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:
- Stop taking money out of the savings account.
- Pay off my last student loan (this should be achievable by March – huzzah!)
- Stop purchasing useless items.
- 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!
- 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?