Tightening the Belt

When Scott moved out in June, I knew that the months afterward would be an adjustment for my budget.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner out as often (which isn’t a problem really since I’ve been taking a general hiatus from dating), and I knew that my once split cost of living would now be carried by me alone.  My job is in fair standing, my savings has been enough to provide a cushion, and for years (thanks to my parents’ advice) I’ve kept an emergency account in case of unexpected bills or car repairs.

Having a budget (and working hard at sticking to it) has been essential during these last few weeks.  Now that my car is fixed and I can move on to other repair work, it’s important to get myself back to a comfortable safety net as soon as possible.  That’s not to say that the emergency funds weren’t enough during the series of unfortunate events.  But when you have a rainy day fund, it’s meant to be used - and now I’ve got to save up again for the next rainy day.

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When you have a depletion in your safety net funds, it’s not the same as regular savings.  It is important to replenish the emergency stash as soon as possible.  And in full.

In previous times like these, I’ve found the fastest way to getting back my funds has been to stop eating out.  It’s usually the smallest sacrifice that reaps the most reward in a short period of time (really, if you’ve never tried it, experiment with two weeks – you’ll be surprised what you have in your pocket instead of in the wind!).  But now that Scott moved out, I’m already doing that.  So, now what?

The next option for me is to stop shopping.  But again, I have a dilemma – what does one do when a home is constantly requiring home improvement supplies?

Clearly, a new plan must emerge from the new situation in which I’ve found myself.  So, here are my new rules for my budget restrictions until everything is back to normal:

1.  First, I’m going to stop any new non-home-related purchases.  This primarily means no new clothes until the emergency savings is back to where it was before.  Considering that we’re talking about fun fall fashions and boot weather, this is a temptation that I’ll have to work very hard at resisting.

2.  Furthermore, I’m going to also nix most decor-related purchases that fall more into the home decor category than home improvement; I jokingly refer to this distinction as a “Paint, Not Pillows” budget.  So, while caulking windows is okay (and recommended during this time of year for winter weather preparation – yes, even in good ol’ Gowja, and yes that’s my attempt at a southern accent since I don’t really have one), curtains are out of the question until my rainy day fund is restored.  The one exception I’ve given myself on this is the dollar store stuff I’m working on; so while its okay to grab hot glue sticks if I run out, I can’t pick up entirely new projects (which means my entryway table will have to wait a little while).

3.  Finally, I stop getting all forms of fast food and delivery.  You may be wondering why I don’t already include this in my “eating out” budget restriction, but it’s one of my less desirable habits – and a really hard one to break!  I am good with telling myself not to drive to the restaurant (duh, laziness), but if they bring  it to me, or make it more convenient than a sit-down establishment, I think of it differently (there goes another one of the Excuse Monster’s talents – redirection).  Especially when I have one of those Chinese food cravings – hard to resist!

Not everything about this new budget is an undesired sacrifice; there is an added benefit to all of the self-imposed restriction.  I will have to plan my meals better.  Not only will buying groceries instead of takeout be cheaper, but it will also be healthier.  In finding a constructive way to trim the fat from my spending habits, I might see the end result in trimming a little fat on my waistline, too.  Which, as you are probably aware, is a great excuse to do a little shopping to celebrate all of my hard work at staying on budget for these next few months. =)

And that, my friends, is a full circle.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good luck Sarah – this is something my husband and I constantly struggle with! One thing I've started doing is trying to remember to ask myself in the moment, “Do I want this cheeseburger, or do I want (whatever my savings goal of the moment is)?” If I buy the cheeseburger (well, in my case it's a veggie burger haha), I'm effectively saying that a cheeseburger is more important to me than a financial safety net, which of course it's not. It's a simply trick, but I've found it really helps me keep my priorities in perspective when I'm feeling tempted!

  2. says

    I too do the trick on myself that Amelia mentioned. In fact, I did it today. It really does work!
    Good luck on tightening the belt. Sounds like you will do it and be ready for the next rainy day. :)

  3. says

    Our stories are all too similar. My trick is to have an ongoing list of “free projects”, which means either I already have the needed supplies (like painting trim) or it's just plain unfinished. Every few months I try to do only free projects for the whole month. Usually I end up spending a few bucks but it's better than planning to spend a lot more on non-free projects.

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