Thursday, May 27, 2010

First Month's Budget, in Review

I'm so bad about money.  I have never been particularly interested in money, as a concept.  I am blessed beyond measure that it's never been an issue for me.  It works two ways:  one, we've both been incredibly lucky about always having good work and lots of opportunities to actually make money.  Two, we never seem to want anything we can't afford.  Erik is more of a consumer than I am, for sure, but neither of us longs for status cars, addresses, or clothing.  It's helpful to feel this way, for certain.  Less helpful?  I toss money ~ at people and situations ~ like my drunk uncle at the racetrack.  Basically, I don't value money, so I don't take care  of money.  Easy come, easy go.  That's been my philosophy my whole life.

This month, I took over the accounts.  Erik was beyond thrilled; he's wanted me to take over the finances for years.  Nothin' doin', chump.  But.  I can't say for sure what changed.  A run of bad luck with car and motorcycle repairs?  A string of electronics purchases?  Dropping a chunk of change on a new bathroom?  All of these things, combined, within a short 6 weeks?  I mean, it don't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.  (hat tip:  bob)

There's probably a lot that can be said here about how nutty I've gotten about money, but I'll refrain.  I just started seeing it differently...I sort of get the excitement of an account that is balancing to the penny, for example.  And, as Erik said early this month, "Congratulations, honey, you managed to do something that's never happened in almost twenty years...we are officially having a fight about money."  Oops!  I'm sure I'll relax, as I get used to this new role!  Hang in there, sweet pea.

So, without getting too technical, I had three major accomplishments this month.  First?  When I printed out our account transactions summary for April, so I could get a handle on what we spend, when, on what, and especially what's "fixed" and what's "extra" (and if you're thinking anything like:  dude, in 18 years you've never had the occasion to do this?  Well, if you're thinking that, than you are starting to get the picture) and it was fourteen pages long.  For May?  One and a half pages.  That represents some serious control we've taken back, and although I'm sure it will vary month-to-month, I'm pretty pleased!

Second?  I made a ridiculously ambitious savings goal.  I thought within a few months, we could probably hit that target each month.  I was able to hit that savings goal during our first month of budgeting.  What what!

The last thing?  I've always considered myself lucky and grateful.  Both things, equally.  But, budgeting put a whole new perspective on both things!   Early this month, I got a $7 cash back coupon on my next purchase at the grocery store, plus a $2 cash back on my neck purchase from a manufacturer.  I can't tell you how many of these things I've just forgotten about or lost.  But, because I had set a flat cash amount for groceries for the whole month, I saw it differently!  I was so happy to use that $9 on a produce run.  A colleague asked me to visit his college course one evening, and do a presentation to his students (on math) and I agreed (because I adore him) and he (quite unnecessarily) kicked me a generous gift card to Trader Joe's.  It made my month!  I have held onto gift cards for, like, years!  But I was so lucky to have this one right when I needed it.  And then, there was the gift from my mom.  My parents have some friends who live out in the valley, and they own and work the almond and walnut orchards.  She couldn't eat all the nuts that were gifted to her (and residing in her freezer) so she kicked me two huge bags.  Easily saving me $30 to $50.  We eat tons of almonds and walnuts, plus I use a lot of walnuts in my baking.  All those walnuts you see are actually almost gone after just a few weeks...but we'll be rolling on those almonds for a few months.  And, as much as I've always felt thankful, knowing that this was money I could spend on something else for my family meals, it just amplified my gratitude in the happiest of ways.

Lookit.  I'm way too old (and remember all too well actually having no money) to think there's anything cute about being poor.  It's not charming nor romantic, in my mind, to have to stress and worry about where it's coming from and where it has to go.  Having said that, that's just not the situation (knock wood) in which we find ourselves.  This budget is more about being conscientious consumers, not being wasteful out of sheer negligence and/or laziness, and, yes, amplifying our gratitude.  So far?  So good!


  1. Hi Mia, very interesting post, I think I'm going to enjoy looking around your blog. I like your way of thinking with money.
    I wanted to stop by and thank you for your comment on my parenting post, you're right, it's nice to know you're not alone and that there are ways to turn things around.

  2. Thanks Christie! I am continuing to enjoy your blog! I loved the little socks attached to the pant legs. So clever!