“Well I just don’t want to think about it. I’m ignoring the entire thing!” huffs a perturbed young Belle as stomps out of the kitchen and into her room.
“Ok, Eliza Doolittle,” my mother calls out.
I huff louder, shut my door and retreat into Belle Land – also known as the land of great delusion and ignoring of all things important, stressful, pressing and… financial.
Sadly, this is still a pretty accurate description whenever finances are brought up. I really don’t like thinking about money and financial planning. I’ve made numerous attempts to address money, and even sought guidance from my financially savvy friend Natalie, but my attempts are weak and I always return to financial oblivion. I like it in oblivion.
After Bird and I said “I do” we sat down to discuss money and how we handle it. Bird is financially responsible, organized and is quite capable of living with a credit card but never carrying a balance. I am not – hence not having one. Five minutes into the discussion I felt Eliza taking over – “Whatever you want,” I exploded. “Actually, how about you handle all finances? Tell me if something is wrong, otherwise, I don’t want to know!”
After a little more verbal sparring it was agreed that this was how we would manage our money. He would manage; I would pretend it did not exist. I called Natalie to tell her about this great new development. I expected some cheering. Instead I got a long pause. “You know that won’t work, right?” she asked.
Of course it will! And it did for the next six months.
Then Christmas happened and we started looking at real estate in the cities we hope to move. My excitement grew as I scrolled through online listings of well-renovated historic homes. I could visualize our cats in the big windows and smell my dinner in the gourmet kitchen. And then I would see the price tag. I searched for a mortgage calculator to see what a payment on one of these homes would be and I nearly barfed. The skies were darkening in Belle Land so I quickly put buying a house out of my mind.
After returning home Bird and I had a serious discussion. While I am perfectly content to rent a home until the day I die, Bird is not. In order to buy a home we just have to have some money in the bank and this money, tragically, will not appear without us both working towards it. So after substantial stressing out on my end, we chose to start tracking every dollar that exits the account in order to better understand where it all goes.
Two weeks into the tracking and I’m hooked. Together, we record everything we buy on a piece of paper hanging on the fridge. It is a rather archaic system, but agrees with Eliza. She can handle a piece of paper but please God keep Mint and other such online financial tools away!
Fueling my saving fury is the $5/person/day challenge that Krista and Jess have set for the month of January. Talk about a noble venture! And amazingly, they still eat very well. While I am quite neurotic and love this sort of obsessive tracking, I do not think there are enough hours in my days to dedicate to daily tallying and posting. Nor do I think $5 a day would feed us. I’m pretty active and Bird is a big guy whose tall frame requires a good bit of fuel. Without adequate food we get grumpy and no one likes a grumpy spouse. No one.
What we can do is continue to track our expenditures and use more care in planning meals. Can we prepare more simple meals with fewer ingredients that still pack as much nutritional punch? Can my lunches be simplified? Where else does the monthly income go? I like this new financial endeavor that we are embarking on together. Having Bird by my side as I monitor the sheet on the fridge makes it all easier to stomach. I think that tying it back to my favorite pastime – cooking – will help me stick with it. I also think the promise of a gourmet kitchen in Seattle, San Francisco or Chicago might make the entire thing plausible. Time will tell.