DH = Dear Husband
DD1 = Dear 1rst Daughter DD2 = Dear 2nd Daughter DD3 = Dear 3rd Daughter
I committed to only one resolution this year: Keep weekly grocery bill under $150. So far, so good! There was another resolution that I thought about taking on: Build up savings from discretionary fund. But I didn’t.
Our discretionary allowances
Before DH and I began our journey out of debt, we got into the habit of putting aside a monthly discretionary allowance for each of us. Our money was out of control, and we were taking first steps to get a grip on it. The motive behind these discretionary allowances was to put a defined limit on how much we spent on two types of expenditures:
1. Things that we did need to buy, but that had a broad price-range – like shampoo and clothing.
2, Things that we didn’t need to buy, but that we wanted – like gifts, gym memberships, and restaurant meals.
We set our amount at $600 per month each. “That’s a lot!” Most people say. And it is. But believe me, we were actually reining in our spending by setting that amount.
DH’s track record compared with mine
DH and I have had such different track records with our respective discretionary funds. He always carries a balance forward from one month to the next. He has never stressed about how he’ll manage to purchase what he needs, and he has had no trouble budgeting for the wants of his choice. More impressively, he has been able to save up for big treats – like a couple of snow-boarding week-end get-aways. And when I failed to save up (after a whole year) for a trip out west to visit DD1, DH blew me away by giving me the money needed for my plane ticket out of HIS savings.
I, on the other hand, got into discretionary debt almost immediately. After months of intentional discipline, I got myself out of the red, but then I repeated the pattern. Again, I got myself above zero, and this time, I took on a determination to save. I set goals for larger wants, as DH had done successfully – like the trip to visit DD1 (and we know what happened there) and help with my blog. After all, if I could set aside money to get out of my discretionary debt, I could set aside money to build up discretionary savings, right? Somehow, the answer so far has been no!
Fruclassity Commandment #1: Wake up!
“Fruclassity” is a term that Laurie from The Frugal Farmer and I coined in our recognition that we weren’t full-fledged “badasses” in the (highly commendable) Mr. Money Mustache sense of the word. There’s an edge to the extreme frugality of badassity that Laurie and I don’t subscribe to – at least not yet. Fruclassity promotes frugality with a touch of class – for the not-so-badass.
Here is Commandment #1 of Fruclassity:
Wake up and be honest with yourself about where you are financially. Don’t try to hide from it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Recognize your financial state for what it is.
Applying Commandment #1 to my discretionary fail
There are two applications that I need to make here:
First of all, I have to start by actually knowing how much money I have in my discretionary account. For those of you who haven’t lived any part of your lives with your heads in the sand, this will seem ridiculously obvious. Other ostriches will understand though. The cool dark of the sand is comforting. The act of forcing your head out and opening your eyes to harsh light and painful grit – that’s a HUGE step. I have just checked my onine account, and I have $43 left for February. There. I know.
But I can’t just know now. I have to heighten my awareness of where I am financially at any given time instead of being surprised at the end of every month that I haven’t saved anything – again. While I diligently keep every receipt for money spent from our common accounts, I have never done the same for my discretionary expenditures. DH and I track our common accounts pretty effectively, and it’s paying off. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing the same with my own account. Time to start.
Secondly, I have to do a little self-analysis. I have to be honest with myself about what it is that leads me to sabotage my own financial health – my own integrity. I’ve got some insight into this: If I have a big discretionary expense, I cleverly pay it at the beginning of the month when my account is flush. As if that won’t have an impact on the rest of the month! I knew I had blog-related expenses to pay this month (most significantly, to address the whole “technical difficulties” issue I had for eight weeks), and I paid at the beginning of February – a big drain on my flush fund right upfront.
Another insight: When I’m over my head, as I have been for the past while – with work, parenting, household, and even blog (again, recent technical problems) combining to go off the chart together – I spend on food treats. It’s like a stress-release valve. In the past week,
- I bought Tim Hortons for DD3 after she fainted during her school band practice and got a concussion. Sympathy spending.
- I bought Tim Hortons for DD2 and her boyfriend when she ran a track event very successfully after having recovered from months of injury. Celebration spending!
- I bought Tim Hortons for DH for devoting hours to my blog site and fixing a couple of stubborn problems. Gratitude spending. (Let me add here the fact there was plenty of yummy, prepared food in the fridge at home on each of these occasions.)
Evidence in car
Sympathy, celebration, and gratitude are all good things. But why is my knee-jerk impulse to spend money to express them? (And why always on food? At Tim Hortons?) I don’t have an answer, but I know that being honest is a good start. And that being aware of where I am will be the foundation for getting to where I want to be. When you take my clever first-of-the-month-big-expense strategy and add to it my food-treat-release-valve, you can see why I’m down to $43 with half of the month ahead of me!
I didn’t take on the build-up of discretionary savings as a New Year’s resolution because I didn’t believe I would follow through. I’ve certainly given myself plenty of reasons to doubt. But I want to change that. The way I deal with my discretionary money now is probably the way I’ll deal with all of our money once we’re debt-free, and I want to manage it well. My old bad habits are stubborn, and I’m sick of them. I want to get every part of my head out of the sand. Let the light shock my eyes! Let the grit jolt me out of complacency! It is time to wake up!
A big THANK YOU! to J. Money at Budgets Are $exy for mentioning Fruclassity in his post yesterday.
And thank you, Melanie, from Dear Debt, for posting my break-up letter to Debt this past week.
Does Commandment #1 apply to you? Can you relate to the whole “head-in-sand” thing? Your comments are welcome!