Learning to Live Lean

Whenever the new year rolls around, one of my goals is to always pay off those credit cards. It never seems to work out, though. Mostly because I have bad spending habits.

There. I said it. Out loud. Sort of. That’s a horrible admission but one I have to face. I have bad spending habits.

Ouch.

I had a major financial blow last year with the loss of my income. Oh, sure, I filed for unemployment and got that for a few months, but it scared me. I have virtually no savings in the bank. Certainly not enough to sustain the household for any length of time should that happen again. I knew when this year started, I really wanted to change my spending habits and really pay off those bills.

Now, I’m fairly smart about handling money. I have a spreadsheet with the next three months of bills and income mapped out. I use Quicken to track all the money coming in and going on. I have a budget. I pretty much know where every penny is going. My husband isn’t so good at it. He knows this, so that is why I pay all the household bills. But, I tend to get a little…overzealous, shall we say, when it comes to those credit cards. I just can’t NOT use them sometimes. I spend and don’t think about it, honestly. Or I think I’ll pay the bill off next month. Right.

In December, when my clutch went out, I had no cash to pay for it. I had to put it on a major credit card, which then was immediately maxed out. The only lucky thing was I happened to get a Christmas bonus, which came in this month. It wasn’t enough to cover the expense of the new clutch but I was a good girl and put every dime toward that bill. Even though I would have much rather purchased a new Coach bag. 😀 That’s what happens when you’re in Credit Card Hell. And that’s exactly where I am.

Anyway, at the new year, the husband and I decided we would stop eating out so much. We needed to cut back on spending so much money on dining out. Plus we were throwing away a lot of food. That had to stop, too. So far, in the first month of the year, we’ve been doing a lot better. I’ve been cooking more and we’ve been eating all the fruits and fresh veggies we’ve been buying.

The company I work for has this amazing learning center. One day, I get an email that offers Dave Ramsey’s CORE Financial Wellness. I’d heard good things about it, so I immediately signed up. I’ve started the class and it’s been eye opening, to say the least. He forces you to look at your expenses and teaches you baby steps to achieve financial freedom. One of the “homework” assignments was do to a quickie budget. I already knew what my expenses were since I already keep a budget and a spreadsheet. I filled it out. But then I took it one step further and listed every credit card and included the minimum payment and the balance. I was sickened to see I spend over $700 A MONTH (A MONTH!!!) in credit card bills.

I wanted to slash my wrists.

Alas, I recovered from the shock.

After mulling it over for a few days, I knew what I had to do. I had to stop these horrible spending habits (“It’s only $70. I’ll pay it off next month.”), and I had to get rid of ALL the credit cards. Here’s what I tell myself:

  1. Credit Cards are EVIL.
  2. You don’t need them to get what you want/need. All you need is cash.
  3. Have I mentioned they’re EVIL?

I have TEN accounts that have some sort of balance. That is ridiculous. I gathered them all up, put them in an envelope and put them in a place that’s not easily accessible.

Then I went through and updated each balance for the end of the month. I put them in order from lowest to highest, felt sick at the amount I owed, and started my Pay-Off Game Plan. Then I called DirecTV and cut the channels way back. We don’t watch 285 channels, nor do we need them. So I cut everything off and kept just the basic stuff we DO watch (Food Network, HGTV, the sports channels). It will end up saving us about $40 a month. I’m scrutinizing the other living expenses we have to see if we really need them. Right now, I’m eyeballing the home phone. Do I need it? Probably not. It’s another $35 a month I could slash.

So, this is the year of living lean. I have renewed determination. Do I want to pay on those bloodsucking credit card bills for the rest of my life? HELL NO. I want financial freedom. I want that security to know that if I lost my job again, all I would have to worry about is the mortgage and the utilities instead of all those damned credit cards.

I’m sharing this information with you because I believe Dave Ramsey can change my spending life. His course already has in a small way. If you ever get a chance to take his class, DO IT. It gave me the wake up call I really needed. That and I’m turning 40 this year. I certainly don’t want to STILL be paying credit cards in twenty years. Forget that.

By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.