I am The Problem (and that’s ok)

finance fridaySo we’ve had some conversations here about getting honest in our relationships with stuff and with money, and examining our pasts to get a sense of our presents (ha, presents). I like to think that I’ve been honest with you, and today I’m going to take that honesty in a different direction by confessing that despite my love of spreadsheets, saving, tallying and so on, I am the leak. I am the spender. I am the problem.

I have only so much willpower. I generally don’t care about shopping, though my husband sent us into Old Navy last week and somehow I’m the one who came out with three new things. Clearance, but still. I love to cook, but I also love to not cook. When I’m not feeling well in any capacity, all bets are off. I might have planned a week of meals, but I’m not sticking to it if I’m not well. That was last week: I felt nauseous and crabby from a change to a medication I was taking, and the only thing that sounded appealing was greasy pizza. So greasy pizza it was. And eggplant fries—we need a veggie now and again.

Oops

We budget $400 a month for eating out, and we’re well over for May. I’ll roll the overage amount into June’s budget, but I imagine that just means we’ll have a deeper hole as July begins.

Mercifully, our overage isn’t a big deal because we are extremely fortunate enough to not have to worry about what difference the $20 spent on a pepperoni thin crust will mean at the end of the month. But such expenses do make me feel like a hypocrite. I tend to be a very hostile self-critic, and so I’ll beat myself up for a) spending money I didn’t need to spend and b) for beating myself up in the first place. It’s a delightful shame circle.

It’s not that my husband doesn’t spend, but for him, spending doesn’t usually come with shame. I punish myself for $6 on two pizza slices when there’s perfectly good food in the fridge. That’s not his way.He doesn’t seem himself as the problem. He’s on to something.

Self-Forgiveness: I am Not Actually “the Problem”

This scenario reminds me that in addition to perhaps building some good spend-and-save habits, I also need to work on taking care of me, accepting myself for who I am, and not punishing myself when I don’t live up to goals that I’ve somewhat arbitrarily set. Could I do better? Sure! Is not doing so the end of the world? Nope. And when friends whom we hadn’t seen in ages asked us to go out for dinner last week, I would have been crazy to say “No—I want to save $40 and not see you” when it was financially within my power to do otherwise.

We have different kinds of values and I have to find a way to balance the friends I value, the saving I value, and my sanity. I love my tracking spreadsheet, but it doesn’t determine who I am.

So, then, a word to the proverbially wise: it is not enough to simply spend, save, and track. One must also be flexible and self-forgiving in her pursuit of financial awareness and stability. We are more than the numbers we enter as data, and truly, we are not “the problem” when those numbers don’t match our goal every time. Show yourself a little compassion as you work on your financial journey.

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