Fruclassity Commandment #1: Wake Up!

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.)

tphoto_1_2

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!


 

 

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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  • (spitting out sand) um … Yep! 😛

    I’m trying really hard to stay awake now. I’ve been working up schedules and charts so that we stay on track AND do even better than we need to. I figured I may as well use my tendency toward extremes in a positive way.

    Love this post Prudence. We will mark that evidence picture “Exhibit A”! 🙂

    • Here’s hoping your schedules and charts keep you on track and lead to new habits that you won’t even have the think about!

    • I’d be interested in knowing what you have done to replace those spend-fests. What do you do now to console, celebrate, express gratitude? Isn’t it great to recognize that you’ve been able to change bad habits? I hope to do the same!

  • It’s important to save when you can, and never hide from large bills you do not want to pay. Sometimes, I procrastinate on the large bills and hate to pay them. But one miss and you are stuck paying more interest and possibly a downgraded credit score.

    • I know what it’s like to be in denial of unwelcome bills! Another great example of needing to wake up and deal with reality. Thanks for commenting, Mr. Landlord.

  • I so love this fruclassity term you and Laurie have coined. Nice work! I don’t think I have my head in the sand anymore, but I do have a bit of debt fatigue. I’m working so hard to grow my income, and I’m just over paying debt. Ugh. But I know it’s a journey! Thank you so much for your contribution to Dear Debt. Your letter rocked!

    • This is a prime time of year for debt fatigue. I don’t know about your part of the world, but up here, it’s SO COLD! And although days are getting slightly longer, they’re not long enough. A dose of the winter blues is not a good motivator for debt reduction. Hang in there, Melanie. We’ll get through this thing and reach zero with a whole community of support! Thanks for your comment.

    • There are lots of similarities between spending and eating. In my case, they often go together! If you look at the cookbook featured at the top of my site as a money-saver, you’ll see how I do weekly groceries for 4 people for under $150. Almost everything I cook these days comes from Good and Cheap. Thanks for your comment!

    • Thank you, Robin! It is helpful to have a defined framework within which to manage personal finances. I’m glad Fruclassity resonates with you : )

  • I totally had my head in the sand for years. I made a great income, but I spent a lot of money as well. It was a painful reality when I finally removed my head from the sand, but I am glad that we did it sooner than later. As painful as the wake up call was, it would have been worse if we waited.

    • Amen to that, Shannon! The pain of the wake-up is what makes us so resistant to it. But once we face it, we’ve got so much more power to more forward. Thanks for your comment.

  • ‘Fruclassity’ is a great way to put it! I think waking up and be realistic with yourself is so important and needs to be done early on if you’re looking to improve your situation. When it comes to finances, it’s important to accept how much you spend, save, and what you do with your money overall if you’re looking to make any changes. If you keep lying to yourself, it will never get better.

    • Unfortunately for me, I didn’t wake up early on. The good news is that waking up is a good thing no matter what stage of life you’re at. I understand the appeal of being in denial about personal finances, but it never leads anywhere good. You’re at a huge advantage being both young and awake, Chonce. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  • First, I’m new to your blog and I’m loving it! Secondly yes, I can relate to the “head-in-the-sand” thing all to well. My husband and I are working towards getting out of debt, I know how much we owe, I know how little we are actually paying it down, and how painfully slowly we seem to be paying it down as well. So I stick my head back in the sand and tell myself we will get there….eventually.

    I know that I need to take some time to figure out just HOW we are going to get there, and I have created several game plans…the unfortunate part is that these game plans are unrealistic and unsustainable for our income level. And those darn kids of mine insist on eating and being clothed! :o)

    But as I said…we will get there I just need to stop sticking my head back in the sand!

    • Tenille, take a look at the next comment (from LPC) for some good ideas about how to approach your debt-reduction. Tracking is really revealing, and reading a good book on money management is a great idea. (LPC suggests Your Money or Your Life). Unsustainable game plans can make you feel frustrated. You know it’s going to take some time, so get ready to settle into a new lifestyle for the long term. This is definitely a marathon instead of a sprint. You are not alone in your struggles with finances. I wish you and your husband very well on your journey towards debt-freedom. And I’m so glad you still feed and clothe your children : )

  • Just like a personal finance reporter commented on the radio last month, you need to track your spending to see where money goes and tally it at the end of the month. I would also add, you need to do this for several months in a row, not just a month or two, to detect any patterns you’re not aware of. It took me five months to realise I was spending $200 in crafting supplies before it dawned on me something else was going on. The first couple of months I had good excuses, but after 5 months with the same behaviour, I couldn’t justify the excuses anymore, especially knowing that my “life energy” was $9/hour. In essence, I was working 22 hours a month to pay for this stuff. Not worth it. ((Life energy as per the book Your Money or Your Life is your hourly wage after you removed all the expense related to working, which includes indulgences/rewards to compensate for the joy/misery of earning a living.) I don’t think I would have woken up without going through this exercise.

    • Thank you for your comment, LPC. I really want to read Your Money or Your Life, but I’m having a hard time getting around to it. That “life energy” exercise looks interesting. It can be painstaking to track expenditures, but you’re right about the effectiveness of it. I can’t even imagine buying crafting supplies at that rate! It strikes me as a nobler addiction than mine to take-out food though : ) I’m glad you’ve woken up, and I hope that you’re well on your way to where you want to go with your finances.

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