This past weekend was the highly anticipated bachlorette party in West Palm Beach (as a side note, will someone please tell me how to spell bachelorette because I spell it different every time and its never right!). And it did not disappoint. I certainly did my part to support The Economy, too. Adult beverages, big girl dinners in fancy restaurants, pedis and manis, hotel rooms – it all adds up to a scary number that I feel should stimulate The Economy greatly. However, I heard on NPR this morning that my shopping spree did not have the desired effect I was hoping for as yet another major financial icon collapsed.
(Whoa – that was a lot of big words for me in one sentence. I should balance that out by telling you that I refer to The Economy as a proper noun because I don’t know what the hell it is really, but it seems really scary and powerful. Like The Boogie Man or The President.)
Anyway, after I realized this morning that my contributions to stimulate The Economy were fruitless I have made a major decision in my life. I must change my spending habits.
Sorry, I think I blacked out for a minute over that last statement. Sadly, however, it must be done. Chris and I have always been really great with money. He is good about it because he got into some trouble in college with credit cards, which, by some minor miracle, we have paid off. And I’m good with money because my Mom is in banking and from the time I was little my parents taught my phrases like, “Credit cards are for pansies” and “Savings accounts will get you into Heaven.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But they really did talk to my sister and me about money and financial planning from the time we were little. So you put two people with those backgrounds together and its a pretty safe bet for financial stability. We’re not rolling in it by any means, but we know how to manage what we have and I think that’s the best anyone can hope for.
When we bought our house though, we suddenly got used to writing bigger checks more often. Granted, at the time we had saved enough money so that we could afford to write those checks, but that money has pretty much been spent and we are all moved into the house and yet the big checks continue to be written. Only instead of them being for things like electricity and cable, I’m writing them more for things like shoes and organic dog food. This weekend though was undeniable proof to me that I am out of control. (For the record, most of this is MY spending habits and not Chris’. I’d like to make that statement for the record so that Chris will not spit in my food when I’m not looking.)
In response to this weekend, I have decided to chisel my own 10 Commandments into this cyber notepad by publishing:
The 10 Commandments of Financial Happiness (as written for Katie and Chris…):
1. Thou shall quit using thy American Express card “for the SkyMiles.” As I mentioned earlier, Chris and I are very sparing with our credit cards. But we have (actually, I have) gotten caught up in the excitement of using the AmEx for SkyMiles and its getting a little out of control. It started by purchasing larger items with the card and then immediately paying it off so that we got big chunks of SkyMiles. But it has slowly started to trickle down to smaller things and smaller continuous balances on the card. This is not acceptable. After all, credit cards are for pansies.
2. Thou shall end thy unhealthy relationships with Michael Kors and Anne Taylor. I have no excuse for this. I must stop shopping. End of story.
3. Thou shall pack thy lunch. This summer we were packing our lunches every day and it saved us a lot of money. Chris has continued this, and I have not. Not only am I putting on weight due to my Burrito Stand diet, but my bank account is shrinking as I am enlarging. Not a good combination. Brown bags are cool.
4. Thou shall remember that friends are expensive. Since we have moved into our new house, we have had house guests almost every single weekend. While it has been fantastic to have a house full of friends, it has been a drain on the checking account. We have to buy food, beer, and sometimes a new video game for the weekend. Entertaining every weekend – even when the entertaining is really laid back and casual – is really expensive.
5. Thou shall honor thy savings account. Before the house purchase, we were incredibly good at saving. We saved for a house, for crying out loud! We put every extra penny we had into savings and it paid off by giving us the luxury of not only buying a house, but being able to furnish it and paint it and throw big parties in it. Sadly, that savings account has dwindled. And any extra money is now put into the checking account to buy things like mulch and light fixtures. We need to get back into the routine of saving on a regular basis. Otherwise, we will become dependent on our credit cards to bail us out of situations, instead of our savings account. Its a slippery slope.
6. Thou shall chill out on the travel and weekend adventures (for a while). On the weekends we don’t have friends in town, we have been going, going, going. We fly to Florida, or drive to Mystic, or train down to New York. And while each of these trips are short and sweet, they are getting expensive. We don’t have to stop them all together, but we need to cut back until we build up the dreaded savings account again.
7. Thou shall pay all thy bills at one time. This one is complicated to explain, but I’ll try to condense it. Before Chris graduated, we lived on one single income. And I was paid once a month. Talk about Budgeting 101. We could teach that freaking class. I paid all of our bills at one time and then we knew exactly how much money we had for the entire month. This helped us plan and save. Now though, we have my monthly paycheck, but Chris gets paid every week. Because of this, I have been paying our bills randomly, whenever they come. And while I haven’t missed any payments – ever! – it is making it harder to get an idea of what we are spending because my banking time is not consistant. I need to get back in the habit of doing our banking at one time and spending that one Saturday morning a month really looking at our accounts.
8. Thou shall not eat dinner out more than once a week. I know that once a week seems like its a lot, but that would really be cutting back for us. We are getting way too comfortable with our favorite sushi restaurant and it shows in our money. We can live on once a week – weekends included!
9. Thou shall remember thy address. I don’t think we are quite used to not living in New Haven. Our town now is about a half hour away from New Haven, but we are so used to the stores and restaurants and places there that we have no problem getting in the car and driving to Target in New Haven – a half hour away! With gas prices like they are, this is just silly. We need to remember that we don’t live in New Haven anymore and we need to start exploring things a little closer to home. Gas is killing us!
10. Thou shall love eachother all the time. We are getting into a scary habit of always being on the go. I’ve talked about the weekend trips and company, but even during the week we are going way too much. I think we are adjusting to not having school in the evenings, and we feel like we should be constantly doing something. But constantly doing something constantly costs money. Even trips to Home Depot or Target are getting expensive. Every time we go out in the evenings somewhere we spend money. We need to remember that we love eachother. And more than that, we really like eachother, too. And spending some nights at home together just watching TV or playing with the dogs or (gasp!) working the yard can be just as fun as spending money out together.
And there you have it. My financial guts out there for your judgment. This is my new game plan, and I think its gonna work.
But maybe I need one more last date with Michael Kors and Anne Taylor before I end the relationship. I don’t want to be rude…