Change in focus

January 31, 2010

I didn’t know where I was headed with this blog when I started it. You see, I’ve got a different one, a public one, where my identity and that of my children is known. But I was prevented from “venting” about my ex and things going on, so I decided to start an anonymous blog where I wouldn’t have to worry about holding back. Funny, I haven’t written about any of that anyway, and now I am nearly over most of that. That’s a whole other entry (or two, or five, or 20), though.

Since I don’t feel the need to journal about that journey anymore, I thought I would change the focus to reflect my new personal mission: financial freedom. I’ve come across several “frugal” blogs (The Frugal Girl, Getting Freedom from Debt, and other personal friends’ blogs) that have inspired me to make dramatic changes to the way that I live. Namely, knowing where my money is going and creating a budget so that I can meet my financial goals (the obvious ones – new/used van, house and the not so obvious ones – gas grill, extracurricular activities). I know it’s a long road, but I truly feel that I am on the right track, as long as I can keep at it. I’m gathering tidbits from various places that I’ve seen financial advice. I have to do what works for me, as a single mom of four. I stayed up way too late last night PORING over the last six months of online banking activity and meticulously recording each transaction in different categories. Wow, what a wake-up call! So though my income has changed and not stabilized completely yet and child support seems to be different every month, I have a good idea of what I spend each month on the different categories… well as what I SHOULD spend each month. I’ve written down a spending plan for the month of February (though I already forgot a couple of things to put in it, so I can see this is going to be a learning process). So I’m hoping that with the heightened awareness of the money I’ve wasted in months past, I will be much more reluctant to spend so nonchalantly and make each purchase a thoughtful one.

In the interest of saving money, as well as being a better steward of the earth’s resources, I have challenged my children – who, admittedly, are quite young to care much or change a lot – to see how much money we can save by conserving energy this month. So we are making more of an effort to turn lights off as we leave rooms and I’ve unplugged the upright freezer. Other than that, not sure there’s much I can do in an apartment (we don’t pay for heat).

In addition to the financial changes, we are attempting to eat much healthier and I am trying to only buy for the week what we need. I love The Frugal Girl’s Food Waste Fridays. And so I will be starting that as well. Actually, it’s really a lot like seeing where every penny you spend goes. Kind of humiliating, humbling, and eye-opening. So I think it’s a good idea. Not sure if I will have the guts to post my first one, being that I didn’t “prep” beforehand, but we’ll see how the week goes. I will say that I’m starting the week by NOT buying any groceries. I really am attempting to use everything that we have – there is plenty of meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains – so I really think we’re fine and a trip to the grocery store would be superfluous. I was really surprised to see what I spent on groceries in the last couple of months. I really don’t think those purchases through much, either, and have a lot of little “here and theres”. Besides, most of the fruits and vegetables I bought a week ago will last probably only another week anyway and I definitely don’t want to think about wasting all that money!

Beyond the financial and healthy eating goals (we are cutting out processed food, which will help with the cost, as well as improve our nutrition), I am also attempting to “get organized”. Which for me, at this point, means simplifying and getting rid of that which we don’t really need (not an easy thing to do!) and making sure that everything has a place and is put in its place. This should make the secondary goal of keeping clean a little easier. That’s another thing I’ve always struggled with. I hate cleaning. Especially floors and toilets.

And then someday I’ll get to that exercising regularly and losing weight goal. Actually, I was sort of working on that one, but have yet to exercise regularly. Another thing I hate to do. Which is quite apparent by my appearance. But I got a kick in the pants motivation last week when I got the reminder of my 15 year high school reunion. I’d love to go and have everyone say, wow you look really good! So I guess I still need that external motivation.

It all just seems like a never-ending struggle. As I sit here typing, it just occurred to me that I didn’t sit with my son and do his homework. I’ve failed there yet again. I will say that it seems ridiculous to me that kindergarteners can have so much “homework”, so I just kind of shrug it off most of the time – getting home at 5:30 with bedtime at 7:30 and supper and baths in between there kind of eats up the night! Ah, but I should make it important and start instilling those schoolwork ethics.

So I go to bed feeling a little like a failure in the world of (kids’) school, but also a little proud of myself for setting up my spending plan and starting my journey.