Too Thrifty Chicks

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Food For Thought: Talk Budgets To Me Pt. 1

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year and let’s be honest, it is the time of year where I spend money on other people and enjoy it. It’s never a lot of money because in my former life I was a procrastinator and always failed to plan for Christmas even as the decorations were going up in October.

This year followed a similar trajectory. But in October I got a budget, made a plan and now all my Christmas shopping is done almost done.

And you know what I discovered about budgets? Budgets equal confidence. And confidence is sexy. Therefore, budgets are very sexy.

Wait, let me explain.

I clearly have not always felt this way about budgets.

For much of my life, budgeting was about the pain of discipline and the shame of failing.

Budgeting, at least for me, has always been about achieving perfection, and then feeling guilty when I proved time and time again that I’m not perfect.

Budgets made me feel inadequate and unsure of my ability to adult. Budgets were very unsexy.

Until I met a budget that I liked.

After that, I realized budgeting is a lot like dating. Sometimes you’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you get a prince/princess.

So if you haven’t found “The One,” keep looking. Never give up and think through these three things to recognize “The One”:

  • The right budget doesn’t hold your past against you, supports your present being, but is willing to help you plan for the future. You took out too many student loans. You ran up the credit cards. You don’t have enough saved for an emergency. Retirement? You mean I can’t work until I die? Oh. The right budget helps you start wherever you are and says, “You can do this.”
  • The right budget doesn’t make you feel like you’re always doing it wrong. The right budget says, “We can do this better, together.” You budgeted $100 for eating out. You spent $125. You technically “failed.”  A good budget says, “You spent more than you intended. Adjust and move on without guilt.”
  • The right budget puts you in the driver’s seat and empowers you to prioritize what you really want out of life. You say you value experience over things, but when it’s time to snap up that great flight deal, there is nothing but cobwebs and tumbleweeds in your savings account. The right budget helps you put your money where your heart is instead of just where your mouth and feet are. The right budget helps you set goals instead of just limiting your spending.

The reality is that you have to find a system that works for you. Before the advent of phones that are basically handheld computers, I used Dave Ramsey’s monthly cash flow planning sheets and his cash envelope system. I liked the cashflow sheets and kept a binder full of them, religiously, for years.

(If you read the OktoberFast Update post, you know I now use software called YNAB (You Need A Budget) to manage money.)

But I didn’t last more than two months with the cash envelope system, which was supposed to govern my daily money management. I probably had too many envelopes and I was not the best at always writing down what I spent. I also never felt the “pain of spending cash” as Dave Ramsey likes to call it. The only pain I felt was when those envelopes were empty and payday was off in the distance. Empty envelopes just increased my anxiety because the grocery store money was gone, but there was no food in the refrigerator, and I didn’t know why.

When Reese and I started Operation Do Better we were living and cooking together. We also were overspending on our shared grocery budget. We’re a little bougie. We like good cheese and wine. Having one envelope strictly for grocery money and meal planning helped us rein in that spending area.

And that leads me to my next point. No one thing is going to fix your finances. But a number of specific, very intentional steps might. Reese and I had to budget and then develop a strategy for how we met that budget. We saw spending less on groceries as a goal rather than a limit. We saw occasional spending fasts from things like eating out as a way to realign our priorities and to reach goals faster. Reaching that goal allowed us to reward ourselves appropriately. Rewarding ourselves appropriately encouraged us to keep going.

You might be saying to yourself: Ricks, this is all cute and what not, but why are y’all still in debt?

Fair question.

The short answer: When I quit my job, we also quit the system. Not just the system of regular steady income, but the system of managing resources and managing them well. And honestly, while we’re not out of debt, we’re actually only wrapping up year two of actually trying to get out.

You’ll have to read Part 2 of this blog post if you want a more detailed answer. 🙂

Now that we’ve refocused our attention on slaying debt and saving with purpose and intention, basically Operation Do Better 2.0 (3.0 starts next year), I have been stalking these Interwebs for tips and tricks on how to do better on everything from budgeting to meal planning. And what I have discovered between You Tube and various personal finance blogs is a whole community of folks pushing back against the mass consumption of everything, and opting out of the Cult of Credit Card Debt.

The older I get the sexier financial responsibility gets.

— Ricks

(Hat tip to blogger extraordinaire J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy for inspiring this post.)


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Tidbit Tuesday: Operation Do Better 2.0

Now that summer is rapidly coming to a close, the Thrifty Chicks are in the mood for rapidly pulling back on spending. Yeah, we know we have said that we’re on the Operation Do Better train for the long haul, but even the the Thrifty Chicks fall off the wagon.

So, we are making yet another public declaration. It’s time to push pause on any form of unnecessary spending. What that means is Operation Do Better 2.0 starts Sept. 15 and we’d like to invite you to join us as we say no to spending that doesn’t help us achieve the things that we said were important to us when we started this whole thing, namely: giving, saving and debt elimination.

We picked that date because Ricks’ 34th birthday is on Sept. 13 and there will be a few festivities — scaled back though they are — to get through. Ricks’ also considers each blessed birthday she is allowed to see as her new year and an opportunity to re-evaluate and make necessary changes just as most people do Jan. 1 each year. Reese is a legit near-new year baby (Jan. 2) and part of her birthday celebration is one of the reason’s we’re talking about Operation Do Better 2.0.

We’re going to SOUTH AFRICA, y’all! Since the beginning of 2013, we’ve known that we wanted to celebrate the new year in South Africa.  We’ve been making necessary changes to how we handle our finances so that we could live better lives overall, but those changes also had to do with the short term goal of getting to South Africa.

As many of our regular readers well know, Ricks quit her job in June and is pursuing life as her own boss. The reality of that means that Reese is the only Thrifty Chick bringing in a steady paycheck. With a lot of communication, faith and support we’re making it, but December is no longer 12 months away. December is only four short months away. Yikes! In our favor is before Ricks left her job, we both purchased our round trip plane tickets with travel insurance. Now, the only thing we have to cover is lodging, food and in-country travel.

While the trip is important to us,  so is Operation Do Better 2.0.  This reduced income life is hard, and we will be sharing some of the things that we’ve done and are doing in posts to come. But what it means is refocusing on what we said was truly important when we started this whole thing almost nine months ago. We care about experiences, not stuff. We don’t mind working, but we don’t want to define our lives by what we do to make money. Living simply and sustainably isn’t something we want to TALK about, but BE about.

For us, Operation Do Better 2.0 means refocusing on the big three: giving, saving and debt elimination. And we invite to you to recommit to what you truly want out of life. Maybe it is owning a house, with a white picket fence, two kids and a dog. Maybe it’s seeing as much of the world before you die as possible. For you, it might be the satisfaction of knowing that you control your own destiny because you don’t owe anybody anything. Whatever it is, we invite you to join us in Operation Do Better 2.0.

Here are a few things to get you going:

1. Be accountable. If you don’t yet have someone to share your money triumphs and struggles with it’s time to find that person. This person should be someone who won’t judge, but will call you on your foolishness. It also helps if this person is willing to reciprocate. This person needs to be someone you trust enough to confide the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

2. Be real. When we say the whole truth. We mean the whole truth. Share your money story — all your hang-ups, the stupidest things you’ve ever done with your money, and why you want to get it right this time. Reese and I shared our stories this summer and it was eye-opening to say the least.

3. Be transparent. Reese and I instituted a weekly finance meeting. We talk about sources of income and how much is coming in. We talk about how much is going out. We talk strategy about how we can make adjustments. We also talk about how we’re feeling. These talks can be morose when money is tight so…

4. Be thankful. After too many finance talks that sounded like defeat, we’ve decided to put a praise report at the start of every Too Thrifty Chicks finance meeting. We want to give thanks for all the good things, no matter how small. We’re blessed and we know it. You are blessed too. Never forget it.

5. Don’t forget grace. There are going to be rough moments. We knew this going into Operation Do Better and you should know it too. You’re going to make bad choices once in a while and that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up. Keep your goals in sight. Write them somewhere you can see them and keep moving forward.

Stay tuned for more information about what we’re doing with Operation Do Better 2.0 and what we’re learning along the way.

— R & R