It’s been 7 months since my last post, and I’m back with a confession.
So this is hard for me to write, but I have started slipping down a path of increased spending, overspending, and almost, thought not quite, debt accumulation. This has been stopping me from being able to achieve any of my savings goals, and it has me feeling and acting like an addict. Sneaking around and not wanting to be found out for my increasing spending habits. Well it is time to come clean.
I haven’t actually accumulated any new debt, but I have basically completely stopped making progress on my savings goals. I mean, okay, maybe this is a bit unrealistic; I am actually still making decent progress on paying down my student loan and adding to my retirement savings bi-weekly through automatic transfers, but I am continually failing to keep my emergency fund or my short-term savings in my bank account. Why? Because I keep overspending and being forced to use my emergency fund and short-term savings to pay down my monthly credit card bill. This is not acceptable behavior because things like that new pair of sunglasses are not emergencies. If I have a real emergency and I have spent my emergency fund on trivial things, I could end up in a very bad situation. What’s more, if I don’t stop this trend before it gets worse, then soon I won’t be able to pay down my monthly credit card bill at all, and I will be right back where I started. I worked so hard to pay off my 11,221.00$ dollars in credit card debt, and I refuse to go back there. So it’s time to face the music, and get my finances back under control.
I have noticed that I have slipped back down a path toward “What can I spend this on?” and away from “What can I budget this toward?” I opened my spending doors slightly, and gradually the infamous “lifestyle creep” got me.
In case you’re wondering, lifestyle creep can be defined as:
“A situation where people’s lifestyle or standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises either through an increase in income or decrease in costs. As lifestyle creep occurs, and more money is spent on lifestyle, former luxuries are now considered necessities.”
As this lifestyle creep occurs, I watch my spending increase. It’s not as though I haven’t noticed. I keep sitting down with my budget, trying to reign myself back in, but I seem to behave so erratically between these budget sessions that I continually erode any saving progress I make. But why? Where are these problems stemming from?
Here are some problem areas I have identified:
- I yearn to consume / purchase / get that temporary dopamine hit that comes from buying something. This is especially true when I am feeling stressed out or emotionally uncomfortable.
- I am dating someone who is in a better financial situation than I am, and I feel pressured (both internally and externally) to match their spending.
- I am tired of being frugal. I have been at this for a long time, and I have made some excellent gains, but I also have a long way to go. Motivation is hard to maintain.
- I don’t look at my budget before I spend. Think about this like not asking the friend you know will give sound, practical advice right before you do something impulsive.
- I frequently have thoughts like “Oh, it’s only 20$ / 30$ / 40$”. This type of thinking can get you into a big spending hole, and fast.
So what can I do to make my way back?
- I need to recognize when I am feeling uncomfortable, stressed out, or empty, and watch for any impulse to spend / acquire things in this situation. Do I really want this new thing, or am I just trying to escape some uncomfortable emotion or sensation?
- I need to ask myself, in what specific way will buying this item make my life better? If I can’t answer that question in a convincing way, then I need to walk away from the item.
- I need to continue to talk to my partner about our differing financial situations, and how this means he will have to sometimes go to that restaurant (or whatever) by himself. I have had this conversation with him already, but then I fail to live by it. Of course I want to go out to the restaurant and eat the tasty gourmet breakfast, but the reality is that I am not in a position to be budgeting for this type of expense every week.
- I need to watch my unplanned, “small” daily spending, because these things add up fast. This is things like coffee, snacks, etc.
- I have started immersing myself back into the books, podcasts, and online community that helped me to achieve such great gains in the first place. Coming clean and thinking it all through in this blog post is part of the process.
- I need to remember that I am still on a significant debt reduction journey. I have made incredible strides toward freedom from debt, but I still have an incredible way to go. If I really want to achieve my greater goals, then I need to kickstart my motivation and get back at it!
Well that is my confession, and my initial plan for action.
As always, thank you for reading.