Thursday, June 24, 2010

budget, budget, budget.

as i mentioned yesterday, i recently came to realize that i need to adjust my spending habits and create a balanced budget. i have tried this several times in the past, but have given up within a week. why did i fail? i think there were a few reasons:

-i never wrote down the budget i had planned
-i created it in my head without giving too much thought to what was practical
-i felt guilty for not following it, and i thought the best way to avoid the guilt was to take away the rules.

but don miller helped to shed some light on this for me. he recently blogged about a book he read by don riso and russ hudson. don paraphrases it as such:

According to Riso and Hudson, people don’t change by beating themselves up or condemning themselves. The key, rather, is to simply acknowledge what we are doing and and why, then move on without self judgement. In addition, the psychologist said to not even attempt to change. And it turns out their method works.

In my own life, this comes in moments when I find myself angry or selfish and I simply say to myself “Hey, you’re doing that thing where you get jealous.” In other times, I will feel like people don’t like me, I won’t want to go to a party or something and I’ll say to myself “Hey, you’re doing that thing where you identify as a marginalized person because it makes you feel special.”

The trick is to make these simple, objective statements without condemnation or judgment. Awareness is everything. And slowly, these character faults within us begin to change.

now, here don is writing specifically about negative character traits. i find this has been helpful for me when thinking about the budget. in the beginning of the month, i started to write down everything i spent money on. i mean, every penny spent. and friends let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. but i took the advice don laid out and simply acknowledged what i spent it on. "hey, you just spent $5 on dinner." three weeks later "hey, you've spent $200 on going out to eat this month." (and let's be real here. i don't make that kind of money to be spending $200 a month on dinner.) but what i noticed is, rather than beating myself up over it, simply taking note of how much i spent, i slowly started to go out to eat less without putting too much thought into it.

so, how to move on from here?

i took that list and used that to form my budget. there are small changes, here and there, but nothing too drastic. the more drastic the change, the harder it will be to follow through. and what did i do with this new budget? i wrote it down. in fact, i made pretty fancy shmancy spreadsheet. (because as accounting clerk by day, i have a small love affair with excel and formulas. it's true.) my plan is that, starting with tomorrow's paycheck, i will follow the budget as closely as i can. i will continue to write down everything i spend money on. if i go over the budget in one area, i won't beat myself up over it. at the end of july, i'll look over the budget and my spending, and figure out where i need to make further adjustments (whether within the budget or within my lifestyle).

i'm excited. i'm a nerd.

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