Wish List

by Christopher Paul on July 23, 2006

So I was walking around with my wife in the city today after just saying good-bye to my two younger brothers who stayed with us for the weekend. While we walked all around the West Village, we talked about how we always seem to spend more than we should. Not that we get ourselves into trouble, mind you, its just that we always seem to not be able to do or get something we want because we spent too much the month before.

Most of what we spent money on was food. Even though we are careful to order groceries from Fresh Direct every week, we inevitably go out for dinner at least once. Add that to the lunches we buy and we are looking at lot of bought food. Almost all of the food we buy is healthy and there is a high price to pay to live low fat.

But in trying to figure out how we can pay of all our bills, save money, and still have fun, I came up with a solution I think will work well for us. I separated our expenditures into three categories: operating expenses, saving expenses, and fun expenses. Operating expenses are the mortgage, utility, transportation, grocery, and health club bills we must pay every month. Savings expenses are really just the auto-transfers into our savings account I already setup. Fun expenses would be movies, dinners, iTunes, and small miscellaneous expenses that just make us happy and keep us from quiting our otherwise unrewarding jobs.

To make sure that we stick to a soon-to-be defined monthly limit on “fun” items, I decided I would create a special checking account that we would use such purposes. Every month, we’d refill that account with the soon-to-be defined limit and if we ran out, we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do. It forces us to separate those monies from those we save and those we pay to get housed, heat, and health. The check card we get for this seperate account would be we would use to pay for purchases while on the go and we would still have our other cards around if we got into an emergency (like if we had a flat while on vacation or something).

But the fun things would be limited to small items and mundane purchases. We decided that special items like gifts, car rentals (that won’t be for vacations), most clothes, and medium-sized purchases for ourselves would be split between our fun money and our savings account. That way we don’t destroy either fund when getting things we think are needed (or deserved). Very large purchases like a new TV, car, computer, etc. will be purchased out of savings when we feel like the time is right. It means we have to work towards being good with our money in order to get the big-ticket items.

So we don’t sacrifice our mile-earning-abilities, we are going to look for a checking account provider which offers us that feature. No longer will our “fun” expenses go on a credit card that earns us miles; we will do it directly so we don’t loose track of what we spend and “surprise” ourselves the next month. With direct deposit and no minimum balance, the account is free and easy to maintain online. We think its a win-win situation.

And to help advance our goal of saving money, I decided to create a wish list on Ta-Da. This list will be separate from my other, more normal, to-do lists that I setup for the house. In the list, I write down what my wife and I want to buy with our savings and list the estimated price. That way, we can strive towards a goal that has tangible rewards vs some dollar amount written on a statement. We reward ourselves when we feel are good and where there is enough money in the account to support our purchase (making sure we don’t empty the account in the process).

I’m considering publishing this list so people can see two things: what is it that we strive for and how well we are doing in getting things off that list. Like the personal life goals I list, the list will not move quickly. In fact, with this list, I might have more items on there than I should. But the point is that they are there to motivate me into saving enough money to get them; they are my grapes to jump for. Only this time, I’m getting the bloody grapes!

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