Friday, August 7, 2015

Subtle Changes

I mentioned in my last post that not much has changed financially in the past 8 months. However, the reason I'm back to blogging is because my motivations have changed and I don't want to discount the small steps I've taken so far.

1. I shrunk my wardrobe. And I haven't wanted to replace it. 

My new closet is small. Like really tiny. And I have always had a lot of clothes and always enjoyed buying more. Not a great combination. Eventually it wasn't fun anymore and making simple decisions on what to wear each day were exhausting. Keeping up with laundry, putting away clothes and maintaining a clean room was nearly impossible. And that's not what I want to be spending my time and energy on either. So I noticed a shift in my priorities. While I haven't gone to the extremes of Steve Jobs or Gary Keller who only wear/wore black, I have some simple go-to outfits that I rotate, mix in a few fun/colorful pieces and voila. I really don't need more than that and I don't have the time or money to invest in clothes anymore. Seriously, that's a big deal.

2. I adjusted my eating habits.

Food is another category that I always seem to overspend on. Living in Minneapolis and having a healthy group of friends that love to eat can really add up. The list of delicious restaurants to try is endless and it's so easy to meet up for brunch, dinner and drinks. While that is fun, it usually ends up eating my food budget. On top of that, I have used take-out as an excuse for busy days where I'm working multiple jobs or on stressful days where I'm too tired to cook or I want Chipotle to make me feel better. But it finally occurred to me that I can't do both. Obviously. If I want to join my coworkers for lunch, I can't also go out to dinner. If I plan on doing brunch on the weekend, I should make a cheap dinner at home a few nights that week to balance it out.

I'm currently on a 66-Day challenge to bring my lunch to work so it becomes a habit. And I passed up take-out for egg sandwiches for dinner last night. Thanks to a dog sitting gig, I'm actually coming in way under budget this pay period. Normally I would use that as an excuse to splurge on takeout or blow the money on something else or even transfer it to savings. But I'm realizing that I can just leave the money there to use on a particularly pricey food week. There will be weeks of birthday dinners and special occasion brunches where I'll go over budget and rolling over money will allow for that when necessary. It finally sunk in that I can leave that money there for the future. It won't disappear if I don't use it. Novel concept, I know.

3. On a similar note, I became more patient.

Not only did I realize that my food budget didn't have a 2-week expiration date when the pay period ended, my extra income didn't either. If I earn extra income, it can sit in my bank account until I decided what to do with it. I was always eager to put any extra money towards something the minute it touched my bank account. Understandably, I didn't trust myself to leave money hanging out because I would justify a way to spend it on things I shouldn't. I'm really good at justifying any and everything. However, I started bringing in extra income from several sources and it was hard to tell it where to go. I didn't know if I should save or pay down debt or a combination of both. I didn't have a goal in place or a plan to work towards it. But that wasn't stopping my side hustle.

So I let it sit. And guess what? It's still there. Not only did that help me establish some trust with myself but it has given me some time to really think about a game plan. I can think through my options and eventually put that money towards whatever will help me reach my goals fastest. I have always struggled with patience so it's exciting to see there might actually be hope for me after all!

It's the principle of not accommodating every whim. If I wanted a new outfit or a meal I've been craving, it always trumped logic. I caved every time, even if I didn't have the finances to back it up. But now I have learned to use my justifying skills to my advantage. When my brain starts to dream about how great Chipotle would be or how nice it would be have new shoes, I can justify why I don't need it. I can argue with myself and eventually convince myself that I don't need the immediate reward. Now, that doesn't mean to deprive myself. It just means to really weigh the decision before swiping that card. 90% of the time, it's something I don't really need to get and a more affordable option will be just as good.

These changes seem obvious and minor, but to me they're huge. I work too hard to frivolously spend my money on food and clothes I don't need. I've spent thousands of dollars on excessive food and clothes and it kills me to think of the different financial spot I'd be in now if I had learned to tell myself no earlier. Now I'm singing a new tune...I can't wait to see what the long-term payoff of these changes will make.

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