Last week I came across a personal finance blog I’d never seen before. (I know; it shocked me too, considering how much time I spend reading blogs.) And as I clicked through nearly a year of posts, I started realizing, OMG, this chick is me five years ago!
In case you’re wondering, the blog is called Little by Little, and you should totally go check it out. But not right now because I want to tell you about the revelations I had while reading it. Please note that I am not being mean or bashing her. I asked permission via Twitter before writing this post. Plus anything I say applies to my former self, so it’s not like I’m over here drinking Haterade.
The entire time I read her blog, I kept finding similarities to my life at the peak of my spending addiction. I actually dug around in my basement and found my journals from 2006 and 2007, and I was astounded. I could almost predict what she wrote before I read it – it was kind of scary, yet awesome at the same time.
Problem #1: Out of Control Spending
I don’t know how much LBL and her husband make in a year, but I’m guessing they do pretty well. Many times in her posts, LBL says, “We shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck.” I said the same thing all the time when I was married to S and we were both working – we made about $80,000 a year in an area with a VERY low cost of living. There was no reason we should have had trouble paying our bills.
When I look at LBL’s spending reports, I see that the vast majority of their spending is on unnecessary purchases. Coffee, $250 haircuts, beer, lunches, expensive gifts… In fact, her very first post mentions that they spent over $16,000 on groceries and eating out in 2010! That figure absolutely blows my mind, though I can’t say much since they’re a family of 5. Our family of 3 spent about $9000 on groceries and eating out in 2008. So I can see how those things happen.
Problem #2: A Love of Stuff
LBL professes her love for Nordstrom, referring to it as her “mothership,” which made me giggle. She is also in love with her Blackberry, espresso machine, and Asics Gel Kayano running shoes ($110 on Zappos.com and she buys 2 pairs a year).
Again, I can’t say a word. When I look back at 2005-2007, I see nothing but purchases of STUFF. Over $2000 spent on makeup and skin care products during that time. A flat screen TV. A front load washing machine. A new computer. A camcorder. So much clothing I often found things I didn’t even remember buying. Over 150 pairs of shoes and probably 75 purses. I was drowning in all my junk.
Problem #3: Excuses (fueled by stress and poor communication)
Like LBL, I have always been great at organizing, thinking of solutions, and making plans to change my spending habits. Also like LBL, I often threw all that planning out the window when life got hectic. Like many of my old journal entries, her posts are filled with lists of specific ways to dig out of the financial mess she’s in. Her spending reports, though, reflect plans gone awry (note that I’m paraphrasing here):
I was so tired from working long hours, I didn’t cook dinner or pack a lunch for work. So I ate out instead.
I bought an espresso machine because it will pay for itself in a month or so. But sometimes I still buy espressos or coffee when I’m out.
I’m trying to be more conscious of what I spend, but my husband’s spending habits are messing up my plans!
Like I said, it’s amazing how similar we are. Contrast those paraphrases with exact quotes from my old journals:
I know I said I wouldn’t eat out this week, but I forgot my lunch on Monday and Tuesday. Then everyone went out for Mexican on Friday. What was I supposed to do – starve?
We finally got rid of our landline! I did have to up our cell phone plan to make up for the extra minutes we’ll be using, but it’s still a little less money!
I swear, every time I start doing better, S goes behind my back and spends more money. Ugh!
So What’s the Point?
I said it once, but I want to repeat myself: I’m not writing this post to bash LBL, her husband, or her blog. How can I talk smack about someone who is obviously my separated-at-birth sibling? Plus we’re Twitter friends now, so there’s no way I’d violate our potential BFFness.
When I found LBL’s blog, I was oddly overjoyed. Not because someone else is struggling with debt and overspending, but because it reminded me that I’m not the only one who has climbed this mountain. Most of my blogger friends have made far better financial choices than I have, and it’s easy to get depressed and feel like a loser. Finding another competent mom with a professional career who is in my (previous) situation helps me remember that I’m not the only person who is recovering from mistakes.
Also, I feel like I have unique insight into LBL’s situation since I’ve already been there. Judging by her posts, she’s where I was 5 years ago – trying to get a handle on her money but still fighting a lot of difficult habits. In my case, it took several more years before I was truly ready to make lasting changes. That doesn’t mean she won’t get there sooner; in fact, the day I found her blog, she tweeted that she and her husband were going to sit down and go over all their finances together. That milestone never happened when I was still married.
I wish I would have blogged back when my spending was at its worst. Honestly, though, I’m not sure my skin would have been thick enough – it’s much easier to write about it now that it’s over. You guys met me when I was finally taking control, so you missed out on the insanity of my spiral into debt hell. If you want to know what it was like, LBL’s blog is the perfect opportunity to find out.
I encourage all of you to check out Little by Little. I’m NOT sending you over there to attack her and make her feel like crap, so if that’s your plan, don’t bother. But I do think she could use some support and cheerleading as she fights this battle. Most of us know how hard it is to discuss our finances with family or friends, so I think LBL deserves a kickass community of online support like you guys have so graciously given me.