Have You Mastered Both Sides of the Financial Equation?

I’ve never really enjoyed math, so I guess it’s not surprising that I just can’t seem to master both side of the financial equation: increased earnings and low spending.

Human behavior, particularly my own, can be really frustrating at times. When I started living on a budget a couple of years ago, I was very, very careful with my money. For the first few months I stuck to my budget very diligently each month. Even still, I wasn’t making a huge dent in my debt because I didn’t have that much money to throw at it beyond the minimum payments.

During this time, I really had the budgeting side of the financial equation figured out. If I was ever over budget it was only by a small amount in the eating out category. (Go figure, right?)

Fast forward a few months and I started freelancing so I could earn more money and pay off my debt quicker. In my mind, this was how I was going to get ahead, by mastering both sides of the financial equation – high earnings and low spending.

Instead of throwing every extra penny toward my debt though, I used freelancing as an excuse to order pizza or go out to eat more often because “I didn’t have time to cook.”

Then as my online income picked up even more and surpassed the point that I could eat away all of my income, I got lax in my other areas of my budget. I started spending more on clothes and shoes again, I started spending on things for my house that weren’t 100% necessary, etc.

In fact, last month I made over $4,000 online which is more than I made at my day job and yet I still wasn’t able to put very much “extra” toward my debt because of increased spending, aka lifestyle inflation.

I decided that this month, November, would be the month I changed that behavior. Then I went out-of-town for the weekend.

I only did a little shopping for myself. I picked up a couple of pairs of yoga pants and pajama pants and one new long-sleeved shirt. I also didn’t watch my travel budget very closely while I was gone and I ended up driving into the city with my BFF on Saturday which resulted in extra spending on gas that I hadn’t budgeted for too. Those things combined with the Christmas presents I picked up for my friends and family lead to over spending my budget and not being able to put extra toward my debt once again.

What is wrong with me!?

I say I want to be out of debt, and I do, but then I go and blow my “extra” money every month which makes my debt progress very slow and sometimes non-existent.

Now that I’ve finally got the earning side of the financial equation working in my favor, I can’t seem to get my spending back down to create a surplus for debt every month.

This is very frustrating to me as I start off every month with the best intentions and always wind up over spending all of my “extra” money.

Do you have this problem? Have you mastered both sides of the financial equation? How did you do it?

About Kayla

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at ShoeaholicNoMore or follow her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Brooke (formerly from PF Twins) says

    This is hard, but important! I think each person’s answer is different. For me, it is a combination of tactics AND mental changes.

    The mental changes I think are the most important. I went through a period of a year where it was a struggle to pay extra because I wanted more. It was constantly a battle of me vs. my will I realized I just have to want less or I have to want to pay off debt MORE. . It can’t feel like deprivation or it is unsustainable. For me, until I made this mental change, every month was a struggle.

    Here are two articles that really helped me with this mental shift (and realizing it was the key for me):
    http://livingafi.com/2015/07/07/becoming-a-saver/
    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-money-onion-peeling-back-the-layers-of-personal-finance-success/

    In terms of tactics, it helps if I move the money budgeted for savings and debt as soon as possible during the month. I have been keeping a 1K emergency fund + living on last month’s income, so that keeps me calm about having enough money to cover cash flow and I can just get it out of my account. If it stays in my account until the end of the month, it tends to get eat up.

    Having achievable, clear goals helps too. Right now I am trying to get one of my monster student loans below 10K before the end of the year (about 1100 left!). That’s a smaller action step within a larger goal of 30K of principal payoff for the year, with a stretch goal of 32K in payoff and a super stretch goal of 35K in payoff.

    • Hey Brooke! I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone with this struggle. I will definitely check out those links. Thanks!!

  2. I definitely understand where you’re coming from! In order to battle this though I IMMEDIATELY get the money out of my checking account upon receiving it and apply it to my debt! If I leave it in either the household account or my wife account, it’s good as gone! Last month we made a pretty decent income with me receiving the “third paycheck” and my husband received a bonus. I IMMEDIATELY applied the money towards debt because I knew once I hit the store or realized we were “out” of something, the money would be gone.

    • Good tips! I’m going to give these a try. I need to get both side of my equation figured out and kick this debt to the curb!

  3. I hesitate to say that we’ve “mastered” both sides of the financial equation, but we have come a far way. The key for us has been to make drastic and inflexible commitments. We have not purchased ANY clothing for ourselves in 2015. We don’t spend money on ANYTHING that we don’t need. If you start to make little allowances, bigger ones tend to creep in.

    • I think that’s exactly what happened to me. I got a bit lax and then all of a sudden my spending has gotten out of control. Ugh!

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