A continuation on my checkbook.
When payday happens, I don’t mess around. I don’t leave the house and buy all of the things.
I sit down, with my checkbook. I write down what came in. I subtract out all of the bills that will occur until I get paid next. I subtract out a tithe for my church.
I would like to say that I put a bunch into savings too, but paying off my student loan is a much bigger deal to me right now. And I count that under bills.
Then I’m left to live off the remainder. I don’t really budget, outside of this. Well, my husband and I both get an allowance to spend judgement free (he buys figures and guitar stuff, I get my hair done). But after it’s all subtracted, we either have money, or we don’t. The amount covers gas, groceries, eating out, gifts, whatever random stuff is going to come up.
Which is nice because I’m a little lazier than I’d like and don’t want to put every expense into a spreadsheet. Maybe I should. Maybe we’re oozing money out everywhere. But I have to say I put 10% (plus a little matching!) into retirement, I have an emergency savings fund, and 24% against student loans (and let’s not even think about taxes).
The point is, I save and pay my bills before anything else. It’s a step.
People often find it strange that I went to school for art and accounting. As if someone who likes math can’t be an artist or vice versa. I don’t necessarily excel at either, but I made good grades and really appreciated both. Finances are very important to all people. Oil paint costs money, scanners cost money, Photoshop costs SO much money. Art is a very expensive hobby sometimes. I also struggle with anxiety at times, so being prepared has been my best defense against worrying about money.
There was a time when I was afraid to look at my bank account or my loans. I was too scared to deal with it. Which only got worse as time went on, obviously. It’s like filling a bath tub with water and instead of turning the water off when it gets to high, leaving the room and closing the door behind you. So I looked. And I planned. And I figured it out. I still get anxious. Even my little emergency fund doesn’t totally keep that at bay, but I feel a lot better.
I currently have about $8,500 left on what was originally a $15,000 loan plus a good amount of interest. My plans, all things remaining the same, will have it paid off in November. Sometimes it’s a little painful paying out $1,200 a month (WAY above the minimum…I have a friend whose minimum is $1,100, which sounds terrifying). The thought of having no debt so soon alleviates a lot, but things pop up. Emergency lights in vehicles informing you to take it in to fix things you don’t understand. A dog with what seems like a tumor growing in her armpit. I’m in a better boat than a lot of people, I realize. I have a decent job, no serious debt outside of student loans, an emergency fund.
So I employee methods to keep my spirits up. I get a little too excited about payday because I get to whack a chunk out of my debt. I check to watch the numbers go down. I play with spreadsheets to predict the exact date of final pay off if I pay $100 extra more here and there. I keep a piece of paper that I slowly color in to visually depict the debt going away. I plan what I’ll do with all that extra money when the debt is over (invest! so exciting!). I think about how much easier (certain) problems will be to take care of when I don’t have to worry about my loans. One less bill to never ever pay again. One less thing to think about. I like that. I like that a lot. I am really risk-averse. I am very cautious. But I definitely sleep better at night knowing I have a plan (I also have a sleep mask, which helps considerably too).
Still kind of horrified when people talk to me in the check out line though.
Can’t win them all.