A year ago, we moved our savings finish line out by 60% more assets. Maybe a little one-more-year-ism. Also, the goal was to build in some margin, account for a more pessimistic view of personal risks, and take advantage of a good position during a strong real estate cycle.
For me – who felt the race was about over – it was quite the kick in the balls.
After the decision, I was exhausted with personal finance. I stopped blogging, for the most part. I stopped paying attention to expenses.
I haven’t even really looked at where we came out for 2016. We definitely spent more than needed. I just didn’t care. I was somewhat frustrated with my wife’s point of view. But more so I was just tired of the effort – unprepared mentally for this additional distance to the goal.
I’ll never be a frugal superhero of the blogosphere (unless I start lying). I don’t care about the details enough. It takes me effort to be even sort of frugal.
For the past year, I’ve let down my guard.
What Did I Buy?
I bought a truck. Brand new. (I have to admit – the truck is awesome.)
I hired help to fix up our house. And the fix-its at the house were needed deferred maintenance that I wasn’t getting around to.
I signed up a yard man for weekly upkeep. I’m pretty embarrassed about this. But not embarrassed enough to have fired him and taken it on yet.
We started eating out more, and shopping at fancier grocery stores.
Then we added some trendy workout classes, streaming TV subscriptions, yard mosquito treatments. We have planned & taken some semi-fancy vacations. I started thinking about buying other things: an addition to the house, a vacation house, a golf club membership.
An End to Inflation in Sight?
Not without some effort.
What did I notice as I slid into a more expensive lifestyle? How slippery the slope is. Each luxury becomes a convenience then a necessity. Then begets another necessity.
It hasn’t gotten too out of control for us. We still save a good bit of money. But it’s gotten pretty loose. I’m not 100% done with 2016 cash flow checking, but it’s looking like 20-30% more than 2015.
It’s not exactly Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems…sorry Biggie. It’s more like Mo’ Money, Same Problems. Spending more has papered over some headaches/desires for us, but the underlying issues are still there.
Better would be to solve the challenges with creativity rather than dollars. With creativity, you can solve the symptom & the root issue. But really, for this last season, I didn’t have the energy to come up with the creative solutions.
It’s up to me to be passionate and create energy, as Jason Isbell’s song pointed out to me. Without this passion, I’ll float from season to season and be controlled by external factors.
So it’s important to me for this to be only a season, then. Not a new way of life. Because I see that we could easily make these spending patterns habit. Some already are. And they will be hard to break once formed into habit.
If we inflate our lifestyle more, I don’t see that we gain much. But we certainly give something up: I still want to fully control my financial destiny. I’d like to either retire or maybe start a business that’s less than 100% profit-based.
What Next, if Not Same Course?
So I’m to taking the following steps to change our course a bit:
- Relooking at priorities (introspection & writing…I’ve actually written 5 post drafts this month!)
- Understanding where we’ve been financially (yikes)
- Coming up with a few creative solutions to reduce recent spending increases*
- Re-setting a realistic budget
It’s springtime, rolling into summer. Good time to breathe energy into life & long term goals.
*In looking for pictures for this post, I found out that a fun science experiment for kids is blowing up a balloon with vinegar and baking soda. So looks like #1 on the list led to #3 – a cheap creative activity for a rainy day! #winning