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I ended up back at Weight Watchers this week. I tried on my own with the online tools, but I just need the accountability of a real life person to be successful. It’s the damn tracking. If I don’t track, I fool myself into thinking I’m eating fine. Or worse, I think I can just exercise it all away.
Without the lady at the scale every week, I stop paying attention to the facts.
It’s the same with money. We ended up in our horrendous debt because we weren’t paying attention to the facts. We had no idea where our money was going. We thought we were fine because we never did anything extravagant, but we also never saved a cent. It was like not tracking food. We spent here and there and didn’t even notice until we were wildly
overweight under water.
When you’re dead broke, you can’t help but pay attention. For two years I could account for every penny of our money. But I was diligent because I was destitute. There was no tracking our spending because there was no spending. I paid bills and then made do at the grocery store with the very little bit we had left. After that I just prayed we’d make it to the next paycheck without bouncing too many checks. While we seemed disciplined we weren’t really. We were just doing what we had to do to survive. So we got ourselves moving toward out of debt but we had no skills to ensure we wouldn’t end up back there again. It was like dieting with an empty fridge. You may lose weight, but you have no idea how to keep the weight off when someone fills the fridge.
What I’ve learned is that with both my weight and my money, if I don’t track, I cheat. I have to pay attention. I have to let go of the short term sacrifice mentality and start living with long term life changes. We’re now in a position financially where this becomes imperative. We’re in the maintenance phase of our life. We’re no longer destitute, but if we don’t watch ourselves, we could be again.
This is the part that terrifies me. This is what makes me lie awake at night, my stomach in knots, certain that I will fail. I’ve never done this part well. I have never stayed thin or had money.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been making money since I got my first job at eleven. I love making money. I’m a hustler and have had up to three jobs at once throughout my life. Making money isn’t the problem, it’s respecting my finances and knowing how to use them well so that I keep the money I make. At the risk of sound shallow, I’m ready to be rich and thin…forever.
So here I am. Not only do I need to pay attention to what I eat, but to how and where I spend. What does that look like? I’ll tell you what I did. First, just like food, I tracked my money because I needed to know what I was doing with it.
- I spent eight weeks writing every single thing I spent in a notebook. This gave me a picture of my spending in a world where I did more than just pay the bills.
- From the notes of eight weeks’ spending, I made a monthly budget that included some fun-not total deprivation.
- The Husband and I then tweaked the drafted budget together based on our goals as a family.
- We looked ahead on our calendar for things like trips, potential gas and utility hikes, work or family functions and tuition or camp deposits that may challenge us.
- We worked those challenges into our month as short term savings
- We begun hashing out long term savings for a house and car
It was a good start. Next, we need to call in the pros for help figuring out how to best save for college and retirement.
Finally, I am hustling (figuratively of course!) again, looking for more income as always. Some habits die hard.
We’re by no means perfect, all you have to do is check my waistline for proof. But I have learned my weaknesses and am trying to either improve or work around them. Either way, you can be sure I have my share of tracking notebooks at the ready for all my days ahead. It’s all about paying attention if you want to be rich and thin.
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