If I had a dollar…

…apparently I’d spend most of it.

Our helpful credit card company compiled an annual rundown of our spending in 2013 — all neatly categorized. It was eye-opening and more than a little scary. We use this card as much as possible to get the points, which we cash in to add to our vacation fund. The total was scary, the individual category amounts were scary, the idea that we spend so much money was scary, and understanding that this spending does not include mortgage, property taxes, insurance, or utilities was — is — terrifying.

Of course it all makes sense — it stands to reason if we earn X and save Y there’s a Z in there (for zpending) that’s big scary number. But I never really considered us to be zpendy people. We’re careful to not build up debt. I’m not one to buy pricey shoes or clothes or makeup or manicures (Mike isn’t either). We have gadgets (PCs, laptops, tablet, Kindle), but only got smartphones in the last year and older-generation, used ones to boot, and our carrier is a no-name, cheap one. We’ve taken 4 (maybe 5) non-lavish vacations in 8 years (and that wasn’t nearly enough). I can be a little crunchy/thrifty — I make my own laundry detergent and shower cleaner, wash and reuse plastic bags, avoid toll roads….little things.

And yet…numbers don’t lie. Some spending we can’t do anything about — gas is what it is (and it’s a lot, due to Mike’s long commute every day). Fixer-upperhood is expensive — home improvements/maintenance are never-ending, and copious amounts (Lowe’s & HD cards, paying the occasional contractor) aren’t even on the card.

But on the “maybe we can economize” side, we do give Walmart a lot of money — mostly for food, because Giant Eagle is too dang expensive. Plus we eat out on top of that (and it doesn’t include fast food or coffees that we pay cash for). Should it really cost $6K a year for two people to eat? And yeah, we have a lot of vehicles — not my preference — so there’s car maintenance (not to mention insurance; not on the card). There’s Target and Big Lots (and Sam’s doesn’t take the card, so that’s extra, too.). And geez, I just realized for some reason the PetSmart spending isn’t even on here — that’s odd, considering we almost always buy cat food and litter there. It would have been interesting to see what that amounted to.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Do I need to make a budget? We don’t have a budget for anything, especially not food. We talk about eating out less, and I push for it, but since I’m the one who does all the shopping and cooking, I’m also the one who’s happy to eat out to give myself a break. Frankly, I’m not sure how I’d even stick to a food budget — I’ve never done that (and obviously it shows). We could live off our pantry for quite a while — do I stockpile too much for just the two of us?

And then, on the other hand, I vacillate on the whole saving vs. spending thing. We’re beyond middle age these days, we don’t have kids, we both work, and will likely be working for many years yet. Sure, it’s important to save for old age, and no, we don’t have a huge retirement fund, but what if we don’t make it that far? Should we be so very careful now, foregoing those weekend Egg McMuffins, the pricier organic Greek yogurt, and those flats of summer annuals to save for a future that might never come?

Could we save more? Surely. Should we save more? Absolutely. Will we save more? Probably not, unless one of us loses our job or some other catastrophe befalls us. And you know what? If we do or it does, will I regret the money spent and not saved? Maybe. But it might just as well be that I look back on those less-than-frugal days, those “let’s get 2 of the bottles of on-sale wine” or “let’s stop for Chinese takeout” with fondness.

And who knows, now that I have a baseline “target,” maybe I’ll be inspired to try to make the next year-end summary a bit less scary. But then, that would mean fewer points and less cash back. Which means less for the vacation fund (and more pulled from savings). How’s that adage go again? A dollar spent is 1% (sometimes 5%!) cash-back earned?

We are not to judge thrift solely by the test of saving or spending.
If one spends what he should prudently save, that certainly is to be deplored. 
But if one saves what he should prudently spend, that is not necessarily
to be commended. 

A wise balance between the two is the desired end. 
~Owen Young

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Odds and evens

While my mind loves the idea of a nice even year, my life seems to like the odd years best. I was born in an odd year, graduated from high school and college in odd years, started (and left) all my jobs in odd years, got married in an odd year, and had the worst year of my life in an even year.

So in light of another even year ahead, I’m keeping my expectations — and aspirations — rather simple I think.

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I don’t know what will be harder — getting rid of too many things or too many thoughts. Losing weight or gaining perspective. Minimizing the negative or maximizing the positive. So much comes down to mind over matter. What do I mind? What matters? I mostly know this already, but I need to get better at reminding myself — every day.

So far so good. One day down, 364 to go. (Another even number. Sigh.)

It is never to late to be who you might have been.
~ George Eliot

Dear God,

Thank you for this beautiful summer-fall day, On a Friday. When no one needs anything (that I can’t put off until Monday), and the black-eyed susans are still blooming.

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Thank you for the Knock Out® Rose that finally decided to be a knock-out. (And bless dear Sondra who gave it to us, who’s now looking down on it with you.)

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Thank you for reblooming orchids. And, you know, for actually making this one rebloom.

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Ummmm, thank you for the groundhog that ate through our shed floor so we pretty much HAVE to do something about it? (Better yet, thank you for helping us get a new shed floor, which we really need.)

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(On a related note, thank you for helping us cram everything that was in the shed into the garage.)

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Thank you for the Pirates being in first place. (I know, can you believe it?)

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Thank you for letting us get 3 offers on the house just a day after we listed it. And thanks especially for my sister, who worked like a dog for weeks and weeks to get it ready to list.

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(And thank you for helping me not to cry every time I think about the house being sold.)

Thank you for Emily. And poems. And chalkboard paint.

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Thank you for art. And artistic friends. And sunrooms.

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Thank you for today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And even the day after that (even though it will be Monday).

Amen.

All that we behold is full of blessings.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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