"Goals are dreams with deadlines" -- Diana Scharf

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reality Check

After working at my computer screen for the better part of an hour, I looked up with a feeling of anxiety, confusion, and dread.  Most of all, I felt a dangerous cloud of anger forming.  “Holy shit” I swore under my breath.   

My husband walked into the kitchen, where I was staring at the computer in horror.  He’d heard me from the living room, which wasn’t unusual in our small-for-the-suburbs apartment. The foul language was unusual...hence his concern.    

I glared at him as I demanded “Guess how much we spent last month?” in the same sarcastic, accusatory tone I always use when I start to feel stressed about finances.  As if this were somehow his fault, and his fault alone. (By the way, this reaction was completely unfair and unwarranted.  He always spends less than I do.  I'm a jerk, I know...). 

He paused for a moment, before venturing a guess: “I don’t know…four thousand?”  It wasn’t a bad guess.  In the three months that we had been married, we usually spent $4,000-$5,000 on a monthly basis. 

But not in December. No, in December we had spent a whopping $10,000.  Ten thousand dollars.  And this did not include the $1,500 holiday travel we had booked in November. 

For the sake of context, let me explain that we do not have kids and we do not own a home.  There are no piano or ballet lessons, no tuition installments, no mortgage payments, and no pricey home improvements.  We are both fortunate to have well-paying jobs, but we certainly cannot sustain a $10,000/month lifestyle.    

Holy shit, indeed.        

In retrospect, I probably overreacted that evening.  Yes, we had spent $10,000 in a single month.  Yes, there were some expenses that were admittedly extravagant – such as my $100 shopping spree at Ulta and eating at our favorite sushi restaurant twice in one month.  However, our December expenditures were largely planned and within budget.  Approximately $5,000 had been spent on periodic and/or non-recurring items, such as gifts, insurance payments, and the remaining balance for my car loan.  We paid our credit card balances in full at the end of the month, as we do every month.  Even though these expenses were planned, the experience was a wake-up call: we needed to have a clearer idea of how much money was coming in and going out.   And, most importantly, what we were spending it on.      

The next day I hammered out a month-by-month budget for the coming year.  Since graduating college, I had always sketched out monthly and annual household budgets.  Planning for the future is fun, right?  However, I have never consistently analyzed my spending to ensure that I remained on track.  This is the part that can feel tedious. Even so, I've decided it is high time to start recording our spending on a monthly basis to keep us on track to realize our financial goals.  On a separate post, I'll share the annual household budget I worked up.  On a monthly basis, I’ll also be accounting for our spending and sharing it here.  I'm hoping that, with diligent monthly tracking, there won't be too many more "Holy Shit" moments. 

Thanks for reading my perspectives on setting and reaching our financial goals. 


1 comment:

  1. I found your blog this week and literally read every post. Such great advice and hilarious anecdotes!