When you’re taking a break from spending, you become accustomed to, dare we say, even comfortable with not spending ANY money. We know it sounds strange, but it is certainly true. We get a little charge of excitement seeing how little we’ve swiped our debit cards for a purchase.
It is a visual reminder that we know what legitimate needs are — food, shelter, water, clothes you already have — and that everything else falls into the category of want.
So after three months of successfully not really spending any money unless it was planned spending, April came. And all we can say is when the spending rain comes, it quickly becomes a flood. That’s what we discovered in April.
We both had initially toyed with the idea of doing a complete pause on spending for the first three months of the year and then giving ourselves and allowance for the rest of the year. But after having such a successful first quarter, we admit, we backslid like a MUG!
While we still cooked all of our meals during the week and Ricks’ took the bus for a whole month, we ate out, had coffee, and went thrift shopping like we hadn’t just announced that we were committing to a full year of a SPENDING PAUSE!
Reese’s damage: $350. Not so bad, huh? Well, maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but that was $350 of nearly mindless spending that could have gone somewhere else.
Rick’s damage: $500. It was that bad. I’d say half of that was eating out and the other half was expensive behind running shoes. I have no explanation. Maybe I was abducted by aliens. Aliens who like to spend money eating out and running. Smh.
Some of the expenditures were definitely things that we said we were allowed to spend money on — fitness equipment, clothes for spring — but that didn’t necessarily give us the license to buy things that weren’t on sale and that didn’t absolutely need to be replaced right away, though they would have needed to be replaced eventually.
What happened? We don’t know! But when we think about it logically, perhaps we’re not telling enough of our money where to go each month. Maybe we’re leaving ourselves far too much wiggle room to make exceptions for purchases that truly do not fit under the definition of “need to buy, right now.”
What we do know for sure is that we spent money in ways that we had not planned and it was probably money that could have been used to further meet the big financial goals that we each have. It was eye-opening to say the least and quite frankly a little scary that though our goals were not derailed, they could have been because of reckless spending.
We’re taking a deep breath, giving ourselves a little grace and recommitting to our goals — debt freedom and savings — because doing better is still the name of the game. And when you know better, as the cliche goes, you do better.
But we’re also thinking about whether it’s OK to spend mindlessly, even when you don’t owe anyone anything. Is it OK to spend on whatever your heart desires, when your emergency fund and all the other funds in your life are fully, well, funded?
While we’re not in either of those categories yet, thus the need to stay on the spending pause, what we don’t want is to reach our goals and to be afraid to spend and give generously. But we also don’t want to move back into the habit of acquiring more stuff when what we truly value is experiences. We want the financial means and fortitude to change lives — our own, as well as the lives of those connected to us. We know that we can’t do that if we don’t stay FOCUSED. We’ve got our focus back. How about you? If you’re ready to retrench, take this pledge with us:
I’m thankful for all the financial resources I have, therefore I will use them wisely. I will redo my monthly budget (savings goals, debt payoff goals, and expenses) and share it with whoever I’ve asked to hold me accountable. I will get back on track with my charitable giving, making sure that I treat this as a priority and not an option, because I am the change I want to see in the world and sometimes that requires me to sow financially. I will celebrate my successes, no matter how big or small, but I will not lose focus of the goals ahead. Planning will help me get there. I will enjoy the simple things, because they remind me that I live in abundance and someone else does not. Most of all, I will always give myself grace and love, because this is a lifestyle change not a quick fix. I refuse to be stressed. I will be debt free. I’ll share my resources with others. My savings will be large. Nobody’s going to have financial strongholds on me!