The cold, hard facts.

I’m a spender.

A real let’s-blow-it-all kinda girl.

Like, I’ve already imagined all the ways in which I’m going to spend my paycheck and it’s not even payday.

The Husband took over our finances as soon as we got married. And I was more than happy to let him do so. My idea of “managing finances” follows the don’t ask, don’t tell policy and I have often avoided checking my account balance out of fear for what I might find. And, when I finally do, I often hear myself saying, “wait, this can’t be right.”

I nickel and dime myself. Five dollars here, ten dollars there. It’s not much at the time, but, damn, does it add up. I can’t get in and out of Target without dropping at least thirty bucks, usually more, and I’m all about instant gratification which means that as soon as I have an idea, I’m taking out my wallet. And most of the time? My “good ideas” turn out not so good and I’m left with random crap I don’t need and won’t use.

Now, add into the equation that I suddenly find myself in a position where I don’t pay rent and hey! I can buy anything I want! Whenever I want!

It has become a serious problem.

As I write this post, my inner (and very weak) budget-conscious self, the one who wants to save money, is cringing. I can only imagine how other, more financially responsible people, will feel while reading this.

Brace yourselves.

I printed out each one of my bank statements since February. That’s when I opened my shiny new bank account. Here are a few horrifying facts about the month of May:

I spent $300 at Target.

In other words, I spent on… I DON’T KNOW WHAT.

That’s THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS on random stuff.

Three hundred dollars nickel and diming myself.

And that does NOT include the $40 I spent on books.

Or the $40 I spent at Starbucks.

Or the $50 I spent on a couple new shirts.

Or the $80 I spent on gas.

Or the $50 I spent on groceries.

In the month of May, I spent MORE than I earned.

MORE!

!!!

That does not include the trip to San Antonio, either.

Because I used my CREDIT CARD to pay for that.

People like me should not have credit.

Although, truth be told, my credit score is quite amazing.

Just thought I’d throw that out there to try and redeem myself.

How much money went into my savings account? A whopping $26.41.

And that’s only because I’m enrolled in that stupid Keep the Change program and I was too lazy to call and cancel it.

Are you as horrified as I am? Because, let me tell you, when I added and tallied and divvied everything up, I wanted to puke.

Back in March, depressed and moving into my kid sister’s bedroom, I had grand plans for getting my car paid off, saving money, moving out on my own… I said six months tops. That’s how long I’d stay with my folks. I estimated that six months is how long it would take me to pay off my car if I in sent every extra cent I had. Without that payment, I told myself, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable moving out on my own.

Now, granted, I have sent extra money towards my car loan each month. But only half of what I had planned. The other half went to God only knows. )Let’s be honest. Probably candy.)

The worst thing is that May was a carbon copy of March and April. I’ve done a lot of damage in the past three months.

A lot. Of. Damage.

Peeps, I’m putting myself on a budget. I’ve even created a binder and everything! (Which, naturally, I spent money on.) (I can’t win.) But I’m planning ahead and keeping track and SAYING NO. And it feels good. Weird, but good.

The most important thing I’ve realized is I can’t be trusted. If there is money available, I’ll spend it. And since this is a problem that can’t be fixed overnight, I’ve decided the less money I have, the better off I’ll be. So, in my effort to save, I’m spending.

No, it makes sense. I swear.

You see, despite the fact that I spend way more money than I should (on crap I don’t need), there’s a fear I have of running out. I’ve been determined to keep a certain amount in my bank account at all times. For what? I have no idea. But it was important to me that the funds were there. This is why I couldn’t send as much to my car as I had planned. The more I spent on useless crap, the less I could send to my car… otherwise I’d fall outside of my financial comfort zone.

I’m forcing myself to get over it. I’ve decided that as soon as it comes in, the money needs to go right back out again. In the last couple of days, I’ve sent everything… okay, nearly everything… that was sitting in my account to my car and credit card. I’ve left only enough for gas and groceries and maybe a book. (Hey, there’s only so much I’m willing to give up.)

And I plan to continue sending the money out until both are paid off.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but for the last few weeks months I’ve been operating under the impression (and hope) that The Husband and I will work things out, that maybe I won’t need to prepare to move out on my own because I’ll be going back to live with him. But the truth… the truth that you all probably grasp much better than I… is that we are far from reconciliation and, sadly, the chances of us actually working things out aren’t great.

They’re quite dismal, actually.

Sure, we’re having fun and getting along and communicating better than we have in years passed, but we are still far, painfully far, from what I’d consider a healthy relationship.

I mean, I still haven’t found a way to say, “What are we doing? Where are we going? How do I fit in in your life?” Because I’m too afraid of being that girl.

HOW STUPID AM I.

Turns out, my finances aren’t the only thing that I need to take responsibility of… But it’s a start.

Any tips?

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24 Responses to The cold, hard facts.

  1. Rachel says:

    question one: if it's only the 13th of June, how am I reading your posting from the 14th? Did I time travel? Am I capable of time travel?! DOOOOODDDDDD….question two: would you be willing to clue someone in 100% on your finances, like a parent, very very good friend, etc, so that you have someone to be accountable to besides yourself? let that person help you along the way, and guilt trip you when you need it? think of this as a kind of addiction that you need to ween yourself from. It's a lifestyle change, not _just_ a diet. (interesting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3oIiH7BLmg)question three: have you deactivated the debit feature of your debit/atm card? yes, you can totally do that. It might take some extra time on the phone with the bank, but it'll keep the impulsive candy purchases down.question four: i agree: why do you have the credit card? cancel it, then pay it off. operate on cash. No cash, no purchase. Oh, and my savings tactic is a keep-the-change thing, too, but I LITERALLY keep the change. only spend bills. everything else goes in the growler that serves as my doorstop. when it's sufficiently heavy, guess what?! I have an amazon gift code to retrieve from the coinstar at the grocery store :)…and I *know* I don't even have the best ideas out of your readers.

  2. Stephanie says:

    One: Um, yeah, I'm a total idiot and can't figure out how to correct the time stamp on my posts. No, I know where the setting is and I THOUGHT I had it right, but, no, I didn't. I give up. Two: Yes, I've told a friend and my mother. Although, considering I'm living in her house rent-free, I didn't get into too much detail about my poor spending habits. (Sorry, mom!)Three: This will require some thought. On one hand, the idea very much appeals to me and would keep my spending to an all time low. It'd be amazing! But… I rely on my debit card for everything! Gas, groceries, etc. I'm afraid it'd make me crazy if I had to stop at the bank all the time. Four: I cut up the credit card! Just after I bought my ticket to San Antonio. (It's all about the timing.)

  3. kerryanne says:

    Good for you! Admitting you have a problem is the first step lol- isn't that the way? I had to do the same thing last year. It's hard, but once you get into how much money you *aren't* going to blow, it's quite liberating. One thing I did in the beginning was to not take my debit card anywhere if I was just out and about. I decided how much spending money I had for the week, divided it up over the days and once the cash was gone for that day, that was it. Really made me think.The other thing we did was to open 2 separate accounts for the house. One where the bills come out- and only the bills- the other for groceries. Again, seeing in black and white exactly what we had for the month worked like a charm. Good luck!

  4. mia says:

    not a clue.. I've been doin' the same for a few months now. QVC is my frenemy 🙂 But they have some very nice lotions 🙂

  5. Gayle says:

    Getting rid of the credit card was a great step to take! One thing I do is to (most of the time) not buy something the first time I look at it. A few days later I usually wonder why the heck I wanted, liked, thought I needed that whatever.

  6. MichelleSG says:

    You are not the only one. I am the exact same way only I have to do the whole family finances since the husband can't emotionally handle doing them. Seriously, he gets so upset he basically has an emotional breakdown. Yes, I married a woman. The only thing I found that helps is that keep the change savings account. As soon as I get on line to pay bills I do that, figure out how much we need to live on for the next 2 weeks, then I transfer the rest into that savings account. I wish I could tell you that it totally works but really all it does is create a safety net for when we get to 5 days until payday and we have no gas money. The inherent problem is that we don't make enough money since the hubby can't seem to find a real job (don't get me started). So in essence we need to stop spending money on things like the occasional book store run or lunch out. Which just sucks. I mean really, do we need to give up all the little pleasures in life? Sorry, that probably didn't help much but at least know that you aren't alone!

  7. Lan says:

    at least you know your spending habits.every.single.month. i make a list of all my bills that have to be paid. i don't eff around with that list. then i calculate what i have leftover to either spend on randoms or to put into savings. it's hard.since i became single a few weeks ago i don't have that safety net of a boyfriend with a very good job and who was very willing to pay my bills for me should i need him to (tho i never used that net, it was good to have…) i've been very very very mindful of what i spend. i never ever have cash on me and i personally find it a pain in the ass to use my atm card. i got rid of all my credit cards (fully paid 5 years ago) and only keep a few store cards to keep my credit up.also, try mint.com

  8. Rachel says:

    yeah, see? I knew everyone else had the ideas I'd either not thought of or forgotten about. I like to shop in clothing stores that hold merch until closing of the next day or longer. I'll try it on, think really hard, then still just put it on hold. If it's meant to be, I'll wake up thinking about it again *and* have time to go back and buy. This is difficult. This requires some mind over body exertion. This would be helped with the accountability-to-someone thingy.I'd really think a good friend who you can trust to slap you around as opposed to mom is the best idea anyway. For just the suspicions you confirmed. And that's ok, you should be allowed opacity when you need it, and she already has a lot of transparency about your daily rituals!Mint.com *is* a pretty supertastic tool, as Lan mentions, though it would really behoove you to keep the debit feature if you go this route. So it's an alternative to the debit-deactivation. Maybe try both ways to see which works best?And multiple bank accounts with dedicated purposes is something I've done in the past, too. I just have the coin jar now, but it's the same idea as a savings account: only making impulsively accessible a portion of your funds.

  9. Christine says:

    You are not alone. I blame Mom. 😉

  10. Alias Mother says:

    Oh my god, you are my husband. Okay, look. You are a candidate for the cash system if there ever was one. Schedule payments for your car, credit card, whatever, that will come right out of your bank account. Then: stop carrying your debit card. You clearly can't be trusted with it until you break the spendy habit. After each paycheck, take out IN CASH exactly what you will need for groceries and gas and books, whatever. Give yourself a little candy fund, too. But once you run out of that cash, you are done (DONE) until your next paycheck. It's like budget bootcamp.Also, get direct deposit into your savings account and vow upon whatever you hold holy that you will not touch that unless you are in danger of losing your life. Now excuse me, I need to go pet my precious, precious budget and tell it that it looks pretty.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I tried the two accounts thing and the bank shot me down! They said that because of “suspicious” activity on my account, I would have to wait 90 days before opening another. I said, “what suspicious activity?” They said, “We suspected fraud back in April. Didn't you receive a phone call?” NO I DID NOT. Stupid bank.

  12. Stephanie says:

    You're not trying to talk me into anything, are you?

  13. Stephanie says:

    You're right. I need to fight the “I need this and I need it NOW” feeling. I have often found myself standing in lines long enough that by the time I get to the register, common sense has kicked in and I'll put away whatever nonsense I was about to buy. Forcing myself to wait each time I want to buy something might (will) make a huge difference.

  14. Stephanie says:

    LOL, no, it helps a lot! I really do need to get a better grasp on planning ahead. What little I've done just in the last few days has made me feel like a freaking superhero.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Okay, see, I find it only too easy to use my debit card. When I succumb to Starbucks or candy or whatever it may be that I don't need… the debit card comes out. We're like BFFs. We never go anywhere without each other. And she knows all of my deepest, darkest secrets.

  16. Stephanie says:

    You're right, you're right. There's nothing else I can say. I should be doing all of the above. It's everything I've already TOLD myself I should do, everything I've PLANNED to do… and never did. 'Cause I was too busy buying stuff. Could I hire you to be my financial advisor? I can't pay much (or anything), but I NEED YOU.

  17. MichelleSG says:

    The cash method is seriously what you should do. If I wasn't responsible for buying EVERYTHING in the household (sooo not my choice) I'd totally go that way. That's basically what my hubby does but obviously I'm more the one with the problem. We don't have any credit cards. At all. Used to, don't anymore. It's so freaking refreshing you need to stick with that. If you want something really expensive badly enough do something like a personal layaway. Put partial payments for what you want (in cash) tucked somewhere like a jewelry box or something. When you get enough to buy it then do so. DON”T DIP INTO THAT STASH. We've done it for several things before and it works well. That's how I'm funding my new amphibian habit. You don't want to know how much it cost just to build a vivarium much less the frogs…seriously.

  18. Violet says:

    OK, I'm beginning to suspect that Alias Mother and I are the same person. I second the suggestion that you stop carrying your debit card. I am a nickel-and-dimer, too, and it's all because of that damn little piece of plastic. It's so easy and painless to hand over the plastic. I have been thinking about giving myself an allowance and leaving the debit card at home. When the allowance is gone, there's no more money for frappes, Chipotle, grape Crush, or magazines. I haven't actually done it yet because I've been out of town on business for the last two weeks. But the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

  19. amhealy says:

    I love all the comments up above. I am just like Stephanie, but I don't think I am to blame for her evil ways. I have lately taken to giving my husband the debit cards I carry when I am going somewhere in order to avoid the potential of spending too much money. I”m going to print all the comments out and leave them on my desk for a while, so that I can remind myself of how I”m turning over a new leaf.Oh, and Steph? I'm charging you $500 a month rent so that you don't have to worry about spending your extra money on miscellaneous that you can't account for. :))

  20. Stephanie says:

    I'm sorry. I love you and all… but I am so not shelling out $500 bucks to live with my MOTHER.

  21. Stephanie says:

    Okay, I'm definitely going to try the cash only method. This freaks me out a bit… which probably means that it's the right thing to do. Sigh.

  22. Theresa G says:

    Mint.com – check it out.I'd add more, but everyone else beat me to it. Not that I am any different from you. Retail therapy… sigh

  23. Stephanie says:

    I know. I feel your pain.

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