I believe we’ve been conditioned to fear that which challenges us in addition to that which threatens us. Things come up in our daily lives that challenge us, that get the desperately doomed voice rushing to its insanely loud megaphone. “You can’t do this!” it starts blaring at you. “You’re not smart enough for this! You’re too ugly! You’re too soft! You’re unreliable! You’re impatient! You’re disorganized! You just can’t handle this!” The stream is there all day getting louder when we are challenged, getting quieter when we fall into place, keeping our brains quiet and undisturbed.
Being challenged and being threatened are two very different things. Of course you should avoid a threatening situation. Teasing a wild animal, for instance, is a threatening situation. If your very life can, at any time in a situation, be put in obvious, real risk it’s probably best to stay away. I’m all for self-preservation. However, challenging situations should not be treated the same. I’m not advising embracing every challenging situation that presents itself at you because I feel it makes it easy to become overwhelmed; but, I do believe you should force yourself to at least consider every challenging situation that presents itself. If your voice starts protesting, you better start studying.
Simply considering a month-long spending diet makes me physically uneasy. My heart starts to race a little bit and the voice inside me starts going a million miles, loudly. It warns me of poor planning, inevitable disasters, and unforeseen emergencies. It reminds me how much I love going out to eat and how much work is required to cook every meal, every day. It brings up those really yucky pots and pans it knows I deplore so much. The voice goes on and on, scolding me for depriving my children of their childhood and for punishing myself after working so hard. The voice tells me this is unnecessary, that surely I will be miserable, and there is absolutely no way I can possibly do this. The voice starts recounting every time I’ve vowed to stay on budget and ended up tapping into the overdraft line of credit.
In the end, I’m bothered that a part of me is so loathe giving up frilly spending. I’m concerned that a part of me is so tied to spending needlessly. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against needless spending. I don’t believe in stripping my life to the bare bones while a bank account somewhere fattens with money I’ve earned and am doomed to never ever touch while bank executives use it to fund their personal jets. But, I do believe in discipline. I also believe in proving myself over and over again, especially to myself. I believe in changes and not settling for a sedentary life.
And so it is that I am challenging myself to a Spending Diet for the month of July. In a way, I don’t really have a choice about this spending diet. As it stands, I currently have almost $880 designated for “Miscellaneous Expenses” in July. This month, I have to pay my part of Summer Camp for a total of $433.50. This leaves me with about $445 right there. I’d like to bring that down even more to a total of $350 for the entire month of July. My miscellaneous expenses typically consist of Gasoline, Groceries, Gifts, Clothes, Restaurants, Home Goods, Kids Allowances, and other little things that pop up in any given month.
From Friday’s July 2nd paycheck, I’ll be pulling aside only $163 for needs. I’ll repeat the process on Friday, July 16th’s check, and on the July 30th check, I’ll be giving myself $24. Because I will be using cash, I’ll be tracking my spending on a spreadsheet. In this diet mindset, the only true needs fall under Gasoline and Groceries. Because of my strong use of coupons and the resulting full-ish pantry, I’m sure I’ll be ok with the Grocery bill. Unfortunately, there is little I can do to control the gas bill. This city is a gas-guzzling type of place and now with the kids in summer camp, I have extra miles to cover. There are still many things that arise in a typical month that simply do not classify as a need. This means I will slow down my couponing for the time being. I’ll still be accumulating, clipping, and organizing but I’ve built a stock of a good amount of things for the time being that should carry me through a good portion of the month. I’ll still keep an eye out for excellent deals, especially on the things that I will inevitably need this month and focus on CVS for instance where I can use ExtraCare Bucks instead of my own cash to make purchases.
Otherwise, it’s time to get creative. I have to get creative on how to curb the need want to order delivery or dine out. I need to be absolutely sure to control impulsive spending especially on my kids and friends. I am also trying to think of ways to stay motivated through the challenge. Of course blogging about the experience is one way I can think of. I am also considering creating a photo collage of things that I would like to have one day that require I learn to sacrifice in the present in order to gain in the future. I have no problem doing this if I don’t see the sacrifice (such as my 401k contributions and my credit union deposits) but I have repeatedly struggled with setting money aside once I’ve received it.
If you’ve tried a spending diet, I’d love to hear from you. Have any tips? Did you like it? Hate it? Did you actually learn something from it? Did you survive or did you have a mid-month breakdown and stripped a mall to its bare bones? If you’d like to try a spending diet with me, I’d also like to hear from you. I don’t mind building up a support network with fellow money-minded folks.