The view out our window this morning. Winter slowly giving way to spring.
DH = Dear Husband
Taking the punches of a financial journey in stride
I just read a post yesterday by C. at The Single Dollar in which she describes her financial progress in March, a month filled with unexpected twists that drained her accounts. A single woman who is on a mission to take full ownership of her money management and to pave the way towards a future of financial abundance, she chose to absorb the blip that was March with a good sense of humour. I gave her a thumbs-up for that attitude, because any journey to debt freedom or financial freedom is L-O-N-G and marked by downs as well as ups.
It’s a good attitude for me to adopt too. March was a month of mixed success. I’ll start with the good news:
Slices 18 & 19 off Debt#3
High expectations in winter
Debt#3, our business debt, has been coming down consistently over the last few months, but I’ve been more than usually impatient with it. At the end of January, I expressed my disappointment with relatively small repayments despite a whopping Christmas rush for DH’s business. “Time to put on your big girl panties!” was the moral of that story. I’d had very high expectations for November, December, and January, and so the “merely” steady progress of those months came as a let down.
Low expectations in spring
February, March, and April are typically slow business months for DH. They are also months when my pay is lower because of pension and employment insurance deductions that decrease my take-home income through the first months of any year. In the first year of our journey out of debt, I felt very low when we could make no extra payments off of our debt through March and April due to slow business. Since then, I’ve come to accept that the spring months will be slower, and to look upon any progress they offer as a bonus.
So when our 18th slice out of Debt #3 came in at $2,500 at the end of February, we were very happy. Our business debt, which had been an impossible $80,800 in December 2012, was now down to $15,000. Some uncharacteristically generous business came DH’s way through March, and so again, just before the last week of the month, he was able to put $2,500 against Debt #3. Down to $12,500! We could taste that $10,000 barrier. Getting down from 5 figures to 4 suddenly became incredibly enticing. The last week of March proved to be consistent with the rest of the month, and a few days ago, DH said, “I can put another $3,000 down.” In my ongoing efforts not to give way to emotion or impulse in money matters, I asked, “Do you think we should wait to see how April pans out?” He thought for a whole second. “No,” was the answer.
Our 19th slice out of the business debt is a combination of two parts. Add $3,000 to that initial $2,500, and it ends up being a surprisingly huge spring slice of $5,500. And Debt #3 has become of 4-figure debt of $9,500! Guess what we can taste now? ZERO! Time to put on my Zen. Steady, steady.
NSF fail in my discretionary account
My areas of frugal weakness
Against the backdrop of this wonderful encouragement comes the bad news. Two areas of particular weakness have emerged over the almost 3 years of my writing this blog: I HATE housework, and I am terrible with my personal discretionary money. I have launched upon earnest quests towards cheerful house cleaning and clever discretionary money management, but success keeps eluding me.
When life gets out of balance
March was an exceptionally busy month for me. At work, the province-wide grade 10 literacy test was scheduled for March 26, and a colleague and I took on the massive task of preparing our students for it. As a result, both February and March were insane. All for a good cause, but still insane. On top of hyper-drive at work, I experienced hyper-drive in my blogging life. Laurie from The Frugal Farmer and I launched our new site for debtors trying to get out of debt: Fruclassity. So exciting! Again, for a good cause. Again, insane.
Comfort in shared experience
I am so often grateful for the insights of other financial bloggers. Kim at Eyes on the Dollar recently posted about her own experience of life out of balance. “The result . . . is making mistakes, bad decisions, and forgetting important things. This usually leads to increased spending in one way or another.” There is unfailing comfort in knowing that you are not the only one making mistakes. Lately, I’ve had blog-related expenses that I fund through my personal money. I knew about these expenses well in advance, and I took them on very consciously. I had great intentions to grow a cushion of extra cash in my discretionary account to absorb these expenses. But I forgot about the laws of addition and subtraction, and my great intentions were insufficient. So were my funds.
Paypal sent me an NSF notification in March. Some expert on frugal living, financial management, and debt-reduction I am! It was mortifying! It seems that all the old bad money habits that I have been so intentional about overcoming – the carelessness, the impulse, the chaos . . . – they all continue to dwell in my personal account. It was all handled graciously by Paypal, and with apology by me. The person on the receiving end of my payment didn’t even know about it. (And I’m pretty sure he won’t be reading this.) My bank dinged me for $45. Ouch!
I don’t take it lightly, but I do choose to be forgiving of myself. And when I compare that $45 to the $71,300 we’ve paid off our business debt, it’s clear that in the grand scheme of things, we’re succeeding. I’ll keep trying to love housework. I’ll keep trying to manage my discretionary account well. No doubt, I’ll experience more failures as I grow into a frugal lifestyle. But as Kim concludes her post about mishaps when life is out of balance, “even when frugal fails, it’s not that bad.”
Have you made money mistakes that you find mortifying? How do you balance these mistakes against the bigger picture?
I posted about Commandment #3 (A) at Fruclassity this week. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others