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If Life's a Journey, I think my GPS is broken [Feb. 2nd, 2011|11:14 am]
Okay, fitting in with my overall theme this year of being more mindful about money and time, I’m tracking all of my “cash” expenses. See, I have a budget for all of the big stuff, but when I get to food, toiletries, pet costs, gas, miscellany...I find that I really don’t have a handle on where all of that goes and here is where I consistently overspend.

So, in an effort to find out – and frankly, to capitalize on the theory that when you have to write down everything you eat, with calorie counts, you wind up eating less over time. So, I thought, okay, let’s get a handle on this jigundous “miscellaneous” category that I lump everything into. Plus, I’ll bet if you have the write this stuff down, you will not spend so much.

And that’s true, a mere six weeks in. Because really, already I’m playing games with myself: how many days in a week can I not spend anything. Each page in my book is a week and each expenditure gets listed by day and I count a day where nothing’s listed as a huge victory. I know. Spending $25 a day for two days...or spend nothing one day and $50 the next...does it really matter, except in this BS game I’m playing in my head, because I’m too cheap to get a phone that has game apps? No, not in that case. But I’m guessing that, over time, the “nothing days” will become more frequent, and on those days there will be expenditures that are NOT captured the next day or a couple of days later. Let’s face it, I will eventually have to buy more pantyhose, whether I skip the trip to Target today or not. But by avoiding Target today, I’m also avoiding all of the expenditure opportunities at all of the stores that I pass on the way there and back. And when I finally do have to break down and get more pantyhose because I’m spending every night handwashing my VERY LAST PAIR, which are covered in various color nailpolish spots to keep the runs from spreading because I wherever I am when the damn things ladder, it’s NOT the place where I keep the CLEAR nailpolish. And now my fashion choices are long skirts and high coverage shoes. When I reach this point (and I’m only about one major snag from needing to consign several pairs to the “Polishing bin”) I will then have to buy five or six pairs, which will be such a huge budget hurt, it will naturally keep me from buying anything else on whim.

Whim. Next salary increase, I am getting a budget category for “Whim”. I suspect I’ll be ready for it, by then.

All of this painstaking detail minding...which is not that bad, really, I highly recommend it if you’re pinching pennies. (Which is a metaphor that doesn’t stand close examination, does it? What good does it due to pinch a penny? Are you trying to make it cry? Has pinching ever motivated anyone to give more for less? Plus, pinching is a euphemism for stealing...which makes sense...pinch enough pennies and you’ll have some cash on hand. But I’m pretty darn sure that’s NOT what’s meant, here in the U.S.)

It’s just not that hard – I have my magic little brown book that fits in the side of my purse, I have a page for each week. I detail anything that’s not paid by regular monthly bill. If I don’t have time to write it down, I tuck the receipt into the front of the book. It doesn’t hold many and I’m stuck in traffic often, so I’ve been pretty good about writing things down. Even things without receipts. I did struggle – what do I call my occasional Happy Hour Bar Tab...and decided on “Shame”.

But I may have to change that, since already I’m fantasizing that some descendant or historian will one day discover my little book. Which is not as unlikely as you might think, since I was going through my grandmother’s things after she passed away and found the little payment book for the doctor, (Yes, children, once upon a time, if you didn’t have the money for something, they would set up an account and you’d have to go into the store or office once a month or once a week and make your payment. In person. And they would make note of it in a little book that you kept until the bill was paid off. Normal people then discarded the book.) and the “best” part of finding that book was that it really opened up the pages of our family history. Because the payment booklet was for syphilis treatment. And that led to finding out about my grandfather’s OTHER wives. All over Asia. And the present that he brought home for my grandmother: venereal disease. Awesome. I feel SOOOO much better about my present from Asia, the final nail in my marriage’s coffin – the refrigerator magnet I got and the silk kimono the mistress got. (Dude, seriously. The WIFE is supposed to get the expensive gifts...CONSOLATION prizes.) I actually LIKE the magnet and it’s NOT VD, so right there, that’s a win.

Anyway, that’s another seven posts in the making. I’m just imagining my nieces, or some stranger finding my little notebook and thinking...what the hell is SHAME? Ooh, what could that be? What kind of Shame could cost $12? Which is making me want to go out MORE often, so that Shame can be in there all of the time. Or maybe start calling PANTYHOSE shame, just to increase the mentions. Which totally negates the very reason for keeping track in the first place.

But at this point, looking at my notebook, I’ll do damn near anything to distract Future Historian from my expenses at PetsMart and Petco. Because otherwise they’re going to spend a lot of time postulating just how many cats could run up that kind of a bill. See, now I’m all paranoid and I’m pulling out that notebook to jot down “it’s only five cats. And one’s my boyfriend. I just like the really expensive cat litter. And I only wanted two. The rest are pity-adoptions.”

[User Picture]From: sestree
2011-02-02 04:23 pm (UTC)
Budgeting - you can make it as detailed or loose as you choose.

You're counting paperclips (axiom for wasting costly dollars to save pennies - in business it's bad but for personal expenditures it's amazing).

Having to track expenses down to the penny - and justify them - made me realize how often we buy and don't think. No it wasn't the ex that demanded it but HUD and State Agencies for the non-profit where I worked. Hell I even had a spreadsheet for was it more cost efficient to drive an extra 30 miles and go to Wichita vs Ponca City (OK) because Wichita was more miles and Ponca City was higher sales tax.


When you get to that point SEEK HELP !!!!!!
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[User Picture]From: sequinedlovenun
2011-02-02 04:48 pm (UTC)
I'm going label my wine purchases Oral Sex...that'll give the descendants something to think about.....
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[User Picture]From: bittibuddha
2011-02-02 09:24 pm (UTC)
you've inspired me to do the same thing, but I was a FOOL and did not choose the right tool for the job. I'm trying to manage keeping track of expenses using a pocket calendar that has a grid format. Each day is a square about three quarters of an inch on either side. I guess it could serve as another form of self-control: Hey - I don't have any more room in the block. I gotta stop spending now! whee!

it makes combining errands a problem tho.

In January there were only eight days out of the 31 where I did not spend money in some form or another. I want to improve that ratio.
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2011-02-03 01:25 am (UTC)
I think you should write down exactly what you buy in your little book, on the off chance that by the time enough years have passed that your nieces will want to read it, "panty hose" will be slang for putting out a fire in your knickers.
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