Earlier this month, I started rethinking how I spend my money. I wish I could say that I had spontaneously become enlightened about my spending habits and chose to take a more responsible path. The truth is, though, that my paycheck was almost $1000 less than it normally is. So, I had to take a hard look at where and how I spend my money. I had to make my lifestyle work within the existing boundaries of my bank account.
You might think that a single, well-educated mom in her thirties would have no problem making the adjustment because surely she already has some money saved up, right? Wrong! I have a tendency to spend what I have available. I am horrible about spending money. I have gotten better over the years, but not by much. I am still living paycheck to paycheck because of my spending habits. Most months I am lucky if there is anything left in my account the night before my next paycheck hits the bank.
Now, enter my 21 day Oola for Women Challenge. Here we are, day 2, and the challenge is to learn something new about money. Like many well-educated but impulsive people, I thought to myself, “What new thing do I really need to learn about money? I already know how to make a budget. I make it to the end of the month. I haven’t had to have a loan in years. I can do this.” I was definitely tempted to cheat this one and write about the new budget tracker I started using, but that really isn’t at the heart of what the challenge is all about.
This challenge, and this journey, is about self-discovery, and part of that is admitting 1.) there are things I don’t know and 2.) the paradigm shift that I am seeking for myself also involves how I think about and view money. So, I set about finding videos that might teach me something about myself as well as my finances.
Here is what I learned today. Some of it I had heard before, but it didn’t really sink in until today. Some of it was eye-opening:
- Barter systems still exist: Our economy is essentially a barter system. I will give of my time and talents in exchange for credits which I will in turn exchange for goods and services that I want or need. While traditional barter systems generally rely on trading my goods or services for someone else’s goods or services, the idea is still the same with the added step of having a standard system middle man to define the parameters of the exchange.
- Everyone collects something: I collect many things, but books, dance time, and favorite restaurants are probably my biggest items. I spend a ridiculous amount of time and money on books that I will read “someday”. One year, I spent $1000 dollars just on books. Now, I might have said they were for my classroom, but the truth is, I just liked to get books, and I love the smell of new books and the sound the spine makes when you open it for the first time. I also collect dance time. I collect lessons and practice time in the studio. I collect dance conventions and airline points for attending the conventions. Each convention will cost approximately $1000 for the weekend. This includes the cost of admission, the cost of any competitions, the hotel room (usually split between 4 people), the roundtrip airfare, any ride-sharing I needed, and food while I am there. Considering that I have attended as many as six conventions in a year, that equals out to about $6000 a year spent on dance. Finally, I collect restaurants. I enjoy trying new places and visiting old favorites. Because I don’t like to cook and often don’t have the time, I will choose to go to a restaurant. The problem with a restaurant collection is that I don’t even have pictures, points, or loyalty cards to show for it.
- That sale is not really saving: I’m a sucker for a sale. I’m also impulsive. Not the best combination let me tell you. Just because it looks like sugar doesn’t mean that it is. My favorite bath fragrance store is constantly having a “75% off” sale. Sounds great, right? Not really, you see in order to “benefit” from the 75% off, I still have to buy 25% or buy 2 to get one or buy 3 to get to 2. Do you see what I mean? I have to spend the money in order to “save” the money. However, if I shift my thinking and don’t buy anything, then I have saved 100% of the price of that item that I wanted so badly. The key word, wanted. It wasn’t something I needed to survive, and it wasn’t something I was going to buy anyway, so making the purchase of that wanted sale item isn’t saving. It’s spending money I could be saving.
- The true price isn’t what you think: We as a society have been conditioned to place a monetary value on items, goods, and services. However, what I learned today has caused me to rethink the “price” of things. The true price of anything is how much work you had to put toward paying for it. So, for me to attend even one dance convention, I would have to work for at least 40 hours, or one full-time week, to have maybe 3 days of dancing. Then, I started thinking about how much other items and service cost me in terms of work time. My car, just the car not the gas or the insurance or the maintenance, costs one full work day and one hour every month. To go to the doctor, just to walk in the door, costs me two and a half hours of work to pay for it. Now that I have started shifting my mindset to view the true cost of things in terms of my time, I have started thinking more about what is worth my time and what isn’t.
I’m going to take the rest of the month to really see where my time and money go and adjusting accordingly. I have already started eliminating goods and services I can do without. I am also going to be looking for other ways to truly save money and time.
Do you have any thoughts or tips for me? Leave them in the comments below. This is a family-friendly site, so please be kind to each other. Want to know the videos I watched? They are linked below.