On Budgets and Budgeting

“This planet has – or had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”

"Parable of the Rich Fool" Rembrant, 1627

“Parable of the Rich Fool” Rembrant, 1627

 – Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001), “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” 

One might think from my choice in artwork and quote that I’m in the “money doesn’t matter” camp, however, that is far from true. I just also see the humor in it all.

I have a good job and I make a decent living, but there was a time right after my divorce when I was broke. So broke that I thought I might lose my house… and a lot more. Many things helped me get through – the love and support of friends and family, a fierce determination not to go under, and a budget. It was a budget that I lived and breathed by. I didn’t make any decisions without consulting it. It was my Ten Commandments, my oracle, my Magic Eight Ball.

Eventually though, things worked themselves out and I didn’t need to watch my pennies quite so closely. Things have been running fairly smoothly for quite a while, but over the last year, I’ve started thinking about using a budget again. Part of it has to do with the fact that fitness is expensive. I don’t see it written about all that often, but being fit costs money. Take running – people say it is great because you don’t need any equipment: step out your front door and just go. Then in the very next breath they’ll say, “Well, you should get good shoes. And,” they’ll admit, “good shoes are expensive. But it is worth it.” I agree, it is worth it, but what they don’t mention is that if you are a woman you are also going to have to shell out for a sports bra, and if you are a woman who is larger in the chest area, those don’t come cheap. You can compare them to cheap running shoes – sure, you can get some for under $20, but you don’t want to. Then, once you have those, you should get some decent socks, because good shoes are no good with bad socks, and really, you should have some kind of light for night running, and then…. you get the idea.

Here’s something else – in my case, getting fit helped me significantly change sizes. So, all the running clothes I bought when I first started running? I had to buy all new ones a few months later because the old stuff was falling off me. That includes that very pricey sports bra – they only work when they fit.

So yeah, costs. There is weight lifting: I bought a weight bench at a garage sale for $10 and borrowed a bar for the weights, but weight plates are running roughly $1 a pound, and I keep needing more of them! Of course, there were also the books I bought to learn how to lift in the first place. Then there’s cycling. A friend gave me a free bike, but I still had to have it tuned up, have new tubes installed and had to buy a helmet. I’m still saving up for a bike rack.

On top of all this, there are other things I want to do – I want to do some home improvement projects and I’ve been considering a career change. If so, I’ll want funds in the bank. As things are now, I am fine. I am able to do what I want to do and pay all my bills. I’m setting money aside for emergencies and Hermes’ vet bills, but I want more. And I don’t want a second job.

I’ve decided to go back to the budget and see what it can tell me. This month I’ve been starting to collect the numbers. Of course, November and December are ridiculous months to create a budget in, there is so much holiday spending, food buying and socializing, but I’m just plugging in figures and seeing where they go. On my Lift app, I am tracking “saving money” and trying to make sure that I get in some No Spend Days and use my coupons – I am trying to build more shekel saving habits.

I have decided not to make any decisions or significant changes until January or even February. I’m just using this time to help me create a starting budget. Then I will see where that leads. I’m hoping I can find some way to make the pennies squeak – I’ve got a whole lot of goals ahead for next year!

Water Dreams

Kayak summer by Ted SakshaugLast night I had a crazy mixture of wild dreams. They were so vivid they woke me up roughly every hour, on the hour. I’d get up, get a drink of water or use the restroom, and then try to get back to sleep, only to be shot back into another vivd dreamscape.

The last dream, right before the morning alarm went off, was actually awesome. I dreamed that a friend of mine and I ran into each other at a fitness shop/gym and were both looking for some ways to increase our strength. We were talking to a saleslady about what to get, when a another salesperson came up and said, “If that’s what you guys want, you need to try our kayak slide.”

You know how some shops that sell boats have a small pond that you can try them out on? Well, this gym had a kayak river course. The goal was to get through it as quickly as possible. It was a cross between a full scale river and a video game (There were also animated penguins – don’t ask me where they came from.) It was great! I was flying down the river course, all the time knowing that I was fairly terrible at it, but having a blast. I knew I was going to sign up for a gym membership to this place immediately, and I was going to conquer that course.

Then I woke up. The dream was so vivid that for a moment I actually wondered if I could still kayak. A glance at my phone, and the weather app which was predicting snow, quickly shot that down. (I am sure there are folks that kayak in wet suits right up until the water freezes, but I am not that hardcore. (yet.)) But I had a new resolution.

This spring, I am buying a roof rack for my car.

I had money set aside for a rack awhile ago, but when my dog ended up having to have emergency surgery, all my extra cash went into helping him get better. That was fine, goodness knows I want my dog to be healthy more than I needed a roof rack, but now that he seems to be doing okay, it’s time to replenish those funds. I am determined in the next six to seven months to save up for a roof rack that will carry my kayak and my bike – the two summer sports I adore.

It isn’t a gigantic expense, but it isn’t exactly cheap either. I’ve priced out some of the components and I’m looking at several hundred dollars. I’m okay with that, I know exactly what I want and I want it done right, so now all I have to do is put aside the cash. To that end, this week I am going to get out my old budget. I used to use a budget religiously, but the last few years I have gotten away from it. Since I have some goals for 2014, (the roof rack being just one of them,) it’s time to figure out where I can pinch a few pennies.

In the meantime, I am going to hope I have that dream again, because man, that was fun!


Photo credit: Ted Sakshaug on flickr