Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day... Neither is My Bank Account

You know what is just a little frustrating? Sometimes I wish I could just wave a magic wand and be "done" with my finances, but that just isn't going to happen. Not for a long time.

The fact of the matter is, there really isn't an end to my financial work - as long as I am breathing, eating and using some form of money, I need to keep working away at my finances. It is a little discouraging in a way, but also really eye-opening. There was a time, not that long ago, that I never worried about shopping or spending money. When I first started this blog and rebuilding my finances, I thought it would only be a matter of time until life was "back to normal" and I could be that free again. I am not sure that is actually the case.

A good analogy might be building a house. In the past, I lived in shacks on the beach. Not very comfy, lousy in bad weather, put together with palm leaves and twine, but acting like it was a mansion and I was on permanent vacation. Now that the divorce hurricane came through and leveled everything, I see things differently. I realize that I had no foundation, no security, no support. When it comes to divorce horror stories, mine wasn't even all that bad, but it had the power to wash away all the finances I had saved up.

So now, things have changed...

Now I'm building myself a better financial house. Last year I turned the big hole I was in into a basement, poured walls for the foundation and started planning the shape of the house to come. I finally feel like I am out of the dark and sitting on the floorboards of the first floor, but that doesn't mean I can go back to beach living. Instead, I know now how easily that can be blown away - so I am planning on building walls, a roof, a thick door with a deadbolt lock. What I am trying to say is that even though I know I can make all my bills and can keep out of debt - I don't think I can ever be as carefree about money as I once was.

Mostly, that is a very good thing. While the past may have been fun, there was a level of danger that was there that was all the worse because I didn't know about it. In my case it was a divorce, but it could have been anything - medical emergency, job loss, who knows... anything could have blown that palm house to bits. I was lucky, it could have been a lot worse.

I can't say though, that I don't miss being that carefree. I do. Sometimes I think, "Well, when I get X, and X and X finished, then life will be just like it was." The truth is, I don't think that will ever happen. Even if I get the first three things done on my list - all I am going to do is add more. That metaphoric house I am building? It is going to need windows, shutters, carpet and more. My goal right now is simply paying off my mother, but that is just building the stairs out of the basement. I see so much that I still want to do - build a bigger stronger, emergency fund, build a fund for other needed home improvement projects, start investing... the list goes on and on.

Now I am more aware of what every dollar means and what it costs me. That isn't to say that I don't go on occasional splurges - I am wearing a fun little ring I bought the other day on a whim for $4.00, but even in that small purchase I can't help but think of all the times I have been grateful when a book sold for $2. I am grateful for that lesson and my new knowledge, but am honest enough to admit, I miss the ease of ignorance, just a little bit.

The hardest thing about it is time. It is so, so easy to blow tons of money and get into debt, it is really hard to pull yourself out and pay it off and build emergency funds. I feel like I have learned my lessons, I have mastered budgeting, now I just want to snap my fingers and have it done. POOF - I want my financial dreams to come true.

I know that is just wishful thinking though. If I want a sturdy, safe house, I need to do it brick by brink knowing that the time it takes just makes it all the better in the long run.

It doesn't mean I don't want to win the lotto though! Of course, now I would never spend the money to play it.

Photo by: Dean Terry
via flickr


psychsarah said...

Sooooo true! I miss the bliss of ignorance on occassion. Just the other day I thought to myself, how did we used to live without a budget? How did we just go along, hoping for the best, with no cushion to fall back on? Craziness. I think you're right about things not going "back to normal". I think of it as a new normal, a better normal. I wish for the magic wand too, but your title says it all.

Dawn said...

Psychsarah, it is a better normal, you are right. If I find that magic wand, I'll be sure and pass it on, but in the meantime we'll just have to make it one day at a time.

me in millions said...

Great analogy. Good luck building that financial house.

Catie said...

Being carefree about money is simply a cultural mindset that America got into when credit became so easy. How many time have you read about how frugal the average millionaire is, or about a lottery winner that blew 4million bucks in 2 years?! I don't think carefree was ever or is ever the way to approach money (but I miss it too!). At the same time, there will come a day when you can walk into a bookstore and buy a few things without doing the math in your head!! Maybe you will never be carefree again in that blissful way, but when your house is built on your new solid foundation you will have, as psychsarah says, a new normal.

Dawn said...

Me in millions - thanks so much!

Catie - "I don't think carefree was ever or is ever the way to approach money" I think you are dead on, but yeah, I miss it too. It is good it is gone, I'll be a healthier person, financially, but once and awhile I miss those days. Of course, it doesn't help how much prices have gone up. I used to blow money on books when paperbacks were $3.99. Now everything is $14.00 and up!

Jessie said...

Great analogy!