I sat down this morning and I did it...I created a budget. It wasn't that hard. I simplified it by not trying to track my more complicated accounts: mortgage, 403b, high-interest savings. For now, I don't mind going to those separate websites and reviewing my quarterly statements. I simply listed all my fixed monthly expenses...including contributing to those accounts...and came up with reasonable, yet strict limits on my variable expenses. I was going to buy some expensive software to do this, but I knew that would just add pressure to "figure it all out." So I downloaded one of the free ones that Single Ma pointed out and revised it for me.
The first thing that slapped me in the face was my fixed monthly expenses take up so much less than what I bring in. That includes the money I'm diverting to pay off my credit card debt, my mortgage and maintenance, my bills, savings, everything. Oh! And I'm working off of my net income, not my gross. Which means that I'm pissing away a good chunk of my income. Sure it's nice to get a glass of wine every time I go out to dinner, but is it worth living paycheck to paycheck? Hell no!
Once that reality was sitting there in black and white, it put everything in perspective. All my stressing about how to afford to be the maid of honor at this 5-star resort wedding in Jamaica this May just went away. Along with the financial fear of going to Colorado to attend another wedding with The Mormon in July. As I typed out all that I've spent so far in January, it just seemed so easy! I don't need to spend the way I spend. I don't even want to spend the way I spend. It is getting me nowhere. I would rather feel the frustration that comes from exerting discipline than feel that all-too-familiar desperation as I wait for another payday. I'm actually pretty excited!
Two blogs in particular have helped me so much: Single Ma and Debt Hater. They are two black women who have just had enough and have made changes in their lives to get rid of the financial monkey on their backs.
You know how in this consumer culture...and especially in NYC...there is this misconception everyone around you can afford things without worry? Maybe you don't experience this, but I feel serious pressure to keep up with The Jones'. Yet, credit card debt is an epidemic, isn't it? So it can't be that everyone around me has their money together and I'm the one who doesn't...it can't be. However, since very few people really talk about their financial situation...few people even KNOW their financial situation...I'm left with this feeling that everyone else must be doing something right. I love SM and DH so much because they are straight up honest about the fact that budgeting for them is not an option. That they they do not have it all figured it out, but are learning more every day. They falter, but then find a way to get back on track. And I get the sense that although it's easier for them now, it's still a battle. That makes me feel so much better...not through schadenfreude or anything...but in a "I'm not alone" way.
I feel so empowered just by this simple step of creating a budget. I think I have the strength now to kill the wasp that's hanging around my window. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a wasp in January.