Monday, November 7, 2011

Motivational Mondays - Plan ahead

I think most people would agree spontaneity is fun. For the past year or two I've been on a big kick about being spontaneous and fun. Random outings with friends, last-minute trips to visit friends, finding coupons for great deals that "I just couldn't pass up". But also for the past year or two I've been digging myself deeper and deeper in debt. Some people associate planning with being boring but you can't be fun while being in serious debt so we have to determine priorities.

I came across Trent at The Simple Dollar Blog and he has the most accurate article on planning purchases that makes today's Motivational Monday even more relevant.

A lot of people naturally plan for big purchases like a vacation, buying a house or car or paying for school. It's just necessary. But a lot of us don't account for smaller, "minor" things like dining out or buying a sweater.
"Let’s say you go shopping with a friend. On a whim, you buy a new dress, then the two of you go out to dinner together and head out to a movie. For many people, this is a nice, fun evening.
The worrisome side of it comes later. You go home, look through your credit card statements, and realize that the $50 you spent tonight – previously unaccounted for – has now completely tapped you out. You haven’t got enough money to cover the electric bill. So you pay it late – and there’s a late fee on next month’s bill. But by then you’ve moved on to another completely unplanned expense."
Trent suggests putting a set amount of money ($100) in your wallet as cash for the pay period. Be as spontaneous as you want with that money but when it's gone, it's gone until payday. 
"One big danger when people follow this idea: they put their $100 in their wallet and then find it’s gone by the ninth of the month. Then they spend twenty one days miserable, thinking that this plan is stupid or talking themselves into getting more out of their checking account.
Don’t. Live out the month. Then, sit down at the end of the month and take a serious look at the month as a whole. Did you give up anything vital during those twenty one days? Did you do anything during those nine days that didn’t really add any value to your life?
You might find that by taking a real look at your spontaneous spending that you’re doing things that you don’t really find valuable. The next month, that money might hold out until the twenty seventh of the month, simply because you’re a bit more selective in what you do with your mad money – and there’s no adverse effect on your happiness at all."
I have successfully put this plan into effect last payday and it has been an big eye opener. I've always tried it, found myself running out of money after the first few days so I would dig into my savings or any extra money I could find and it would be a vicious cycle.

These past two weeks I've planned. There have been situations that I've made big changes but I haven't really missed out on anything. I have money in my accounts, I'm building my savings and it feels great.

This past weekend I had fun. Friday night we visited a friend who was dog sitting to keep her company. M and our friend ordered take-out but I decided to bring my own dinner from home. I ate something equally delicious and missed out on nothing. I wanted to bring a little sweet treat for dessert and thought about going to the store to pick something up. Instead, I saved $4 by looking through my cabinets and combining an old jar of Nutella and some graham crackers. It worked just as well.

Saturday I wanted a night out with the girls like we used to. I gave myself $20 to cover cabs and drinks and that was it. We bar hopped and managed to stay out late and even grab a slice of pizza and I spent exactly $19. I didn't owe anyone drinks and I didn't over pay for anything we shared. We had a blast and although I was very aware of how much money I had, it didn't hold me back.

Sunday the girls wanted to watch the Packer game at a bar (yes, all my friends here are from WI, it's not easy being a Viking fan!). I didn't want to stay home but I needed to plan ahead because as payday approaches, funds are pretty low. I had exactly $30 left for the week, leaving $15 for food and $15 for fun. Normally we each buy a pitcher of beer ($12) and food ($15). On Sunday morning I looked at the bar's website to see what their menu and deals were like. An order of fries were $5 and I could drink unlimitted Diet Coke for $2.50. With tip, I spent $10 and still had fun and didn't waste a Sunday evening drunk. Yes, it was difficult to be smart but I don't regret it one bit.

I bought groceries for the week, which also made me plan ahead. I bought a box of cereal to last me 4 breakfasts this week (we get free breakfast at work every Friday), I bought a carton of eggs, coffee creamer and a rice side. I made thai food to bring for my lunches this week and will be resourceful with what I have in my cabinets for my dinners. With all that, I still have $3 left over, just in case a little something comes up.

I think I've finally realized the theory of "when the money is gone, it's gone" and it has become somewhat of a fun challenge for me. How far can I stretch this money? How much can I do with it and still have some left over when the next payday rolls around? Knowing that retaining money is for such a good cause and that there can be some really great benefits if I keep at it is all the motivation I need.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.-- Alan Lakein

1 comment:

  1. I recently decided to start using what we had int he cupboard before I buy more cupboard food. It's crazy how long I have been able to go without buying dry goods! I love it. Also, my step dad has an apple tree and I recently went over and got a santa sized bag of apples. I made a cheap apple pie and took two for work every day to have as a snack when I get hungry. I have been using coupons on only things that I normally buy but I love it. Here in UT, they give you 5 cents per reusable bag you bring when you go grocery shopping. Just a few little things that I know add up in the long run =)