This week will be my last class of Financial Peace University. I will miss going to this nice church, with nice people, every week. I will miss the support and friendship. I will miss learning new things.
I have been reflecting on my experience. Before I ponied up what seemed like a chunk of money for this class, I did some research online. It was hard to find any information that was not put out by the Dave Ramsey organization, and of course, they are involved in selling their product.
For me, I can say this. I read the book The Total Money Makeover several years ago. I thought it was more than a little crazy, and not applicable to my life. I went on with what I had been doing. I got used to living in what felt like semi-poverty, and always being worried.
I did not even realize that's how it felt until I had a personal emergency over the weekend that depleted my Baby Emergency Fund, which wasn't even fully funded. And I had to run my credit card back up to the limit (this would be a no-no in Dave's World, but I am telling you, this really was an Emergency, and I needed every penny), after paying it off and not using it for several months, and enjoying watching the numbers go down.
After I wrote the Big Check, I had to take care of some related things. When I finally had a moment to breathe, I felt this tightness and anxiety in my chest. I realized it was because I had a couple days to go until payday, no money in my checking account (well maybe $15) and no Emergency Fund. No space on a credit card. Nothing. Nada.
It just blows my mind, that this is how I lived pretty much every day. For years! Even when I had some money, I was just waiting for it to be gone as I knew it would trickle away eventually with little shortfalls and things that just come up.
The first thing I did, the same day, was to drive over to my bank and deposit all the change I had been saving. I try to only spend whole dollars and I toss the change into the bottom of my purse. Every few days I take the change out and put it in a pretty box on my dresser. When I get a good chunk, I put it into a ziplock baggie and move it along. I hadn't deposited the money yet because my bank has shortened their hours and it is hard for me to get to a teller window these days. But I had the bags of change on me so I deposited them right away into my savings account. Not checking. Not spending. SAVINGS.
Immediately I felt a sigh of relief.
Then I drove to 3 stores and returned all the small Christmas gifts I had bought for adult relatives and friends. I'll be baking cookies, and the children will still receive gifts from me, but my adult relatives and friends will have to be content with baked goods. I then deposited that into my savings account.
By the end of the day I was back up to $110.00 in savings. Not much, but far more than zero. I had my December budget already done, on paper, on purpose. Every dollar was pre-spent. So when payday arived today, I immediately transferred over the amount I had pre-decided to save.
The really important thing that I noticed -- I did not want to go even 24 hours without some kind of savings. Contrasted with the me who went for years with only the extra unspent money in my checking account as any kind of savings. And I had no dribs and drabs of money laying around -- not even loose change in the bottom of my purse or in the change cup in my car. Every loose penny was deposited at the bank.
It turns out my need for a crown has become urgent. I have an appointment with the dentist for next week. Because I asked, I know how much the crown will cost and my own part after insurance (thank you, insurance). It is a lot, several hundred dollars. And I have not been saving for it, because instead I was saving my emergency fund. It's ok though. I redid my budget and I made arrangements to spread out the cost over the course of my appointments.
current favorite restaurant , where I enjoyed their exclusive pancake flight (this weeks was Vitamin C infused, so I had flavored pancakes with grapefruit, orange, cranberry and mango toppings) and well known orange-roasted coffee... saw Dolphin Tale in 3-D for a whole $4 per person... went grocery shopping so I can bring my lunch most of the week... our workplace holiday lunch is this Friday. I am also getting a cash bonus for the holidays, which can go to savings, or the dentist, we'll see.
Life is good. I feel like thngs are on track. Even when a big Emergency happens, life doesn't get off track. I could deal with the Emergency in itself, without having to also freak out about the money. Sure, it's rotten to have to start all over again... but I also didn't write a check against December's monthly income. I am not starting in the hole.
I've been looking for some kind of little part time job or a way to bring in some extra cash. No luck yet, but I am open to it and I have been replying to job ads and asking around. I can't wait tables or do retail, since I have spinal problems so I can't stand for long periods. But I have a car, and there is always delivering pizzas, right?
If you have not done FPU and you are thinking about it, all I can say is: It is worth the money. If you DO it. Just showing up and listening won't do it. You have to DO it. You have to make a budget on paper, and you have to force yourself to stick to it. I find the envelope system is a great way to FORCE me to stick to it.
I also find that the lessons of FPU spill over into the rest of my life. I did laundry on Saturday, and then I picked out 4 outfits for work with accessories and underthings, and put them on hangers outside my closet. In the cold dark this morning, I did not have to fumpble around wondering what i could wear and trying to pick accessories. I just got dressed. I bought 4 soups, 4 bagels, and 4 apples for lunches this week, plus a few little treats. I didn't ahve to fumble around to get my lunch together. I just grabbed it all and went.
I love being a spontaneous person and flying where the whim takes me. I like that setting up some of these regular areas in advance actually means I have more attention available to give to the REST of my life. To the fun parts. It actually makes my life LESS boring.. in a really fun way.
Photo 1: Budgeting. From "What the Proposed State Budget Means for Los Angeles County." Don Knabe, County of Los Angeles, 4th District Weblog. 10 Jan 2011. LINK
Photo2: Pancake flight at Orange Restaurant Chicago. Taken by me (sorry for the cameraphone quality). Dec 2011.