One of the big things that I want to work on in 2016 is willpower. I find myself drawn to excesses in two main areas in my life – food and spending.
In the food area, I started really watching what I eat and cutting back on the sugar back in September. I’ve seen an amazing change in my overall health. I started dropping weight, but more importantly, I had so much more energy, without a lot of major work on my part. It was just willpower – avoiding the sugars that are so prevalent in the standard American diet. Don’t get me wrong, I still have treats. If there is a good cupcake put in front of me, I’m going to eat it. But I decided that those would be occasional splurges, not regular treats.
Late last year, I decided to apply the same sort of mindset to my budgeting and spending. I looked at where I was overspending and why, and realized that impulse shopping was my biggest budgetary downfall. So I decided to really pull back on that, almost eliminating it completely. No more impulse purchasing.
And it went really well. I saved a bunch of money and really started to make sense of my budget.
So I thought, “Well, maybe I can do some online browsing again. Just a bit of shopping on the deals sites. See what’s out there. Besides, I have depleted my Christmas gift boxes, so I’ll need to be starting on holiday shopping soon.”
I should have known better. I started spending more than I should, not just on deals sites, but on other hobby categories that I had pulled back on. Those little twenty and thirty dollar purchases start to add up. And I had forgotten about some key “fun” expenditures I had coming up, such as outfitting the bike I bought last summer with much needed water bottle holders and other accessories. And I needed to replace some of my work clothing that had seen better days, and my running shoes were on their last miles.
None of those expenses were really necessary (well, the work clothes probably were), though they were things that I needed to do for the various hobbies I love. But they were expenses I should have thought about. That was where my “fun” money should have been going.
Unfortunately, I let myself rest on my laurels. I thought that I had a handle on my spending, but all those little purchases were starting to add up. And I was doing it with my health as well. Those occasional treats were becoming more frequent. Suddenly, when I hit the grocery store, I was buying sugary snacks I didn’t need and certainly shouldn’t be eating. But things were going so well and I was feeling so good, so it wouldn’t hurt, right?
So I’m recommitting. Watching what I eat. Watching where my money goes. Occasional splurges in both areas, but not constant splurges. I haven’t dug myself into a hole physically or financially, but I’ve picked up the metaphorical shovel. Time to put it down and walk away.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.