Friday, January 21, 2011

making plans

Sometimes planning is easy and fun.  Kathy and I both need to go to our "yearly" appointment with the woman-doctor (I put yearly in quotes because it has definitely been more than a year since either of us has gone) but we don't know where to go out in Westchester.  In our researching, we tried to pick a place that seems like it might also be good for the baby-having portion of our lives, even though that is in the future.  (Yes, more babies.  For a total of five children.)  That is the fun kind of planning.  Hooray, more babies someday!

Last night, though, Kathy and I started writing down what we had actually spent on the budget.  We are both over our "discretionary" amount by a percentage which is shocking and embarrassing to admit.  So I am not going to.  But suffice it to say, it was a lot.  In a moment of frustration, Kathy was all "WHY DO WE HAVE TO TRY TO SAVE SO MUCH MONEY?  I DON'T WANT TO HAVE A MISERABLE LIFE," which is how she feels if someone tries to take away her morning-commute coffee.  Because I also don't want to have a miserable life, I also do not want anyone (or any budget) to take away Kathy's morning-commute coffee.  Or my own, for that matter.


But, the sad truth is, in order for me to quit my job and do something else, we need to save money.  Which means bringing our lunch to work, staying in for dinner, and sometimes (just sometimes) making the coffee at home.  It means being lunatics about turning off lights, and it means putting that horrible plastic stuff on our windows in the winter.  It means a fan instead of air-conditioning in the summer.  It means spending our free time fixing the broken bathroom doorknob ourselves instead of calling a handyman and having it magically done when we get home from work.  All of which is boring and sometimes hard and uncomfortable.  Especially if the pay-off is intangible and seems remote (like quitting someday and doing some other, yet undecided thing, that hopefully will be incrementally better than what I'm doing now). 

It sounds exciting to make the plan to change something about yourself or your situation. But when it comes down to it, most changes are boring, hard, and uncomfortable. That is why people don't do them. And then the failure is so disappointing, and it's easy to get frustrated with yourself for not being able to change. When really, you can't expect yourself to just change overnight. It takes many failures and many small successes over time to add up to a changed behavior or situation.

So we've chilled out a little on the beating ourselves up about the budget.  Because the thing is, before we can realistically say what we can cut from our spending, we have to see where the money is going in the first place.  It turns out that a lot of it goes to restaurants, for example.  But rather than just tell ourselves "no more restaurant dinners" or even "only one restaurant dinner per week" we have to assess how much value we get from those dinners out.  I think date night dinners out are totally worth it.  But maybe not so much the "I'm to lazy to cook" dinners out (not that there are many of those, frankly). 

Anyhow.  January and February are going to be all about the tracking, so we can try to figure out where the heck all that money goes.  Then we can revisit the budget and start putting some constraints on it.  Which means our morning-commute coffee is safe, for the time being.  I am sure our co-workers will appreciate that.

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