Why? Well .. don’t know really. Mainly to keep my budget on track, and partly because I kinda don’t want “The Man” tracking my spending. So, partly practicality and partly low-grade paranoia.
My plan is to take out as cash a certain amount of money at the beginning of each month. Amount X for food, and amount Y for “pocket money”. These amounts are split into 4 (or 5) depending the how many weeks are in the month, and I top-up my wallet each Friday.
For a while, I kept my bank cards in my wallet too, but the problem with this was that if my weekly money ran out, I’d just use the credit card or bank card to to get my through, which kinda defeats the purpose. So, I took all my cards from my wallet.
To be honest, it’s both scary looking into my wallet and just seeing a few bits of paper and a few coins. At the same time, it’s also really quite freeing. If there is no cash, then there is no cash. I know that when Friday comes I can top-up the wallet again, and normally that’s only a few days away, so why worry?
# A couple of weeks later
Well, it’s been ok. The wallet is a lot less bulky and being able to see how much I have, really makes me think, “Do I really need all these potatoes?”, “Do I really want another beer?”. I need to be present in the moment. Even though peer pressure doesn’t really affect me so much anymore, it’s very easy to have “just one more”, and pay for it with “plastic”, not really thinking about if I am gonna go over budget because of this.
Recently, just after I started this exercise, a friend from work had a leaving party at a club in town. I took a deep breath, and headed out, Just the paper money which would have to last me the week, and a travel card. No back-up plastic. Just me and a little bit of paper. This was great. I realised that I didn’t have to worry about drinking too much. I didn’t have to worry about any extra sudden costs. If I wanted a burger afterwards, I would have to think about how I spent money before hand. This also made me check my motivation for going. Am I going to see off my mate, or am I going just for the beer.
# And a month later ..
Made it. The car’s yearly check screwed things up, but other that that, I came in pretty much on budget. I actually feel quite pleased about that,
I also learned something surprising.
It’s about boundaries again.
Making the budget, figuring out the numbers, that’s the easy bit. Making it actually work is another thing. Not only did I have to exercise self-control a little against my own whims, but also I needed to stick to my guns when faced with pressures from other people. That’s the hardest bit. To have to say, “No, I can’t afford that right now. I’m sorry.”.
But, even though there were times I had to say, “I can’t afford that right now.”, precisely because of that, there were moments when I could say later on “Yes, I can help with that.”.
I’ve also seen that my quality of life doesn’t depend on spending money, Because from living without plastic in my wallet, I have seen that carrying only a limited amount of money with me, made me more mindful of what I can, and what I want, to use that money for.
Cutting up the credit card didn’t actually hurt that much. I freed myself from it in two steps. The first was simply to remove it from my wallet, and leave in a safe space for a several weeks. I knew that if I needed it, it would be available, yet at the same time it wasn’t in easy reach.
When I saw that I had managed without it, it felt quite safe to cut it up. I am still paying if off, so the account is still active, but at least I can relax a little, knowing that the debt is decreasing over time.
So .. on to the next month. The first few weeks were daunting, then I got to feel that maybe it would work. Now I know that it will work. Something my Grandma once said,
”Many a mikkle, maks a mokkle.”
I’ve no idea what dialect that was from, but basically means, “Make a little, makes a lot.”. Small steps, small choices, all add up to making something bigger.
And that’s what I’ve been doing. By making small changes in how I handle my money, I hope to see that I can make my budget work.