Week 42: Hey Big Spender
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
Do you have a budget? I’m sure in a general way you know how much you spend monthly, and you probably know how much you owe, and what your fixed expenses are. But, do you have a budget? An informed projection of how much you will spend this month based on previous months’ data? If you do, do you follow your budget? Getting a handle on our finances, and knowing where our money goes isn’t just good practical advice. Being aware of how you spend helps you manage not only your money but your life. And when you manage your money, and your life, you find that other things fall into place too. As we’ve said before, everything is connected. If you’re taking care of your money, you’re taking care of yourself, your health, your well-being, your family and by extension, the planet. Win-win again folks! Score another point for sustainability! Don’t sweat it if you haven’t been really paying attention. You’re not alone. A lot of people cross their fingers as they swipe their cards, and if no red lights go off, they take it as a free pass to keep spending. There is so much misinformation and blind purchasing out there, that it’s really easy to just let the bank do everything, and carry on in oblivion as you tap your way to the poorhouse. Trying to sort out your finances can be mind boggling, especially if you’re not born with the pocket protector gene. But, taking the bull by the horns and roping that beast into submission is not as ominous as it may seem. This week, our challenge is to do just that. Get on your ridin’ boots Tex. We’re hitting the rodeo.
Challenge 42: Become aware of your spending.
See? That was pretty painless! But wait, let’s go deeper. How long could you go without spending on anything but groceries? For a day (good); for a week (better); for a month (best). For an easy challenge, just avoid spending on anything except groceries for as long as you can. In a lockdown world, that might not be as hard as it is on a normal day (remember those?) Go ahead and pay your bills of course! For a deeper challenge, take a look at your statements for the past number of months (you decide how many). Determine how much income you have monthly. If that fluctuates, take an average over a few months and use that. Then, categorize your spending into big chunks. How much are your fixed costs - things that you can’t get rid of: mortgage, insurance, taxes. Those you can’t do too much about unless you start renegotiating a bunch of stuff. If that’s in you, go for it. Godspeed. Then, tackle your variable expenses. The things you buy that you don’t really have to. Like clothing, gifts, dining out and entertainment. Total up each of your categories, and determine what percentage of your monthly income goes toward each category. A pattern will emerge and that will help you figure out what you can live without, or where you can cut back. If your shoe budget eats up 60% of your income, you may need intervention beyond the scope of our expertise! Once you have your shiny budget in front of you, start scratching things off the list. See if you can reduce those variable categories a bit. Can you get by on 75% of your clothing or take out budget? Probably. When everything is laid out in black and white (or red perhaps!), things become much clearer, and you’ll be able to decipher why your money seems to slip through your hands. It’s the same thing with living more sustainably. Once you recognize where the issues are, you can begin to address them systematically, and work towards a better future. Limiting what you purchase and looking for ways to avoid purchasing anything at all is a terrific exercise in recognizing what’s actually important. If you find after a day you’re itching to surf Amazon, ask yourself what’s missing (not some thing) for you at that moment. Are you lonely? Bored? Angry? Frustrated? Sick of staring at the same four walls? Check. Finding ways to replace “things” is something we could all do more of. Maybe you could just talk to someone on the phone (please no more video calls). Or, play cards together online. Or, go for a long walk. Or, play a game with your family. Cook something new. Learn to crochet. Take your pick. Stir things up. There’s got to be something new you’ve never tried that you’ve wanted to. As we’ve said before, consumerism is one of the main drivers of our climate catastrophe. Did you know that Canadians owe $1.71 for every $1 of disposable income? That’s a terrifying number. We are no longer a society that saves in order to buy what we want. We buy it, and worry about the aftermath. It’s exactly the same way we treat the planet. Abuse it, and then, we’ll deal with the consequences later. Well folks, it’s later. It’s actually about 10 past later. So, we are going to have to be the grown ups, or else watch our kids pick up the pieces. That doesn’t sit so well with me. Time to put our money where our mouths are. Sheryl Crow said it pretty well. It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got. Yours in Sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.