Change, Like the Coins in my Pocket, is a Good Thing

This has been a year of change.  All right, I hear you out there…

But it’s not even been a month

Give me a break, will you?  A year…a month….

Change is hard for me.  Between a mind full of distractions and never feeling like I fit, I love my stability and concrete foundation that gives me the illusion that all is well.

But the illusion doesn’t stretch itself over reality too well, especially when the reality is a wee bit financially frayed and I feel like I’m living from paycheck to paycheck.

I make money…not huge amounts.  Come on.  I’m a teacher.  But I make enough money to live and survive.

But I love to spend money.  I’m not a shopaholic.  I hate shopping.  I hate going to the mall and I hate being in the crowds of people and walking around with bags full of stuff.  Unless the mall is the local Barnes and Noble and the crowds of people are book lovers like me and we are all in our own areas looking at books while soft jazz plays in the background.  Now that’s shopping Nirvana for me.

I can drop some serious money when it comes to books.  My library definitely reflects this.  I love books…and I love buying books because I am afraid that if I don’t have the book then I’ll miss out on a good story which would be tragic for me.  So, swipe the debit card, fill up the bag, and walk out the store with a bundle of books that may or may not be read anytime soon but will inhabit my bookshelves with their alluring, seductive stories contained within.

The Boy reading..that is just a small part of my library right behind him.

The Boy reading..that is just a small part of my library right behind him.

Oh..wait…did I forget that debit money still comes out of a real bank institution and that on the other side of the brick and mortar building are the creditors holding out their hands for the monthly bills that I owe?

Oooopssss…my bad as my students would say.

Thank God I don’t have credit cards.  Then I would be in serious trouble because that digital money spends itself very quickly, especially when it’s being spent by a woman with [undiagnosed] adult ADD and a memory like swiss cheese (lots of holes).

So the exchange I have been making with my life for the last however many years has been compulsive shopping combined with small income combined with monthly bills combined with anxiety.

Anxiety sucks.  Especially when it’s related to money.

For years, my mother (who is financially brilliant) has been harping on me about changing my spending habits.  And I have.  I don’t overspend anymore….or all the time.  I haven’t bounced checks in years.  I actually have a savings account (that is not exactly full-ish but is alive and surviving).  But the urge to spend is always there.  I love making my kids happy and new things make them happy so…swipe swipe.

My beautiful mother, the Girl, and me..at Starbucks...where I spent money...but it's on my mom so it's okay....

My beautiful mother, the Girl, and me..at Starbucks…where I spent money…but it’s on my mom so it’s okay….

In the last three weeks, though, I have made some serious changes to my life.  Some of them I am not willing to discuss…not yet.  The changes are huge and important to me and reflect incredibly well in my self-image and self-esteem. But the motive for the changes are layered in humiliation and embarrassment and, at this point, those emotions are mine and mine alone.  Maybe I’ll open that door another day.  But not now.

Regardless, financially, I am happy to chat about that change because this is just as significant a change as the other unmentionable change.  For the last month, I’ve been working on a budget that I’ve steadily been implementing into the family.  Through careful negotiation and analysis (God, I sound like a businesswoman here about to make a pitch to a group of investors), I’ve finally been able to narrow down spending habits and where money is likely to disappear.

And the budget is finally working.  Add to this a whole new change.  I’ve put Pat and me on a cash only budget in terms of fun money.  I’m not willing to liquidate the majority of our paychecks for things like food, gas, and normal expenses.  That’s a lot of money to have potentially lying around the house and easily picked up by little hands.  However, when I go grocery shopping, for the last two weeks, I carry my iPod and use the calculator function to tally up the grocery bills.  So far, I’ve saved the family over fifty dollars by doing this.  It would be more…but we had a Boy Scouts camping trip last week and that kind of ate a hole in my surplus.

Today was payday, and I pulled out cash for Pat and me in terms of our personal allowances/fun-money.  This is where the swipe-swipe was killing us.  Remember my narrative about Barnes and Noble?  Yeah….well…it’s no longer swipe-swipe.  It’s rustle-rustle of bills leaving my pocket and going across the counter.  Suddenly, I don’t feel like spending anymore.

I have a pile of books in my house that need to be read.  A library is just down the end of the road from my house.

It’s time to declare independence from my anxiety, especially over something preventable as spending money because I’m forgetful and impulsive.  I no longer have to barter my sanity for the quick fix-joy of a new book that I might not even like.  Or a meal that will be digested within ten hours.

I don’t know how the kids are going to handle this change.  They have enjoyed the spend-free Mom.  We just had a dinner out which Pat and I negotiated in terms of amount of money spent and allocation for the money’s origins.  Because of the surplus, half of dinner was from the bank.  The other half was my pocket.  Ouch!  I had saved money!  But Pat was right.  Keep the surplus for an emergency.  It’ll come someday.  Be ready for it.

So the kids and I went (Pat had a late lunch that was very unhealthy and this was not going to be a healthy dinner) and the kids were told of the budget.  So, together, we went through the menu, negotiated about what we wanted to eat, and compromised on what was feasible.

Best dinner ever.

And I still spent less than was budgeted.

Best dinner ever.

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