Accounting for every cent (mostly)
I used to just throw the weekly $350 into the main account, and we’d have to make it last the whole week. But I didn’t worry about day-to-day spending unless we got down to $150 with more than three days to go. Then I’d start reining us in.
But now we’re charging everything to the card, which means I have to keep track of each purchase. Every time we buy something with the card, I take that amount out of the main checking account. In other words, I see the effect each transaction has on our balance. It makes me a lot more aware of how much we’re spending — and how badly we need to stick to $50 a day on average.
Imperfection is our trademark
I’m not saying that this has completely revamped our spending.
I’ve still sent Tim out for candy a couple of times, knowing it would put us over the $50 mark for the day. And if we’re housebound and hungry, I’ll just order pizza. (In my defense, there are some good deals out there. And $20 of pizza provides several more meals than $20 of fast food.)
Still, we’re doing better, which is about all I can realistically hope for.
A new wrinkle
We’d actually be sailing through this challenge with ease if it weren’t for a new cost in our budget: pool.
I’ve mentioned that Tim picked the hobby back up. He hustled in college for rent money. Alas, his skills got a little rusty since then, and he’s trying to get back to where he was — minus the hustling.
And because he’s ADD, it’s all or nothing.
He’s been going to a nearby sports bar for two or three hours every night. That plus soda and an occasional $5 quesadilla adds up to about $20 each night. Aka 40% of our daily spending.
Put away your frugality pitchforks
Take a breath before typing out a rant in the comments, railing on him or telling me he should use his fun money.
You see, there’s a reason why the money is coming out of the main account. Against all logic, hovering low over a pool table is substantially helping his back and shoulders.
Actually, it does make sense once you know the details. He doesn’t bend over the table so much as squat and lean forward. It’s a safe bend. Meanwhile, he’s almost constantly moving his arms and shoulder. (He goes from one shot to another so fast that he actually breaks a sweat. And he can break and play with either hand.)
So I guess it’s understandable that it’s helping his mobility. Still, I didn’t buy it for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t until he didn’t play two days in a row that I started to believe him. He was noticeably more stiff and sore. I still thought it might be a fluke, until it happened a couple more times. Even missing one night makes a noticeable difference.
So I’m prepared to pay for this out of the daily spending allotment, the same way that the weekly money covers aqua therapy, doctor and therapist co-pays.
Phoenix on $30 a day
Some days it’s definitely dicey to live on the remaining $30. On the bright side, it’s made me more judicious in caving to Tim’s (or my) whims. And since it’s in service of him playing pool every night, he’s being a pretty good sport when I say no to some proposed purchase.
We seem to be doing pretty well overall. Out of the three weeks we’ve been in this mode, we’ve hit our $50 a day goal about 95% of the time. (I have no idea how, but it’s very exciting!) There have been a few times when multiple, unavoidable expenses — gas, co-pays, etc. — fall on the same day and blow the $50 limit. But then we just try to moderate our spending the next day. It generally evens out.
The one exception was the first week of this venture. We got hit with a few expenses and were a tad careless for a couple of days. We ended up about $60 behind, and I had to declare a no-spend day. Not even pool. It got us more or less back on track, and Tim tried not to grumble about the pain the next day.
We’re a little short this week
Unfortunately, this financial week ended a day early: Wednesday instead of today. But I still count it as a win.
I stocked up on Tim’s cereal ($1.49 a box thankyouverymuch) and a few other provisions in two $50 grocery store trips. We now have 24 boxes of cereal on top of the fridge.
So despite using up two days’ expenses on just food, we only ended the financial week one day early. We might’ve even been able to make it the full seven days, if not for my $40 therapy co-pay today.
In other words, we technically missed the mark, but this week is a success in my book. My checkbook, that is! Har, har, ha— sorry. I haven’t slept well in three days. I’m a little weird right now.
Long-term vs short term
Paying so much for pool each day is a little ridiculous when you take the long view. We could get a pretty decent table for what Tim would spend in two months.
And no, we couldn’t get a cheap one for $300-600. Most of them are online, so we can’t see them in person. More importantly, the sucker would arrive in boxes. We’d have to push/pull/tug 300-500 lbs of parts, then put them together ourselves. So yeah, we’d have to buy locally from a place that sells, delivers, assembles and levels tables.
Even then, we’d have to have a place to put it — probably just replacing the dining room table. And we’d need to get pads for the floor. Lots of them, extending far around the table, so that a ball jumping off doesn’t crack a tile. Some of Tim’s hits are pretty forceful.
Plus I don’t want to plunder what little will be left in savings after Tim gets his teeth done. Yeah, I could say that we’d put $20 a day back into the savings account. Except invariably some expense would come up. I’d feel panicky and wouldn’t want to take the money out of our day-to-day spending.
Besides, it’s good for Tim to get out of the house a bit. He’s not exactly socializing. He mainly has headphones on to keep people from talking to him/challenging him. But Tuesday night he did play one of the bar’s bouncers — which also meant he was playing on a free table, kaching! — and he was open to playing some people Wednesday night too.
He’s definitely getting better. We’re hoping that he’ll feel improved enough to start entering tournaments at some point. It’d mean he’s interacting with people, of course, but there’s also the chance that he could win a little money to help subsidize the endeavor.
Still, I’m not counting on anything other than a more limber husband.*
Have you ever found a counterintuitive way to spend less? Who wants to buy us a pool table and lots of floor pads?
*Though also a slight more confident one. Apparently, a really hot chick was flirting with him. Being Tim, he didn’t realize until he he mentioned his wife… and saw her disappointed reaction. Then he felt like an idiot — but one who’d received a really nice compliment. And that’s really all most of us can hope for.