Bet ya thought I quit, huh? Nope, not me.

“You’re never a loser until you quit trying.” Mike Ditka

I kinda feel like the Energizer bunny right now with this blog.  Just when I think I’m going to throw in the towel, I come right back beating that silly drum…

So yes, it is now the first week of June and the beginning of the fifth sixth (!) month of my year of austerity, financial re-education, creative frugality, monetary responsibility, yadda,yadda,yadda, and I am finally getting around to writing. Oh well, life happens, at least I’m back, right?

Actually, despite having fallen off the blogging wagon, I have to admit I am pretty damn proud of myself.  I did some number crunching just to get a bigger picture of where I’m at, how far I’ve come, and how much further I have to go yet, and it feels pretty damn good.  While I still have a ways to go, I have made a very good start, and I feel like I have made some good changes in my thinking and habits when it comes to money management.  Of course, there is always room from improvement, and I have a lot to learn.  But for now, I’m going to take a minute to toot my own horn, cuz, well, I earned it, and sometimes you have to take the time to stop and acknowledge what you’re doing well and pat yourself on the back.

So, I made a little list of accomplishments from these past five months.  Here goes-

1-Made all my payments in full and on time every single month.

2-Just made my 4th payment on my U.S. Department of Education student loans…with 5 more to go to remove it from default status.

3-Kept detailed income/expense record for 6 months now, so I know where every single penny is coming from and going to.

4-Have consistently found ways to pinch pennies here and there, including making my lunch to bring to work today.  No more last minute trips to Subway or my favorite and crazy delicious but insanely expensive coffee shop/café for my work day lunches.  No more buying granola or tortillas or bread when homemade is most definitely cheaper, healthier, and most importantly-tastier! (I’m even starting to prefer my own cooking to going out to eat.  I can’t help but finish a restaurant meal and feel unsatisfied, thinking, “…and I paid HOW MUCH for THAT?!”  Don’t get me wrong, I love a great dinner out, but these days I am having too much fun experimenting with food at home, and quite frankly, the area in which I live has a dearth of quality restaurants.)

5-Started a piggy bank with which to painlessly and regularly put a few bucks away for guilt-free spending money.  If I have a buck or two in my pocket after the farmer’s market or I raked in an extra $5 from recycling, I just put it straight in my cute lil’ piggy bank (actually a decorated oatmeal container) and don’t allow myself to touch it.  (Actually, I peeked a few weeks ago, and I had over $50 saved up already!)  This isn’t just any spending money, however.  I plan to use it for specific things, such as a trip home to see family in Wisconsin next month, or a new pair of shoes, etc.  I feel like I’m attempting to reprogram myself to limit impulsive buys and save up for planned expenses.

6-Started setting specific goals to strive toward for each month.  While I have tried to avoid a strict budget, I have decided I need to set some sort of guidelines or limits on my grocery and unnecessary spending.  For example, for June, I am aiming to keep my grocery spending below $400 for the month and my “wants” spending to $70 or less.  I have written these goals on a piece of paper and pinned it to my wall calendar, and keep a regular tally of what I’ve spent already so I have an idea of how much I have left to spend.  After the limit is reached, I’m S.O.L.  I think seeing it so visually every single day will help me keep it in mind more often and help me learn to plan my spending and be less impulsive.  So far I think it’s working.

7- As of today, I am roughly halfway through paying off my old credit card debt.  I have paid off $4915.22 since last fall, with $4931.14 left to go.  At the rate I am paying this off, I should be done by December.  Once that goal is reached, I will shift focus to paying off my student loans.  I am still paying the minimum on those, but since the credit card has the highest interest rate, I decided it was best to knock that one out first and then start paying as much as possible on the rest.  (I no longer have a credit card, by the way.  I cut mine up many years ago when it finally became obvious they were doing more harm than good for me.  Someday when I can trust myself to use one, IF I can get one, I’ll likely use it to help regain a better credit status–by making the occasional purchases with it and paying the full balance EVERY month.  I ain’t stupid, despite what my money predicament may indicate…)

OK, are ya ready for THE BIG ONE?!

8- After five full months of penny pinching, some setbacks and such, and with the help and support of my awesome Mom, I have managed to pay off a total of $4548.71!!!   I am a little behind where I had hoped to be at this point, but I have to say I feel like it’s still a huge improvement over my previous situation, and it is a big morale booster to see the actual numbers and to see progress.

While I have made some great progress, I do feel at times like I am failing.  Logically, I know that isn’t true, but it’s a hard feeling to beat when you’re in it, so I am making a deliberate attempt to focus more on not quitting and just getting back up and starting again every time I fall off the wagon, so to speak.  Cliché or not, the key really is to JUST KEEP GOING.  Just the fact that I am seeing major changes in my approach and attitude toward spending and saving is proof that I am making progress.  It’s just a matter of reminding myself of that.

Whether or not I am hitting every one of my goals on time, I think that something even more important is happening for me that ultimately will contribute to my longer term success.  The first few months of this year, I felt energized and motivated, and then that started to fade a bit, and I was feeling deprived.  But over the last month or so, I have noticed a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction every time I am faced with the temptation to spend and I decide NOT to. Of course I still have my moments, but instead of feeling left out or deprived every time I decline an invite to go out on the town or I avoid the thrift store splurge, I feel proud and energized just thinking about how much closer I am to being debt-free by using the money I would have spent to pay a bit more on my debts.   And, as luck would have it, I happened to find another great blog post from Mr. Money Mustache that speaks to this.  Check it out if you can!

Here’s to another 7 months of progress for me! Cheers.

Oh, since I opened with a Ditka quote, this diehard Cheesehead MUST end with this:

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”   Vince Lombardi.

True dat.

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