Financial Check-In

I’m still kind of reeling from the realization of how far I’ve come on the STUFF front. I’m not quite sure which is more remarkable, that I made so much progress without being cognizant of it, or that I forgot how bad it used to be. Either way, I’ve spent a few days basking in the glow of my accomplishments, and getting excited to take more steps in the direction of minimalism.

{Interestingly, I attended a brunch at my daughter’s friend’s house on Sunday and I kept noticing how cluttered their spaces were. The kids room were packed with furniture and each piece was overflowing with toys and books. The house looked exactly like mine used to, and the stuff everywhere totally stressed me out. It was a great reminder that I NEVER want my life to look like that again. I must remain vigilant, I must keep removing things from the house as the stuff pours in, or we’ll end up back where we were, miserable, drowning in junk.}

The thing is, I’m still so far from where I want to be on the STUFF front, but recognizing how far I’ve come has helped me immensely. It’s a lot easier to keep pushing forward when you believe you can make progress. I’m very thankful for those glimpses into the past; they’ve helped me get excited for the future.

Of course STUFF is only part of what I’ve been trying to change in the past year. MONEY was a big part of the change-equation too. In fact, one could argue it was the more important change I was trying to make.

It’s harder for me to feel like I’ve made the same kind of progress when it comes to spending, because my husband and I have merged finances in the past six months and that has totally changed the landscape of our accounts. I’m only just becoming accustomed to how much we have in our checking account at the beginning and end of each month. I think we were always a bit better off than I believed, because I spent so much of the our money and was taking it all form my own reserves. Now that our accounts are merged I’m much less stressed about our month to month spending.

That doesn’t mean I’m back to my old, excessive ways. While I haven’t made the progress I’d hoped to make 1.5 years later, my spending has changed, I dare say, significantly. I may have failed every attempt at a legitimate shopping ban, but I think about, and execute the buying of things in totally different ways. I spend less, to be sure, and I’m much more intentional in my spending.

I still want to make a lot of changes in my relationship with money, but I also want to recognize how much progress I’ve made. Again, it gives me the strength to move forward.

The thing is, our financial situation has changed quite a bit since I last wrote about it comprehensively. Not only have I paid off my student loans, but my husband’s parents paid off the last (much more sizable chunk) of his. He also inherited a significant (to us, at least) amount of money from his grandmother’s account. It’s not life changing, but it is enough to cover three months of our expenses if BOTH of us were to lose his or her job (and six months if it’s just one of us–we make almost exactly the same salary). So all of the sudden we have an emergency fund and a lot less debt.

My husband’s monthly student loan payment is already accounted for–he needs to sign up for life insurance and start contributing to a retirement fund (he hasn’t since he left the big law firm that paid him the crazy money, which was nine years ago). I have a short-term idea for my monthly student loan payment (more on that soon), and my long term plan is to contribute more to my retirement fund, and allocate upcoming raises to my kids’ college funds.

So our overall financial situation is so much better than it was, due in no way to us. A part of me feels guilty and embarrassed that we’ve been handed this financial stability, but I also want to honor it for the great gift that it is.

I don’t know about you, but I find it’s much easier to stick with something when I’m trying not to lose what I already have, than when I’m trying to initially change it. I struggle to eat right and exercise when I’m first embarking on a weight loss regiment, but once I’ve achieved my desired weight/size I’m very dedicated to maintaining it.

I’m finding it’s the same with our finances. Now that we’ve been catapulted into a feeling of financial stability, I’m way more proactive about maintaining, and increasing, our resources. I’ve started to think into the future at big purchases and important travel. We’ll need  new car in 5-6 years and I really want to take my kids to Hong Kong some day to see where I grew up. These are significant expenses that we need to save for now. I hope to spend some summers in Spanish-speaking countries with my kids and even if we can find reasonable places to stay, the flights will cost a lot. Some day we may want to move into our downstairs unit and would have to absorb that lack of income. As my kids get older I’ll want to offer them dance or music classes if they’re interested, and most sports leagues aren’t cheap either.

Our monthly spending is pretty good right now–we have more than enough to pay for the bigger bills that come due every 6-12 months–but we need to start saving more aggressively for these larger expenses down the road. For the first time since I started focusing on our finances I believe we can have what is most important to us, we just need to be smart about our spending, and forgo some of the non-essentials we’ve grow accustomed to. If we prioritize our values and spend intentionally, we can have the life we want.

In the meantime, I’m still trying to make a budget and fucking stick to it. Some day I’ll manage that, and I’ll look back on this post and be proud of how far I’ve come.

 

5 Comments

  1. This is excellent news! And you said that you’re in this position no thanks to yourselves, but if I recall, YOU paid off your student loans. YOU! Inheritance is a wonderful thing and his grandma would feel so good knowing that her gift put you guys in a safe financial space. This is just great!

  2. Change is one tiny step at a time. So important to have reminders of where we started so we can applaud our improvements. SO glad you are seeing the change and improvements! Very happy you can acknowledge the differences and improvements. This is a HUGE thing to have experienced and learned. Why they say you eat an elephant one bite at a time. How the pioneers walked from Maryland to California……
    SUPER HAPPY FOR YOU!!!
    TINY changes, one step at a time, and across time it really adds up. GO YOU!!!!!!

  3. First, do not feel embarrassed/guilty by the gift of money. You should feel that way if you blew the money but instead you’re using it to financially stabilize yourselves. Good for you! I am very proud of you of what changes you made, sticking by them, seeing the effects.

  4. It sounds as if things are moving in the right direction…and that’s a wonderful thing!! Change takes time, and you’re making progress! I’m very happy for you!

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