As I was torturing myself (in a good way) through Pilates class this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking “Why am I so tired today? Why can’t payday be tomorrow? Why did two separate debit cards on two separate accounts get declined at the gas station when there is money available in both? Why, even though I’ve lost over 17 total inches in the last 6 weeks, do I still look in the mirror and see a fat girl?”
I started thinking that I can very much liken weight loss to making changes in our financial lives. Money doesn’t grow overnight. Weight loss doesn’t happen in a day. When we make healthy eating choices and exercise, we have to look to the long(er) term–what will my weight be in 2 weeks, how many inches will I lose in 2 weeks? When we make changes in our budgets, we have to understand that even when we decrease our spending in certain areas exactly the way we’d planned, it doesn’t mean we’re going to suddenly have hundreds of dollars left over in the account.
In our family, this month ended the season of Lent. I gave up weighing myself because I was becoming obsessed. I took my measurements at the beginning, halfway through, and then at the end. Total of 17 1/8″ lost. And yet, when I eat something I “shouldn’t” or I have an off day (or two or three) I can’t stop beating myself up about it.
Let me parallel this to money. First, obsession with money leads us to no good. So, we take a measurement of where we are, determine where we want to be, and set a goal to get us there. In weight loss, that’s working out and eating better. In money, that’s decreasing expenses and/or increasing income (more commonly the former). In the month of April, my family made great strides in terms of spending less on groceries and gas (our two biggest “oops” areas). We didn’t transfer as much out of savings to eat out as we have in recent months past. We have more money left in the “gas and grocery” account at this point in the month than we have the last three months. That is AWESOME! However, I keep looking at the other accounts thinking, “Oh me, oh my! This is screwed up, that is screwed up, why don’t I have more money left?!” I’m ahead of the game. (Just like with the inches lost (even after a burger and fries 2x last week and a potluck on Saturday…I’m still at a net loss of weight and inches!!!!)) I have more money left at the end of this month than I did the month before, but I’m still bitchin’ and moanin’ about what I did wrong, rather than focusing on what I did RIGHT.
Here’s the thing–if you focus on what isn’t where you want it to be, you’re never going to make progress going forward. Glass half full or half empty? By in large, I’m a glass half full kind of girl. When it comes to weight loss and money, though, I want to have my cake and eat it too…literally as well as figuratively! 😉
What I NEED to do is look at what was done right and REMEMBER: LIFE HAPPENS EVERY DAY! That means that I don’t need to get upset for money being taken out of the general savings account when I had to buy heartworm medicine for the dog. Money out of checking for Easter eggs, candy and a date with my husband. Life happens. Dogs need preventative medicine, I needed candy…ahem…sorry, the kids had an Easter celebration…we NEEDED some alone time. I have savings set aside (or monies allocated monthly) for just these events…it’s okay to use it. Yet I keep thinking about “Oh, well, if I hadn’t spent this, or hadn’t spent that…” I am tired of second-guessing myself.
What I need to focus on is that I have money in savings for upcoming expenses, I am working to rebuild my emergency savings account, I am putting extra towards paying off the credit card (again)–though this go through a balance should only be there for 3 months or less!! I have a 6 week financial counseling assignment coming up. With those paychecks I can pay off said credit card, put money in the emergency savings, and put money aside for school expenses in the fall. I have a plan. I just have less control–over LIFE–than I’d like.
I have to eat to live. I have to spend money to eat, to keep a roof over our heads, to pay the utilities, and keep clothes on our backs. I need new clothes, but I’ve spent less this month–even after the weight loss–because I know that I have a little farther to go and I can use the money then for the “final” wardrobe. I have to make choices and realize that I need to make the best choice that I can at the time, but I can’t change the past.
Small changes, consistently positive changes, make the difference in the long run. There will be good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks, good months, bad months. Creating a savings habit helps us out in those bad, or not so great situations, and allows us to grow individually and as families as we make financial decisions together. I’m going to focus on the small positive changes and focus on making more of those in the next few weeks and watch my balance of happiness…and likely money…increase.