Dealing With Real: Facts Are Your Friends

June 9, 2016

My sister and I talk pretty much every day and cover a lot of territory. One of our favorite conversations is about routines and schedules which is hilarious because I’m a single working girl and she’s a married mother of four young kiddos.

So basically our routines have nothing in common but we’re sisters so we can still talk about it:-)

The Facts of Time

In one of those conversations, we talked about what time I needed to get up so I could do all my things before leaving for work on time. The ideal depart time was 7:40 a.m., so I had one piece of the puzzle. The big missing piece to the puzzle was that I had no idea how long it took me to do all my things between getting up and leaving.

So I started making a list and putting times on it. “Getting ready” is nebulous so I broke it down into all the parts I wanted and needed to do each morning before leaving.

And at that point in my life, it took me 80 minutes. That's right, 80 minutes. And yet, in my head it was, oh, like 45 minutes. Since it factually was not and never was, I wasn't doing myself any favors by pretending so.

I did the same thing with my bedtime ritual and, what do you know, it’s not a 15 minute process! I’ve gained a lot of peace of mind knowing how long it takes me to do things and have less stress by dealing with realities in my scheduling. This leads to another thought…

The Facts of Money

My sister and I both like the book Great Expectations. I’ll do a really poor job of summarizing this but here's the gist:

Pip is poor.

Pip comes into money.

Pip spends his money extravagantly because that’s what he thinks he’s supposed to do.

Pip and his buddy have cheerful “financial-reckonings” where they review the dismal gap between income and expenses, and eventually things change.

[Note: I’ll check with my sister and update any glaringly wrong parts of the summary.]

So anyway, I’ve always loved that idea of getting things down on paper, no matter how bad they are. In May 2015, when I decided to do something differently, I had my sister over for a budget-review night. Yes indeed, I do sure know how to have a good time and make sure my guests do, too!

During that eventful evening I laid out all my expenses, debts, budgeted amounts (keep in mind I’d been budgeting for 4 months already and had some idea of what I was spending in categories), and income.

She recommended—at my invitation which is important for stubborn people like me—that I bump some budgeted amounts up (thanks Jess!) and others down (thanks Jess) and helped me expose all my things to the light of day.

This was the night my perspective shifted from I’ll-be-paying-off-debt-until-death to I-can-be-debt-free-in-three-years! And my working my plan, I actually paid off my debt in just under 2 years and stayed out of debt. That is the power of dealing with realities and getting some traction.

Your money challenge:

Get all your things down on paper. Get the facts of your spending down on paper. Some expenses that may not be included in your current financial reckoning:

  • Random utilities.
  • Household expenses like cleaning supplies, postage, home furnishings that you don't want to admit you buy but realistically do.
  • Memberships that only hit 1x per year (hello Amazon Prime!)
  • All the types/occasions of gifts.
  • Kids allowances, clothes, sports fees.
  • Car expenses like annual registration and insurance and tires.
  • All the debt payments.
  • Electronics you’re going to need to replace in the near future. Like a phone which you have only hypothetically of course dropped in a Montana river. And a toilet. And countless times on the ground. Again, only hypothetical.)

Once you have these on paper, you'll be able to see so much more clearly the reality of your financial picture. And once you see your financial picture clearly, you can do something about it.

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