2. Pay off debt.
I don’t intend this to be a blog about frugality or being debt-free. Don’t get me wrong, this topic is something I could spend forever on, but it’s really not what I want to focus on. That being said, it is January, and one of my resolutions is to pay off our credit cards ($11k at 0%) and our personal loans (about $6k at 11%). Bonus points for paying off my car ($4500 at 4%). We’re lucky that we are finally making good money, so in theory, paying off $22k in a year should really be no big deal.
Our problem is that we have participated in lifestyle creep. With every raise/promotion/new job, we’ve increased our expenses. We used to rent a 900sf apartment for a mere $750/month. We now “own” a 2400sf townhouse, for which we pay about $1600 a month including HOA fees. We have an entire floor that we don’t even use! We have purchased furniture to fill up each room, and our once-empty closets (there are 10 in this house, plus an attic and a pantry!) are beginning to fill up as well. We’ve always considered our style to be minimalist, but all this unfocused (and uncontrolled) spending coupled with a house that’s way too big for us means we are anything but minimalists. Modern furniture does not a minimalist make.
We really went big in 2014. We took a ton of vacations, bought a (cheap) car for one stepdaughter and paid for half of the wedding of the other, took our families to the beach for a week over the holidays. We had emergency vet bills, a car accident, unexpected medical expenses. We bought nice watches and expensive coats and I don’t know how many pairs of new shoes. We even got a dog walker, who we also paid to dog sit during all those vacations. And we’d usually use the night the dog walker came for a date night, spending even more $$$!
So, yeah, it’s time to rein things in. Luckily, my husband came to this same conclusion on his own, which is great since we generally aren’t on the same page about things. We both started to feel guilty about the excess spending, especially when we weren’t really putting anything into savings at all (excluding 401k’s). We also started to feel like we had too much space, and too much stuff to fill the space, and just too much stuff period. And finally, I think we fulfilled whatever deep-seated psychological need/issue we each had (since money had been tight for most of our lives) to actually afford nice clothes and great trips.
I think I’ve mentioned that neither of us do well with extreme restrictions, and like diet and exercise, we’ve had a lot of practice making rules for ourselves, only to fail within a few weeks. Last year, we were intense budgeters for January and February, but that ended up just making us crazier the rest of the year.
What I’ll be doing differently this time:
Be mindful about my spending. Know that buying a new shirt isn’t going to make me happy. Know that going to a new (or old, for that matter) restaurant isn’t going to make me happy. Realize that I already have more than what I need.
Avoid spending triggers. Stop checking all the lifestyle blogs and read simplicity-focused blogs instead. Stay off Pinterest. Immediately throw away the Gap coupon and the Athleta catalog.
Understand that not spending extra money is better for my health. Not eating out = healthier food we make at home. Not going to lunch = time to go to the gym. Not going to bars or buying a nice bottle of wine = sticking to my sober January plan.
Continue to have open and honest (aka tough) conversations with my husband about money. For now, we both want the same thing. We want to be rid of our consumer debt and we want to downsize. But. We both waffle a lot on our decisions, and tend to change our minds often (hello, ADD!). We’re also both very impulsive. Like every other change we’ve made for the better in our time together, this is a process and a journey, but we’re committed to improvement.
Try a spending diet. But don’t beat myself up if I make a mistake. And certainly don’t say to hell with all of it if I make a mistake!