Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time to Deal with the Budget

Coming into the part I've been dreading...
Photo by Stuart Miles

Now that the emergency fund plan is set up and running, I’m finally able to move forward in the Planner.  Rather than reading it straight through and trying to create some sort of hybrid plan (my usual way of dealing with things, because I always somehow think I know so much more than the experts), I’m treating it like a workbook.  I’m doing the assignments as they come up, and I’m following the directions. 

I despise budgets.  It doesn’t matter what you call them:  budget, spending plan, cash management system… I know perfectly well what they are.  They stress me out.  Quite frankly, they scare me.  I keep finding myself going back to the weight loss analogy.  Who wants to go on a diet or make a budget?  I want to do whatever I want and nobody else can tell me what to do.

I guess we can all see where that particular attitude got me. 

I need to approach this part of the book the same way I am approaching the weight issue.  Namely, I’m tired of living this way.  Following this plan will help and I am dedicated to seeing it through to the end.  I’ve done a great job these last two weeks on the weight-management plan.  I’ve worked out every day, I’ve tracked my calories, I know exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out.  Hmmmmmm…. Kind of sounds like a budget, doesn’t it?? 

Answering the questions in the planner:

Which of these describes how I view a budget?
“I’m afraid of what I’ll find.”

Denial is my problem here, all the way.  I know our income is low and our bills are out of control.  We need to get Comcast and PSE paid this week.  That stresses me out.  I was hoping to toss a little cash that way, but then I remembered that my gas tank is on empty and I promised to make a payment to Elias’s therapist. Since we had to deal with a car issue, that pretty much cleans out the extra from our incredible grocery trip.  Looks like we’ll be calling them this week to ask them to hang tight ‘til Friday.  I hate doing that and I want that to stop

Describe the way your parents managed their finances. Did they have a budget?  Who created it?  How did they talk with you about finances?

Would it surprise you that the answer is “I have no idea”?  I had no concept of money or budgets. I had a vague awareness that we weren’t rich, but that wasn’t until I was about 12 and we moved to an old house out on the Peninsula.  I think our suburban two-story new home in University Place might have been foreclosed on, but I have no idea.  My parents divorced when I was 14.  Today, my mother appears to mostly have her finances in order – she is the one who loaned me the Planner, though, so she must have had concerns at some point.  My dad’s finances are, frankly, a disaster.  I suspect he’s actually quite a bit worse off than we are.  That’s a little frightening, since he’s in his 60s now.

What has kept you from sticking to a budget?

We’ve gone through periods where we’ve done pretty well, but I think complacency and denial are always what do us in. We go through a rough patch and don’t want to face the reality anymore, start borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and pretty soon we are in a major downward spiral.

When was the last time you reconciled your bank statement?

In all fairness, I no longer have a checking account.  I have my Paypal account and with the debit card attached to it, that works fine for me.  Better than fine actually, since I can’t overdraw the damn thing.  My old checking account drove me nuts.  No matter how often I requested that they remove the “courtesy overdraft protection,” it never budged, mistakes happened, and I’d suddenly be drowning in overdraft fees.  Gavin watches his account online, but because he’s not good about keeping track of debit card use and check transactions, we get hit with “surprises.”  That has to stop.

Looks like our next step is to create an equity sheet.  Not sure if I have enough red marker for that.


  1. my parents talked with us about money early. in fact, when i was older my mom sat me down with her money ledger (book) and showed me exactly what was coming in and where it was going out, she had it all categorized. I wish i could be more like her, I have a hard enough time just keeping the checkbook up to date. when my brother was very young, about 7, and we'd go to a restaurant (which wasn't very often) my dad would put a $20 in my brothers hand and have him go pay the cashier, just so he'd have the practice. just saying, it's never too early to go through that stuff with kids. i'm sure glad my parents did teach me that stuff too. (as opposed to teaching me not to curse, hit or backtalk - boy parents have a lot to teach kids)

    1. Haha! We really do, don't we?? Mine never did. No wait... I learned how to hang up on creditors and how to float a check. Not the best skills, really. I talk to Elias about it some, but not a lot. He has too much anxiety as it is. Maddie helps to collect change for the change jar, which is really cute.