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Trouble with Tracking

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Hello again!

I’m working on what I referred to as “The Reckoning” but struggling, so I decided to be honest about what is going on.

Hitting my Goals

My goals are moving along beautifully. It’s Friday and I’ve been to the gym three times! I signed up for a trial of the weight loss app Noom, which uses the principals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help form lifelong habits. This isn’t a fitness blog, so I won’t get in to the specifics (but feel free to ask about it in the comments). Going to the gym, I weighed myself, and while I actually haven’t put on pounds since last year, I’ve lost muscle and I am obese. Yep, I’m apparently obese based on my BMI! I am fairly heart-healthy thanks to a lifetime of endurance sports, but heart disease runs in my family. Being tall with a large frame, I can hide weight gain pretty well… but, it’s time for changes.

Gym + planned meals = within budget for spending, my dear readers. I am having a hard time tracking money (more on that below), but I’ve had very few transactions since last week, so things are ok.

Real Life

I’ve been hemming and hawing about how honest to be about my personal life. The reality is, since around when I wrote about my ex in my first post, we’ve been together. Yes, the whole dang time! It’s messy but beautiful, like it has been since we were teenagers. Two people can love each other but also be going in (profoundly) different directions. He has a construction job for a couple of months, and we’ve decided to try and figure out for the last time if there is some way to make this work. It’s always fine while he is working, but when his restless gypsy heart stirs, he moves on to the next thing (a self-imposed employment sabbatical or an impromptu months-long trip to BC) . In the past, that has left me scrambling to pay bills for shared leases and utilities. He always gets the money, but it’s rarely on time, and that gives me tremendous anxiety. Worry not, though – I am not joining myself to him legally or financially.

We are going to go to therapy to talk about finances and life goals, and respecting each other’s dreams and boundaries. There are some affordable options, and he can pay since I’m watching his dog during his long work hours.

Existential Questions

I always thought I would be married with children by 25. My parents had me very young, and I’m the eldest of five siblings who are all further along in life than I am. Granted, they live in very small places with extremely low cost-of-living. I have a sister who bought a house and had a baby at 22 (in a place called Pictou County – the house cost as much as a mid-range car)! Another sister was married at 22. And my brother, the next eldest after me, has a baby, a defined and profitable career trajectory, a fiancee, and … *drumroll*, he is mortgage shopping. The homeowner sister was given a mortgage while she was a student and her husband worked at the Apple Store. Yes, a retail job. Readers in large cities will understand how mind-bogging being approved for a mortgage with a retail income is. And here in Toronto, friends in their mid-30s talk about not being ready to settle down yet. City vs. Rural – the divide is real!

Me? I make more than 2.5 siblings combined. My friendships are rich, long, beautiful relationships that have been nourished since childhood. My rented house is spacious and affordable (unheard of in Toronto), and my pets bring me so much joy. But I can’t figure out my purpose, my passion. There’s this niggling thought that time is passing me by and I’m stuck. Does anyone ever feel that way?

I can’t seem to think about anything else this week. I wonder what I should be doing in life. Why do I feel so uneasy?

Oh yeah, I’m a finance blogger

I haven’t tracked spending since the paycheck on August 30th, and it seems insurmountable now. It’s not the former ex (awkward title, ha!). We both work crazy long hours – he only gets weekend time with me. It could be that it’s September and I haven’t had any time off since last Christmas. I’ve become basket case, worried and exhausted. Is it crazy that I’m daydreaming about being called for my finger tumor surgery just so I can have another few days off work? Yikes. Next week, I’m taking at least a few days off for staycation and catching up. I’ll definitely have some visuals (I’m working on some Excel charts) for my spending in August by then, if not sooner.

Tracking Help?

I loved EveryDollar at first, but it seems like a terrible amount of work right now. I don’t have a September budget finished, and I don’t have any interest in spending two hours doing that. And why is biweekly pay so frustrating to track monthly?! There has to be a better way. I took physics and math in university but when I look at a budget, I see stars. I can’t figure out a clean way to allocate bi-weekly paychecks in to monthly budgets. Is there a way to budget every two weeks?

However(!!!), I am still trying to improve my situation. TD owns my car loan, and I received an email from them about a pretty good deal (I think?) on a line of credit.

The catch appears to be that, after the first year, it switches to a variable rate which is Prime (today that is 3.99%) + 8.49%. I’ve only done a few minutes of Googling, but that rate would be higher than the average fixed rate. I’ve got a bit more research to do on this. I don’t want to apply and have my credit dinged with a hard inquiry if it’s not the best offer. Seeking advice on this from readers!

My savings are up, but debt isn’t really down, and I feel adrift. I’ll pull it together and get you the hard numbers, I promise. Monday seems like a good day for that.


14 Comments

  • Reply Lou |

    Do you feel so uneasy because your boyfriend is not right for you and this relationship is wasting your time?

    It’s not that long since you stopped tracking, I bet you can catch up. Budget as if every month is two pays, and then in the months where you have three pays, the whole of the third pay is bonus money to go towards debt or savings.

    Sounds like your life is very full, I hope you can be kind to yourself when you don’t meet all your own expectations.

  • Reply Margann34 |

    I think your tracking/budgeting concerns are more about the FEAR and anxiety than the actual process. A budget is just simple math. How much do you make per paycheck? You will receive 2 paychecks in september. I actually put a separate entry for each paycheck that we will receive. Once you know how much money you will make, you know how much you have to spend. Then list all your expenses. Every dollar will let you copy last month’s budget and then you can’t just add any expenses that you know are coming that you didn’t have last month and delete any and that you had last month but won’t have this month. It is not a 2 hour process. Maybe 15-20 mintues. Unless you just don’t know what bills you have coming up. And as far as not tracking, it has only been one week. And you said you haven’t spent much money so you can catch up pretty quickly. I think you are just over whelmed. You have too many stressors going on at once- budget, relationship, life goals, fitness goals. And that is ok. Take a deep breath and do one step at a time. Work on the budget for a set time (15 minutes?) And then take a break. Truth is, it does take time and effort and energy to keep on top of your finances. But ignoring it causes more stress and pain in the end. And once you do settle on some life goals, you don’t want finances to stand in your way. You can do it!

  • Reply Den |

    We do paper and pen.
    First paycheck of the month – list all the bills that get paid with that check, automatic savings withdrawals, grocery money, gas money, and fun money.

    Second paycheck of the month – list all the bills that get paid with that check, automatic savings withdrawals, grocery money, gas money, and fun money.

    When there is a 3 paycheck month – list all the automatic savings withdrawals, grocery money, gas money, and fun money – then the left over we decide – debt payoff? extra to savings?

    The things that catch us off guard – even though they shouldn’t – are holidays, extra money for groceries when we have company, extra clothing (wedding outfits), and of course unexpected illness….so we automatically send money to targeted savings accounts each check for these expenses.

    Yes, you do sound a bit overwhelmed. We aren’t expecting perfection immediately:) Glad you have some time off next week!

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      You know what? Paper and pen sounds pretty awesome right now. I have my finances being tracked across four budgeting websites and two Google Sheets templates. It all seems overwhelming. I get paid tomorrow and I am 100% doing a paper and pen budget to get on track with my spending tracking.

  • Reply Cynthia |

    What would you use the line of credit for? I don’t know if interest rates are different in Canada but that rate is *much* higher than what I’ve seen locally, where < 5% fixed for the life of the loan is the norm. If your plan is to pay down higher rate debt, you'd really have to lay out your expected payments over time to determine if the loan is a good deal. This may require a budget reckoning if your plan would be to pay off the line of credit before the promotional period expires. It sounds like you've had a taste of the real life struggles and issues that can throw a wrench into your best laid plans so I hope you will err on the side of realistic caution when evaluating the loan offer.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      The line of credit is only to pay off my 9k of credit card debt, nothing else. I will close one card (the Capital One card has an annual fee) and leave the other one open.

  • Reply [email protected] |

    I think it’s normal to feel this way when you’re getting thigns together financially, especially when a lot of the rest of your life is in flux. You have a lot going for you — your income, the stability of your family and friendships — and you will be ok. Just take some deep breaths, take a few days off work, and keep pushing through this time of transition, and things will get easier and less crazy.

    On the budgeting front, I think you should just pretend you get paid twice a month and ignore the occasional third paychecks for budgeting/planning purposes. They can go to debt and eventually to savings. It’s a really good way to make a big stride a couple times a year, and it means you can ignore the budgeting complication.

  • Reply Ann |

    Oh, Elizabeth — you are beautiful and NOT obese and young. It is okay not to know your passion.

    When you get your finances sorted out, you will have the peace of mind you need to make long term decisions. So don’t worry yet. Figure out how to manage your money, figure out your relationship, and keep up the good work in your job. Give yourself some slack. Maybe think about spending the next 5 years trying to discern your life work. But please don’t think you have to have everything figured out yet.

    Looking forward to following your wonderful life journey!

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      Thank you, this is a nice comment to receive. Things do still feel really in the air but I’m finally on vacation and sorting things out.

  • Reply Tina |

    Elizabeth,

    I totally understand your hectic schedule. It makes budgeting so difficult especially because you don’t have time to sit down and think. Personally, that is the hardest thing for me when it comes to budgeting. You forget unexpected things that come up and then you overspend because your tired and cooking seems awful. Just planning to cook at home can be hard when you are so busy.

    Something that has worked for me that ISN’T what anyone has said is budgeting weekly and with cash. Getting paid bi-weekly is such a nuisance. But if you can pay bills for that two weeks and then pull out the cash you want to spend, the only tracking you have to do is by shoving receipts into your purse and then breaking them down quickly at the end of the week. Once that week is over, pull out the cash for the next week.

    I think what you’ll find is that it keeps you more accountable, but also it’ll force you to realize when you overspend because you’ll run out of cash and instead of stopping yourself, you’ll pull out a debit/credit card and buy it. Then you can start getting to the heart of your financial problems and work on steadying your life to feel like you have a purchase. I think your finance stress comes/is part of your feeling of lack of purpose, but that is just a guess as I only know what you post.

    Best of luck. The struggle is real, but you’ll get there.

  • Reply Jenna |

    My habit is tracking with pen + notebook and monthly summary (to compare to budget) is located in a simple excel document. Each Saturday or Sunday I settle in with a coffee and summarize the week’s numbers. Leave it longer than that and I gets away from me.
    And sometimes it does. But then is when it helps me realize that the money slides away quicker when I’m not watching it leave my account or directing it towards my goals.
    Take small steps and work at being consistent.

  • Reply Holly S |

    I recently switched from getting paid twice a month to getting paid every other week and I can’t believe how much more complicated it is to budget this way for me. Of course I was use to budgeting the old way with the twice a month paycheck for over 12 years so I realize there’s an adjustment period but so far I don’t like it. I originally thought it would be great and had grand plans of having twice a year that I have that extra paycheck to splurge with but then reality set in and I realized, wait a minute, splitting your paycheck into 26 period versus 24 leaves me with less money each month so this is still something I’m tweaking, lol. Good luck to you!

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      Thanks! I also went from being paid twice a month – the 15th and last day of each month. I was paid like that most of my life and now the paychecks are so much harder to track!

  • Reply Canadian_Sadie |

    Hey Elizabeth–

    I used to transfer a lot for work, and my bills ALWAYS got messed up somehow and it really screwed with my credit. What I learned, is to have all my bills come out of one account (I used PC/Simplii because of $0 fees) and my pay get deposited into another. My bills were FAIRLY consistent–so I just had 1/2 of each bill transfer from my pay account into the bill account every payday. The bills come out of that account automatically, and I don’t ever have to worry about not having the cash sitting there waiting. The extra two pays each year help you get a head start on a buffer. That way you’re paying this month’s bills with last month’s pay (if that makes sense). You may need to put a little extra in there in the beginning just for a comfort cushion. 🙂

    e.g. Hydro: $65/month = $33/pay
    Car: $198/month = $99/pay
    Insurance: $101.50/month = $ 51/pay
    Rent: $1265/month = $633/pay

    Nothing bounces, the cash is always there–and then whatever the leftover balance is in the pay account is available for me to allocate to other things. I eventually went a step further, and opened a third account for my day-to-day spending budget. That was the main account available on my debit card. At the end of the month, any leftovers not already paid out got put onto my debt as a snowflake payment. Not big enough to make much difference on the debt snowball, but you’re Canadian too–you know that a hundred snowflakes makes a pretty nice blizzard. 😉

    You’ve got this. (Have I mentioned yet how refreshing it is to see an actual Canadian in this space? <3 )

    p.s. Don't judge your results based on how someone else runs their race. I'd bet money that if you asked your siblings how they honestly feel about you and your accomplishments, they're just as envious of you as you are of them. (you may need to add alcohol to get that answer–but Uncle Leo's in Pictou makes some beautiful beer that would facilitate that conversation!!! 😉 )

So, what do you think ?