Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update on the Spending Diet

I've been putting off this post due to shame.  I fell off the diet wagon.

Okay, changing a lifetime's worth of habits is really, really hard.  That's why they're called habits.  I was never under the impression that I would be able to stop spending money entirely and I know that sticking to a strict plan that I create while having a good, productive day is highly unlikely when I get a day that maybe isn't so good.  But I kind of hoped I would do just a little bit better.

First, the good news.  I have improved in a couple of areas.  I have not used my Old Navy card once since I started this thing and I have downloaded only two books for my Kindle (because of a long trip to the doctor and not knowing how long I would be sitting in the waiting room), but managed to stick to $20 for the downloads and now have two new books to read.  I also downloaded a story that Jamie needed for school for less than $2 and a book for a project Joey has due tomorrow that he conveniently forgot at school on Friday for less than $7.  I don't count those last two purchases against myself because they were something the kids needed for homework.  (Why does their forgetfulness always seem to translate into my spending money?)

Unfortunately though, my neurological connection between what happens in the world around me and my ability to cope is usually played out with a credit card.  If things aren't going so great, it's just my habit to make myself feel better by going online and loading up a virtual shopping cart.  I've done pretty well.  It took two months before I actually did this, which probably is an all time new record.  And I did end up purchasing items that I truly believe I need.  But still, I used the credit card and I shopped.

I was recently reading a blog entry on the And Then She Saved website about quality of life being how much time you have to do the things you want to do as opposed to having a lot of stuff.  I would agree that it is almost priceless to be able to make the choice as to what time you get out of bed and what you do once you've dragged yourself out.  I totally get that this is a gift I have been handed - the ability to pretty much decide (with a very few exceptions) what I'm going to do and when I'm going to do it - and that gift has been given to me by the most important person in my life, my husband, who works very hard at a job he doesn't necessarily enjoy all that much but at which he is extremely talented.  I will be the first to say that my life has been made immensely easier by his willingness to take the financial reigns and make the money.

I do hope that one day my writing catches someone's eye and I start to make some money at it.  But for the moment, it's something I do for fun and for expression.  It's certainly not paying any bills.  I'm lucky I'm able to do it when the mood hits me and not do it when my day isn't going so well or things get hectic around the house.  I don't have deadlines.  Yet.  (One can always hope.)

But back to the spending diet.  We have a trip coming up and I am still in the unenviable position of having a waistline that not only looks five or six months pregnant, but also causes me extreme discomfort when I put clothing around it.  I want to look decent when we go away and I also want to be comfortable enough to enjoy our trip.  I think I blogged about my recent shopping trip with my best friend and the deals she helped me find.  I was grateful for those purchases, but there were still a couple of items I wanted and I just wasn't going to be able to get them cheaply.  I caved and went online and bought two new dresses.  It would have been one, but the first one is strictly a spring/summer dress and we're going somewhere that it might actually snow.  When I realized I was going to be very, very cold if I wore this dress on our trip, I went back to the site and bought one that would keep my extremities from freezing off.  So I shopped twice (here I am wincing) because I didn't foresee this possible problem, even though it was staring me in the face when I ordered the first dress.  I know it's still cold in upstate New York in early spring.  What was I (not) thinking???

I continue to try to save money, but we have eaten out a couple more times than I would have preferred simply due to running out of dinner ideas and the fact that I just cannot seem to cook anything edible, leaving Justin not only as the breadwinner, but also usually the breadmaker.  Some nights, he's just too tired and who can blame him?  And since he is the breadwinner, if he suggests Chinese food or pizza, I am not going to argue.  But we are doing better at making dinner at home and we have breakfast for dinner a lot.  I think that overall, we've been successful in small ways at saving money over the last two months.

There are expenses I know are coming up.  The cat is going to have to have dental work and that is not cheap.  Unfortunately, since he is only six years old, I simply can't ignore the problem.  If he was ancient and wobbling, I wouldn't invest the money, but he's got at least another six good years as a family pet and I'm tired of smelling whatever that is that's coming out of his mouth.  We're attached to him, even though he is a total pig with fur. 

Speaking of dental work, my oldest son, who has some weird type of enamel defect, needs crowns on every tooth in his mouth.  Yes, you read that right.  Every. Single. Tooth.  If he doesn't get them, he will lose not only all of his enamel, but eventually all of his teeth.  At the ungodly price of $1,000 per crown and 28 teeth in his head, that's pretty easy math to do.  It's more than I'm planning on spending on the next car I buy.  I foresee a very large fight with our insurance company coming, because they are supposed to cover 80% of crowns, but there is a one crown per year limitation.  At that rate, his teeth would be fixed in 28 years and somehow I don't think that's going to work for him.

Speaking of coming expenses (and I'm listing these because I want it known that they are planned expenses and not impulsive spending), all of the boys need clothing for the summer.  I do foresee an Old Navy trip for the younger kids, simply because that's where I usually find the clothing they like that fits.  They have great shorts for kids and I am hoping to find the size that I need there as well, because I've been trying out those shorts from last summer and practically crying after an hour or so.  (This wardrobe thing has become a real thorn in my side.)

Ben will need to take two classes this summer to stay on track for his transfer degree at the local community college to graduate in the spring, so there's an expense (although at least it's not a full semester).  My car is coming up for inspection in May and they always find something wrong with it because, let's face it, the car is nine years old and there probably really is something wrong with it once a year.  It's still cheaper than a new car.

I wonder sometimes how it's possible to live in this economy, although we are making do.  What gets me is that you never just pay out what's in the budget.  There's always something else that you end up having to do that you didn't expect to do.  I know that it is better if I stick to the planned expenses and I am giving it my best shot.  I am going to stumble and make a few unnecessary purchases, but I would say that at least I am more aware of what I am doing now than I was two months ago and I can foresee what's going to happen if I pull out the credit card in the form of the statement that will follow in a couple of weeks.  The balance goes up.  Yes, I think I finally realize that.  Stay tuned...we'll see how cheap we can be on our trip.

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