Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Picking up the pieces... on money and self-care, part 2

This is a two-part post on how I let go of the past. Find part 1 here.
In October 2013, I finally got a job! I was certain that was just what I needed to get out of the "funk" I'd been in; I put it in quotation marks because I was in such denial of actually being depressed.

Well, it didn't work. I was still unhappy, sad, miserable... I was completely checked out of life, just going through the motions. My bingeing was the worst it'd ever been... Marc was still working mostly nights, so I had a lot of time to myself to binge after the kids were in bed.

Our finances were much better... we were finally living just slightly better than paycheck to paycheck--we had everything we needed and were completely off government assistance. We were able to move into a different house; still 2bed/1bath, but we're in a better part of the city with TONS of things within walking distance! However, it would be a very long time before I recognized just how blessed we were; first, I had to stop comparing.

I had to stop comparing our new life to our old life in Alabama. What had happened, happened, and nothing would change that. I had to accept our life as it was, and learn to be thankful, content, with what we had.  I also had to stop comparing our new life with the lives of my peers... or at least, the glimpses I could see on Facebook. For several months, I actually blocked many of friends' newsfeeds because it pained me too much to see their success.

When I finally decided to join Weight Watchers and start seeing a therapist in May 2014, I knew it would be a struggle to afford these things financially, but I had to make it work. Fortunately, my therapist worked with me on the cost... for her, treatment was a priority. For me, Weight Watchers and my therapy was non-negotiable and I was able to work them into our budget with a few sacrifices.

We sailed along pretty well for some time... which brings us to the present. Over the summer, we had to get a new (used) car when the transmission in our van died. We didn't have the funds to pay cash for a car, so we acquired a car payment for the first time in a very long time. This also caused our car insurance to go up, since you have to have comprehensive coverage when you have a car loan. Marc started a new job in September, taking a bit of a pay cut--but works a regular schedule, with weekends and holidays off, and ultimately has much more room for advancement. The improvement in our home life alone is worth it! Although it wasn't a HUGE cut in pay, our budget was already tight enough that we're feeling the squeeze.

Recently, we took a good look at our budget (we've written a zero-based budget every pay period for probably 2 years now--meaning every dollar has a home) and realized that we really need to tighten things up and get "gazelle intense" (as Dave Ramsey puts it) if we ever want to make any head way in paying off our debt. We figured out what we can reduce, and in slashing our budget, when we got to Weight Watchers, I was hesitant... sure, we could really use that $43/month, but could I really give it up? Thankfully, I didn't have to think about it long... Marc said, "Give up Weight Watchers? No, I won't let you."

Here is what our budget template looks like:

Without going into too much detail, I'll say this: The items in pink are funded through a separate checking account and we refer to these as "sinking funds"; we deposit a set amount every month and they just build on each other (I have another spreadsheet that tracks the total amount in each category). Money for our HSA (health insurance) is automatically deducted from my paycheck, so we never even see that. The "Gas/Maintenance" item is for our cars; also a sinking fund, which goes into another checking account--this keeps us from spending gas money and helps us always have money for gas, oil changes, and (most) repairs. "Amazon" is for our Subscribe & Save items--diapers, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, and kleenex. Any money that doesn't fit into these categories is considered "blow money" and starting this pay period, we're actually using cash for the blow money--so when the cash is gone, no more "fun" stuff. So starting this month, we cancelled Hulu and the gym. We also reduced our grocery budget and our "Gas/Maintenance" deposit. (If you want a more detailed view of how our budget spreadsheet works, comment or shoot me an email and I'll make a post about it!)

I'm working on focusing on what we do have rather than what we don't have. We are learning to be content with what God has blessed us with, which is really hard to do sometimes. Sometimes it's fun to play with our budget, figuring how to make the most of our money, but sometimes is really not fun--like when we're exhausted and just want to pick up dinner and bring it home, or I want to buy new book or something and realize we literally don't have the money for it (without planning in advance). 

So we're learning to live on less, and remembering that we do have everything we need, as there are people in this world living on much, much less. Finding this contentment, it's just another piece of the self-care puzzle--when I'm not comparing our life to everyone else's and trying to keep up with the Jones's, life is pretty great. I've even reframed how I look at things that are outside of our budget--rather than say, "we don't have the money," I try to say, "that's not in our budget right now." It helps, and it's true! That's one of the reasons I haven't included any actual numbers--cost of living is different everywhere you go, everyone has different expenses that they deem mandatory (though if it helps to satisfy anyone's curiosity, we do not have a six figure income). The comparison monster is a cruel beast, one that feels nearly impossible to defeat... but when you do, you realize all the possibilities that lie before you. When you stop focusing on what you don't have, and start to truly appreciate what you do have, life gets a lot simpler real quick. 

I hope I haven't come across as whiny or entitled... but I'm certain I'm not the only person who's struggled with comparison, or living in the past. With this post, I feel as if I'm putting all this in the past, for good. I'm ready to move forward.

When you spend your life wanting, you never get down to the actuality of living.
Posted by Geneen Roth on Sunday, November 15, 2015

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