Lifestyle Change #3: Financial Intelligence

Growing up poor, I have always been very conscious about where my money is going and I always make sure that we have enough money to pay all our bills and that some goes into our savings account.  I always make sure to pay off my credit card debt weekly.  It’s not a bad start to financial wellness, but the savings keeps getting drained as I purchase collectibles, or when we move, or need to put a down-payment on a car, or go on a vacation.  That needs to stop.

So.  What’s the plan?

It seems simple, but the answer is simply to stop.  The thing is, I know I can.  We moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire in June.  That month, we purchased my Rogue and a new couch set… plus all the moving expenses.  By September, when things started going downhill, we had $5,000 in our savings account.  For most people, that’s panic-mode of savings.  Well then, don’t ask how much we have in there now!  I have my finances planned out in detail – everything is in iBank from rent to anticipated fuel expenses, even paying off the rest of my student loan! – until April 2017.  We’re going to be fine and I take solace in knowing I don’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck.  But we’re not saving anything, because as soon as things get cushy, I start to say “Lets go out to eat!” or “Lets expand my collectibles!”.  I have a huge weakness for accumulating things – books, Funko figures, Disney stuff… it’s sad.  And collectibles drain money fast.  So does eating out, when dinner for two plus a tip comes easily to $50+.

And yet, why can’t I simply stop?

This is a problem that faces a lot of Americans.  Our society pushes blatant consumerism.  Credit card companies let us purchase things beyond our means.  We encourage one another to have more, better, bigger things.  We show off our affluence and are ashamed when someone sees our unfashionable clothing or small homes.  We trade in and trade up.  And the money drains away.

As I grew up, I remember hearing that poor people didn’t know how to handle their money.  While I find that statement a bit offensive, it is in part true.  My parents knew how to stretch a dollar because we never had much, but it’s true that when we came into money, it disappeared quickly.  We took an extravagant vacation (i.e. not camping).  We got a new (used) car.  We had new toys and a new computer and new clothes.  In the world we live in, none of these things were unreasonable, but they were beyond our regular means, and as we were playing catch up, the money ran out again.

Ever since I’ve had a steady income, I’ve been the same way.  I buy organic for the extra dollar.  I have a huge weakness for crafting supplies and collectibles for no other reason than they make me happy.  The problem with buying things because they make you happy is obvious:  the happiness fades away and then you have to buy something else.  It’s an endless cycle.  I buy things because suddenly, I can!  This does not mean I should.

In the last three months, I’ve drained our savings away in collectibles and Christmas gifts.  I take full responsibility for this indiscretion.  It’s happened, though, so now what?  It’s not like I can pillage and plunder more money than I’m already bringing in – when you’re working a ten hour day with an additional four or so hours on the road, a second job isn’t really a healthy option.

It’s time to hit the big red STOP (!!!!) button.

It’s time to delete the eBay app, stop browsing Amazon, read the books I already have, and finish the projects I’ve already started.

It’s time to look to the future.

Right now, 34% of my paycheck goes into the savings account, as well as 15% of my husband’s.  Not to give you too fine an idea of our income, but that means that minimally we should be able to save $900/month, not considering things like our tax return or annual bonus.  Not considering the extra we should be able to put away through smart spending.  At a bare minimum, we should be able to put aside around $10,000/year, and that’s a good amount of money.  In four years, that would be more than enough money to put a down-payment on a nice house.  Isn’t that so much grander than some plastic figurines?

No time like the present!

So, my financial goals for 2017:

  1. Stop taking money out of the savings account.
  2. Pay off my last student loan (this should be achievable by March – huzzah!)
  3. Stop purchasing useless items.
  4. Stop eating out often.  We’ve been much better about this since moving north, but now we’re into fast food and that must stop, too!
  5. Have $5,000 in the savings account by June.

I’m not even going to wait until 2017.

This starts today.


This is post three of four in my series of proposed lifestyle changes for the new year, and beyond.  I’ve already written about parenthood and yoga… tomorrow will be self-expression in various creative pursuits!  What are y’all hoping to change as 2016 closes?

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I strive to be intelligent, creative, brave, strong, patient, kind, and happy. What more is there in this world?

6 thoughts on “Lifestyle Change #3: Financial Intelligence

  1. Conversely to those who don’t have money spending the little bit that they do have on frivolous, extravagant things, are those who have money and brag about all the great deals they got on everything and how little they spend on things like electric bills and such. The rich get rich while the poor get poorer. I watch both ends of the spectrum happen. My parents (adoptive, so I don’t have their genetics which accounts for alot apparently), are on the rich side, I am on the poor side (as are the genetics I come from)….I completely commisserate with your dilemma. I share in your issue of spending the little bit that comes in rather than saving it. Good luck to you! I hope you are successful in your goals for 2017!!!

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    1. Such a true insight! It’s very frustrating to look at those folks and wonder what they’re doing and how I can do it too. Oh well! Thank you for the well-wishes… and have a fantastic new year!

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      1. Some of those that I know in that position don’t mind looking stingy in order to save a penny. It’s a values thing in my opinion. I have personally come to feel that many poor people seem to have better values than rich people. Poor people will give gifts and money to people who need it and to those they love and don’t skimp on the gifts because they are giving. The rich people pinch a penny at every turn. My parents did get my daughter and my husband and I alot of gifts at Christmas, but they also had cousins over. If it were us who had invited people over, we would have gotten them gifts. And sure enough the cousins brought my parents (albeit small and insignificant) gifts, but my parents hadn’t bought them anything and thought nothing of having them over while they watched all of us exchanging gifts (which felt incredibly awkward to me and my husband but probably didn’t faze them in the least)….It’s the little things like that time and time again where they skimp and save I think that put them ahead. A friend of mine who has a ton of money has let us treat her to meals several times when we go out, while she has lots of money and we don’t. If it was reverse, at the very least I feel like I would be insistent enough to pay for my own meal, if not paying for everyone else’s if I had way more money than my best friend and their family. But they don’t think anything of it. Just my personal thoughts on how they do it. It’s not in me to be like that though. I feel bad letting other people pay for me all the time, especially if I had more money than they did….

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