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My neighbor’s house selling for half a million, dark matter, and being scrap happy – concepts that prove the struggle is real.

This story starts with a smattering of privilege because I’m choosing to be scrappy and happy. The line of privilege is thin when I look at my paystub and it reflects projected earnings of 40k. Significant events, outside my control, would need to happen before that projection is birthed into reality.

However, I’m debt-free (outside of mortgage) and possess almost free healthcare. I have a supportive family, sassy friends, and am healthier now than 20 years ago. The privilege is abundant as slow-moving RVs in summer.

I didn’t start scrap happy. Instead, there were longwinded lessons after getting booted out of a creampuff childhood.

I Was Little & The Want Was Little

I grew up in the upper-middle-class, which looked like I didn’t have to work hard, and I didn’t. My basic needs were taken care of and when I thirsted for more, I got a job.

I didn’t struggle, and there was no need to get scrappy. Everything was easy.

When I left home and joined the military, they supported my finances. The pay was meager, and I probably qualified for food stamps, but I had free housing, dental, and medical. Food was deeply discounted.

Even with my needs taken care of, I turned wants into needs by turning shopping into a hobby. Then, I cashed out my retirement when I needed money for college.

College is when the scrappy life starting creeping into daily habits and scrappiness wasn’t optional but mandatory.

I had to be more cautious since I was determined to go loan-free. Plus, I was trying to recover from cashing out my retirement. Even then, it felt like a poor life choice.

Post-college, things became scrappy crappy. I was awash in unemployment which was the opposite of my expectations for immediate full-time federal employment.

A Subtle Shift

The first stop on the shift to thrift was a budget.

It was an uncomfortable stop that would become an epic journey into personal finances.

It was many, many, many moons before I could get consistent with tracking my spending. Some of it was a learning curve because I had to track purchases which I never had to do before. Some of it was resentment; I didn’t like numbers and they didn’t like me. Some of it was doubt; I had a long history of being less than financially perfect – the odds weren’t in my favor.

Not that any that mattered. I was unemployed. I had to do something. Starting a budget was cheap since all I needed was a spreadsheet.

Now, I get perverse joy from my budget. I love (yes, love) entering a purchase and seeing the calculations adjust automatically.

She Picks Up Pennies has seen my soul and understands, “Numbers are concrete. They’re measurable. And they fit beautifully into every money nerd’s favorite tool: the spreadsheet.”

As the years have waxed and waned, the budget has been edited, adjusted, and adapted to my life similar to a set of well-worn jeans.

It started with tracking expenses but has increased to include annual expenses, savings goals, and net worth fluctuations. As a digital document, it is powerful. It has turned this numbers-averse girl into a woman who crunches numbers. For. Fun.

Nifty & Thrifty

Once my budget was on autopilot, I started exploring different ways to shift to thrift. Eventually, I embraced second hand. Second hand is in demand. At least, with this party of one.

Shopping for second hand sometimes looks like putting on real pants and leaving the house. Sometimes, it’s looking around the house and seeing if I can repurpose what’s on hand.

Recently, I registered for the Color Run. In prepping for the event, I researched suggested advice which included wearing white. As a guideline, I don’t do white. White holds every stain for an eternity and sucks in a darker hue when washing. To avoid such first-world dilemmas, I avoid it.

For a limited time, I will embrace it.

To complete my Color Run outfit, I needed white shorts. I started with a seconded hand store, but I thought finding white shorts, in winter, in my size was as slim as a slim fast milkshake but I tried. The effort was worth the hesitation. For $3.19, I had a pair of white shorts. Were they lightly stained? Absolutely. But they are about to be ingrained with colorful stains in a couple of months.

Shift to Thrift

Another way I increased thriftiness, was by changing an expense to something more commonsense.

  • Satellite TV became cable
  • A gym membership became at-home exercises
  • Frequent grocery trips became weekly
  • Bought books became borrowed
  • Disposable paper towels and napkins became reusable
  • Restaurant reservations became homemade creations
  • Décor became declutter

These small changes happened slowly and built over time. Each purchase became another chance to save. Some of the savings were subtle and just a few extra bucks. Some were more impressive with a couple hundred. Big or small, I wanted to save it all!  

Scrap Happy

I get rewarded twice for thriftiness.

First, I get the immediate reward of an item at a severely discount price, if not free.

Second, I collect tiny moments of resilience. Each time, I could have spent more but didn’t. Just like I could have eaten more but didn’t. I could have drunk a whole bottle of Prosecco by myself in one sitting but didn’t.

These small moments are pieces of pride. It’s the smart choice over a quick choice. It’s choosing big dreams over small wants.

No matter how I spew my scrap happy, it’s propelling me towards a future just a bit brighter with $12k worth of possibilities.

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