Over the weekend, I took a look at my last credit card bill and realized that I have been a bit too free with the plastic. With my husband’s most recent layoff and my goals of taking a year off, I realize that every penny counts toward my family’s financial goals and financial freedom.
So, in the last 31 days, I racked up $500 in credit card charges. And NOT $500 spent on important things/necessities like my Metrocard for transportation or planned purchases like my carpet from The Home Depot. When I seriously eyeballed my last credit card statement, it showed how irresponsible I was with respect to spending on wants and whims.. When I accounted for the important or the essential, my bill still showed that I had charged $250 on things that I can not remember even buying.
Not cool. I did not mindfully spend this month. While it is not the end of the world, I know that I have to be a bit more vigilant and circumspect when it comes to using my credit card so I don’t make it habitual. Using credit cards is basically borrowing from your future wealth to pay for something today which usually is not worth it.
Over the weekend, I learned so much about my financial self by just doing the following. Try doing the same with your next bill and tell me what you learned about yourself.
I Counted the Number of Purchases That I Made In a Month: Ever really sit down and look at how many times you were quick to swipe in a month? For me, I was feeling happy enough to pull out my plastic twenty times this past month. On one day in particular, I used my credit card four times to buy food and buy shoes.
I Used a Highlighter to Categorize Purchases as Either “Wants” and “Needs.” I used two highlighter to give me a visual of my spending for the month. With a blue highlighter, I highlighted all of my wants: stops at Starbucks, clothing stores, and convenient stores. With a yellow one, I highlighted all of those important and/or necessary purchases. Frugalistas, my statement looked like the insides of a blueberry pie.This was a big sign that I have to rein in my spending for next month.
I Decided To Use a “Cash Only” System: Were you one of those girls that never had to study to get good grades…. until that one test kicked you in the booty and reminded you that though you were fabulous, you still had to work for what you got? Well, this analogy applies to me when it comes to my personal finances: I have been good about saving and eliminating debt since 2008, but I, too, have to keep my nose to the grind when it comes to ensuring that I am making smart money moves all of the time in all areas of my personal finances. For September, I have adopted the “envelope” system– where I allot a certain amount of cash to envelopes earmarked for different categories such as entertainment, transportation, food, and “unexpected” for the month. For example, I may put aside $100 in the “entertainment” envelope. It is my responsibility to spread that entertainment money out for the month. If I exhaust the money for entertainment by the 15th of the month, then I have to find free alternatives for entertainment.
I Question Every Purchase In Its Ability To Help Me Reach My Goal: My husband and I have a “magic” number for how much we are planning to save for our short term and long term financial goals. Sometimes when your goal seems so far away,you do not necessarily see the harm in a little purchase here, a little purchase along the way. But the truth is, the more spending you do on unnecessary items, the longer it takes for you to reach your goal to buy or acquire what you REALLY want. So, I have had to ask, “Will buying_________ help us get to $20K sooner or later? Do I really love____________ or it is something that I just like? What am I really feeling right now? Why do I want to buy this item right now? What would happen if I waited two days? Would I feel the same way?
Frugalistas: Still on that credit card crack? What are you doing to get off of it?