Money! We all need it. It's nicer to have more of it. And sometimes I, like many others, have a hard time keeping it. I go through financial phases, or FiPhas (Fee-Fuhs), if you will. There are times when I feel like my control over my bank accounts and my spending habits are just completely on point - I stick to my budget, I give big chunks of money to my credit cards and law school loans, and I stick to my slightly ambitious savings goals. I kill it in the financial arena during these times.
However, there are times when sitting under the crushing weight of law school loans makes these efforts seem... arbitrary. There are downswings where it just seems silly to break my neck trying to pay off credit cards or save up money when it seems as if the amount of debt I have accumulated via my education is never-ending. Why should I resist those incredible boots when I will have hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt either way? Why worry about paying for coffee each morning on the way to the bus when I could... not worry? I'm not saying it's the most rational thought process...but like a diet, sometimes restricting yourself financially reaches a breaking point, and you binge. You go on a spending bender.
I am in one such downswing right now. I have been extremely relaxed about my finances since before the holidays. At that time, it was so easy to justify some extra spending! It's the holidays, be generous, go have fun! Buy apple cider! Send everyone cards! You need more yarn! I am very good at coming up with spending justifications. Been practicing for years, y'all.
But then, the weeks turned into...months. We are now in the midst of February, and summer is approaching. I am certain there will be sandals I'll want to buy, trips I'll want to take, and makeup items that need to be purchased at some point. To do this, I'll need some cold hard cash. Also, I have goals you guys! I have credit card paying off goals, I have savings goals, and I have "it feels really nice to see that money in my bank account on a Monday morning" goals. I need to continue teaching myself how to maintain the high level importance of these goals in my mind and not forget them at the sight of a cute bag or a sparkly pen that I just have to have that moment. I have to rein myself in, yet again. Truly, it's like eating well - it's an ongoing process, and sometimes you slip up, and you get back on the horse. It's about moderation, and I've been over-indulging a bit. So I need to under-indulge for a few paychecks, and get back on track.
I know I've explained all of this before. I'm sure I've prattled on about my fiscal responsibility and my plans to motivate myself and my hyper-organized budget with proportional payment goals. This is not new. But, like with healthy eating, or exercise, or any other good habit, sometimes you need to remind yourself of exactly towards what you are working. So, this is my reminder! Like I said before, I have goals set up. I have accounts for vacations, I have accounts for apartment expenses, I have accounts for emergencies, and then I have bills. And like anything else, attaining these goals takes work. Budgeting can be work, but it can also be fun.
Yep, I said it - fun! It's fun, in a way, to learn you are in control of your spending and saving. It's fun to understand you don't need to succumb to every sale you see or buy coffee and a croissant and a sparkling water at every café you visit. It is fun to realize that things don't matter as much as people or experiences, and while money can bring all of these things into your life (in abstract terms), you have to pick and choose those experiences that are worth more of your money. That is what adults, who have responsibilities and obligations, do. And, surprise! I am an adult. So it's time to get back on board with these responsible habits. If you would like to read more about this "minimalist fun," I highly recommend And Then She Saved, one of my all-time favorite personal finance blogs.
Here are my completely-not-foolproof, never-guaranteed tricks to getting back on track with my mon-ay:
1. Stop online shopping.
Like seriously, just stopping it cold turkey. Anything that I could buy online is not something I "need" - I get my facewash at a real store, I get my groceries at a real store, and I get my...well, you get the idea. The things I actually "need" in my everyday life are things that I can buy at Walgreens or the organic grocery store and things that come shipped in pretty packaging do not fall into this category. This is not a moratorium for all of time, but cutting it off cold turkey for a month or so always helps me reboot and realize what I "need" versus what I just "want." I also find that it helps to stop looking at so many style blogs with this, but, sometimes that just makes me sad to cut out. Luckily I've been too busy to catch up on blogs so that plays nicely into this point.
2. Pick my splurges vs. my saves.
I know that I like "nice" facial toner and "nice" moisturizer, but I don't need nice mascara. The $8 variety from Maybelline works, honestly, just as well as most fancy Sephora mascaras I've tried. I also know that I can get away with cheaper eyeshadow, but I like my Burberry perfume. I can wait most days of the week to get to work to drink their free coffee, but sometimes on the weekend it's worth it to walk to Philz and get a $5 coffee since it's my only one of the week (last weekend notwithstanding.) This is what I call evaluating my saves versus my splurges - sometimes you have to let yourself have small joys, but it's easier to save money when you realize what is really worth spending on and what you can downgrade. It won't kill you, I promise.
3. Checking my Learnvest account everyday.
This might seem a tad neurotic, but it really helps me out. Even if my spending habits don't change overnight, it really helps to see that I spent $35 on drinks for friends last weekend, plus groceries, plus a movie ticket. Or that I took out $85 in cash yesterday morning but when I look in my wallet, only $15 is left. Sometimes just noticing these habits can spark a change in your mentality the next time you pull our your debit card.
One way I remind myself of these tricks is to keep money on the mind - but unlike dieting, thinking about money doesn't make me want to spend it. It makes me want to be even more restrictive, more responsible, and more self-regulating. Reading articles about budgeting and saving brings these skills to the forefront of my mind and makes me think before I buy. So I thought I would share some of my favorite money-related articles with you in case you need a little reminder too:
How to stop buying so many "wants."
Why you are not saving enough.
How to save more of your paycheck.
How to pay down debt. (I wrote this one!)