money date #1, 11/25/2018 (in which I spent a lot of money)

Happy Sunday, friends!

I was first introduced to the idea of a “money date” when I participated in my first group coaching session with my now-friend and current business strategy coach Kayley. I launched my business in October when I was participating in this program. Being in community with other folks who were running their own businesses or hoping to start their own businesses inspired me to go public with my “side hustle.”

Money dates are weekly “dates” you set between you and your money. It’s supposed to be an opportunity not only to gain clarity around your finances, but also to give gratitude to your money and debt and what it all gave to you. Oftentimes, debt bears a really negative, heavy connotation for many of us and for good reason. My mother and father were deeply in debt; my mother went bankrupt because of her and my fathers’ poor financial planning and lack of access to financial knowledge (and because my dad had a little bit of a gambling habit). I, myself, feel a lot of guilt and shame around debt. However, in reframing these negative feelings, I try to be gentle with myself and I “thank” my money for what it’s already provided me: clothing, food, shelter, and a lot of great experiences.

This past week was really hard for me. I was looking over my credit card debt. I made a pact with myself that I’d tackle my credit card debt once and for all. I’d pay them down aggressively as possible so I could be financially free by 2019…

Nope.

I took one look at my budgeting spreadsheet (shout out to my friend Aviva for helping me set it up! I love a good spreadsheet.) and I’ve barely made a dent. Or at least it felt that way. Sure, my debt is lower than it was a few months ago when I’d started my foray into financial health but, for some reason, I thought the whole “snowball method” was going to work… a little faster. You can ask my hubby; I felt crushed earlier this week. I felt defeated, like none of this herculean effort I was putting into budgeting was making any difference at all!

I put on my big girl pants today to get down to the root of the issue. I wanted to know exactly where all my money was going so I could curb those expenses for December. I made November a “no shopping” month and yes, you’ll see soon that I made a few mistakes during moments of weaknesses, BUT I resolved to spend a couple of hours today pulling up all of my financial statements and looking over them in detail. I categorized every single expense into my spreadsheet, something I should have done proactively instead of retroactively.

I’m listing my expenses and debt below and here’s why I’m laying all of these details bare: we do not talk about money, debt, or financial literacy enough. Many of us are not raised with knowledge about revolving credit, credit scores, budgeting, or anything like that. My parents, who barely speak or read English, certainly didn’t teach me any of this stuff; they barely understood it themselves. I hope that by including these details and hashing out my thought process, people who read this blog will gain their own sense of resolve and clarity and control over their own finances. If by the end of this blog, you still have questions, please feel free to comment or e-mail me. I’m more than happy to talk to you about any of it.

After taxes and cost of health insurance, I make $4000.00 a month. My annual salary is $57,000 before taxes. I get a free bus pass from work. I pay $734.00 for rent, a third of the total rent of my house, which I share with my husband and one roommate. I currently have $2700 in my savings account; I do not have any money in any retirement or investment accounts, but my work does offer retirement benefits after six months of employment. I’m hoping to start one of these accounts in March.

Here is a breakdown of my monthly expenses, with some details:

Rent - $734.00
Water, sewage, electricity, gas, internet, trash: About $120, fluctuates a little bit
Cell phone - $70
Groceries - $400.00 (I actually only spent $256.51, way less than I budgeted for this month so I’ll lower this for next month.)
Pet Supplies - $60
Gas - $80
Therapy - $105 (I forgot to budget for this expense this month… oops.)
Pet insurance - $30

Lifestyle expenses

Audible subscription - $8.24
Netflix - $11
Spotify - $10
Coffee - $150 (As I usually do, I overspent in this category and landed at about $177. Next month, I’m hoping to cut this in half by drinking the black coffee they gave us for free at work…)
Yoga - $99
Eating out at restaurants - $200.00 (As predicted, I overspent in this category and landed at $347.60.)
Clothing - $0 (Over spent at $388. This was supposed to be ZERO this month and I spent $100 or so on unnecessary clothing, but the BULK of the costs came from needing a warm winter jacket, which I bought and do not regret. I just did not predict this cost when budgeting for November. I will be able to pay for the bulk of this cost out of my monthly salary by the end of the month.)
Misc - $0 (I DID NOT predict the cost in this category because I literally forgot I preordered a new Nintendo Switch, AND I impulse purchased a few other things, like books and a new planner. Definitely overspent in this category at $640. None of these costs will rollover—I paid for all of them out of my own pocket.)
Coaching - $484.00

Sources of Income

  • Sold my old cell phone: $275

  • Business income: $372.80

Victories (the few):

  • I managed to charge 80% of my expenses during the month of November to my debit card!

  • Up until today, I’ve earned $372.80 total from my business this month, which is a PR for me.

Areas of Improvement for Next Month

  • I need to more closely track every. Single. Expense. And I need to do so proactively. Doing so will give me a better idea of my flow of money.

  • Next month, I will cut my spending on coffee in half by drinking as much free coffee as I can at work.

  • I can definitely stick to a $200 budget for eating out at restaurants in December.

  • In December, I need to set and stick to a budget for gifts to friends and family. I am setting myself a $400 budget for EVERYONE.

  • My “trigger” for shopping is boredom and stress. In order to tackle the prior, I can make a list of fun things I can do for free and/or low cost, like spending time with a friend over coffee, playing board games at home, playing the video games I already own, and reading. For the latter, I will lean on my support network to vent about my stress, tell them when I’m tempted to go shopping so they can stop me (please), and journal and practice meditating.

  • I do NOT predict any kind of “miscellaneous” expenses in December so I’m challenging myself to collapse my miscellaneous shopping to $0. I am giving myself a $100 birthday budget, too. :)

  • I am reducing my clothing budget to $0 and I’m STICKING. TO. IT.

  • I am hoping to make another $300 from my business before the end of the month. I actually signed a few new contracts this month and I’m hoping they’ll be fruitful. For one contract, I have to hit a “quota,” and that quota will likely yield $300 or so by itself before taxes so my PR should actually be $600 for my income from my side hustle. :)

  • Things I have plenty of and do not need to buy in December: clothes, books, notebooks, video games, and planners.

  • I will pay my dues to my credit card before anything else when I get paid.

  • Next month, I have budgeted $1305.66 to paying off my loans and my credit card debt. I will use whatever money I earn from my side hustle to pay off my debt, too.

In order to get to where I want to be with my budget and credit card debt, I am going to be extra vigilant with what charges go onto my debit card.

Nothing goes onto my credit card except for major unexpected costs. If I want to buy anything that I did not budget for, I will stop myself, take a deep breath, put it back, and ask a friend (hi, Sarah) or two (hello, Thomas) to talk me out of it or to find alternative ways to fill that “need.”

I do admit that I need to not put myself in places (like malls) where temptation is around every corner, so I’ll avoid those places as much as possible in December unless I’m shopping for someone else.

I know my triggers are stress and boredom, so I’ll be extra conscientious about these feelings when they arise. I’ll redirect my impulses to other more productive coping mechanisms for them and I’ll ask my support network to help me if I need the extra reassurance.

I have some HUGE money goals for 2019, one of which is to be debt free. I hope that if anything I wrote resonates with you, you’ll reach out so that we can support each other. I am totally open to discussing anything I wrote about, so I hope you’ll let me know if any of it connects with you; it would mean the world to me if this blog post helps even one person out there.

I’ll pop in again this time, next week, with another money date update. Stay tuned!