On a Binge

I know yesterday’s post was largely upbeat (yay for paying down debt, building up savings, and having a positive net worth!) but I have to admit, I haven’t been doing so well this month. I really enjoyed my day in San Francisco and while I went slightly over my budget for the day, I figured it was no big deal. Except, once I started to spend, it was really hard to stop. I haven’t done anything too crazy, but there’s been lots of buying snacks while away from home even though I had trail mix, picking up take out when I had food I could eat, buying fancy ingredients I don’t need, and driving when biking could do just fine. Basically, I blew my savings for the month.

I like to compare the various parts of my life to balls I’m juggling: research, studying, housework, cooking, taking care of my dog, working on the farm, cleaning houses, babysitting, and keeping a balanced budget, not to mention family, friends, church, and, oh yeah, time to myself. Usually I can keep them all in the air and occasionally even pull off a stunt, but once I drop one of those balls, it’s really hard to pick it back up and get back into rhythm. This month, that ball happened to be my budget.

The fact is, I could put less emphasis on savings and paying off debt and have a lot more flexibility for going out or shopping. Heck, a lot people tell me that they went way into credit card debt during grad school on top of student loans. But I don’t want that to be me. I want to prove that you can be a student, pay down debt and put away money into savings. More importantly, I don’t want to finish in 2 to 3 years and be panicked because I don’t have anything to live on while I job hunt, with tons of credit card debt and a student loan. However, at the same time, the thought of several more years of an incredibly pinched life (I spend less on my groceries than food stamp recipients) seems a little bleak.

Any advice from my lovely and wise readers on how to squelch the urge to spend and reconcile myself to such a tight budget?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “On a Binge

  1. I don’t know if it will work for you, but I give myself an allowance. I get $20 in cash each week that is just for fun. The 20 stays in my wallet, and unless I’m on a shopping errand (with a list and a full stomach) I leave my plastic money at home. I also put anything left over into a jar as savings for bigger unbudgeted purchases- like a manicure or a road trip. It helps keep me from feeling deprived and trowing a spending tantrum.
    Try not to beat yourself up if you don’t spend “perfectly.” By the time you’re done with school (with a big chunk of savings, go you!), you won’t miss the money from an occasional small spending spree.

  2. Those are some great ideas. I should take the money I earn from side jobs and use it more towards fun: half for right away, half for later. As it stands, I’m making great progress with just my stipend towards my debt and savings goals. Also, I’m totally going to start leaving my debit card at home unless I have an express purpose for it: that’ll stop the urge to spend just because. Thanks Catherine!

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