“Profiting” Off My Hardware

My husband is really good with money. I don’t mean to say we have a lot of money, just that he is genuinely “good with money.”

Growing up in a third world country where he didn’t have much, (but appreciated everything he had) he has been saving since he was a little boy. He made many sacrifies to buy special things or travel internationally, bought a house in his home country and even bought our house here in the U.S. before we were married–all on his extremely modest home country government salary.

I, on the other hand –for all my glorious fixations on food and exercise, which have helped me maintain my physical shape for the most part — am (shudder!) not the world’s best budgeter. And while our joint finances would receive a clean bill of health, my personal savings account…let’s just say it could use some major workouts!

Shocking, I know–here I am Miss Type A, perfectionist…treasurer of my sorority at one time (elected during my semester abroad, what were they thinking?!) … but I’m just being honest; I’ve never been that good with money.

I have always worked, but as my dad says, money burns a hole in my wallet. Since childhood, I spent what I earned–selling candy or lemonade in the neighborhood for a profit with my friends at age 9, babysitting when I was 12, working at resorts in high school, waitressing during semester breaks throughout college…

I was a hustler, and would work hard to save for books, a laptop, meals out, concert tickets, travel… but I still didn’t leave much, if anything, in the bank.

In college I worked in the university mailroom, I interned at some really kick-ass places in DC, and I worked through grad school… but still had nothing to show for it in my savings account. Complicating things, I have struggled with plastic on and off since senior year of college when I first used the card to book a cruise to the Caribbean with my girlfriends, er, I mean, “establish credit”!

And on top of that, I lived in Washington, DC–not a cheap city. I loved to shop and definitely was of the “buy now, pay later” mentality in my early 20s. And this included significant amounts of international travel, as we spent much of our dating relationship visiting each other a couple times a year in our respective countries–a tremendous cost, but of course absolutely worth every penny.

When we got married two years ago and moved to the Michigan for his job, our different spending habits we’d observed over the years at a distance became more and more evident. We wanted to find common ground because, like most couples I know, we have different spending habits (though fortunately we’re not total opposites: we’re not Stingy and Spendy; we’re Think-First Spendy and Think-Later Spendy– still Spendy, just in different ways).

For example, he tends to save for a big purchase; I’d buy now and pay it back later. We’ve learned to work together, to synergize. We have financed some of our furniture (something he wouldn’t have done before), for example, but have also saved for other big purchases/trips together (something I wouldn’t have done before).

To get us off to a good start, he created a user-friendly, color-coded Excel spreadsheet with automatic formulas to help us on our way to financial bliss, detailing our his/hers/and ours accounts and all the bills we have to pay each month (including paying ourselves first with savings). We also arranged for a financial planner to help us maximize our 401K contributions and established an IRA account for me (as my husband has had one for like a decade now).

These steps really helped someone like me, who frankly sucks at dealing with money, to see the real importance of good financial health: for me, for us, for our future. (Consider this part the “learning to eat well and exercise” segment).

Since getting married and becoming a homeowner, I am happy that I have become more disciplined about my spending… I actually give serious thought to my purchases (even if I do tend to get buyer’s remorse and return things with their tags still on!), and weigh the pros and cons in my head.

This is all well and good, but truth be told, I am still not where I’d like to be. Essentially, I’d like to have a healthier Melissa cushion (to complement our Melissa-and-hubby cushion).

Sure, my credit card debt is minimal and do-able/manageable now, and I don’t go on the shopping sprees I used to, but I’m also not saving like I could be, either. Every step forward I take (I bring my lunch to work each day, so I’m not spending recklessly on meals out … and we do cook a lot at home…) I seem to take a step back (I still have a Diet Coke addiction and love my sugar-free gum–impulse purchases).

Like a meteor hurling toward Earth, it finally hit me this week that if I even put half the energy I put into my fastidious food journaling and workouts, I bet I’d be in better personal financial health, too! What a concept!

So, I’ve decided to embrace my hardware (including my OCD tendencies) and use it to help me become better with my personal finances.

Last night, I began a spending spread-sheet to help me see where my money is truly going. I love journaling anyway, and don’t view it as a chore (personal journal or food journal) so why not journal every penny I spend versus just every point I consume? And who says I can’t do both?

(Note: I realize most people probably do write down every penny they spend; I’d been relying on my online bank account to tell me!)

Times like this, I find it comforting that my hardware can be an asset–but like my husband’s right arm in a cast now, if I don’t use the muscle, it becomes atrophied.

So here’s to flexing that muscle, disciplining myself a little more so I have more moolah in my bank account for our future, and less stress on my mind!

Do you see a different area of your life where your hardware could help you, too?

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7 thoughts on ““Profiting” Off My Hardware

  1. Wow. The more I read your blog, the more I realize that we are eerily alike. I too, like to plan, have OCD tendencies and feel anxious a lot. I also struggle daily with my obsession of food intake. BUTTT why do those tendencies not transfer over to the financial department? My whole life I have worked yet spent the money almost instantly it was placed into my bank account. I can’t help it – money truly DOES burn a hole in my pocket (I have scorch marks to prove it!). I’m glad that your hubby’s financial responsibility has rubbed off you on and you are attempted to tackle your spending/saving on your own. I recently *gasp* starting increasing the amount in my savings account.

    Thanks again for your great blog – it’s so awesome to read about someone who parallels my own personal quirks (if you can call them that) and thoughts.

  2. I’ve been inspired by your blog to start my own. “Eating” issues is only part of my “uneasiness” with life and all it’s obstacles. Money is another. And well, my husband, a big one. Thanks for the inspiration! We can get thru this and come out on top!

  3. Hi Lauren, that’s exactly it–I feel like my hardware has helped with maintaining weight loss and now I’d like to use it to help me get financially fit, too 🙂

    LOL about scorch marks!

    Thanks so much, Bonnie–very cool!!

  4. Melissa, we were separated at birth.

    one technique: I take out $200 a week. I try to make it last for groceries, dinners out, movies, drinks, clothes, makeup, what have you (and I don’t allow myself use of the credit card unless it’s my weekly splurge — I give myself one treat a week: mani/pedi, shirts(s), shoes on sale).

    this often doesn’t really work out, but I shoot for it every week…

  5. Thanks, Cathy. Fortunately, my CC debt now is at a bare minimum (payable in a month) but it isn’t a bad idea to rely on cash; I do debit for everything! Maybe having cash would make me more diligent too.

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