It happened on August 4, 2017. The email.
First, allow me to provide some context. I’m nearly 38 years old. I have a forehead wrinkle that lingers permanently, thanks to the natural state of my face over many years (frowny-skepticism-with-the-sun-in-my-eyes-face). I wear the same two pairs of jeans repeatedly, one of which is secured with a safety pin because I have no clue what to wear in my 30s; therefore, I despise shopping and rarely do it. I drive a station wagon (which I think is totes amay-may, thankyouverymuch). I say things like “totes amay-may.” Did I mention Hubs drives one too? Yeah. Two station wagons, a perma-wrinkle, and a safety pin holding in my gut. In sum, I’m an adult. A middle-aged person. I wear flats, not because they’re cute, but because they’re practical.
Second, two of my best friends and I have been loftily discussing a trip to Italy for our 40th birthdays. I’m talking real “Eat, Pray, Love” shit, you know? But probably mostly the eating part. Wine too. And coffee. Actually, loving and praying are unlikely to happen between all of the eating and drinking wine and coffee.
Third, I have two amazing, beautiful, bright, hilarious, loving children. I live, breathe, and pray for them every single day. I consider their futures constantly. I provide for them. By “provide,” I mean they somehow end up with enough pants to last a year while I ponder whether the lifespan of a safety pin is compromised after multiple dryer cycles.
Finally, well…I’m not quite ready to reveal the “finally” yet. I can’t. Let’s just say there are things I want to do with my life, and for now, I’m scared to proclaim them but to a select few people. All in good time, my pretties.
The culmination of all of these things led up to…duh-duh-duuuuuhhhh…August 4th – the day I committed to making some major life changes.
I decided on a whim to take a look at our financial situation. I figured, if I’m going to learn how to dress in my 30s, board a plane to Italy, and provide pants and college for my children (not to mention my mystery goals), we should probably start saving a little more. A few months back, for funsies, I ran a debt snowball calculator and determined that we could be debt free (minus our mortgage) in merely 24 months. I tucked that nugget away (like a boss idiot) and proceeded with my daily procurement of lattes, T.J. Maxx clearance finds, and jars of Nutella, among other things.
On August 4th, I reviewed our budget. It looked totes amay-may. We had plenty of money budgeted for the stuff we like to
eat do and still had cash left over to save or apply to the debt snowball.
But…wait a minute…what the–?
Upon further inspection, it appeared that, while we actually had a budget, we stuck to it about as well as generic Post-its stick to any surface at all. If you’ve ever used generic Post-its, you’ll know exactly how well we stuck to our budget. I dug deeper, creating a spreadsheet where I itemized every purchase over the last 30 days to see where our money was going.
The official result: holy fuck.
Excerpt from email from me to Hubs., August 4, 2017, sent 2:07 p.m.:
[…] what is quite sad is that we spend an average $22 per day on food – eating out food. That’s actually 100% insane. We spend more money than Bill Gates on lunch every day. I started a budget tracker. Oh, the things I learned. We are stupid. We are ridiculous. We are morons. We *could* be rich – no joke. We could take a European vacation if we would just take 10 minutes to pack a damn PBJ twice a week.
Excerpt from email to Hubs, August 4, 2017, sent 2:11 p.m.:
And don’t even get me started on Amazon. Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started. We are both very guilty of willy-nilly online ordering and shopping. Jesus. Jeff Bezos is evil, but we literally are GIVING HIM our hard-earned money. No. We aren’t saving it for the kids college. We’re giving it to Jeff Fucking Bezos.
We need to have a serious discussion. With rules for both of us. Maybe all Amazon purchases have a 24 hour wait time and must be approved by the other person. That seems like a good start.
I know. You’re thinking, “Wow, you’re really laying it all out there! Also, you’re kind of a psycho.”
Yes. And perhaps. I don’t know what to say. For reasons beyond my comprehension, God has selected age 38 for me to learn some profound things about myself and what I truly value in life. (Thanks, Big Guy, I could have used that fire under my butt in my twenties when we were practically lighting our money on fire with the glow sticks we bought during multiple Disney vacations.) The important thing is that I’m learning them. The older I get, the less “stuff” matters to me. I care about people and experiences, and I want to do more with the short time we have with those we love.
August 4th was the day I realized we’d been servants of poor habits, misguided desires, and a near constant justification for “deserving” this treat or that. And it cost us the opportunity to focus on what matters most today. So yeah, it lit a fire inside. But you know what? On August 4th, I owned up. I own our frivolous spending. I own our laziness. I own it. I blame no one but myself (and Hubs, because what kind of a wifey would I be if I didn’t blame my husband? I mean he works at a library and won’t stop buying books.)
On August 4th, coffee stopped controlling me (that’s a lie, coffee is in full control, but I make my own coffee now instead of buying it).
On August 4th, I stopped lining the pockets of Jeff Bezos (at least for the next 90 days, which is the Amazon freeze period Hubs and I agreed upon).
On August 4th, I broke free of the Death Star tractor beam that is T.J. Maxx.
This is the first in a series of posts that will explore money matters for everyday folks like us. I will be as transparent and candid as I can possibly (and comfortably) be. I want to succeed in this journey. To succeed, I need to be accountable. Sharing will hold me accountable. If I’m being honest, that’s really scary. But I don’t think I’m alone. I hope to make connections and garner support and ideas from others on the same journey or those who have finished the trek to financial freedom.
I want to learn your stories as much as tell my own. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
You can follow along by subscribing so you don’t miss a post! I hope you’ll join me!