dont set yourself up to crash and burn wiggle

March 11th, 2008

Don’t Set Yourself Up To Crash and Burn – Wiggle.

When I was walking into Walmart this weekend to finish my grocery shopping, four young men were getting into a car, each with a sub and drink from Subway in their hands (there is a Subway inside our local Walmart). It literally stopped me in my tracks. I have never wanted anything in my life as purely as I wanted a sub from Subway in that moment. It was then I realized that maybe, just maybe, I had set the bar just a little too high for all of us as far as debt reduction was concerned.

For close to 9 months now, we’ve had absolutely zero budget for eating out. We have eaten out on occasion, when we have been traveling and had no other options, and when my parents came to visit last July, but generally we have been very focused and good about not violating the eating out rule and have not set foot in a restaurant. And in that moment in front of Walmart I realized that I was walking a very thin line between total commitment and throwing in the towel. It is not that we were a family that ate out all the time. In fact, we usually went out 2 times a month or less. But we did occasionally eat out, and the cravings for food not cooked by me have grown stronger and stronger lately. Last week I was about 5 seconds away from ordering a latte at the Starbucks inside Target. This week I wanted to knock over some poor unsuspecting boy to get his Subway sub. I have a problem.

I didn’t order a sub that day, but I haven’t forgotten about it either. I’ve started to wonder if my desire for things I’ve eliminated from our budget is from a lack of focus on the student loan payoff, or my psyche crying out saying “Make life worth living! I want a treat!”. I had been thinking that because the credit card was paid off, I’d lost my drive a little bit, but after making the first student loan overpayment this weekend (more on that this afternoon) I realized I still have this desire to be debt free inside me. But I also have a desire to live a little more than we have been.

Before I crash and burn and do something crazy, I need to build a little wiggle room into our budget. If I have a little space to be crazy (not a lot, and not specifically for food, but just a little space) it might be easier to focus the rest of my energy on debt reduction and stay the path. If I set that wiggle at a specific parameter, I can think carefully about what I want to do with it, and save it up if I want to use it for something bigger, but not go crazy and completely blow the budget on a whim. At least, that is what I hope. And of course, I’d give my spouse the same wiggle room. He hasn’t complained but I know he’s been more than patient over not having any spending money.

Or maybe I just need to actually spend my birthday money this year (my birthday is at the end of March and my parents usually send a small check) on me and not on debt reduction. Or at least, give myself the option to do so.

Wiggle. Just a wee bit of wiggle, before Target and I have a not so minor meeting. :)

Note: For those wondering from yesterday, my freezer is in fact 0 degrees F, once I followed the instructions and left the thermometer between two frozen items for a few hours. So for now, the freezer is okay.

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32 Responses to “Don’t Set Yourself Up To Crash and Burn – Wiggle.”

  1. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to read this today. I think you’re right that you do need to add a little more wiggle room. Before, you were doing fine with how things were but if you even have the slightest feeling that you’re not living life as much as you should be in the name of getting out of debt, adding a little here and there will help you in the long run. I know that it can be hard to feel like you’re giving in. One sub here will turn into a latte there and on and on. But I know you and I know you’ll make it work while still adding some other stuff in.

    And yes, you absolutely without a doubt should spend your birthday money on you and not your debt.

  2. Spend your bday money on YOU! No doubt.
    Also, wiggle away, my dear! You must wiggle because otherwise it is just too hard to keep this up.
    A little Subway? That is not an unreasonable ask! Debt does suck but there will be plenty more things to save for once the debt is gone, and you’ll want to achieve those things fast … next thing you know, you’ve got no debt but you’re still not wiggling!
    Even $10 each payday or a planned night out is no biggie. In fact, it’s absolutely essential.

  3. I know the feeling! I think Target and Walmart park their coffeeshops/restaurants under air intake vents and blow the glorious scent throughout the store to make people crave the stuff.


    Of course it’s good to use snowflakes wherever you can, but you really should build in that wiggle room so you don’t go bonkers.

    You don’t wanna deprive yourself and do, as you said, throw in the towel on the whole thing!

    So get a sub, already! :)

  4. I feel your pain! Subs, especially Subway subs, are one of my biggest weaknesses. I could live off of them (and probably much healthier than what I’m living on right now), but at $6 or so a pop… yikes.

  5. I agree you need a little mad money as we call it. You do what you want with it, no questions asked, and you can save it up or use it on coffee. It does make you feel like you can treat yourself every now and again.

    When we get money for gifts, rebates, bonus checks etc…non income $, we use Mary Hunts formula 10/10/80, give 10% away, Put 10% in savings for yourself, and then live on the 80%, sometimes that 80% is for fun, some times it goes towards debt repayment. But at least we split it up and made multiple uses out of it. And I feel better having given away at least a portion before I blow the rest on yummy food.

  6. I would really encourage you to spend at least part of the money that you get for your birthday on something that you want. So many times I use mine to buy things I “need” like underwear or some clothing, but I always try to buy things that will bring me enjoyment like magazine subscriptions( get to enjoy it once a month for a year!) or a treat out to eat. You can’t go long term depriving yourself of everything or you will burn out. Better to have an occasional treat and keep going than to hate the whole process in the end.

  7. I totally agree that you need to spend a little something on yourself once and awhile. My husband and I have been rocking and rolling for months now on debt repayment and saving and had completely eliminated eating out. A couple of weeks ago I came home from work exhausted and battling a sinus infection and wanted pizza and breadsticks like nothing else! So, we blew $20 bucks at Pizza Hut and I felt guilty for about an hour or so but got over it pretty quick when I considered how hard we’ve worked. We “deserved” it, I think!

  8. Oh, PT – I hear you. Target is the most tempting thing in the world. Five minutes alone in the wrapping paper/stationery section is not a good thing. But you deserve some wiggle room!

  9. I budget $25 per paycheck (every two weeks) for me, and $25 for husband. This is our “blow money.” if I want to spend an afternoon at Barnes & Noble with a Starbucks cappuccino and good book, I can do it. If he wants to go buy some fishing lures, or lottery tickets, or a new movie, he can. We are not allowed to have any say in what each other’s blow $ is spent on, it’s ours. It may not seem like a lot, but it still gives me some feeling of freedom.

  10. Just this month, my wife and I put another envelope in our stack for the budget that included “blow money” for the both of us. It’s not much, but it’s enough to help us keep our sanity.

    Going out for ice cream or a movie once a month is something to look forward to for both of us, and it’s not going to do more harm than good so long as we keep it in the budget and don’t let ourselves go crazy.

  11. I know totally how you feel!!! The past few weeks, I kind of feel like a prisoner in my home, b/c most of my thoughts are consumed by our money and working our way out of debt. It’s like I feel guilty for going out instead of finding something to cook. I have been very disciplined except for last week. I was out sick from work all week b/c I had to be taken to the ER by ambulance for my back, so needless to say, I couldn’t cook and my hubby got fast food a few times, my mom did cook us dinner one night though and that gave us a couple of days’ worth of leftovers. Hang in there!

  12. One thing we have always adhered to is the “blow money” category. I saw Dr. Phil discuss this on Oprah one time (way back when he was just her trial consultant from Texas!). He had a show focusing on couples with money problems … he advised that each spouse have a certain amount of blow money that they did not have to account for each week. He said it could be $5 or $500, but the point was this was their money to do whatever they wanted with. No receipts, no accountability for this money. I forget the exact psychological reason behind it …

  13. I, too, totally agree that you need to have a little space in your budget for “luxuries” (even if it’s just a Subway sub!). I run my budget this way (allowing myself little things), so that I don’t go through complete deprivation and end up blowing the budget big time. It’s like dieting: if you never allow yourself any kind of treat or sweet, you’re highly likely to sit down with an entire cake…

    ps I think going to restaurants twice per month is completely reasonable.

  14. I agree completely with giving yourself some wiggle room. Lately our plan to get out of debt has gotten a little out of hand so we are scaling back and allowing ourselves to have some fun and enjoy life together as a family without worrying if spending $10 is going to kill us.

  15. I know that when I get in a good budget-y routine, or when I’ve been worrying/thinking about money a lot I’m often tempted to put gift money straight in the bank. That said, I try to avoid that urge the same way I avoid urges to overspend. The reason: as the gift-er, rather than gift-ee, I’ve always said that gifts are supposed to be things you wouldn’t buy for yourself, hence, no vacuums, and no savings account either. It’s your birthday, you deserve the break!

  16. I’m glad you didn’t mug the guys with the subs. I know you were tempted.

    This semester, I have some eating out built in to my schedule. I drive to grad classes two nights a week and don’t have time to stop at home and fix dinner, so that’s drive thru night. Tonight: a Wendy’s single cheeseburger with everything, fries, diet coke. Mmmmmm.

  17. On the other hand, I think it was extremely personful of you to have resisted the Subway Temptation. What a woman!

    Still, one sub probably won’t break a week’s budget…it’s not like you’re asking for lunch at the Ritz-Carlton, f’r hevvinsake. Will they sell you a half-sandwich? That might make you feel less guilty and still give you the wriggle room to relieve Budget Oppression.

    Take that birthday money straight to the lunchroom at the Ritz-Carlton! :-)

  18. its the simple pleasures that makes life worth living.

    the only time I buy coffee is the 2-3 weekends a month I go to beach. but it’s almost like a religious experience!

  19. You should probably “wiggle” a bit, but I’ll relate this to the time I was on a low-carb diet a few years ago and was similarly tempted by Subway, for different reasons. I had to lose a lot of weight, over 100 pounds. I didn’t eat any carbs, except a few incidental carbs from leafy vegetables or carrots, etc. I craved bread like nobody’s business. And what I found was that if I wiggled out of my total commitment to stay away from carbs once, it made it that much harder the next day to resist. In my case, complete and total avoidance was the only way to stay on track. I know other people diet by having an “off day” each week, but you have to know your own tolerance for getting back on track.

    That having been said, I did let myself eat some pizza slices on my birthday each year when I was dieting (2 years to get it all off), so maybe once per year is OK. :) Plus, my system was so overwhelmed by the carbs it made me not want any more for weeks after that – you would probably feel the same way if you splurged on something else.

    Just make sure you’re cool with your own reactions to “cheating” a little. If it makes you happy, it’s fine. If it makes you guilty or uneasy, don’t do it. Good luck!


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