One of the tough (but also kind of awesome) things about personal finance is that there is really no “end point.” Yes, there’s an end to debt, but then you have to focus on saving and investing. And there’s definitely no end point when it comes to saving and investing – you can always be doing more. Again, I find that both exciting and intimidating. I’m going to try to embrace the “exciting” side of this reality and set some lofty goals for myself in the new year – so stay tuned!
But back to end points. One end point that I’m still waiting for is the day that I can consider myself a recovered spendaholic, as opposed to a recovering spendaholic. There are times when I think the day has come, but then I quickly realize that I’m not there yet. In fact, I think I still have a sort of unhealthy relationship with money overall. I’m working on it, but I’m definitely still a work-in-progress, not a success story yet. Here’s how I know:
1. I still breathe a huge sigh of relief when I pay my off credit card bill every month
Even though I track my spending very carefully every month – so I know that I can pay off everything I charge – I still feel overwhelming relief when I actually pay the total balance on my credit card every month. Again, I know I’m going to be able to, but I still have very visceral memories of the anxiety I used to face back in the bad old days when every month my indebtedness would grow and grow. So I still start to get a little nervous at the end of my billing cycle when I see a a big-ish balance (I charge everything) because all those memories come rushing back. Maybe someday that won’t happen anymore – I hope that someday that won’t happen anymore. But that day isn’t today.
2. I still balance my checkbook
I mean, who the fuck balances her checkbook anymore? Well, me. I still don’t trust the interwebs to give me up-to-the minute information about my checking account balance so I still prefer to keep my own records. Also, I don’t keep a big buffer in my checking account, so if I forget about a random check that I wrote, I could overdraft. At least, these are the things I tell myself to rationalize this obsessive behavior. Realistically, I could probably get by without balancing my checkbook. But I still feel the need to keep an iron grip on my finances, which is a sure sign that I harbor fears about slipping back into my spendaholic ways. Let’s put it this way: the day I ditch the checkbook will be a big day.
3. I get extremely stressed out and/or guilty about large purchases
After clamping down hard on my spending a few years ago, I pretty much relegated large purchases, like vacations, new furniture, etc. to “sometime in the future when I’m financially stable.” Well, I’m in a position now that I could pretty easily save up for a European jaunt or a new couch. But I just can’t. Whenever I try to pull the trigger on a large purchase, I start to feel too guilty and stressed about it…which indicates that I still just don’t have a healthy relationship with my money. I still don’t quite see it as a tool to help me live the life I want, but something that has to be managed strictly and without any lightness of spirit. It’s like, I’m afraid that if I start having fun with my money I’ll start having too much fun and not be able to stay on-track. Which brings me to my last point:
4. I hold on to a lot of money “rules”
All coffee must be made at home, never purchased. Shop your closet, don’t buy new. Never pay for convenience. These are the money “rules” that are frequently bandied about the PF community, and I’ve bought into a lot of them over the years. Trouble is, I haven’t easily been able to let them go. Of course, I intellectually know that it’s fine to stop and buy a coffee on my way to work from time to time. But again, I think I fear that if I start playing fast and loose with my spending, I won’t be able to control myself. I’m still terrified of letting my inner spendaholic out, even a little bit. If I give her an inch, she might take a mile!
So there you have it: I’m a spendaholic still in recovery. But what about you? Are you a natural spender, trying to mend your ways (like me!) or were you lucky enough to be born a natural saver? This topic fascinates me, so share! And enjoy your weekend 🙂