Monday, January 30, 2012

The Intersection of Creativity and Balancing Your Bottom Line

Over the last few weeks, we've been tweaking our family household budget.  In order to get a better handle on where our money is flowing, I've been trying to keep track of what I'm spending -- where, on what and why.

It has been an eye opener, to say the least.  We spend a lot of money on crap we don't really need.

This is not exactly the thing you want to find out about yourself -- that you have an impulse purchase issue when it comes to items that your child or your husband might want and you are all about making them happy and so you buy before you really even think about it -- but there it is in black and white on receipts, week in and week out. 

And so?  I'm trying to spend my money more wisely and consciously.

But it is definitely going to be a process of retraining my brain to think "no" first instead of "Oh, s/he would love this..." when it isn't something even remotely needed nor is it something anyone has even asked for in the first place.  My anticipatory purchasing habits have got to stop, even if they do pretty much make everyone happy in the household.

People pleasing can really impact your bottom line.  And once you know that you fall into that category, you really have to work to retrain your brain.

It isn't even that we don't have the money to pay for things.  It is the fact that we are spending money we don't need to spend and junking up the house in the process with stuff we really don't need.  Rampant consumerism has got to stop somewhere, it might as well start with me.  Right?

In my efforts to simplify our lives and to get a better handle on our budget, I've gotten creative in recent weeks in order to still satisfy my internal need to do little things to make my family happy.  Instead of buying new crap for the house I have:

-- Played board games with my child, even when I wasn't in the mood and she was.  Because she loves it so, and her being happy makes me really happy.

-- Cooked dinner at home more often, including making homemade pizza dough and using toppings we already had in the fridge and cabinets.  Tasty and healthy...and it saved us about $12 from what we would have spent on delivery (maybe more, because we didn't impulse buy drinks and breadsticks, too!).

-- The last snow day they had from school, The Peanut and I cuddled up and watched a movie we already owned but hadn't seen for a while instead of bringing home a new DVD from the store.  We both had fun, spotted something we hadn't seen before in the movie and had a really good time together.

-- Started going through a stack of old magazines and writing down the recipes and pulling pictures out for my "wish book" of decorating ideas and for The Peanut to play around with for a collage.  Instead of buying new magazines, my goal is to rid the house of all the old ones before summer.  It's amazing how quickly magazines can pile up in this house -- and also how much fun The Peanut can have with a few pulled out pictures, a thin piece of poster board and a glue stick.  (Best snow day activity idea ever!)

And that's just what we've been doing so far.  I'm finding that at the intersection of my creativity and my desire to better balance our budgetary bottom line, there is a whole host of stuff that can be done.  When we do it together?  That's just an enormous added bonus.

There will be a lot more on this in the weeks ahead.  But think of this as a reminder to your creative inner child:  fun doesn't have to cost you a lot of extra cash.  Why not challenge yourself to find your own amusement for under $5 and whatever you happen to have lying around and see how much fun you can have with it, too.

(Photo via 401K.)

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