Ok, so I stole the title of this particular blog from someone much more eloquent than I (one Kate Spicer) but the sentiment is identical. This has been a fairly recent discovery for me. I mean, I have always exhibited fairly ostrich-like tendencies when it comes to analysing my finances but seeing my failings in black and white in this month’s Red magazine – not to mention the fact that I am not alone in such bad habits – was a revelation.
I am your classic money ‘sloptimist’. Unless a handwritten letter falls onto the mat from my letterbox I am almost always guaranteed not to open it. Each month, sure as a hoop’s round, my bank will send me my statement in an inconspicuous white envelope sans postmark, my address printed as though it’s been meticulously typed on an old fashioned typewriter. Well you’re not fooling me bank, you my friend, go straight to the bottom of the pile. Or, if I am in a particularly menacing mood, the shredder.
When I was working I would cross my fingers and click my heels at ATMs toward the end of the month, never checking my balance, tensely waiting to see if the machine would purr with the sound of paper money awaiting its release into my grubby little hands and, rather swiftly, into the tills of nearby businesses. Then there are the purchases on my bank card making it nigh impossible to monitor my impulse spending. Receipts banished to the bottom of the shopping bag and forgotten about until the feel good factor of shopping has subsided. Online shopping is perhaps the biggest danger of all – it doesn’t even feel like spending!
However, the comedown is nothing short of terrifying. Lying awake in bed at night wondering where my hard earned wages have disappeared to. Out with friends, paying for drinks I can’t really afford knowing full well I am precariously balancing between the black and the red of my account but resigning myself to worry about it later. According to the 10 point check list at the end of the Spicer’s article it would seem my situation may resonate with more than just me.
Now that my work situation has changed I need to wise up – reign my horns it as my mother would say – and stop spending. I’ve a big year ahead. I’m moving to the big smoke – job or no job – and next year my mum celebrates a special birthday so I’ve decided to take her on the trip of a lifetime to mark the occasion and that requires a significant amount of saving. I sat down with a strong cup of coffee and tackled my online banking.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do. The paper statements are easy to ignore. They come separately but online the figures of every one of my accounts are right in front of me, in bold font, impossible to ignore. I was a bit shocked at how my savings had begun to drip drip away since I stopped working. If I am truly honest I’m not really surprised as each unnecessary spend has made me wince a little and the stomach knots described in Spicer’s article are very familiar. I ploughed on and analysed every one of my accounts and set up sub-accounts for things like car insurance, mum’s birthday, holidays etc.
Next up, my Next directory account. Checking to see if my payments were up to date I went over my recent purchases. Did I need all those shoes? Hmm, what do you think? They were a bit too tight anyway so back to the shop they went. My pièce de resistance? An Excel spreadsheet detailing my every spend, monitoring each of my accounts on a month by month basis (it’s only day one and I’m in the enthusiastic phase, ok? 😉 )
I can’t promise I won’t slip up but I’m going to give this money management malarkey a go for the next month. You never know, it might become second nature after a bit of practice. Fingers crossed!