Hit by a Pitch

My Spending Fast

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I discovered a new (to me) website today, And Then She Saved, which is pretty awesome. The author went on a pretty hard-core spending fast for a year to get out of credit card debt.

dog bag

This is it, handbags.

Although I don’t have a huge mound of credit card debt, things are very, very tight for us financially these days. (Holy hell, child care is expensive.) I also have a long, terrible history of spending way too much money on way too much crap and no matter how many times I tell myself to stop buying crap, I still do it. I don’t want to make light of addiction, but that’s what it feels like to me. I’m always telling myself I can stop anytime I want, and then I go online and order a handbag with dogs on it, and then I feel bad about being all spendy on shit I don’t need when money is so tight.

I figure a spending fast, which I announce publicly here (so if I fail I’ll feel like a jackass), is just what I need. It’ll be a challenge to go on a spending fast with a toddler, but it’s still worth trying (and realistically, I’m not going to abstain from spending on stuff I consider necessary for him).

My official spending fast will begin on July 1 and end on January 1. Here’s my preliminary spend and spend not breakdown:

I will spend money on:

  • the mortgage
  • child care
  • necessary stuff for Soren (such as clothes and shoes, when he outgrows his current wardrobe and as-needed stuff like the booster seat I just got him)
  • utilities (as little as possible — and hey, it’s June 22 and we haven’t even installed our two window-unit air conditioners yet)
  • tv, internet, and phone service (we’re in the process of switching to cheaper tv/internet/phone service and just lowered the cell phone bill a little)
  • alarm system (a good idea when you live in the hood and comforting when you’ve been burglarized)
  • gym membership
  • food for us
  • food for the animals
  • beer (I’ve cut back a little)
  • necessary medical/dental/vet expenses
  • once-a-week takeout pizza (or equivalent)
  • dining out at most once a month with the family (we don’t even dine out once a month now)
  • transportation (my car is paid off, so this means insurance, gas, parking, and absolutely necessary maintenance; if I were super hard core I’d talk about getting rid of my car, but with a young child, the hassle of public transportation and the extra time it would require is not worth it at this point)
  • replacement necessities that might not really count as necessities (things like the little bit of makeup I actually use; I’d probably get a new iPhone if mine dies, etc.)
  • occasional fabric/supplies for my new sewing hobby (but only one project at a time — no new supplies until I finish my current project)
  • occasional books, toys, art supplies, etc. for Soren
  • website expenses
  • my Meetup group
  • renewal of Botanic Gardens membership
  • student loan (I hate Sallie Pae).

That’s a huge list! I’m annoyed at how many things I’m going to be spending money on, which is funny (not in a haha way, but you know) because usually I spend money on way more than just this stuff. At the same time, this list is kind of nice to see, because it’s actually making me feel less deprived than I sometimes do. Like, when I see people talking about all this exciting stuff they do like travel, go out to eat all the time, or get every new Apple product the second it comes out, I’m kind of bummed I can’t do stuff like that. But when I look at my list, I realize that my priorities are different. Instead of, say, getting a pedicure, I’m feeding a small kennel’s worth of animals. Because my priorities are batshit crazy.

I will not spend money on:

  • highlights (I’m going to let them grow out for now; this one is going to be hard, but my natural hair color isn’t offensive — it’s just really boring) and possibly haircuts (unless I get to hairblanket stage)
  • travel (due to finances and having a baby and seven animals, we really don’t travel, so this isn’t a big sacrifice)
  • dining out other than once a month at most with the family (never do this anyway)
  • apparel
  • shoes
  • handbags
  • accessories of any kind
  • anything from Etsy (that site is like crack — I need to stay away)
  • home decor of any kind (with the possible exception of cheap-ass picture frames for some of Soren’s art that I’d like to display)
  • sporting events, concerts, movies (only the first one will be really hard for me)
  • music
  • books (other than for Soren)
  • new, non-replacement items, like makeup, phones, etc.

Some things will be up for discussion with Ben, such as whether we go to the Great American Beer Festival this year.

My goal is to get us through the expensive-ass child care years without being more in the hole than we are now. (This is dumb, but I had no idea that child care is more expensive than most colleges. There should be daycare scholarships and financial aid.) I’ll evaluate where we are after January 1 and figure out what’s next. Maybe, after these spending cuts, we’ll be doing okay. Maybe things will still be rough and we’ll have to go more hard core with the cuts. Maybe we’ll actually find a way to increase our income (we have a couple ideas but nothing solid yet).

From time to time, I’ll tell you about how things are going. If I mess up, I’ll let you know — I think I need that kind of accountability — and you can heckle me. But don’t worry — this won’t become a finance blog. There are plenty of those and I find most financial stuff boring as hell (the blog linked above is an exception, I think because she talks about her own situation rather than telling you what you should do, if that makes sense).

Putting this out there feels kind of good. Now you know that, if you ask me to meet you for lunch, I’m going to say no. And saying “I’m on a spending fast” sounds a little bit better than saying “I can’t afford it.”

This is going to be fun. Or something.

Written by Tracy

June 22nd, 2011 at 9:48 pm