During year three of the bankruptcy, I changed. I was not consciously trying to change. I did not have a “this has to stop” moment. Perhaps, because I am always thinking and reading, the thought was lurking and I did not realize it. No matter, during the 3rd year of the bankruptcy, I began to use cash, clean my house, and write down my expenses each pay period.
I came to terms with the fact that I cannot control my spending when I use a debit card. I won’t overspend (most of the time) but I will certainly spend more than planned. So, I created a new plan. On a 12×12 piece of paper, I wrote down my plan and put in on the side of the refrigerator. Tigger goes out every morning and evening (if not more) so I was forced to look at it when I first woke up and before I went to bed.
Allocating Every Cent
Based on my plan, I became intimately connected to the idea that every dollar in my bank account must be accounted for. There would never be “extra money” in my account. The Wednesday before each payday, I would sit down and determine the bills that needed to be paid, how much would be allocated to gas, groceries/aux expenses, and savings. Then, I would setup the required bill pay and automatic transfers. I determined that $150 would be enough to cover groceries and general spending every two weeks. $100 was allocated to gas and that was put in a different account.
Every payday, I went to the bank and withdrew $150 for groceries and spending. C.A.S.H! For the first time since debit cards became readily available, I was going to the bank and withdrawing cash. Even better, I was spending cash and using the debit card very little.
Let me be very clear, the early days were hell. In a few days, I would spend $60/70 and that would leave me very little to get through the remainder of the two weeks. However, as I became more attached to my cash and less attached to the emotion I had tied to spending, I began making fewer emotional purchases. If something was BOGO, I stopped getting caught up in the emotion and would ask myself, “Do I really need this?”.
Using cash and asking myself repeatedly, “Do I really need this?” changed my life.
Saving – A Foreign Term
As part of my plan, I allocated a certain amount to savings. A new concept for me.
Each payday, I would have that amount automatically transferred out of my checking. As I began to build an emergency fund (not a credit card), I began to like money in a healthy way. I began to want more of it in my possession. I began to want to give less of it to corporate America.
As I began to build to the $1000 savings that some experts recommend, I began to feel more security in my life. For the first time in my life, I felt in control. I knew if my car broke down, I would not have to “figure it out” because having money in the bank would always be the answer. I did not have to think about what I would not pay or what I would pay less to cover the unexpected expense.
I reached $1000 in savings very quickly (while still paying the bankruptcy and living on $1200/month to cover ALL expenses) and then, I kept going. A few years before, I was not able to live on $1200 and now, I was able to live and SAVE!
Saving took the place of spending.
Filling a Bag
My house is 1150 sf under air. Yes, it is small but more than enough for me, the girls, and Tigger. Over the years, using credit, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Not to the point of being a hoarder but a lot none-the-less. Over time, I started wanting to get rid of some stuff but did not know how to begin until I read about the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge. Every day for 40 days, gather and get rid of a bag of stuff. What appealed to me about this challenge is that there is no bag size requirement. So, if I could only gather a sandwich bag full of stuff, I was meeting the requirements of the challenge. Some days, I cleaned out one drawer and sometimes, I cleaned an entire closet or room. The removal of bag size restrictions made the challenge less overwhelming and it kept me from embarking on cleaning that I would never finish.
Since completing the initial challenge, I have decluttered my home approximately three times. Each pass, I let go of the emotion attached to the items, which allows me to toss more. My bookshelf was once filled with books. In the past, it was never an option to toss books. Finally, I realized, I have not read any book on those shelves since I put them there. That was all I needed to toss some. Then, the next time I decluttered, I tossed even more because I had not touched them since the previous pass.
As I repeatedly decluttered, I tossed things that I had never used or even opened (few things had not been opened thankfully). It became clear that spending/shopping was my driving force. I needed to spend to satisfy my emotional needs. If one was good, many was much better. I tossed a tripod that I can remember buying over 10 years ago because I had credit available on my Best Buy card and I went to the store to spend it. I recall thinking the entire time, you do not need a tripod, you already have one. Well, that tripod was tossed in my declutter effort without ever having been opened.
Now, if I am going to the store, I have a real conversation with myself. If I am going to “just look around”, I can look around my house. If there is something that I need, I will get it eventually,