Back on Track

Posted August 20th, 2012 by Claire S

Where does the time go? Here we are well over half way through August already! Our 18 year old is now home after six weeks on his army-style camp. He had his graduation a few weeks ago and it was one of the proudest moments of my life! He was lined up with his platoon, looking quite the soldier - straight posture, short hair, focused and fit! He's achieved more than he ever thought possible - a 50km tramp (6km through mud!) carrying 20kg backpacks and heavy logs, public speaking (a big achievement for him!), a first aid certificate and so much more. But he could never have done it unless he was in the right environment surrounded by like-minded people and a supportive team of experienced staff who knew how to help him realise his potential. He is now a different person - he has confidence and motivation, and what teen couldn't use a good dose of both right? He's now looking for a part-time job until the next army intake later this year.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, we're recovering from the July that sucked the wallet, bank account and money jar completely dry! Bigger-than-normal bills, birthdays and a reduced income meant we were left seriously out of pocket. I even used up all the credit that I had so diligently paid off the credit card in the months before. It's a sickening feeling isn't it? When you sacrifice for so long to get the debt down, only to rack it up in the blink of an eye!

It's been a case of accepting the hiccups, thinking about how we could have done better, putting some planning in place and then getting back to basics! One of the main goals for this month is to cut out those extra trips to the supermarket and stick to one well-planned trip to the big supermarket once a week. It's already made a difference. I think the supermarket may even be wondering what's happened, they're so used to seeing me every other day just lately!

To help get myself back in control, I updated my neglected budget spreadsheets so I knew exactly where I'm at financially. A few years back I set up a monthly spreadsheet with a column for every single thing we owe money on - the mortgage, credit cards, the tax department, the loan from Mum and so on. I update the total owing to each at the beginning of every month so I can see exactly what our total debt is. It's so satisfying to see the totals come down and to be able to look back over the year and see how far we've come. And it means that towards the end of each month I do my best to pay off a little extra so that I can have the satisfaction of seeing an even lower total when it's time to do the update.

So the monthly spreadsheet tracks the totals of anything that we're paying off. I also have a separate weekly spreadsheet for our automatic payments and direct debits, which is how we pay any regular bills. And finally, I have a 'bill book'. This is a little notebook for miscellaneous bills that crop up now and then - like school trip, the car rego, the vet bill and so on.

On the whole, my spreadsheets and notebook make sure that at any one time, I know exactly how much money I owe and when it is due. They also help encourage us to reduce our debt, and give a sense of reward (ticking off the bills as they're paid, seeing the lower totals). There are always unforeseen hiccups along the way, which are made worse if I get complacent with updating them, but having these systems in place mean that we can always get back in control quickly.

And, like my son who has changed his ways by having like-minded people around him and the help of a great right support team, it really helps to have the support and share experiences of the many wonderful SS members!

Here's a wee quote to leave you with that I'm sure many of us can relate to - I know I certainly can!

Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately and gives you a lift… the hangover comes the day after. - Joyce Brothers

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January 2013