Enjoying the Adventure of a Self-Imposed Spending (Almost) Freeze

Good Morning Friends!
For the past few months, I have been working through the challenge of a rather painful back injury (more on that here). As I have worked towards healing and making the right medical decisions, I have not been working a ‘traditional’ job. Rather, I have used this opportunity of being home to start my Etsy shop, which has been a labor of love. God has blessed this endeavor as my shop has exceeded my initial expectations for its first seven weeks of being open. As I am still in the early stages of shop-ownership, money has most definitely been tight for me. The prospect of surgery has also presented the possibility that it may not be until later this year that I am able to consider looking for a new job. With that being said, for the past three months I have been very careful about how I spend my money.

I have been blessed to have parents who have raised me with financial wisdom.  The best financial advice that they have given me is: do not get into credit card debt and save every penny that you can. Fortunately, this sensible mentality has taken root in the hearts of many of my friends and loved ones, too. When I realized that I needed to set new financial boundaries for myself over the course of this medical-leave, I did not miss a beat. I started exercising extra self-control, being more resourceful with what I already have, and avoiding shopping temptations.  I am pleased to say that over the past three months, I have spent about 1/10th of what I was spending before. The process has been a lot simpler than I had expected, and I have actually come to enjoy it. With a few simple changes, you can do it too!

First and foremost, determine your actual mandatory expenses. This includes anything that absolutely must be paid each month. When I realized that I was going to need to take a medical break from the workforce, the first thing I did was list the total of my mandatory expenses each month. I still live with my parents, so for me this included: student loans, car insurance, and my cell phone bill. For many people, this would also include rent/mortgage, car payment, and utilities. I determined the total of these combined expenses and circled it.

Determine the required allowance for your basic needs. This includes the basic items that you need to live a modest lifestyle. For me, that included gas money and access to my graphic design software (for my shop) through my monthly Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. For many people, this would also include groceries, co-pays for medical care, and basic household items. It is also good to be mindful of periodic expenses, such as car maintenance and haircuts.  I made a list of these expenses and noted it beside the mandatory total.

Assess your savings and look for areas where you can produce income. This will provide an estimate of how long you will be able to remain self-sufficient. This is where it is important to take a deep breath and be real with yourself. If you have $5,000 saved, you are most likely going to have more of a window to be financially stable than somebody who has $700. It is crucial to be honest with yourself and consider any outstanding bills. Figure out if you have a way to make money on the side, whether it be through selling excess items that you do not need anymore or making a side-job of your favorite hobby. When you have taken time to thoroughly look at everything, you should have a decent picture of how long you will be able to keep your bills paid. If you are employed, consider your monthly income as well. You will likely be surprised at how much money you can afford to store away into savings each month.

Look at your discretionary spending and prioritize what you want to keep and what you can do without. This one has been hard for me. I have been trying to spend as little money as possible, but some expenses are worth it to me. I have spent money on occasional creative supplies for myself, like this lovely paper pad, and a new book, and a monthly subscription to The Influence Network. There have been lots of things that I have wanted to purchase, but I have been very mindful of whether or not it can wait.

Get creative and resourceful. I have a notebook addiction. Gold-foil or floral or beautifully-bound vintage notebooks – I have a problem. And don’t even get me started on the wonderful world of Target. Over the past few months, I have exercised self-control and made the most of the things that I already own. I have been resourceful, polishing up old notebooks with washi tape and using every last page. I have saved fabric scraps from sewing projects and organized so that I have a clear picture of the things that do have. You might be surprised at just how much stuff you really have.

Dream of things you want to do when you can comfortably afford them. I have struggled with wanting to do things now. I don’t like to wait, I like to take action and do things that make me happy. I have learned that I will know when the timing is right for certain things. One of my biggest and most costly dreams for the next couple of years is to attend Making Things Happen. I do not think that any other event has ever spoken to my heart as much as this one, but I know that I cannot afford it right now. Rather than sulk and push the dream aside, I am keeping it in mind so that I can set aside a bit of money each week once I am working regularly again. It is important to not flip the switch on that dream trip or a new laptop, but rather to look ahead and know that if you are diligent with your spending, a window of opportunity will come at the right time.

I can honestly say that this process has been as enjoyable as it has been eye-opening. I have a more grateful heart now, being more appreciative of the things that I have been blessed with. When the occasional treat comes along, such as a dinner out with my mom or a new book, I appreciate it that much more. I hope you have a lovely weekend, and please share any ideas or tips that you have too, as I would love to read them!



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