Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Project 2011: How Far I've Come & How Much Farther I Have to Go

If you've been reading for a while, you may have noticed that I stopped consistently talking about Project 2011 back in May or so.  Right around the time we started putting a pool in our backyard.  It seemed oh I don't know, a bit hypocritical to be talking about spending less, when let's be honest, we were spending thousands on our house.  Yes, it was an investment, yes it was on something that would contribute to our overall family life and not just for me or the kids.  But still, it just felt wrong. 

In the beginning when I started the project I made it too much about the number and not enough about changing our lives in general.  I spent the first few months doing spend recaps, breaking down our monthly spend, dollar by dollar.  After a while I started to feel very uncomfortable with it and so stopped, but it wasn't divulging that number that I really felt uncomfortable with, it was the fact that I didn't feel 'changed' enough.  I was doing a lot of talking the talk and walking the walk, but was I really learning from it all?  Slowly, over 10 months later, I feel like it is finally starting to seep in.  Maybe I just needed to be more patient with myself?

I woke up on Sunday morning with an intense urge to shop though.  Other than the chambray shirt, I hadn't purchased a single clothing item for myself or the kids in over a month and it hadn't even fazed me.  I felt good and proud, but Sunday's desire to shop hit me full blown and I tried to figure out a way I could somehow make it to the mall before my niece's birthday party.  I sort of sound like an addict right?  Well the feeling didn't go away on Monday and I figured I could shoot down to South Coast Plaza and be back long before I had to pick up Syd at preschool.  The plan was perfectly crafted, but I went to yoga instead.  I still really wanted to shop though even after getting my namaste on, so instead of wasting a few gallons of gas I hit up my local Marshall's and I got this gray sweater for $16.99 instead.

I guess I'm telling you all this because while I have changed quite a bit, I also haven't changed enough.  I still want to shop, I still want to spend money on things that don't really matter.  One day I want to throw half my stuff away and never buy another piece of clothing, and the next day I want to redecorate my whole house.  We bought patio furniture and chaise lounges for the pool, which then required us to buy patio furniture covers so the stuff we just invested in doesn't get ruined.  I felt anxiety about buying plastic furniture covers for 2 days.  It drove Art crazy.  What I want to strive to really change is to just feel settled in one way of life.  If I'm going to be a conscious spender, then spend wisely and thoughtfully, yet realize it's okay to spend sometimes and make wise investments in things for our home.

We went out to dinner the other night to Rubi's and as we parked there was a homeless couple out front.  I mentioned to Art that I've been seeing a lot more homeless people in our area lately and how sad it makes me, and I commented, "And here we are taking our spoiled kids out to eat for chicken fingers and shakes."  He retorted back, ever the right-wing capitalist, "If we don't come out to eat every once in a while, then there's gonna be a lot more people out of a job and homeless."  I could tell that it irritated him though, and with right reason.   The guy works 60+ hours a week and should be able to take his family out for a $40 dinner and not have his wife be a debbie downer about it.     

So what's the takeaway from all this?  Well I wish I knew exactly.  In the last 2-3 months we have plenty to be proud of, like landscaping our entire backyard ourselves and sticking to a very small budget.  Saving ourselves hundreds of dollars by going with a DIY closet organization system from Home Depot instead of one of those fancy closet companies.  And even simple things, like FINALLY after 12 years as a married couple, being able to stick to a grocery budget, hooray!  By the way, the secret there is meal planning and avoiding Trader Joe's like the plague in case you were wondering :)

There is still so much work to really be done.  My plans and goals for the rest of the year is to meet with our financial planner and open up a small business 401k for Art (currently we just do a Sep IRA) as well as read the Dave Ramsey book, and double our tithing at church.  We started some projects here around the house and I told Art that once we finish these up, NO MORE SPENDING for like a year!

Also, going forward for any larger purchases (like a new sewing machine for me), I want to save up for them instead of just buying it.  What a novel concept huh?  Remember lay-away?  We always put all our school clothes and Christmas presents on law-away and my mom would go into K-Mart or Montgomery Wards every month and make a payment, and in the end we had what we needed and wanted without a credit card.  That's in the end what I want to strive for.  I used to think that it was fine to use credit cards since we paid them off every month anyhow, but now I see that you always buy more with a credit card and even if you have the money to pay them off, that's money that could be put into savings.  It's finally clicking!

As far as the giving part goes, I'm still volunteering every month at Meals on Wheels which takes up a couple of hours every week.  There's still more things I'd like to get involved in, but I have to know my limits and right now between the kid's school commitments I just can't take on more volunteer opportunities even though I want to.

All this talk about money gives me the hives quite honestly, but I've been asking more and more friends about how they handle their finances and I'm learning a lot.  Like when you host a party, does that come out of the grocery budget or some other budget?  And how many forms of investments do you have, and how often do you work with a financial planner, etc., etc.  The dialogue has helped tremendously and given me some direction.  So while we may all be in different places financially, I really believe that we can learn from each other no matter what.  If you have a system that works for your family, or some great idea, please share it.  I'm not claiming to be the most frugal minded price conscious gal out there, but I have learned some and want to learn so much more!  I'm in the middle of adding an in-line comment program so we can more easily talk back and forth and share ideas on all posts!  I'm excited as this has been something I've wanted to do for so long.  This seemed like the perfect post and perfect time to finally get around to adding it.  So please, share any financial budgeting information you can to help this gal out and let's talk it out :)

p.s. on a side note, a reader asked to see pictures of how the pool and backyard came out.  I haven't shared them because I sort of feel like it's showing off a bit.  What do you guys think about that?

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