Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We, the FID (Family in Debt), are being crushed by the OFID (Other Family in Debt). As indicated in a previous post*, our FID and the OFID decided to try to spend money only on necessities (loosely defined) this month.

When the matriarch of the OFID called yesterday to guiltily confess that they had gone out to breakfast (gasp!), it became clear to me that our FID is failing miserably in comparison. The husband from the OFID, apparently, has not even been buying BEER! Whaa?

I, on the other hand, have purchased electric toothbrushes for the kids, new cups for the kids, and I bought a potted plant this weekend. We bought pumpkins. I'm sure I also bought some unnecessary groceries since I haven't quite figured out the difference between necessary food and luxurious food. And my husband spent last weekend partying in the city with his Rocky Mountain buddies buying who knows how much food and booze. And he bought something he's apparently ALWAYS wanted because he found the chance to get it at cost. That item? A helmet-cam that also works underwater--good for kayaking, dirt biking, motorcycles, whatever.

(We've got some great underwater footage of the kids acting out shark attacks in the tub. If I figure out how to do it, I can post it for you.) And I have had to spend at least $300 on the dog. The dog.

And next week I turn 40. And I think we'll go out on a date this weekend and spend some money on dinner and maybe a movie. And I want a present. Luxury? It's my 40th birthday, and I can just hear Suze Orman telling me to get real and honest and that if I want to truly be a grown up, I should celebrate my 40th birthday at home eating Ramen noodles watching a DVD I rented from the library. Like THAT'S going to happen.

So I think we'll have to have a "do over" next month. But, of course, next month I travel to PhD City in the U.K., which will NOT be cheap. At all. And I'll be lonely, so I'll want to spend money eating in nice restaurants rather than dank holes in the wall. I have a particular charcuterie in mind. I could eat there every day. Jars and jars of olives in the windows. Cheeses in open on the shelves, and a great in-house casual dining. Ah. Heaven. But, yes, a luxury.

But there are also things I have not been buying. I canceled my gym membership (finally). I've downloaded free yoga that I really like. I have avoided the local bakery. I have only been to my local coffee shop once (today). We have hardly eaten (or ordered) out at all. I clipped coupons and used them last weekend. I studied the grocery store sales for the week and went to two different stores in order to get the items I needed on sale (they are very close to each other, so I didn't have to use extra gas).

The upshot? I'm still in the red for the month. But the good news is that I've become much more aware of the various ways in which the money slips through my fingers. Now, the trick is to get a list of all of my husband's expenditures for the month, put them together with mine, get him on the same page with me, and try again. I'm sure we'll be sufficiently shamed and scolded when we compare notes with the OFID.

I welcome all tips for reducing my spending and increasing my (and my husband's) discipline.

*Can someone PLEASE tell me how to insert links to previous posts and how to label posts for hotlink archives? I have not been able to figure out how to implement these features.


Amstr said...

Oh, I so wish there were an easy answer for how to be disciplined and not spend money! Never leaving the house and cutting off the internet? :) I'm in a spending-and-not-keeping-track rut right now, which always means I spend too much. Ugh. (Target is my downfall. I've been three times in the last week and spent $$$ each time, and once I just went to return something. Sheesh.) Anyway--we figured out that our best financial time was a trip to the UK. We were on our 50 pound a day budget and logged everything as we spent it in our little notebook; since we were always together, we both always knew how much money we had left for the day. Back home, years later, we still find that we're most successful at staying within our means if we're keeping track every day (which we certainly don't do consistently, and when we do, I have to ask T for his report every day). So I have no idea of the every day thing is universal, but I imagine everyone has different times that were their 'most successful' moments.

The other dimension that we struggle with is that the husband and I think very differently about money--I'm more a keep track of every last cent person, and he's the kind who just compares balances on the bank website to get an impression of whether he's spending too much or has some saved for a large purchase. We've come up with a system that hobbles along, but it's certainly far from perfect.

Btw--Happy birthday weekend!

Louise said...

Something "amstr" hit on was logging how much you spend every day. Dieters do this too to see exactly how much food is consumed and the reality can be mind boggling. The Husband should do this too and then you both line it up with all of your monthly outlays. I did this when unemployed so I knew exactly how much must go out the door every month and then reviewed what was left over and averaged it out by week/day. I knew I could last "x" months at the current rate outlay, but increase "x" by canceling cable, coupon clipping, shopping at Aldi, etc. The helmet is an absolute luxury that you should stay away from, regardless of the cost. You might get with The Husband and agree to not spend more than "x" dollars on any single purchase without you both agreeing to it's absolute need/luxury label. However, knowing you and The Husband, such rationality doesn't always come easy, right?
Plan now on how much money to cap for Xmas, and share that with the family with no ifs, ands or buts. It appears you both crave time as a commodity - how about offering that as gifts to one another in the form of "Honey-Do" coupon books that can be cashed in throughout the year? Your kids seem to be quite rational in their thinking (GO Critical Thinking Mommy!) so explaining what you are doing (LOVE the family competition aspect) with them and see where they can apply their thinking to their wants versus needs. I think involving them is a great way for them to learn about the value of a dollar. I know a family who has three coin jars that they fill with found change: one is a vacation fund, one is for charity and one is for the kids to share equally. The child who has the change gets to decide where the coins go. Mom told me that the charity jar fills up first every time. How cool is that?
I do believe that a birthday celebration is in order though. A nice dinner and a movie are certainly on the agenda! I hope it's a grand one!