Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today's Subject is Money

I'll admit it.  Let's just put it out there.  I am a lousy money manager.  I'm also an impulsive spender.  And you would think from my credit card balances that I dress like that girl from Confessions of a Shopaholic.  But no - I don't have any of those name brand clothes or shoes she was so enamored of.  Nor do I do the Starbucks thing, which I understand can be incredibly expensive really fast.

I'm more of a covert shopper.  I love online shopping.  Just pop in your credit card number and Bing!  In a couple of days, packages start arriving.  You don't even have to be dressed and you certainly never have to set foot in a mall.  (If I go to hell when I die, it will be a shopping mall with no exits, which is funny considering how fast I can run up a credit card.)  I also have a bad habit of printing things out on my ink jet printer when I really could just bookmark them on my computer and save the ink.  It's $66 for a combination black/color ink pack and I seem to be buying them about every other month.  Whoa.  Almost $400 a year, just for ink.

For the past month or so, I have been working on getting our tax information together to take to the accountant.  It's just gotten too complicated to do it myself anymore and I suspect he is probably going to find some errors in the two years' previous returns that I printed (yes, printed) out for him.  It can't possibly be a coincidence (while I was collecting tax items) that my husband discovered a website yesterday on CNN.com called And She Saved, about a woman who went on a spending fast for the entire 12 months of 2010.  She really went on a fast.  She didn't buy gifts for people, no new clothes, no eating out, no trips.  She even opted out of going with her husband on a hiking trip to save the $138 in air fare.  Ouch, that had to hurt.

I've tried a lot of "budgets" over the years and have always given up within days (okay, maybe hours).  For some reason I just can't figure out, I have never been good with money.  If I have it, it's supposed to be spent.  Period.  And if I don't have it at the moment, it certainly can go on a credit card.

I spent probably a couple of hours cruising around the And She Saved website yesterday and started thinking seriously about my spending habits.  Two items came to mind immediately as non-essential spending:  Old Navy and Amazon Kindle purchases.  In my quest to save money by spending it, I got an Old Navy card a couple of years ago.  They had a great 15% discount if I signed up for the card on the day I was making my purchases and would send me a $10 gift card for every $100 I put onto the card.  The limit was low, so I couldn't get myself into too much trouble and I got rewards for spending.  I was saving money by spending.  Oy - how skewed is that thinking???  Somehow, I ended up with about a $100 a month Old Navy habit.  Um...that's $1200 a year, Chelle.  And all I have to show for it is a bunch of ugly sweats that I shouldn't wear out in public and lots of clothes for a job I no longer have that I couldn't fit into.  Can you say "waste?"

The Kindle is a tough one.  It was a gift from my husband last Christmas and I discovered it's the greatest invention since sliced bread.  In fact, I think I devoted a whole blog post to how it was the best gift I had ever received.  This morning I took a look back at my credit card statement to see just how much this gift has cost me and discovered that since December 25, 2010, I have charged $96.96 in Kindle downloads.  Uh oh.  This is sounding an awful lot like the Old Navy habit.

I don't think it's realistic for me to think that if I vow to go on a spending diet, we will never eat out, I will never spend money at Old Navy, and I will never download another Kindle book.  (I think not using my Kindle would be an insult to my husband, who was kind enough to buy it for me.)  However, I think it's time to take a look at how I am spending my money and where I can cut back.  If Anna Newel (the And She Saved woman) can save over $18,000 in a year and pay off a ton of credit card and student loan debt, surely I can learn something by her sacrifices last year. 

It's hard not to spend money when the computer makes it so damn easy.  They'll even save your credit card information on a secure website so that you can buy with only one click.  The Kindle store allows you to browse the New York Time bestseller list and if you see something that looks good, you can get it in 30 seconds on your Kindle by simply hitting the "buy" button.  Oh. My. God.  How do I resist this temptation?

Okay.  Let's be realistic.  There are things I have to spend money on.  The kids outgrow their shoes and jeans.  The tuition bill is going to come due regularly.  That damned life insurance bill keeps showing up every three months, even though I conveniently try to forget it's coming and never plan for it.  Same for the water bill.  And the personal property taxes.   It is so freaking expensive just to live these days!

Necessities:  Mortgage, electricity, water, food (for humans and pets), clothing for the children, internet access (yes, because my husband works from home by the internet), cell phones, heat, vet...okay, I probably need to check the bank account because I know there are way more things that we can't get rid of that I'm just not able to come up with off the top of my head.

Then there are wants:  gym membership, Kindle downloads, iTunes, expensive chocolate, new clothing, new shoes...I could do what Anna Newel did and post up a "hankering a day" and put up everything that goes through my mind on a daily basis that I think I have to have.  But then I would be overwhelming the internet.

I just finished a phone conversation with one of my dearest friends and we were trying to decide what falls into the "want" category and what falls into the "need" category.  I have been vacillating all day as to whether the woman who cleans my house every other week has to go and crying with all my might that this is a "need" and not a "want."  My friend said, "Chelle, this is not a want.  It's a need.  With your fibromyalgia, you can't do the heavy cleaning, so stop feeling like that is money you can't spend."  God, do I love her.  Free pass on the maid service.

I think I will start keeping a list of things that I think I should buy and then don't.  Like the Chipotle I was going to have Justin pick up tonight for dinner.  Instead, I took hamburger out and we're making dinner.  $20?  Okay, so I've already saved $20 for today.  Hmmm...what else can I find that I didn't buy today?

Oh and by the way.  If you're on my gift list, this is fair warning.  I'm setting a $15 limit for all gifts.  This means I'll have to be creative and you are welcome to set the same limit for me, or a smaller one if it fits your budget better.


  1. The real key to saving is to take the money you would have spent (20 on dinner, for example) and put it in savings. Even with a .50 cent coupon, take the fifty cents and put it aside.

  2. And you know those ink cartridges you keep spending money on each month...go to Walgreens instead and they can re-fill your used cartridge for about $10! Or "bookmark" instead of printing so much, silly! :)


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