See that. That’s my spending plan/tracking guide for February. It’s messy, but the end result is something clean (my conscience) and beautiful (my bank balance).
For the first time in more than four years, I didn’t live paycheque to paycheque this past month. With money left over in my bank account, I wasn’t counting down the seconds to pay day. And I didn’t use my credit card* to buy groceries or gas or shoes, because I simply could not live without any one of them. A miracle such as this has not occurred since I bought my condo in 2007.
Some of you are aghast, I’m sure. In response, I’d ask that you cast yourself in a reality TV show where you are a 26-year-old single mother who just graduated from university a few weeks prior to giving birth, who has no maternity leave benefits owed to her and must now start a career, find childcare, a home and a vehicle in one of the most expensive cities in Canada while still trying to retain a white-knuckled grip on her dreams of being a writer and a journalist…aannnnnd GO! Between you and me, let’s see who wins.**
The rest of you know what I’m talking about, so you don’t need casting in fictitious worlds of financial uncertainty. Because you are living the Make Ends Meet Challenge as real as I am.
So what changed?
I read this book: Financial Recovery by Karen McCall.
I’ve read these kinds of things a million times: track your spending, budget for what you need and save a little each month and blah, blah, blah. I tune out here, or put down the book to sooth my anxiety with retail therapy.
Maybe I was finally ready to hear it, but McCall also presents the same old information in a way that caught my attention. For one thing, she’s kind – not abusive or mocking. Because ridicule is exactly what people with money-shame DON’T need.
McCall also gives everything a positive spin. It’s not a budget, it’s a spending plan. It may be immeasurable to most, but to me it’s the difference between restricting your spending and preparing your spending. I planned my spending down to the light bulbs and razor blades in February, and so I felt free when I spent on something. It was all part of The Plan, and therefore served The Greater Good.
Now that I’ve had this wondrous, mythical experience, I want it again, and again, and again. But that’s getting ahead of myself. Because I am in recovery.
I know from watching countless reality TV shows that this means I have to take it one day – or at least one month – at a time.
* In the interest of full disclosure – because I am so done hiding the truth about my financial life – I admit I used my Visa for an extremely large purchase. I needed to register for the spring term in my Master’s program so I wouldn’t miss out on the class before it was full. (Listen to me, justifying my actions.) While I did not make it the entire month without using credit, I did not use my credit to live. If I was truly well (financially speaking), then I would have savings for this sort of thing. I’m working on it. My relationship with money, like any relationship, is a work in progress.
**My money’s on me, because I already played this game. Plus, I’m being careful with my money right now, so I wouldn’t make this bet unless I was 1,000% sure I’d whoop yo’ ass.