Thursday, January 31, 2013

cash flow, an update

Given that I let you in on Bunny's money worries last week, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the next weekend I had my own mini meltdown about money while I was working on the budget. Or while I was procrastinating on working on the budget, more like. Looking at numbers and not really doing anything with them.

Money's an emotional subject. Not so much for what it is in itself, but for what it represents. Money itself isn't a value or priority for Bunny and I, but it's something we need to reach our goals. All of the following require money:
  • living on our own, whether its renting an apartment or buying a house
  • going on vacation
  • our hobbies (although those are more manageable)
  • taking care of a child
Of course the money worries aren't centred about money itself, but how we manage our money and how we can live a lifestyle that makes us happy. How long can we live in my mother's basement? It allows us to save a lot of money, but there's a huge emotional tradeoff that I just can't shake. If we do move out, we are still a ways away from buying a house comfortably and it puts a long hold on that goal. How important is a house to us? Where does saving for retirement fit into all of this? At what point do we absolutely need a vacation, even if it's just a week off from work at home and how does that affect our trajectory towards a home and family?

So I cried and we talked about how scared I am and how frustrated I am and how some days everything sucks. Pretty much as soon as I got that off my chest things slowly started feeling better.

I ran the numbers, and at first they made no sense. Then I got mad at the numbers, because I couldn't fix them. And we sat down, went over them and realized that I was being way too conservative in some of the estimates I didn't have hard numbers for and things started to look more realistic. My budget estimates for income were on the low side, but we're both paid hourly and we need to use an average. It also completely ignores Bunny's freelance work since that's so hit and miss.

We spend and save pretty much exactly what I assumed we did. Our debts (mostly my student loans, really) stand exactly where I thought they did. The car is still our biggest expense, but it's not quite as much of a money pit as I thought. Since such a big chunk of our expenses are fixed it's easy to get scared, there aren't too many ways to lower them and we'd already done things like get new, more cost effective car insurance this year. Our personal spending is ugh ... well it needs some work but we both knew we were being overly generous with ourselves and we both have plans to fix it.

So at this point we're both on the same page with where our money situation stands and what it represents. We're getting a clearer a picture of which goals we want and need to accomplish first, and what we want to put off for a bit. Vacations, for example, although really, really wanted are not a top priority. Hopefully we'll find a way to make something small happen (like an all inclusive somewhere, or even a weekend away at a B&B or something). Living in a place where it's just the two of us would be better for both of our emotional health than just a week away from here (although a week away would be great, and we'll find ways for mini vacations in the meantime). We've come up with a tentative plan for tackling our personal expenses, and we've talked about starting to get into coupons and be more responsible with how we can get more for less from our fun money. We've got a major goal coming up that's going to make a huge dent in Bunny's spending and a modest dent in mine. Beyond that Bunny's been really moderating some of the more problematic aspects in his spending lately, and I haven't even been coming close to spending my personal budget.

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