Neil and I made it through January, the first of 12 months in which we’re aiming to eat, drink and be merry on $1000/month in order to be free of our consumer debt by the end of 2009.
So, how’d we do?
Biggest Win: Sticking awfully close to our goal this month, which is MUCH closer than we’ve come, ever, to sticking to a budget & plan. I see this as a win, though Neil’s not so convinced. He’s still frustrated by our…
Biggest Fail: Receiving our un-budgeted-for property tax bill. Part of the perils of becoming a first-time taxpayer in a city in a new development – you never really know when these things will arrive and how much they will be when they do. I mean, we had some idea, but still weren’t adequately prepared for it.
Between this and clearing the last of the Christmas expenses off the Visa (Vendors who take THREE WEEKS to post charges? Seriously – take my damn money already and quit messing with my accounting.) we are basically in the same place we were when the year started, with the addition of a bit of money in our savings account. Whether those savings should really be there or be used to pay off debts, from an accounting perspective, is probably debatable. But it makes me feel better to have a little something socked away, so there it will stay, and we’ll keep plugging away on the rest of the plan in the meantime.
And now, the numbers:
Debt paid down for January: $2161.12
Amount left to go: $20,480
Discretionary spending for the month: $1040. That last $40 was a bit unexpected, and we actually spent it on the last days of the month and borrowed it from February. We’d ended up very near our favourite bulk food store in Richmond, and borrowing from February meant we would save ourselves the cost of a car trip in a few weeks.
Lessons Learned: The first half of the month seemed to go really smoothly, since we took out our $500 and cruised through, spending it by the 15th. The problem arose when we realized we had more expenses in the last half of the month than we’d initially thought, and we struggled to get through, especially the last week. We dove into our already established change jar for $10 for milk & eggs, and were grateful many times over for our well-stocked pantry and freezer. For February, we’ve tried to plan our $1000 with a whole-month view to allocate our funds better.
Another lesson happened as Neil and I were discussing how we felt about the month and how we did. I’ve already said I feel pretty good. Yes, we had an unexpected expense, but I think it’s more important that we paid off more than the amount of debt we’d planned on this month, and lived very close to our monthly spending goal.
This just goes to show that, as much as our goals are aligned for what we want to achieve regarding to money, Neil and I think of it in very different ways. Like most couples, it’s the number one thing we argue about – and it really comes down to wanting to achieve the same thing, but in the way that makes sense to us.
I am the spender in the relationship. I enjoy acquiring new things. They don’t have to be big or expensive – but having the luxury of buying a new lipstick or item of clothing when I want it, or even a small bouquet of flowers to have on the table, is important to me. This month was a big one in terms of learning to be happy with the trade-offs I’m making in order to stay on budget. The net result is that I acquired less and was happier with the things I did buy. That’s a big win for me.
Neil, however, is the saver. But his compulsive need to be debt free often ends up costing us more money, as evidenced by the number of cheques we bounce because he’s taken every penny in the account and transferred it to our line of credit, forgetting about pre-authorized payments still to come out. So for him, the unexpected tax bill has seriously harshed his buzz, because it’s yet another in a long string of months where an unexpected debit has come up and set us back again.
I’m just trying to stick to the plan and be optimistic that for February, we really have though of everything, and will remain able to stick with the plan and start making some real progress on this debt paydown.
(I’m re-reading this and it sounds very much like Neil is the realist, and I’m a bit of a delusional Pollyanna – what good is it to stick to a plan that doesn’t actually result in progress? I don’t know how to answer that, other than I need to feel like I made some progress, or I’m going to give up very quickly – anyone have any suggestions for me?)
How about you? Are you a spender or a saver, and what do you think about our progress so far?