Dealing with Real Part 2
July 19, 2016
Since you asked for it (okay, okay, you didn’t…I just had more to say:)): One reason I’ve previously loathed been un-inclined toward budgeting is that I felt like I was setting myself up for failure. I’d assign X dollars toward Groceries, Y dollars toward Random Expenses, and Z dollars toward Bills. But then I’d spend 2X on Groceries (because I ran out of oatmeal, maple syrup as sweetener, cheese and baking vanilla all at the same time, need to get ingredients to make something for the work party, and be invited to a dinner and asked to bring a salad), Y+$67 on Random (because interesting “Random” includes an almost infinite number of purchases) and Z+Z+Z on Bills (because I forgot that I have that annual gym fee or because vehicle registration is “a thing”).
Using a budgeting software helped a TON because it was easy to break down categories and add as many as necessary and for the first time I spelled out what exactly qualified as (for example) a “Random Household Expense” and pulled out all the things that warranted their own category. Like Gifts. Clothing. Hair Maintenance. Car Maintenance. And it was easy to keep track of where I was consistently overspending which indicated that I was playing pretends with how much “LIVING” costs me.
I am a big fan of cutting back and trimming expenses for the sake of bigger goals BUT (big but!!!) you will not succeed at budgeting if you start with unrealistic expectations. You’ve got to start with the reality of what you are actually spending right now. If you consistently and realistically spend $600/month eating out, that IS what you spend. And budgeting $200/month right of the bat is a guaranteed and imminent fail. If you spend $1,000 on clothes a month, that again IS your reality. And budgeting $0 for clothing portends budget and financial self-respect disaster.
My unsolicited advice in this post that you did (not) ask for is to start budgeting with realistic or even generous estimates of the amounts you actually spend right now. If you think you spend $500/month on groceries maybe budget $600. If you think monthly memberships/classes cost $100/month budget $150. Do not put yourself on a budget AND sign yourself up for Camp Ghandi at the same time! You will loathe budgeting and life and yourself when you fail. And it will reinforce your long-held belief that you are terrible with money, have no self-control, etc. If you can get in the habit of tracking your spending and looking at your category balances before you spend that will be a major step in helping learn to love budgeting AKA being the boss of your spending AKA making a plan for your money. I would only advise spending 2-3 months in this space since the life you really want to live does not include wanton spending and endless consuming and getting.
When you are practicing generosity you should feel a little pinch when you give something away. That pinch is your stinginess protesting. —Gelek Rinpoche
The quote above really resonates when it comes to giving but certainly applies to a lot of life. There are lots of parts of my character that can be improved by feeling a little financial pinch: my vanity, my self-interest, my indulgence, my feelings of “I not God am in charge of my life”.
Character aside for the moment, I don’t know about you but even the quality of life I want to enjoy in even a year is worth sacrificing at least a little bit for and the current pinch is good for that life. The life I want to live in 10 years is worth the same sacrifices, as is my (hopefully early) retirement life with hopefully grandkids to spoil and trips to take with my future husband and friends. My life right now should reflect some of those sacrifices and I would guess you feel so too. If you are without thought able to buy all the clothes/groceries/entertaining things/etc. you think to buy, you might be sabotaging the life you want to live. Or you are loaded and this blog is probably not for you:) I like ya anyway!