I am a budgeter. I honestly enjoy dabbling with the inflow/outflow spreadsheet I leave sitting on my desktop (Excel, of course – my one true love). No matter how poor I am, I find that being fully aware of what I have, what I don’t have, and what I could have is empowering.
This winter has been tough on the wallet as well as the spirits. Shortly after starting my new job, payroll taxes went up and my student loan payment increased 3 fold at the same time. I am now netting less per month than when I was in my first compliance job back in the mid-90s. Sobering, isn’t it? All my summer plans are on hold – renovations, landscaping & travel – except for the roof which will not wait for me to become solvent.
But there is good news. I am paying off both short and long-term debt, all of which should be paid off in under 10 years – car, house, and that omnipresent student loan (22 years and counting. Yes, I really need to find a cheaper hobby.) Plus, I’m adding as much to retirement and savings as I can, which is 100% more than I was contributing last year.
The best news is that while my net income hovers just above the poverty line, I am fully aware that I can divert some of my savings/debt payments for emergencies without incurring more debt (fingers crossed). That little bit of wiggle room is what separates my living paycheck-to-paycheck as I did last year and moving forward. And now that I feel that forward momentum, I am hell-bent on getting back to where I feel I should be. I’ve projected my budget out to the end of the year and (save a major emergency), I’ll have my short-term debt paid off and a small but decent savings account to boot. It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of sacrifice, but it’s so worth it.
I spent an hour this morning trying to squeeze just a few more dollars out of the budget. Unfortunately, there are only two categories left that aren’t fixed monthly amounts: food and phone. I’m proud to say that not only have I gotten my grocery bill down between $50-$60 a week (that’s including cat food and litter), I’ve done so while eating healthier and losing weight. That’s a win-win and an extra win for me! My budget is actually $75/week, but I’m not willing to give up my Saturday morning breakfasts at Kathy’s. I have my limits.
Which brings me to my phone. Sigh. I’ve only had a smartphone for two years now, and I’ve grown ever so attached to it. But as of April 15, it’s out of here along with my Verizon contract. My new “dumb” phone arrives next week, which should give me enough time to transition my data and mourn. [Actually, that’s a lie. I rarely talk on the phone; I just check my mail/Facebook and Google really random factoids while sitting in traffic.] Moving back to a pay-as-you go phone will save me about $700/year. So many better uses for that kind of money, don’t you think?
I guess the point to all of this is that I’m not interested in fancy electronics, expensive trips and endless nights out. And I surely don’t need to stay connected to social media 24/7. It’s not who I am, and certainly not who I want to be. I just need to feel secure and independent. I am a simple person and need to live my kind of life without the lure of the latest and greatest shiny object, and without being tethered by trivial financial obligations. Easy to say. Easier to forget.
Maybe this time around I’ll remember.
p.s. please note that internet service is neither trivial nor negotiable. Once again, I have my limits!!