Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pinching Pennies

When I was 19, I made the decision to live with a boyfriend. It was both good and bad. On the one hand, my parents made it clear that if that was my decision, my daily expenses were all my responsibility. Food, gas, rent, bills, etc. I was to be self-sufficient. (They still paid for my car insurance, cell phone and school, so they didn’t totally cut me off, but it was a pretty big change for a 19-year old.)

The reason this was good was because I had to learn to pay my bills. I had to learn to scrimp and save and find that extra twenty dollars and spend less than $40 a month on groceries for two people. And I did. And I made sure we were rarely late with rent. We paid our bills before we got the cut-off notice (but we often still got the cut-off notice). For six months, I kept us afloat on a full-time salary from Wal-Mart and a part-time salary at Hot Topic. It was hard, but I did it.

Since then, my skills at budgeting have gone all but dead. Greg and I are lucky enough to own our cars outright. We both have jobs that pay us pretty well for being just out of college. Our rent is actually savings, since we’re living in a house Greg’s father owns until we get our own place. We don’t have any school loans, credit card debt or other monthly expenditures that drag us down. Thus, we don’t do a lot of careful planning when we grocery shop. We buy Wii games on a whim. Hell, Greg bought a computer online the other day without so much as a batted eye. (He did think about it carefully, but the cost wasn’t an issue, is what I’m saying.)

I’ve always been a bit of a saver. I think carefully about things before I buy them. And my rule for anything over $50 is that I have to think about it for a while before I can go buy it. Like Wii Fit. I’ve wanted it since before Christmas. I kept wanting it. I knew I would use it. And I have. I don’t buy clothes unless the sales are fairly exciting. I only go looking for shoes when I find a real gap in my shoe collection. (And with more than 50 pairs of shoes, it’s hard to find justifiable gaps.)

But, as we move closer to buying a house, and I move toward a job in a library which will – almost certainly – pay less than my current job, it’s time to reawaken that Budgeting Betty inside of me.
Picture from here.

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