Yes, I know it is essentially the end of November and this post is going up on THEE most high, holiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. But I promised y’all an update on OktoberFast.
Two months ago, right on this blog, I repented of my backsliding, wayward financial ways. I had seen the error of my money sins during Splurge September and I was going to “Do Better” this time. Or so I thought.
OktoberFast was kind of an epic fail, and I’m writing this post as a cautionary tale about budgeting, spending and well meaning but failed fasting.
If you don’t remember the OktoberFast Challenge ground rules you can read them here. But the basics of what I was supposed to do vs. what actually happened are below:
Journal my feelings instead of soothing them with “retail therapy.” I journaled 5 times in the month of October. There are 31 days in October and one thing I’m sure of is that I spent emotionally. That’s all I have to say about that. FAIL.
Save at least $300 by the end of the month. I technically accomplished this goal. But keep reading to find out why it’s not really a success. FAIL.
Go to the one grocery store I like, Trader Joe’s, twice a month. I went to TJ’s once, and looking at my checking account, I didn’t spend much money at any of the local grocery stores. FAIL.
Meal prep food I actually like to eat on Sundays. I didn’t “maintain” my grocery store high because I didn’t go to the grocery store. That means I didn’t cook very much. FAIL.
If I “must” eat out, eat a vegetarian meal at a sit-down restaurant. Lies! FAIL.
Use my library card. *in my whiney in my head justification voice* “You can’t check out coloring books from the library.” I don’t know that. I never checked and bought a fancy coloring book and coloring pencils. FAIL.
Replenish my personal hygiene products as needed. I did this, but drugstores are kind of my happy shopping places in New Haven. Book stores and the Kiko Milano makeup store are my top two happy places in the city. Going to a drugstore for a personal care item, invariably meant buying something more than what was on my list. FAIL.
Ricks, You in Danger Girl…
I already knew that continuing to follow a really restrictive spending fast — no clothes, no shoes, no make up/nail polish, no hair products, no books, no coffee out, no credit card use — with no clear and specific reason, and no reward at the end of it was a bad idea.
I even said so in the post.
I figured, if it got me closer to my big hairy, real goal — being Debt Free by 40 — that would be its own reward. Lies! It wasn’t.
Also, the thing that always happens when you recommit yourself to your finances, but don’t actually do anything different, happened because…life and Murphy’s Law.
Serious dental work is my ministry, and I’ve known I needed some work done for some time. In my head, and on paper, I was putting a little something aside for that.
But in fact, something more immediate would always come up — mostly travel that I had already committed myself to before I had committed any actual money.
Of course, I didn’t want to “hurt” my savings that I had just restarted, so when the two created conflict, I found a “savior.”
‘Oh look,’ I thought, ‘I have this 0 percent interest credit card. I can pay the balance when I am paid for my freelance gig.’ Never mind that I had applied for that card to transfer some of the balance of my one credit card to help pay it off faster. It was an emergency. I should have used the emergency money for that.
A Life Line
Though this challenge was doomed from the start, some really good things came out of it.
It reignited passion for Operation Do Better. Reese and I started Operation Do Better to change our relationship with our finances, and ultimately leave a legacy. We’ve had some set backs, but we refuse to give up.
It killed my procrastination disorder and my aversion to planning. I was pretty disgusted with my lack of planning for things that I knew were going to happen. I knew I was going to travel to Atlanta in October. I’d known that for months, but I failed to really plan for it beyond purchasing a plane ticket. That lack of planning ended up costing me a significant amount of money because I simply had not considered the logistics. I also was experiencing some frustration with myself for a lack of planning in other areas of my life and I’m taking a more proactive approach to how I do almost everything.
I reconnected with my accountability partners. Reese, our 5509 roomie Tasha and I have been about this Operation Do Better life for a while now and the many changes that we’ve all gone through in the last few years — moves and new jobs — have left us all a bit shell-shocked financially. The fog is starting to clear and each month we’re working together to get a better grasp on the situation. We check in with each other periodically and I always leave those conversations inspired to keep going.
I learned about You Need A Budget (YNAB). In the words of the software’s creator, Jesse Mecham, “You need a budget. Yes, you do. We all do.” And boy is he right.
Up until now, I have used Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace and Total Money Makeover to address debt, and to some extent to mange money. Reese and I used it to great success to pay off debt a few years ago because we were (and still are) hyper focused on eliminating debt.
But I confess, the day-to-day management of money always seemed to stump me. I was telling my money where to go, but aside from my fixed monthly expenses, those variable, everyday expenses were like a black hole.
When I started my new job, I had to adjust to being paid once a month. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary and I love getting paid this way. I know up front that I have all the money I need to cover my expenses. It makes me feel a sense of control that I have never felt.
On the flip side, being responsible for managing everyday expenses and planning for emergencies and retirement are anxiety inducing. I often start the month with very good intentions, but ultimately end each month feeling desperate. I needed a practical strategy to manage those very different realities in my budget and YNAB has been that for me for the last 60 days.
(Hat tip to blogger Dad Is Cheap. I stumbled onto this post where he talks about YNAB and decided to give the 34-day free trial a go. Before the trial was over, I bought the software and, so far, it feels like the best $60 I have ever spent.)
So, with only four days before December, I have money in my checking account and peace in my heart. And, y’all it feels so freaking good! I have laid out a plan and refocused on how I can save for emergencies and retirement, pay off what’s left of my consumer debt in 2016, and manage my daily cash flow throughout each month.
The best part is that it doesn’t involve me eating ramen four nights a week, though I love me some ramen. It also doesn’t mean giving up the few things I consider luxuries. It’s guilt free, and allows me to savor the things and experiences for which I do spend money.
That feels like failing forward to me and it feels like peace and contentment, something I’ve never felt about money. I’m actually excited about budgeting, and that excitement might be contagious. I plan to write more about it so stay tuned.
Happy #StayInTheBlack Friday people!