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Archive for the ‘The Goals’ Category

It seems that birds of a feather do flock together.  Or maybe every 30-something mom in this world is rethinking, retooling and reshaping her life.  Either way, I’m blessed to be surrounded by incredible women — like Christine and Abby — who have taken risks to follow a creative passion that they can’t ignore.  So I couldn’t have been more filled with joy when I raced home today to see my friend Ellen Cross make her national television debut on The Bonnie Hunt Show.  Find Ellen’s performance of “Monday’s Pill” here and check out her site here.

She rocks (and so do her beautiful girls and wonderful husband).

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All Talk, No Action

When my husband Dave and I started dating, it was pretty clear, pretty quickly that we were coming to the table with different philosophophies and working knowledge about money.  For starters, his family talked extensively about saving, investing and budgeting.  Mine?  Not so much.  Even our work pattern through college was evidence of our differences.  My husband spent every summer roasting in the sun running a bonafide – and lucrative – landscaping business, saving every penny and then using it to fund his beer on M Street from September through May.  I, on the other hand, slogged away as a retail maven during the summer and pizza shop girl during the school year, spending every penny as I went along.  Often, Dave would stop by Acropolis Pizza around 2 a.m. before heading to an after-party, knowing I still had an hour and a half to go before shutting down for the night. 

Who was smarter about their money?  I think it’s clear. 

All this to say that my husband has a long history with me and my ways when it comes to cash management.  In our 17 years of togetherhood, he’s heard some pretty grand statements about how we should spend or save money, not one based on data or reality. 

“Let’s just use cash for a month, I bet we’ll spend less!” (not so practical or safe)

 “Let’s just buy gas and groceries, nothing else!” (really? we’re a dual-income, 2 child-care family that has a ton of expenses)

“Let’s buy AMEX gift cards as a way to track our discretionary spending!” (huh?)

Finally, last year, we put a great system in place for spending.  Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that the system allows each of us to be in control of spending money without feeling guilty or going vastly over budget each month. 

But there was still a problem.

All my big talk followed me.

So now we had this beautiful system that gave us each control of some spending money, but I created budgets for myself that were, again, not based in reality (see above).   So last weekend, when I had a lot of alone time on my hands (Dave was away with our oldest skiing), I had a little talk with myself…a little cometojesus one might say.  I basically said, “Self, if you’re going to get serious about this whole Make More, Buy Less business, you need to craft yourself a serious, honest, trackable budget, pronto.”

And so I did.

I spent four freakin’ hours stumbling my way through Excel and developing a realistic budget for spending that takes realities into account like haircuts (for me and the boys, so none of us looks like a shaggy dog), the occassional mani (because well-kept hands make me feel pretty great and I just found an awesome local place), and quarterly clothing allowances.

And after three days, I’m doing really well.  Here’s hoping for the next 362.

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This is me (coming clean).

Every year, just as December comes to a close, the weight of the month’s gift-buying and grocery-shopping and last-minute-thing-before-the-party-starts-/family-arrives-/school-ends-acquiring begins to crush me.  My heart palpitates, I breathe faster, I can’t sleep, and I feel totally out of control.  What’s strange about this is that during the other eleven months of the year, I am a complete and total spendthrift.  Ok, maybe not a spendthrift (as I quickly check Wikipedia, I would not define myself as a person who is “extravagant and recklessly wasteful”), but I am an excellent shopper.  I am someone who not only enjoys the act, but is really, really good at it.  I find great deals.  I adorn myself and my husband and our children and our home with beautiful, high-quality goodies that have not cost us an arm and a leg.  But it’s this time each year that I start to feel it’s all too much.  Too much money, too much stuff, too much time.

I think the rest of my family has it right.  Thrifty, parsimonious, penny-pinching — whatever you call it, it runs like blood through my family’s veins. My father, a lifelong academic adminstrator, allowed himself a $10 a week allowance even after he became the headmaster of an independent school in Manhattan.  My mother, who returned to public health nursing after raising three kiddos, never even allowed us to get refills on our soft drinks (back in the days before they were free) during our thrice-yearly outings to the Ground Round (dinner out for birthdays only).  Even my youngest brother, as early as I can remember, socked away his hard-earned (or found) coins in a giant traffic meter bank until one day he had enough money to buy a complete drum set.  No joke.

But somewhere along the way, the art of living an economical life skipped a member of the Moses family (maybe that’s why I found my CPA husband Dave, who serves as my frugal proxy), and I became known as The Shopper in the family, swimming through the flood of teasing that has accompanied that title ever since working my first retail stint at Talbots in the late 80s.

But here’s the thing, although I’ve enjoyed my years of shopping…my expertise as it’s come to be…I think it’s keeping me from the things I’m really supposed to be doing.  I think, beyond the obvious benefits of cutting the shopping cord (saving more money being the primary one), I’m going to discover talents I didn’t even know I had (or that I think I might have, but don’t attend to properly).

So, before that bone-crushing weight I was describing earlier starts to lighten, here’s my plan.  In 2010, I pledge to shift my focus toward creation and away from consumption.  I have piles THISBIG of recipes, craft ideas and books ready to be attacked.  I have a re-found interest in running after training for a 4-mile race this past Thanksgiving.  I have always wanted to make-like-ProjectRunway and sew myself a little shift dress (and I even have the sewing machine at the ready).  I’m writing a memoir (no, not about my shopping self) and need to dedicate more time to finishing my pages. 

To help me with my little project, I’ve set some simple goals for myself that I will report on regularly:

Make More: Create a piece of art or craft at least once a month

Cook More: Try one new recipe a week

Sew More: Complete at least one garment for myself by the end of the year

Read More: Limit screen time (computer included) and read one book a month 

Write More: Spend at least three hours a week writing (and I don’t mean blogging)

Exercise More: Run a 10K by the end of the year

Try More: Learn to ski (yes, this lifelong New Englander has never stepped foot on a pair of skis)

And generally, Buy Less: Buy essentials online (the best way to limit in-store browsing is not to walk in); be creative with what’s already in the kitchen (“Cook More” should help this); think through EVERY purchase and be honest about whether it’s a want-to-buy or a need-to-buy; use time with my boys creatively and if possible, don’t schlep them on errands which always ends up with purchasing unnecessary things just to make the trip fast or pleasant.

(On a side note, some of these goals may seem less than ambitious, but between working as a higher ed administrator three days a week and being a full-time mom the remaining four, this is just about all I think I can handle.)

So this is me, coming clean, blogging along the way for everyone to see and to keep me honest.

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