Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A personal financial challenge.

I recognize this place. We've been here before.

After a layoff (or job loss, in this case) and weeks of the finances being pretty darn tight, we are finally getting back on track as the paychecks are coming regularly now. It felt so good to sit at my desk yesterday and pay some of those bills that had piled up while Steve was off work.

It's a bit of a danger zone, though. Like a kid who has been denied ice cream for six months and then finally gets a taste of it again, it's difficult not to go on a total bender. Having any sort of balance in the checking account makes me feel very wealthy, and all those little things I put off buying because we simply didn't have the cash are all within reach now.

I am a homemaker. I like to update the look of our home with a new rug here or a picture frame there. I also love to find bargains at thrift stores and think of fun and funky ways to use them around the house. I never spend very much all at once, but all those little purchases add up over time.

It's time to reign it in.

Steve and I have some specific goals for saving and paying down debt this year. These goals are important to me, even more so than what the house looks like or how much I can expand my garden this summer. So I need to start telling myself what I often tell the kids when they ask for something we hadn't planned on purchasing: Is it within your budget? Do you have the cash with you? Is this an impulse buy, or is it something you've been saving for?

Creating a budget is not where I have trouble; I actually enjoy crunching the numbers. And I do think within a household budget there should be a category for mad money, or "blow money" as financial guru Dave Ramsey calls it - to give each person the freedom to spend X-amount however they dang well please. Starbucks. Snacks. A manicure. Extra giving to charity. Saving up for a concert ticket. Dinner out with friends. Or in my case, to support a stay-at-home mom's home improvement habit. Decorating/do-it-yourself projects are my "thing." Well, that and really good chocolate. (I somehow manage to fit the chocolate into the grocery budget though. It's a perk of being the budget creator and the grocery shopper.)

So my challenge is this: to figure out how much home improvement our weekly budget can handle, create an envelope to put that cash in every week, and then make my purchases out of that envelope, and that envelope only. No fair putting that can of spray paint in the grocery budget just because it will be used on a dining room chair.

This really will be a challenge for me, and I see myself making some difficult decisions over the next few months. As spring approaches I start to get antsy about planting my garden (read: buying seeds, soil, perennials, new gardening tools, etc.) and spring cleaning in the house (read: changing things up, making it all fresh and new). I'm up for it. I think it will be worth the effort when I can look back at the end of the year and see exactly what I've done with the money I budgeted AND that we have made significant progress toward our financial goals.

What's your "thing?" Do you have a line in your budget for it?

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