I’m still stumbling around in the area of personal finance, totally unsure of what I should be doing. It seems supremely fucked up that at 35 I have no idea what my financial goals should look like. Is that something people are just inherently aware of?
I read blogs by people who have instituted year long shopping bans, and then EXTENDED them for another year because buying nothing has totally opened their eyes and changed their life. I think, as a complete personal finance fuck up, not buying anything for a significant amount of time would be a perfect way to start; it would help me figure out what prompts me to buy things and what feelings I’m trying to avoid when I buy things, and what I really, actually need and it will be AMAZING and LIFE CHANGING, just like it is for the people I read.
But then it’s never quite as easy for me to execute it as it seems to be for them, and there are all these other people whose lives are intricately woven into my own, and whose needs I am responsible for meeting, and then there are peripheral people who also have expectations that I can’t blatantly disregard, no matter how hard I try. And people mean well, but they also enable, and in the end my best intentions are always laid to waste. And no one seems to care, or be disappointed but me. And I wonder what I’m doing wrong, and why I have to take this journey alone.
Why is it so easy for the people whose blogs I read, and so hard for me? Is it because my husband is not on board, and I have kids who go to school with specific uniform requirements and clothes get lost and stained to the point of not being wearable and I need to replace those things right? Right!? And then I create rules but suddenly there are too many and I’m not even sure what “need” means anymore and I feel like I’m swimming against a powerful current and I there is nothing to grab hold of. Meanwhile the bloggers I read seem to be floating on a serene lake, with nothing but the open sky above them to contemplate.
And then I come here to process how hard it is and people say they can’t understand why it’s so hard, you just DON’T BUY THINGS and honestly, they buy less in a regular month than I buy in a month when I’m specifically trying not to spend, and then I feel like a complete and utter failure, like something is inherently wrong with me, and I will fail at this forever.
I don’t know how many times I have to fail at the shopping ban thing before I decide it’s just not right for me, at least not yet. I think I cling to it because it’s the easiest route, at least in terms of what I’m SUPPOSED to do. It’s much harder for me to decide what I should buy and what I shouldn’t, and what is worth spending money on and what’s a waste, than to just say, NOPE. NO BUYING. NADA.
In the end, what it comes down to is, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing yet when it comes to money and a budget and it’s going to take some time to learn and I NEED TO BE OKAY WITH IT TAKING SOME TIME TO LEARN. I need to give myself (and my husband) a grace period.
Money is complicated. It is tangled up in all sorts of complicated shit like feelings of self-worth, habits and patterns adopted in childhood, coping mechanisms, societal norms and expectations… Talking about how you save it or spend it is totally taboo. It’s understandable that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing when it comes to money. The truth is, a lot of people don’t.
It can be hard to remember that when you read a lot of personal finance blogs, especially since most of them are written by people who do know what they are doing, and absolutely think you should be doing the same thing too.
This is hard for me. It may be easy for a lot of people but it’s hard for me. And that’s okay. A lot of people struggle with overspending and a lot of people aren’t making every purchase based on an overarching financial goal or even with some implicit or explicit priorities in mind. And it’s okay if I keep trying and failing, as long as I keep learning when I fail, and I keep trying again despite my missteps.
I just wish my husband and I could be on the same page, so that I don’t have to be the wet blanket when he wants to get burritos or try out the new Chinese place for take out, and I don’t have to be the person who vetos the suggested shopping trip with my daughter now that she FINALLY wants to wear real clothes after school and on the weekends, instead of nightgowns with pajamas under them.
Because I want burritos and Chinese food too! And I want to take my daughter shopping to get some glittery shirt with a mermaid AND a unicorn on it (oh the ecstasy!) But I’m TRYING NOT TO BUY SHIT GODDAMNIT AND IT’S REALLY FUCKING HARD WITHOUT YOU PUSHING FOR THIS SHIT TOO.
Self-compassion is helping. I swear it is. I couldn’t come here and write this post and even consider poking a little fun at myself for my foibles if it weren’t. But it’s still hard and I’m still so fucking impatient to just know what I’m doing already, and to know how to do it.
I noticed the mileage on our car hit 120K last week, and I mentioned to my husband that we need to start saving for a replacement vehicle. We (I, really) put 100K on it in 6 years, which means we have another 6-7 years before we’ll probably need to replace it (I’m assuming our Honda Accord will last to 250K miles, especially since it’s mostly highway driving). If we get something in $20K range again (we buy our cars slightly used), we need to save $3.5K a year to be ready to replace it. That is one very specific goal we can start saving for now.
As far as the rest of it, I’m still not sure how much we should be saving, let alone what we value enough to spend our money on. I’m starting to take note of how much we spend in a given category every year, especially the things that are obvious but overlooked when planning a monthly budget, like presents at Christmas or tickets to see my family in St. Louis every other year. We probably should be saving $500 a month for that kind of stuff, because when we need that money it’s a LOT of money. I also keep reminding myself that we have some built in savings happening with our annual tax refund and specifically waiting to be reimbursed from our medical and childcare flex spending accounts. Even if we can’t squirrel away much each month, we can budget those lump sums in productive ways.
My plan is to keep data collecting, and to be more mindful as I do it. I’m hoping that once I have actual numbers to present to my husband we can have an honest discussion about where our money is going and where we want it to go. With black and white numbers in front of him, he can’t deny what our habits are costing us. I think if he were walking this path with me, I’d be able to stick to it more consistently. It’s hard to make this journey alone.
Thank you all for cheering me on as I travel this crooked path to responsible personal finance.
Do you feel like you know what your doing when it comes to personal finance?