Thursday, October 28, 2010

Living Happily on a Shoestring: Confessions of a Savings Sinner

Photo by Nevit Dilmen
by Christine Wilkinson

Ummm…it’s been a few decades since my last confession. I have sinned. My husband and I started our Commando Financial Warfare  in July and I started out zealously. I mean hard-core no spending on anything but absolute essentials. I was like a Spartan warrior! In the last week or two, though, I have found myself on the slippery slope of relapse, which is why I am writing this intervention piece.

I’ll start with the good news: our spending is way, way down. Last month’s grocery bill was well under $600, which means we’re consistently spending less than $150 a week on food.  We have not gone out to dinner (with the exception of my parents 50th wedding anniversary, and hey, that’s just one of those things you’d sell your eye teeth for).  We haven’t gone out on a date since July, meaning we haven’t hired a sitter (with the exception of Back to School night, which is hardly a date). And my husband and I have both found a few tutoring jobs which brings in some extra cash. And, as an aside from the savings quest, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds since July (which I swear is connected to planning meals ahead of time). These are no small feats, so kudos for this news.

Maybe it’s these accomplishments that have me feeling, once again, like I “deserve” rewards. This is dicey territory as this feeling of entitlement is what got me into debt in the first place. Likewise, getting back on track takes serious reconditioning of how one thinks about money. It takes discipline, determination and stick-to-it-iveness. While I admire those traits, they’re nowhere on my list of greatest personal strengths. What I truly “deserve” is to get the monkey of debt off my back. I also need to re-remind myself of the vast difference between Needs and Wants.

So here’s the ugly truth of things: Yes my friends, I’ve been back to Starbucks. About three times.  Three fabulous frappuccinos. And maybe I did buy a hot latte, too. And a few scones. Money down the drain and my pants are feeling snug again. Also, I took my daughter to the mall on a day when she had no school. I somehow found myself in the Disney store. I have never liked the Disney store but they were having a 40 percent off sale and damn if I didn’t almost buy my daughter a Princess and the Frog dress-up gown. I had to talk myself down like a jumper. I did, though, buy a Cinnabon from the food court on my way out of the mall.

A Cinnabon? 

I haven’t had one of those since I was a teenager working at the King of Prussia Mall. It just smelled so good, and I felt like I “deserved” it for not buying the dress up gown. Huh?? Anyway, I only had a bite and then felt sick. My daughter only had one bite as well. We ended up throwing it away. More money down the drain, but even worse, more steadfast resolve...poof and gone!

So even writing this has given me some clarity. Food is my stress outlet. Malls are to be avoided at all cost. Maybe I shouldn’t make Starbucks off limits, but instead limit myself to two trips a month. That said, I need to pull it together as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t going to make things any easier! I need to regroup, form new stratagems, and increase my armory! Any and all words of encouragement welcome.

What I really need to do is to meet this elusive Mr. Will Power and invite him back to my place for a while.


  1. The thing about Will Power is that he's not that into commitment -- he tends to come and go. Good luck getting him to stick around! :-)

    Thanks for the laugh and keep on keepin' on!

  2. Hi! Nicely done on the cutting back with spending, I wish I had half as much will power! I think it's all about setting little goals when getting back on track. Plus, the holidays are coming up, so it's a good time to focus on keeping your eye on the prize ;)

    -- Olivia Z.

  3. What fun would life be without a little sinning involved?!

  4. You THREW AWAY the Cinnabon!!! Pat yourself on the back and start all over again.

    You can do it.

  5. Hate the sin, love the sinner!

  6. $150/wk on food? For how many people? My work/school schedule makes it impossible for me to homecook most of my meals, but back when I did I spent $25/wk at Trader Joes.