Spending Diet: Halfway There

It being the middle of July, I figure it’s a good time to go ahead and update the Spending Diet progress some more. In short, I’ve been doing ok with it.

It’s obvious to me my biggest budget buster is convenience eating. I just don’t like systematic cooking. Menu planning is a waste of time because I never stick to it. For two weeks now I’ve planned on making a crock pot chicken and that is still to see the light of day. Maybe it’ll happen this weekend. I also really hate packing lunches. Ok honestly, I just don’t like cooking. Every once in a while, a fun feast sure. But the day to day cooking I despise. And I just don’t know what to do. Part of me is really leaning towards frozen foods. I know that with coupons and sales, I can make those insanely inexpensive. I’m just concerned about the health aspect. I know they’re high in sodium and other funky things. But, when I go out to eat it’s not the healthiest stuff in the world either. So, I’m at a loss here.

Other than the occasional food-related expense, everything’s been fine. I’m just a little ahead of the budget although that will all change today when I fuel up the car and if I get to grocery shopping. I’m still happy with the spending diet overall. It’s a bit frustrating at times. This past weekend without the kids, there really were moments I just wanted to get out and go to a store. When they’re not with me, I think of them and it feels like if I purchase something it’s my way of reaching out to them. Silly, I know. Instead I kept myself pretty absorbed in cleaning projects and knitting. I’m still kicking myself for dropping $15 on breakfast for a friend and me but I was insanely hungry, not home, and their kitchen was empty.

Begrudgingly, I am really understanding how this isn’t really a diet, it’s behavior modification. Which means I shouldn’t exactly drop it when the month is over. As a matter of fact, at this point it’s beyond obvious that if I want to live a financially healthy life, I need to figure out how to make this work on a regular basis. So, right now what I’m mulling over in my head is how to translate this experiment, and all of my lessons, into something functional.

The biggest lesson I am struggling with is Planning. It has become more obvious than ever before how crucial planning, and executing a plan, is to financial health. I knew, for over two months, that I would be getting a therapy bill any moment now. I knew this, but I didn’t take any steps to be able to pay for it. It came. It needs to be paid. If it wasn’t for the spending diet, I’d be in a pickle. However, because of the spending diet behavior modifications, I’ll have the money. Where I am confused is how do I maintain the balance? When the month is over, there will be a surplus of money. I’m not sure of the amount but the cash gift is helping increase it to a higher amount than I’d expected. What do I do next month? What I do from now on?

The opposite of Planning is the Unexpected or the Unsure. The first one is kind of obvious– an expense shows up out of nowhere. The other one is you know an expense is coming but you don’t know exactly when it will land and/or you don’t know exactly how much it will be. Those are the ones that are frustrating. Let’s take the coming month of August as an example, shall we?

I know:

  • My son’s uniforms will cost about $190
  • I have a therapy bill of $120
  • There will be three weeks of summer camp left, of which I am responsible for $261

I don’t know:

  • How much to budget for MutantEldest’s school supplies
  • How much to budget for MutantDaughter’s school supplies or even if I have to budget for them as I haven’t seen an email about it
  • How much to budget for MutantEldest’s school shoes (sneakers and shoes for the first time)
  • How much to budget for MutantDaughter’s school shoes
  • How much it’s going to cost me to change the oil
  • How much I should spend on my son’s birthday
  • How much/If I should spend on my birthday
  • How much I should spend on my brother’s birthday
  • How much/If I should spend on my cousin’s birthday

And what about all of those other little things? My oldest is going through a growth spurt and although I’ve done an ok job on keeping him up to speed on things like t-shirts and shorts, things like pajamas and underwear have been neglected. Not to mention, sure there’s lots of stuff listed on here but I know I’m missing other things. I know there are things that haven’t even occurred to me yet. I know there are things that won’t occur to me.

It’s funny how little I trust myself with money. That’s something I need to work on. When I have it, I just spend it almost afraid that I have it and if I don’t spend it, surely it will disappear. I guess? I honestly don’t know how to explain my mental state when it comes to cash. I know that I always fear not having enough. That I monitor my account constantly. That when I hand over my debit card I always cringe if it takes longer than usual to process wondering if the “DENIED” message will flash instead of “APPROVED”. That I try one budget to only blow it and try another budget to only repeat the entire process.

I know the process. You spend less than you earn. You allocate a portion to bills, a portion to savings and/or debt repayment, a portion to flexible expenses, and a portion to blow. But the thing that kills me is how much fluctuating there is in all of these portions. How do I keep it all steady? It’s funny that the spending diet has opened up all these confusions, doubts, and frustrations. I thought it’d be more of an epiphany-filled process with lots of self assurance built in. I feel like I’m overthinking the entire thing but I don’t know how to simplify it. Back to the Excel drawing board I go.

Here are other posts related to my Spending Diet Adventures:

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