(Re)Creating Carly

{July 3, 2013}   Take That, Dick!

It’s been over a month since my last blog post, and I’ve missed you all so much! But, I gotta say, I’ve enjoyed the time off. Maybe a little too much. June was tuh-ufff on the budget.

Between End-of-School-Year Madness and a full social calendar, finding time for blogging has been impossible. But I also haven’t really been in the blogging mood. I started feeling really guilty about my budgeting failures. How could I blog about my personal finance triumphs when it was all falling to pieces?

It all began one day in May when I was examining my budget spreadsheet and noticed that I’d gotten ahead financially. In addition to paying off debt, I’ve been slowly building up a nice cushion in my checking account. But that little discovery had ramifications I hadn’t prepared for. It summoned all of my old financial demons. PARTY AT CARLY’S! Sure, they showed up all smiles, gave me high-fives and asked me to dance, but as soon as I turned my back, they were plotting away. And before I even had a chance to revel in my accomplishment, they had already thought of multiple ways to spend my extra cash. Visions of new clothes and haircuts and manicures and Caribbean cruises (yes, I actually researched cruises) started doing the Meringue in my head. I looked up cottages and train fares, plane tickets around the world and high-end moisturizers I’ve really wanted to try. It was as if I’d been on a no-carb diet for five months only to find myself trapped in a Little Debbie factory.

Meet Dick: Universe's Evil Twin Brother.

Meet Richard: Universe’s Evil Twin Brother.

Somehow, I managed to get myself in check, and politely asked the demons to leave. (I told them I had a headache.)  But I decided that I had earned a splurge or two. So I signed up for a dating site (despite the fact that I’m leaving town for six weeks and can’t be bothered to actually log into it and respond to emails) and went to Philly for the weekend with friends to attend the opening of my friend’s gallery exhibit. (I stayed with a friend who lives there and the whole trip was super cheap – but it still cost my entire entertainment budget for the month.) So by June 3rd, I was already $60 over budget. BUT I COULD AFFORD IT, RIGHT? I had saved a lot and if I didn’t allow myself some fun, I’d go crazy. But it’s almost like the Universe–or the Universe’s evil twin brother, we’ll call him Richard—knew what I was up to and decided to teach me a lesson.

First came the dropping of my cell phone, which resulted in a $100 bill for a refurbished replacement. (Isn’t cell phone “insurance” awesome?)

Then came the dead car battery. There goes another $130. And then came the pizza party for my students. And the birthday brunch for a good friend. And another birthday. And happy hour. And farewell-for-the-summer-get-togethers. And, well, what budget?

For the first time since I began my quest to become debt-free, I’d spent more in a month than I made, by a few hundred dollars. And I couldn’t help but wonder if my journey toward financial freedom had just hit a dead-end. Would this be the end of my life as a budgeting superhero? Would I revert to my old buying-lunch-out ways? Would I no longer be able to resist the call for European knee-high boots and Indian take-out?

After I had a moment to accept that $#@! June happens (and will no doubt happen again), the easy answer to those questions is NO.

Sure, I splurged a little and things came up, as they were sure to. But how incredible is it that I actually had enough money to pay for them? Five months ago, I didn’t even have enough money to pay my rent.  I was also still able to make my double-the-minimum credit card payment. And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be making a payment of $2,000 and will have—officially—repaid over $10,000 of debt in the past five months. Not too shabby.

Most of what I’ve spent money on this month has been worth it. I wouldn’t have missed that weekend away for anything. And the memories I’ve made with my friends over the past month are ones I won’t soon forget. All of this stuff has been a lot of fun, and after five months of living like a pauper, I needed it. Part of life is making memories. And although I’m super proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish over the past few months, life is short and I don’t want to miss out on these important moments.

That said, I’m going to keep plugging away to become debt-free, and am happy to report that I’m still on track to reach my goal within my original time frame of 18 months (or less).

So, Richard, like it or not, here I come!

How have you managed to handle Richard when he’s come along to disrupt your plans?  What do you think is more important — saving money or making lasting memories with loved ones? Or, like everything else, is it just about striking the right balance?


Tony says:

Richard is always hiding just around the corner for me! Like you however I have developed a long term goal of debt reduction and building up savings. So the occasional “June” comes along where everything falls apart, or I purposely splurge to cover an upcoming vacation. I usually follow that up with a month or two of austerity to get me back on track. So far that has been working for me. I keep track with a spreadsheet “snapshot” of all my account balances on the last day of every month, so I can tell if my monthly & yearly goals have been met. Being oriented toward the longer goal helps avoid the worry about a short term lapse.

Carly says:

Yes, Tony! The spreadsheet helps so much to keep me on track. And keeping the bigger picture in mind is the way to go for sure. I’ll be doing my best to get back on track for July and August. One more year to go!!

Matt says:

What’s great about this (besides being funny) is that you were winning (per Charlie Sheen) while failing. Yeah, maybe you got in over your head, but you didn’t do it recklessly (your mind never really left the goal), you acquired some great memories, and, as you pointed out, if you hadn’t been successful in the previous months, you wouldn’t have had the means to “fail” in June in the first place. Failing to seize the moment is a bigger dick than being broke!

Carly says:

What’s great about you (besides being funny) is that you’re awesome. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! And you’re so right, we all need a little moment-seizing here and there.

notedinnashville says:

Carly, it’s so good to see you back! I took some time off from blogging too, and loved every minute of it. I can see that Richard is trouble, and as my mom used to say, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.” It sounds to me like you’ve got this living thing down – striking a great balance between discipline and fun. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!

Carly says:

Anita!! So nice to hear from you! I’ve been wondering where you went. Sometimes you just have to lighten the load a bit. Glad you enjoyed the time off. Your mom sounds like a smart lady — far too many Richards in this world!

Thanks so much for the encouragement!

“It was as if I’d been on a no-carb diet for five months only to find myself trapped in a Little Debbie factory.” I love that! Yeah I think everyone has had months like that where you let your guard down and you start to fall down that slippery slope into spending, not saving, not being money conscious. They key is to just pick back up where you left off and solider on. I sometimes also look into selling some stuff as “penance” for maybe spending too much. It helps ease the guilt a bit. 🙂

Carly says:

Why oh why is that slippery slope so inviting?! And love the idea of doing “penance” … I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot of it to do by the time summer is through! 🙂

Loved your post and the Little Debbie analogy. Usually my inner brat surfaces around the issue of not wanting to make dinner for the family. When I start feeling that way I try to just plan for one meal out towards the end of the week when I am worn out. Before long, I’ve gotten over it. When you are in it for the long haul, you have to prevent yourself from giving up out of frustration.
So proud of you for making the double the minimum credit card payment!!!

Carly says:

Thank you! 🙂 Is a great idea to plan an extra meal for later in the week. I rely A LOT on leftovers to keep me from wasting money on take-out– one of my biggest weaknesses! Thanks so much for the encouragement!

Hey Carly,
I’m also trying to budget. And although I’m not charging a bunch, this last few months I feel I have no money and I’m really happy on pay day. So I think people spend more in summer. Also, with another addiction on Sunday I told myself I was going to stop drinking, only to have a night out thursday. I only lasted 4 days. But now I’m back to trying to be on the wagon. I think with life tempations arise, and people relapse a little bit. The question is to realize you’re breaking an important, and not repeatedly falling back into the negative habitual behavior. Spurging for one night is not the same thing as going on a month long bender.
So if you spurlge on the credit card, curb it quickly, and make sure to get the focus back. I think that’s the key instead of getting the feeling that a lasting positive change is not possible or give up on the self improvements you want to make.

Carly says:

Hi Matt! Thanks for stopping by! Living paycheck to paycheck is no fun at all! I can’t wait to be done paying off this debt, so I will actually have some money left over at the end of the month. I haven’t used my credit card since January and have no intention of doing so, but I agree that relapse is totally normal. It’s all about getting back on track! I hope you’re able to get yourself back on track with the budgeting and nights out. Wishing you tons of luck!! 🙂

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