Monday, April 27, 2015

On Autopilot No More (Dream Save Do, week 22)

Long story short, after much deliberation and with almost as much reluctance as anticipation, I sold my wonderful little red Prius. I loved my Prius -- how it handled, its fuel-efficiency, its size, etc. As much as I enjoyed the car itself, I loved the fact that it was paid-off; I had been able to pay it off very quickly by applying to the loan the money saved each month at the gas pump.

However, one of the very things that led to its wonderful gas mileage (it's light weight) led to it being a troublesome vehicle on snow and even on rainy roads. During the 4 winters I drove my Prius, there were far too many days I slipped and slid my way to and from work. Rainy days, no matter what the temperature, often brought a slip or slide or two as well. With no small degree of regret, I traded about a month ago for a Subaru Forester.

Last week, I went over my budget (which I keep via the Dave Ramsey Gazelle Budget app on my ipad), looking for any line items that could be trimmed so that I could avoid significantly cutting the monthly contribution to my "debt-free home fund" account. I already knew I would be eliminating pay-television after my next (end of April) paycheck, but I was hopeful that I could find a few dollars here and there to trim.

Right away, I saw one spending category that could not only be trimmed, but that could be eliminated completely. Because I love crafts such as knitting and scrapbooking, I had budgeted for scrapbooking supplies, knitting classes, and yarn & other knitting supplies.  I'm no longer paper-scrapping, so I knew I could cut back a bit, but then it dawned on me that I have enough yarn in my stash and enough projects waiting to be completed to keep me busy for awhile -- at the rate I've been going, maybe well over a year! I deleted that fund completely, knowing I could add it back at a later date if I really want to and after all my current projects are finished and my yarn bin empty.

I moved through each remaining spending category very slowly and deliberately, examining each sub-item and the amount allotted, and I carefully considered where I could trim my spending without sacrificing the quality of life I want to have. I tweaked a bit on a few categories, but it wasn't till the very last budget item that I saw where I could make another significant change.

My "fun fund" isn't an item I initially included in my budget 5 years ago. At the time, I didn't really feel like having fun; I'd just become a widow, I was searching for a full-time job, and I was simply getting through life one day at a time. Over time, though, I came to see the wisdom of putting aside money every month for non-necessities. I found that having at least some money to spend purely for enjoyment made paying all of the other bills a little easier.

I opened that line item and examined what I had purchased with my "fun money" over the last few months and realized that, in all honesty, I had purchased the majority of the items because I could and because I had the funds set aside, not because I really wanted the item, and I had purchased those items on autopilot.

I realized that I actually gained more pleasure from putting money aside for my debt-free home than I did from the majority of my fun fund purchases. I enjoyed my walks to the library to check out books and magazines for free more than I enjoyed purchasing a magazine at Barnes & Noble or downloading a $2.99 book from Amazon.com. I'd had more fun walking to the park to watch the local university's baseball team play a game on a sunny, cool April afternoon than I'd had driving to Sonic for an ice-cream float.

It was definitely a no-brainer. I cut the allotment to my fun fund in 1/2.

When I tallied up the "savings" from tweaking my budget, I found that I'd made up for all but $25 of my new car payment. This budget review has caused me to wonder in what other ways I operate on autopilot. That's definitely something I'm going to ponder a bit more this week!

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