Working to Keep All my Clothes On

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I am no stranger to the whole process of budgeting. I have a solid 2 years under my belt of documenting every penny spent and, though I sucked at digging my family completely out of debt for the 20 years of my marriage, I was amazing at doing what it took to stay within our paychecks on a monthly basis and keep our credit scores around 800. But times are a changing and I'm no longer living in the "Every Dollar" or "Mint" realm... I've ventured into "You Need a Budget" (aka YNAB) territory.  To those of you not familiar with the subculture of budgeting that is YNAB, this is one of those applications that has a cult following.  As with most cults, whether real or follower-proclaimed, this one has quite the learning curve and throws a wrench into the life I had been happily, somewhat passively living.  Throw in my recent obsession with insisting that I hit my $6000 annual Roth IRA contribution limit and deciding to increase my contributions to my 403b (non-profit cousin of 401k) and you have a perfect storm of cult-worthy budgeting with a side of app obsession syndrome.
Let me explain: whereas budgeting apps like Every Dollar and Mint are all about documenting where all of your money goes based on what the money that you are likely to make that month looks like, YNAB takes money that you've already made and has you try to budget out at least a month ahead and if you go over in a category, you need to move money around in real time and reconcile the account. For someone who has always loved numbers, this becomes like a game. Except it's not really a game of numbers like 18 year old me would play in accounting while on exchange in Australia, it's more like a game of strip poker where I really want to keep all my clothes on and, while moving money around within the application is easy enough, I prefer to keep the cash (like my bra) right where it's at! And to keep the silly analogy going, like strip poker, the stakes get higher the longer you play.  In the same way, I feel like the longer I dabble in the world of financial independence, the higher the stakes become and the more strict I want to be while still having lots of fun and fulfillment in my life for myself and my kids. You see, giving each dollar a job to do every month means that no dollar bills are sitting around in my bank account just waiting for that unplanned Amazon purchase or trip to KwikStar for an iced coffee. Yes, I can (and do) account for those, but when I tighten my budget and try to put more in a separate Emergency Savings or into investments, it means I have to be more intentional about what I spend my money on. 


So I heard someone on a podcast recently say that they hadn't checked their investments in about 6 months and that they touch their budget only 1-2 times monthly.  This totally threw me for a loop. I mean, who does this lol... and it took me about 4 seconds to realize that it's probably ME that's the weirdo in this scenario.  Both my budget and my investments are glanced at and often numbers are tweaked and hypothetical situations run through my head and calculator on a daily basis. Yes, I acknowledge that this is weird and even year ago Deb probably would agree with that assessment, but I find that it is empowering and gives me a better sense of control in a life where control is often not something I can dictate. I also find it amazing that I can come up with new solutions to issues within my spending on a random Friday night after weeks of looking at the same spending profile and seeing nothing but the same old impasse.  

No, I am not implying that you should obsess with your finances or that you should let them control you, but I am wanting to share the naked (ha) truth of where I'm at.  To say that I have all of my stuff together is the best joke I've heard all year!  I'm still switching up how I budget. Battening down the hatches on my spending. Increasing my investing while also upping my game on my kids' travel fund and our eating out budget (yes, I'm cautiously optimistic that better days are ahead in our plague-ridden world!). The work life balance is also always a struggle. Yes, side hustles and income coming in from other sources are ideal but that also means more time and energy and a bit more dreaming and working through the logistics in my head, not wanting to show my hand until I've got the details all worked out.  I've got a few cards up my sleeve, but for now I'm going to continue to focus on the emergency fund for my family, investing in our future, staying within our monthly budget, and looking forward to our long-overdue Spring Break get away with my kids. They are and will always be my ace in the hole 💛


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