet; I sent all my winter clothes to Neil's house to keep in his closet for me. I have more books than I could ever read (and so many of them I haven't yet read, but they are on my forever-long reading list). I have all the things I need. There's likely very little on Amazon that I can't live without. The problem I have is that I'm a total SHOPAHOLIC.
I love to shop. LOVE IT.
Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, home improvement shopping, gift shopping, card shopping - hell, put me inside a tractor supply store, and I'll find all kinds of things I didn't know I needed. ("A chicken coop!! Let's buy a chicken coop and raise chickens!!")
It's an addiction, and it's not a healthy one. I truly do use retail as a therapy. If I feel down, I shop. I don't have to even be shopping for myself. I love shopping for other people too. I'll see some random object in a random shop and think, "Oh man, that would be perfect for Sally, that woman I met three weeks ago at the tractor supply store, and what a great way to keep in touch with her!" Giving gifts is one of my love languages, which is generous and all, but not exactly inexpensive.
I'm fairly good at budgeting. I've kept a personal budget for almost a decade, so my bills always get paid. I put money into savings every paycheck. I contribute to my 401k. On paper, Dave Ramsey would be proud. It's all the other things that I'm bad about. I have no impulse control when it comes to shopping. I have no concept of delayed gratification when it comes to things. I used to be good at keeping track of my grocery spending, but I've gotten lazy. I love comfort food and I love comfort things. So I buy them.
That's gotta staaahhp.
So, my Embrace the Budget goal for July is to not just stick to my budget, but be kind to my budget. I am lucky and blessed that I make enough money to cover my bills and groceries and still have some to spare. Having some leftover to spare doesn't have to mean leftover to spend. I'm tracking all my purchases in a notebook and totaling them all up by category. Anything that doesn't fall within an already budgeted category shouldn't get purchased. I've given myself a set budget for those extras, like getting takeout or buying my son's birthday presents, so it's not like I'm going to force myself to have no fun. I just won't be allowed to buy every book that gets reviewed on Fresh Air or a new dress every time I have a new event to attend. (I'm not attending events right now anyway! Coronavirus!)
It takes a month to form a habit. (Actually, I have no idea how many days it takes to make a habit.) If I can curb my cashflow, manage my money, and embrace my budget for the month of July, maybe I can do it in August too. And maybe I can do it again in September. I think it's possible! But it starts with baby steps, just like my health plan. A book was mentioned in the Rotary meeting this morning that I immediately looked up on Amazon. But I didn't buy it. I wanted to. I really wanted to. But I didn't. Because I have so many books to read already. I can live without it.
Just as I need to learn to love my body, I need to learn to embrace my budget. So bring it on, July! I can take it.