Monday, January 9, 2012

on being broke, filing taxes, and running races

I have this spreadsheet. When we get really low on money, I sit down and fill it all in. The spreadsheet would nauseate most people, but I love it. (Except when it causes a panic attack. Then I hate it.)

My spreadsheet projects all our income and expenses for the next 6 months. When we spend money, I enter it in and see how it will affect the balance 6 months down the road. I can see what times of the month it will dip into the negative and adjust accordingly to always keep our account in the positive. So even though it may look like we can afford to go out to dinner this week, that dinner may put us in the negative 3 months down the road. Trust me--I'll know.

We've gone through periods like this before, and it always sucks. While I actually welcome the challenge to be frugal (it's a character trait I'd love to master sometime before I die...), what really sucks is having to constantly tell people you can't afford it.

"I'd love to sign up for that fitness class with you, but it's not in the budget."

"Yes, those pants would look awesome, and they are on sale, but they are still not in the budget."

"We would love to join you for dinner, but it's just not in the budget."

So if I tell you that we don't have enough money for something, please don't think I'm asking for your pity. I'm just being honest. We knew that having Christian work (and consequently paying a babysitter to watch both our boys) would be a huge drain on our finances, but we also knew that the only way to get him to a job that could support us all  was to make that sacrifice and pay our dues (quite literally).

{Dear thieves: Our savings have run out and we are broke. Don't even bother with us. We're not worth your time.}

I've never been a huge shopper. I don't drool over upcoming Nordstrom sales. I don't have a million pair of shoes. We don't belong to a gym. We aren't foodies who spend a ton of money at restaurants or on gourmet cooking ingredients. I'd say the two things I most enjoy spending money on are (1) travel and (2) races. {Correction: I hate paying the race fees, but I love running the races.} It's easy to cut out travel since the $$ adds up fast on any vacation, but races are my goals--my motivation to work out. I'm going through withdrawals, because my last race was in September and I have nothing on the calendar for all of 2012. It's depressing.

However, it is tax season. And that normally means we get a good chunk of money back. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I don't care if I'm paying the federal government too much money and they are earning interest on it until I get it back when I file my taxes. Trust me--if it had been in my hands, I would have spent it on that fitness class, bought those pants, and gone out to dinner. Then taken a weekend in Tahoe and signed up for a couple races. No, I welcome the forced savings account, especially when we're broke and working hard to make ends meet.

So I'm chomping at the bit to do our taxes. We'll put a chunk in savings, bulk up our bank accounts so I can take my eye off my blasted beloved spreadsheet for a while, and then I'm signing up for this...

I've been wanting to run this race for years, and my wonderful friend Erica is on board with me this year. So I've decided that this is my treat this year. This is my splurge. It's $80/person. Who's with me? Who wants in??


Chris said...

Well, I don't want in on the run, but I do relate to the tight budget. That was our life for many years when were first married, than raising a young family (well, actually, I guess until I went back to work part time to help supplement the income). I also totally relate to the being frugal part. It's fun occasionally (when it's a challenge - "I can do this"), but gets old really fast. Hang in there. It will get better. And it's amazing how you are always on top of everything.

brooke said...

Wow..I love your attitude about the budget. I am going on a budge for the first time in my life now that I am getting divorced. My sis Ashley is helping me learn how to be frugal and save and cut's tough!!!

I think the races are totally worth the money and if they motivate you to work out..then they are an investment in your health.

Thank you for your kind comments on my blog. I know how much Ashley adores you and I'm so glad you were a support to your sister when she lost her long time love. You're so doesn't matter if they were married or probably still hurt just as much.

Glad we finally connected in the blogosphere!

Molly said...

Mom--I admire that you kept to a budget. I'm hoping this helps me be better at being frugal for the rest of my life.

Brooke--Welcome! I am terrible at finding sales and using coupons and stuff like that. It gives me a headache. I'd rather just not buy stuff and make quesadillas for dinner (again).

Braden and Cheri said...

I LOVE tax season!!! But since Braden is studying to be an accountant, this will be the first year I don't do the taxes, which is like the funnest part of my year. Oh well. The next funnest part is getting a check for $5000...

Em said...

This post really resonates with me, as we are on a super strict budget, too. It's no fun. And I appreciate your comment to Brooke makes me feel better about not being a coupon-fiend. I try and watch sales, or I just go for as long as I can with as little as possible. Lately, I've been thinking about posting about this topic...would you mind it if I end up linking to yours?

Molly said...

Hi Em! I don't mind at all if you link to me. Sometimes I'm hesitant to post about these kinds of things, but at the same time I get sick of reading blog after blog of "Our lives are so perfect and we have no cares in the world!" I rather like hearing from you and Brooke that you're in the same boat and hate it just as much. ;) Did you see my post on couponing a while back? I think you'd like it:

Emma and Dan said...

I feel the same way about tax returns. Now that Dan has an income, it'll be our first big one since I quit my full time job in 2007. We won't do anything fun with the money, but it will still make me happy to see it go into the account.
:) Good for you for deciding the one thing that you really enjoy and being willing to splurge on it (races). For me, I fear that it is buying my kids clothes and books. They are all clearance or consignment, but -dang- I love to shop for them. :)

Sally Teeple said...

Hi Molly. We're in a similar boat now. Dave didn't get any classes at SJSU for Spring, so we're down to just my income from teaching. I'm trying to stay positive (and I really admire your ability to be positive about things like this) and view this as a good challenge. I'm enjoying the challenge of thinking up dinner ideas that are yummy, healthy, AND cheap. I'm sure it'll get old eventually, but for now--frugality, here we come!

Molly said...

Emma--We used to do fun stuff with our tax return money, but now I think having a savings is more fun. ;)

Sally--Let me know if you need a good bread recipe! When I have time I make my own to save money. And it's yummy. Chili is super cheap and makes super good recipes. And homemade pizza. We have a quick dough recipe. Much cheaper and you can make it way healthier. I just need the actual time to make these things. Good luck! I hope Dave gets some classes soon! You can do it.

Molly said...

I meant to say, "Chili is cheap and makes super good leftovers."