My friend P realized that over the summer, she had unwittingly been spending a lot of money at Starbucks. For one, they were often heading out for adventures out & about, so she was stopping in the drive-through in their neighbourhood rather than lingering over a homemade drink at home. Her kids out of school meant more people in the car requesting their own hot chocolates or iced teas or whatever, adding up more quickly than usual. By the fall, the unthinking minimal treat expense had become a full-blown, costly habit. This reflected a bigger trend in their spending habits that had developed in the midst of some stressful family goings-on.
The financial situation, months later when they were forced to reckon with their decisions, was overwhelming and stressful; it needed immediate lifestyle changes. But, she also knew that going from full-on to cold-turkey would be unrealistic. If she tried, she knew it would just result in failure, disappointment, and discouragement. So, she decided to budget for $15/week at Starbucks: enough to get herself a couple of things a week, or splurge once for the whole family.
I respected so much that she had the wisdom to set herself up for success and to create a goal that was realistic & attainable.
You may be very financially stable, but it’s easy for little things like this to run away with any of us (and our spare change).
I believe that we have a chance to start anew every single day of the year, but certainly, times like the New Year are great opportunities for assessment. If you want to “do better” in 2016, start with one item, one area. Create a little budget, and stick to it.
Dig around through your expenses; there may be one area that perhaps became the norm over the holidays but wasn’t previously. Maybe it is coffee at a coffee shop or meals on the go. Maybe you bought fancy cheese for some holiday hosting and now it’s nestled itself into the regular grocery list. Maybe it is booze or soda, which are such a prevalent part of holiday consumption that they may have become the norm (guilty!)
If you are consuming any of these things at a higher rate than before, do an estimate on the difference (say, currently vs. what you were spending in October). Do a little quick math on what the difference would be if you add it up over a month, or a year. If you’re happy with the results and have the resources to sustain it: great! If it seems unreasonable to you ($200/year on havarti cheese?!), tackle that one thing and make a change.
No judgment. No guilt. Just you & your wallet. I am a champion of the small steps!