Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making a Vow (aka Budgeting Update)

First Person Singular is holding a contest, and the winner gets a $50 GC to Crate and Barrel. Now, I don't normally promote other people's contests, but their question for the entry is the inspiration for this post:

What is your single vow?

Most of the answers have been about taking better care of ourselves and my answer is just another spin on that, but I felt like I had to say how I was going to take better care of myself:

I vow to do a better job at sticking to my budget so that I can retire one day, and not have to rely on anyone even in my last days.
I'm proud and relieved to say that every year as a single parent, my financial outlook gets a little bit better. I haven't truly worried about how I'm going to pay a necessity bill in quite some time, and I've even added some "luxury" items that make my life easier (like paying for the girls' school lunches instead of making them). It's still very much a paycheck-to-paycheck budget, however, and I don't even have a month's savings, let alone the 8 month emergency fund that Suze Orman recommends.

I have come to terms with some of that. I have made sure that the girls have everything they need in school, and a few extras. I enrich our lives as much as possible with plays and other outings.  I splurge in relatively moderate doses.

Still, there are a few items in my budget where I splurge too excessively. The biggest culprit? I buy lunch at work almost every day. And I have lunch with friends quite regularly.

I remember four or five jobs ago (before I was even pregnant with Riley), my friend/colleague and I started bringing to work a loaf of bread, cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and avocado. I still remember those lunches as some of the best work lunches ever. Of course, the avocado is a bit of a splurge, but is really what completes this simple sandwich!

So I vow here on this blog to add those items to my grocery list and every time I don't have lunch plans, I'm making myself a yummy sandwich. That alone should save me about $15-$20 a week.

In less than two months, I will have paid off one of my credit cards entirely. I vow to actually do the right thing with that $100, and put it towards my lower interest rate credit card to bring that balance down faster. It is my current "emergency" account and the faster I can whittle it down, the faster I can build a real emergency fund.

I have also added another item to my budget that should make a difference with both my credit card usage and available cash. I'm putting $25 towards a present account. I've been stupidly stashing those purchases under "unexpected/miscellaneous." Duh, those aren't totally unexpected! I know the dates of everyone's birthdays, and the gift-giving holidays. It won't completely save me this holiday season, and it isn't a whole lot of money going in there, but it's a good step in the right direction.

And, I'll admit it, I've been quick to spend that child support that I've been getting these last few months. I've rationalized it by thinking, it's not money that I'm not counting on, so I can just use it to go to Costco or take the girls to the theatre. Knowing me as I do, I will still do some of that. But I vow to only do that with half. The other half will go towards savings. I'm still not counting on it. I'm just planning what to do with it if/when I actually receive it. (To continue the rationalization, the not planning is part of why I end up just thinking of it as free money.)

I'm not vowing, however, to add more to the savings line item on my budget. Yeah, been there, tried that. All I end up doing is just moving it eventually into my checking and spending it when I need to...or feel like I need to, at least.

I'm trying to think about where my money really goes, where the red font most consistently shows up when I enter my actual expenses into my budget spreadsheet.

Now, it's a single vow because it's about taking care of me in the long term. It's about not being a burden to the girls or other family if/when I'm unable to take care of myself. It's about preparing myself, in tiny steps, for the time when (hopefully) the girls are taking care of themselves and I can make decisions solely on what's best for me.

And, even if you aren't single or don't want to enter the contest, I do encourage everyone to think about what vow you want to make exclusively for yourself. Not about your family or your friends or even your favorite charity. What do you want for you? What can you do today for yourself that might make the rest of your lifetime a little bit better?

1 comment:

BigLittleWolf said...

Let me just say - I like your vow. Very worthy, and completely understandable.

One of the reasons I swore I would always work for pay (from the time I was a teen), was so I would never have to depend on anyone else for my survival. (Thus, the irony of how things are at present, many moons later.)

That said, life may toss us obstacles we don't anticipate. But clarity about the importance of budget and savings and not depending on anyone else (legal requirements aside) is - in my opinion - sad but pragmatic.

One of the reasons I continue to write on some of the subjects I do - all these years "after the fact" - is because of the cumulative detrimental (financial) impacts, worse for women than for men, statistically. With awareness, women can potentially protect themselves.

Stick to your guns and your guts - and your vow - and with a bit of luck - you can do it!