Reflecting on June

As June draws to a close, I’m feeling quite reflective on my journey.

All the numbers aren’t in yet, so I can’t give you my June report card, at least not yet. I can tell you that June will end well, on paper.

I think this month I understood that this isn’t just about numbers. It’s not just about balancing the budget and paying off debt. There’s a good bit of self-reflection in this journey – at least there is in my journey. June marks the six month mark of being totally dedicated toward one outcome: retire my line of credit debt by the end of 2010. As I’ve progressed in these last six months, I’ve added two more goals: the need to start an emergency savings, and to resume contributions to my retirement savings. I’ve done all three.

Don’t go thinking I’ve got it all figured out or have it all together. This month I realized just how fragile things/I am.

Seems somehow ironic that at the half-way mark of my initial goal, I had some significant ah-ha moments. Specifically, I truly understood that I:

  • can still view shopping as a recreational activity, which gives me a temporary high;
  • can still see something I don’t need, and invent some justification in my head for why I should have it;
  • am emotionally attached to an expensive little piece of real estate in Toronto we call home;
  • maintain a rental property even though I don’t have a maintenance fund to support it, and my financial position has changed substantially since I initially purchased it;
  • can tell my friends I can’t afford to go out for dinner/lunch/drinks and they can come over;
  • need to stand-up to people who can influence my spending (like the ex-husband, my Mother, the kids, friends);
  • need to maintain the hours I put in through my part-time gig, even when the debt is paid off.

Some of these things were uglier than others.

While I thought I could look at stuff that tempted me and just “say no”, I had a bad case of wanting to just say “here’s my visa card” in June. There were things I really wanted to buy in June, but didn’t. There were a few things I wanted to buy and did. When I updated my Facebook status in mid-June to say I “shouldn’t have tried on that dress at Banana Republic”, most of my friends chimed in about how I should just go get it, how I deserved it, how hard I worked. Yes, I do work hard. What does that have to do with anything? Isn’t that the attitude that has folks in debt have now? Hell, isn’t that the attitude that got me in debt?  Maybe I deserve a hair cut too, but if I can’t pay for it, what’s it matter? Do I deserve a sports car? What’s the difference between a hair cut and a sports car? If you can pay for either, and still maintain your other commitments, why shouldn’t you have them? The ugly part in this is how shallow it all sounds.

You know I didn’t buy that dress, and from today’s perspective, I don’t even want it. But for whatever reason, for a number of days I ached for it. Particularly silly when I admit there is no function, no hot date, no place in mind to actually wear it.

In hindsight, I’m terribly thankful for this silly little dress from Banana Republic. It will be my visual cue in my head to remind me I can be taunted, and I’m not out of the woods. Just because I can be diligent with recording my spending in a spreadsheet and reporting on what percentage I spend on what budget line doesn’t make me bullet-proof to consumerism. What hole in my world did I think this dress would fill?

This month I also came to grips with the cost of maintaining our home. I’ve made a choice to stay in a home that is in a good, familiar neighbourhood. I’ve moved four times since 2001. I’ve purchased four homes, sold three, and lived temporarily in one apartment. This month I realized that I pay a heavy price to be still in the place we have now, and I have to be content with the price tag that comes with that. If I’m not, I’ll have to put a sign on the lawn. Since I’m not prepared to do that, I will accept the high cost of Toronto living.

Similarly, I poured out some money and time to a rental property I purchased five years ago, at a time when my financial picture was very different. It’s hard to believe what’s transpired in five years.

I guess the bottom line is this: just because one makes a decision, doesn’t mean that decision always makes sense as time goes by.

Today I am living with decisions I made two, three and five years ago. I’m paying off debt I’ve been acquiring for the last five years. I’m one weak moment away from being that lady in the mall with too many shopping bags. This month I truly understood that I am in charge. I can make decisions today that create a better perspective for my future self, two, three and five years from now. I’m the one who decides. This month I got a glimpse of a part of myself that I didn’t find that particularly flattering, but at least I’ve seen her, and I hope I’ll know her when she starts to rear her empty head.

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