Sort yer life out!

Posted February 24th, 2009 by Penny Wise

It's almost the end of Find Time Month and I've just realised something! I thought I was rubbish at finding time lately but it's not true at all. I've enjoyed heaps more time with my family this month. Every day after school we do something fun together like swimming or skateboarding and the kids are absolutely thriving for the extra quality time; I haven't seen Liam this happy and confident for ages. True, amidst all the fun I may have forgotten to iron his school uniform and was horrified when he went off to school looking like one of Fagin's boys from Oliver Twist but he didn't seem bothered and in the end neither was I, particularly when he pointed out 'Nobody's going to notice if my shorts are wrinkled and if they do, well they shouldn't be looking at my bum anyway!' The time I have devoted to them as a mum lately seems to be working both ways. I thought they were pretty nice already but they are actually being even nicer and far more helpful. Liam has even been knuckling down to his homework without being asked and slogged at his maths homework for two hours solid last night without a single complaint! Long may it last!

I'm feeling really quite calm and serene at the moment, which is a big change from a week or two ago! I feel as though I'm gradually getting control back. Noel and I are getting on really well too, hooray! To be honest I feel we're a bit like Sally and Pete at the moment - I'm the ditzy one who's always stuffing up and he's the sensible one who feels like tearing his hair out. He doesn't trust me at all with money at the moment and I can hardly blame him. After all, it's his money I've been throwing away these past few months as well. He said he was going to come down on me like a ton of bricks regarding my spending and he's not wrong! He has always trusted me before and left the finances largely to me but just like Pete he now feels compelled to go and rummage through the bills looking to see what unaccountable rubbish I've spent our money on, or hunting for dockets as proof of my overspending. Although unlike Sally I'm still far too stingy to fork out for a takeaway pizza and probably always will be. The other day however I came home to find a docket from the fish and chip shop stuck to the fridge - oops, he caught me again! Admittedly I only spent $3 on hot chips for the boys but we had already agreed that sort of thing had to stop. Harsh as it may sound, the 'tough love' tactics are working. I don't set a foot out of line now because I don't want to see any more incriminating evidence stuck to that fridge!

Noel and the boys have taken to calling me Dopey Dollar - the opposite of Penny Wise, but as far as I'm concerned Penny is still very much alive and kicking, she just lost her way a bit for a wee while. I never have done anything by halves and when it comes to money I always did stuff up on the big things. There's a big difference between joyfully splashing out because you've truly earned it, or guiltily handing over your card even though you know you really shouldn't and you know you're going to feel crap about it for ages afterwards. I don't want to feel like that again and I don't ever want to have to explain myself like that again either. I'm getting back on track slowly but surely. After my small triumph with the Sky TV bill, I went through some other stuff and realised I was still forking out $22 a month on Club Penguin accounts for the kids! I had thought that was only a one-off payment but nooo, it rolled over automatically and they haven't used them for months! Dopey Dollar strikes again! It took two minutes to cancel them and now we'll have another $264 a year in the bank. Phew!

I've never been one to budget; I'm not that organised as you know. As long as I looked at the bank balance, totted up the bills and was satisfied we had enough to go round I was happy. However I think maybe it's time I started. I keep reading stories of members who add up all their bills and divide them into 12 monthly or 26 fortnightly amounts to put aside so they always have enough to go round. They seem so wonderfully organised and together! They also seem to be getting ahead so there's got to be some sense in it. I used to be a devout user of the Bill Payment System and found it to be brilliant. I felt like a proper budgeter! I was in control of my finances and always knew exactly what was coming out of our account from week to week and how much we needed to have in the bank. Heaven only knows why I fell off that wagon; all I can think is that everything was going so well I got complacent and felt I didn't need to use it any more. Or I just never got round to filling it in any more. Or I just got plain lazy, who knows! Either way, I'm going to start filling it all in again. If I don't go spending money on anything unneccessary any more, then technically our bills should be pretty much the same each month and I'll be able to divide our monthly payments up too, just like those super organised people! Jings, it's really not rocket science is it? I don't know why I've always been so scared of it.

One thing I'm not scared of is No Spend Month. On the contrary I'm really excited - bring it ON! I reckon I'm going to amaze my whole family at how much we can save. I'm going to do a $21 Challenge next week for starters. Which is just as well as I almost cried when I had to fork out $22 just so I could make the family's favourite Butter Chicken, ordered by special request yesterday! And that was with chicken pieces on special AND without the rice and the cream, which thankfully I had some leftover to use up. Suffice to say, we won't be eating chicken during our Challenge week! I haven't done a $21 Challenge in a while but I don't think it will be too hard as Noel says we actually have too much food at the moment! Too much growing in the garden anyway; Noel has now picked over 70kg of food this year! If you're reading this and thinking 'man, they must have a massive garden' I'll just redirect you to the Penny's World videos and you'll see we don't! We've discovered this summer that not weeding has had a brilliant effect on the vege plants. The weeds actually protect the plants that matter and shelter them from the burning heat. Everything has been growing happily in its protected environment - almost too happily by the sound of it!

Another thing I'm not scared of is washing dishes. We have a terrible track record with dishwashers; no doubt we kill them all through overwork but the latest one has broken and I don't want to fix it, much less get a new one. Apart from the power and water we saving washing them by hand, I actually find the kitchen remains tidier as any dishes are taken care of faster, rather than left on the benchtops waiting for the dishwasher to take care of it. Loading and emptying the dishwasher has always been one of my worst jobs but washing the dishes has become another family thing that we do together after dinner, rather than blobbing out in front of the TV waiting for the dishwasher to finish. The extra storage space in the kitchen we would create by getting rid of the dishwasher would also come in very handy!

The bills are due any time now so I'm going to get my Bill Payment System back in working order this week. I'm really looking forward to getting back in control! I also opened a new bank account today, devoted solely to sanity money. I think this is really important for me. If I put a little aside each week I know that I have to stick within those limits if I want to buy a treat or some new clothes or whatever. If I see something bigger I want, well I'll just have to save for it until I have enough to pay for it in cash. No more Dopey Dollar for me! The only thing I'm not sure about is, how much sanity money do I need? How much is too much? I would be really interested to hear from other people as to how they manage their sanity money and what is a good ballpark figure to set aside.

So far this week I have paid off $820 on my credit card debt. $480 came from Liam, $240 was from my mum and $100 was from Alex. I used my card weeks ago to make purchases on all of their behalf but I made one vital mistake. They all paid me back but I didn't pay it straight back into my credit card. The money that was paid into my bank account stayed there and no doubt went on other rubbish instead and the cash I simply hung on to and used for other stuff too, while all the time my card balance was climbing and incurring more interest. Doh! So I drew the equivalent out of the bank and put it back on the credit card, where it was supposed to go in the first place. Noel asked me 'What on earth did you spend that money on?' So I looked and there were just three main culprits:

Christmas. Noel went overboard, so did I. Only problem was, neither of us told the other what we had bought!

Buying things for other people. As mentioned, not their problem but mine. They paid me back, I just didn't put the money back where it belonged.

And the biggest culprit of all? A 'helpful' wee website called 1day which threw bargains at me, my children and my friends every day and talked us into thinking we needed all sorts of things we never knew we needed before, simply because they we sooo much cheaper. All of which went on my card.

Well, no more! My card expires on February 28th and I've cut up the new one they sent me already. I can't wait until the balance is paid off so I can cancel it for good. The only reason I had one in the first place was because it was so much easier to shop online with one. Yes, well I've proved that well and truly! From now on, any online or over-the-phone purchases will be made using Noel's charge card, which requires payment in full each month. Yesterday was a great day for me - 1day were having a huge 24 hour sale with bargains changing every 20 minutes and I didn't sneak a peek at it once. Not once! True, I wanted to jump on the Forum and start a thread entitled 'PLEEEASE!!! HELP ME BE STRONG!!!' but I didn't. I beat the spending demons all by myself. Woohoo, Penny WISE is making a comeback!

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