My own worst enemy

Posted March 19th, 2009 by Penny Wise

Well this No Spend Month has been a real education I can tell you. That Savings Diary is something else! I have meticulously kept each docket to enter into my diary at the end of each day and I am shocked at how much of what we spend is non-essential. There's no getting away from it when it's jumping out of the screen at you, all nicely added up in your daily tally, eek! It's scary but it's darn good. All those little bits and pieces here and there add up to quite a worrying amount! Whilst our No Spend Month started out admirably, I have come to the conclusion that it's harder NOT to spend than I thought. Last week I ended up coughing up $50 unexpectedly for the boys' annual rugby subs. Part of me desperately wanted to wait a few weeks but if I didn't pay on THAT day, the kids wouldn't get a free rugby ball like their team mates and I couldn't be that mean. Then there were the things-you-had-already-arranged-before-No-Spend-Month-and-couldn't-really-get-out-of expenses. Like the fact that the kids always take part in an annual Junior Gamefishing Competition. It cost $30 each for the three boys to enter, plus $260 for two nights' accommodation and $120 to put the dogs in boarding kennels for the weekend. While it wasn't essential, the boys had been looking forward to it for months and had entered before we even knew it was No Spend Month. As it turned out, the weather was blowing a gale and the fishing competition was called off but by then it was already too late!

This week has also sprung some unforeseen expenses. Ali was making a right song and dance about having a sore toe - he had what looked like a cut between the smallest toe and the one next to it and was being what I thought was a big girl's blouse, hardly able to walk or put his foot on the floor. The toe next to it looked a bit red and I wasn't quite sure what to put on it, particularly as he screamed his head off whenever I tried to look. So I thought I had better take him to the doctor the next day to determine what I thought was athlete's foot or something of the like. The doctor took one look and said he thought it was broken ($17) and referred us to Accident and Emergency for a consultation ($35), which was followed by an x-ray ($10), then followed by another consultation with a different doctor who confirmed it was indeed broken ($35 again). Not to mention we also ended up buying lunch as we had been waiting around all morning and were starving. So Ali is on crutches for three weeks. As to HOW the toe was broken, we have absolutely no idea, no clue at all! He doesn't remember hurting himself in any way so it's a bit of a mystery. I was horrified when we were advised not to send him on the school bus as it would be awkward with his crutches and he could risk possibly knocking it and making it worse. It was No Spend Month and now I was going to have to waste petrol taking him to school and back every day! We recently worked out that by Ali changing schools last year and travelling on the bus, he was saving a lot of petrol - 200km I no longer had to drive each week! The first day I did make him go on the bus but my conscience got the better of me in the end and I've been chauffeuring him about since.

Then this morning I was standing doing the dishes (still no dishwasher, yay!) when I noticed a drip coming through the ceiling above my head. 'Oh no, the bathroom vanity's leaking again!' I thought and made a mental note to tell Noel when he got home. I carried on doing the dishes, whilst keeping one eye on the drip and realised to my dismay that the 'water' was actually rather yellow looking. It looked quite a lot like wee actually. I raced upstairs and on further investigation found that it was. It wasn't the vanity leaking but the S-bend thingy from the toilet, which was leaking quite profusely. The boys were oblivious as usual and had carried on using the loo, totally unperturbed at the fact they were standing in a puddle. I tell you it's not nice to be standing in the kitchen with someone else's pee dripping over your head and splashing into your nice, hot bubbly dishwater! Before adding yet another expense of calling out a plumber, Noel rushed home from work and was glad to find he could fix the problem himself. Unfortunately it's still not going to be cheap as this particular S-bend thingy is as rare as hen's teeth and naturally costs a lot more than the usual ones. It could only happen in No Spend Month, couldn't it!

My biggest No Spend dilemma was the other day when I answered the phone to a well-meaning charity caller, wanting me to donate some money to a kids helpline, which I had apparently done before. I am very bad at saying no to charities when they ring up, so instead of donating left, right and centre to every one who rings, I tell them I don't have a credit card and I can't add a donation to the phone bill as my husband's company pays for the landline account and we're not allowed to put any extras on it. That usually does the trick, but this lady was too good! 'No problem, do you have Internet banking?' she asked. 'Er - yes', I admitted, caught on the hop. Before I knew it I had written down the bank account number and promised to donate at the next available opportunity. Which as far as I'm concerned is April. You see what I really wanted to tell her was that it's No Spend Month and I wasn't allowed to spend money on anything that wasn't absolutely essential but I didn't think she would understand or feel the same way.

Which is a shame because apart from that occasion, I have found quoting No Spend Month to all and sundry to be a fabulous lifesaver. You see, my biggest downfall is that I'm too soft. I hate saying no to anyone and get myself in impossible situations rather than upset people. Challenges such as No Spend Month and the $21 Challenge are a wonderful opportunity for me to get tough without being the bad guy! Instead of being a mean and nasty mum for telling the kids they can't have treats, I get to blame it all on No Spend Month. 'Sorry kids, those are the rules, it's out of my hands!' Tee hee!

One No Spend challenge I was dreading was last Sunday. As mentioned recently, the boys have a modelling contract and last weekend we had to travel from the fishing competition at the beach to the city for the boys to take part in an all-day workshop. This meant Alex and I were stuck in the city for six hours while we waited for them. Contrary to most males I know, Alex LOVES shopping, particularly for clothes, much to my boys' horror! They moan and grumble constantly while trailing around behind us, so secretly I was jumping at the chance for six hours of uninterrupted retail therapy. There was just one problem - it was No Spend Month! Well, two problems actually - I didn't actually need to buy anything, particularly after all my Sad Sally splurges of recent months. I confess I was a little concerned - what if things started jumping out at me? What if I stuffed up again? I was proud and relieved to find I was stronger than I thought. While I saw heaps of things I liked (and tried on one top that mercifully looked hideous), I returned home with nothing more than some tablets for Noel (as prescribed to help with his dairy intolerance) and a new pencil case for Liam as his old one was broken. Yay me!

Another thing I have learned from the Savings Diary is it is now SO easy for me to see where our money goes. Even with No Spend Month we could be keeping so much more in our bank account. It occurred to Noel and I yesterday that neither of us have any idea what the other one spends. Just because I have a No Spend day, doesn't mean that he does! I absolutely love No Spend days - they are all recorded proudly in my Savings Diary as 'nothing, nothing, nothing, yay!' Other days read more like a confessional! It's funny but also sad how one tries to justify oneself in the diary, where it says 'how did you go today? How did you feel about it?' I can categorically say that for every dumb purchase I have felt crap. And what's the point of that, who wants to feel crap? Better just not to buy stuff and feel good about it. My Savings Diary screams of three areas of weakness:

1. Bought lunches when out and about.

2. Soft drinks and snacks, again when out and about.

3. Treats for the kids which they don't need or ask for.

Like the new belt I bought for Liam recently. He loved it, just as I knew he would, but he couldn't understand why I had bought it! I was just being nice, I told him. And that's exactly it. I'm too nice! I love making everybody happy. I love being a nice, fun mum. Unfortunately my constant desire to be nice and bring happiness to everyone has cost our bank balance dearly over the years. I'm my own worst enemy. Deep down I know I am a fantastic Simple Saver but I keep sabotaging my own savings. This became crystal clear when I came across Fiona's Forum thread yesterday about sabotage. Talk about a lightbulb moment! Unlike most of the others in the thread, I had nobody else to blame but me. For all the times I feel like being an indulgent mum, even though I know the kids appreciate it more when I bake them a cake than buy them a chocolate bar. For all the times I give in and buy soft drinks for myself because it's one of those days and I just don't care. For all the times I go out of my way for people and end up out of pocket myself while they lose nothing. I told Noel and the boys that from now on I'm going to be horrible. They all burst out laughing and said I couldn't be horrible if I tried. Don't get me wrong, I like being nice! But not when it's to the detriment of my family. What would they rather have - a chocolate bar today or a beach house in 10 years? By being 'nice', I'm not actually being fair to them at all.

Woah, that's very profound Penny! So what do I do? If I can't be nice and I can't be horrible either? I just have to be sensible I guess. I'm going to sit down with the family and talk about what it is we all want most one day. What we all dream of. For Noel and I, it's our own place at the beach. When I know what all our dreams are, I'm going to find pictures of them and make a 'vision board'. I'm going to stick them up on the wall so we can all see them and remind ourselves why it's worth being sensible. Why I don't need to buy chocolate bars and why they don't need to have them. I'm also going to write out this mantra from GoGo Goanna in her tip 'New Mantra, New Life' and put it up with the pictures: "'My children will be happier with a less stressed mother who is able to pay off her debts, than with a new toy/kitchen gadget/designer shoes or whatever". So true! I've also changed my computer screensaver to a photo of a little beach house which is currently for sale to remind me it's the big goals that will make a better life for our family, not today's bargain on 1-day. First and foremost for now however, there are still 11 whole days in No Spend Month and I'm determined not to stuff up a single one! No more Mr(s) Nice Guy!

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