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10:48 a.m. - January 10, 2007
Stop! Budget Time!
I went a little nutso yesterday, but it was worth it.

No, this is a good nutso – please. No angst in my pants or anything.

Instead of reading the dozen or so books that I should be reading, I went back and re-read my copy of The Mojo Collection : The Greatest Album Of All Time. And then, I finished watching 100 Greatest Songs From the 1980’s on VH-1 Classic.

So I went on a binge last night. And I found almost everything I wanted on iTunes. I was thwarted in trying to buy “Der Komissar” by Falco (the original) and found that the only Bananarama they had came from their latest albums, so I was unable to get “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting”. But I found everything else, and it ranged from the Jeff Beck Group to 2 Live Crew to Waylon Jennings to Fairport Convention. And yes, I now have two Paula Abdul songs in my iPod.

Liz put together a budget for us in 2007. But I am lobbying for my music budget to be rolled into my clothes budget, because I may have days when I go nutty like this.

Actually, I do have a plan. I’m going to keep a list, and then once a quarter (or so often) I’m just going to go for it and download a boatload on the list – unless there’s something I absolutely have to have AT THIS EXACT INSTANT.

But budgets have always been a bane for me. That’s funny for me to say, because for almost three years that’s what I did at a publishing company. I prepared the budget for the distribution operation and customer service and tracked expenses against that budget.

I had to play bad cop with some managers and directors then – and ask why the heck things weren’t going to budget and why some costs increased. In that role, I also was wined and dined (ok, taken to lunch) by vendors who wanted a piece of the action. Hey, free food!

At home, though, forget it. I wasn’t the saver, I was the spender. But, I had a good mind for financial game plans.

When we wanted to buy our first house, I developed the plan on how we were going to pay off all of our credit cards, in order by interest rate, and then use the money we were using for credit cards to save for our down payment. It took less than two years of effort and struggle, but we did it.

Now that we’re in Crawfordsville, and Liz is happily a stay-at-home mom and writing (one day, she’s going to be rich and famous, or at least published and I’ll still be here entertaining the masses for free…), and with two adorable kidlets, budgeting is of paramount importance.

And I loath the whole budgeting process, because it really exposes what kind of crap you actually spend your money on during the month or year. The horror!

Some things are out of our control. We can turn down the thermostat, sure, and bundle up a bit in the house but natural gas prices are a wee bit out of our control (and we are on the budget plan, but still, when they re-calculate that it can be painful). We don’t use much gasoline now, but again it’s a bit out of our control.

We do try to go to Costco once a month to stock up, but sometimes we’ve been foolish about what we’ve bought, sort of like Kramer and his Beefaroni in that episode of Seinfeld.

I’ve been the coupon king, but recently I’ve just been going to the store on my own after work and not bringing them along, but they can help, especially when used in conjunction with the specials that your shopper card can bring you. And we’ve been buying more store-branded stuff (I mean, paper towels are paper towels, whether they have a porn-stached dude on the wrapper or had the commercials feature a bossy waitress) and finding that the name “Tide” does not make my clothes magically cleaner than the word “Detergent”.

And the cats don’t care what kind of litter is in their box – they only care if it’s cleaned out regularly.

My issue comes with my personal stuff. I have a need to consume media, books, TV, and music, and that all costs money. (Yes, I KNOW there’s a thing as the library, but for my books, I don’t just read them, I constantly refer to them – which is why I’m way behind in my reading).

But I feel I need to buckle down. I need to eat better, cheaper lunches, and not subject my digestive tract to Burger King and Taco Bell most of the time (but it’s sooo tasty at times). I need to cut down on my wine consumption, well, consumption in general. You know, Smed, when you are in the snack aisle, you don’t really need to get the queso dip and Tostitos, even if they are calling your name. (“Smed…Smed…I’m delicious…”)

(BTW – I swear that Cheetoes call out to me like the hooker in Full Metal Jacket “Me so hungry – me feed you long time.”)

If I do that, I may not need to buy that many new clothes this year. I just had to drop some money on new jeans because I went up a waist size, sunshine and some of my dress pants are a bit tight. Yet with hoops and diet, I think I can drop it back down a size soon.

Or, I could just keep getting this stupid norovirus that shuts me down for a day where all I do is eat soup and drink 7-Up. Nah, that’s probably not good for you in the long run.

And it’s so easy now, since you have debit cards that you can pay for your Wendy’s value meal with, and Amazon has my credit card info pre-loaded in the system so it’s just a few clicks away from another book or three.

Anyway, we shall see. We can make this budget thing work. We’re good enough and smart enough, but dog gone it, merchants like us!


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