I Think I’ve Met My Financial Twin!

Last week I came across a personal finance blog I’d never seen before. (I know; it shocked me too, considering how much time I spend reading blogs.) And as I clicked through nearly a year of posts, I started realizing, OMG, this chick is me five years ago!

In case you’re wondering, the blog is called Little by Little, and you should totally go check it out. But not right now because I want to tell you about the revelations I had while reading it. Please note that I am not being mean or bashing her. I asked permission via Twitter before writing this post. Plus anything I say applies to my former self, so it’s not like I’m over here drinking Haterade.

The entire time I read her blog, I kept finding similarities to my life at the peak of my spending addiction. I actually dug around in my basement and found my journals from 2006 and 2007, and I was astounded. I could almost predict what she wrote before I read it - it was kind of scary, yet awesome at the same time.

Problem #1: Out of Control Spending

I don’t know how much LBL and her husband make in a year, but I’m guessing they do pretty well. Many times in her posts, LBL says, “We shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck.” I said the same thing all the time when I was married to S and we were both working - we made about $80,000 a year in an area with a VERY low cost of living. There was no reason we should have had trouble paying our bills.

When I look at LBL’s spending reports, I see that the vast majority of their spending is on unnecessary purchases. Coffee, $250 haircuts, beer, lunches, expensive gifts… In fact, her very first post mentions that they spent over $16,000 on groceries and eating out in 2010! That figure absolutely blows my mind, though I can’t say much since they’re a family of 5. Our family of 3 spent about $9000 on groceries and eating out in 2008. So I can see how those things happen.

Problem #2: A Love of Stuff

LBL professes her love for Nordstrom, referring to it as her “mothership,” which made me giggle. She is also in love with her Blackberry, espresso machine, and Asics Gel Kayano running shoes ($110 on Zappos.com and she buys 2 pairs a year).

Again, I can’t say a word. When I look back at 2005-2007, I see nothing but purchases of STUFF. Over $2000 spent on makeup and skin care products during that time. A flat screen TV. A front load washing machine. A new computer. A camcorder. So much clothing I often found things I didn’t even remember buying. Over 150 pairs of shoes and probably 75 purses. I was drowning in all my junk.

Problem #3: Excuses (fueled by stress and poor communication)

Like LBL, I have always been great at organizing, thinking of solutions, and making plans to change my spending habits. Also like LBL, I often threw all that planning out the window when life got hectic. Like many of my old journal entries, her posts are filled with lists of specific ways to dig out of the financial mess she’s in. Her spending reports, though, reflect plans gone awry (note that I’m paraphrasing here):

I was so tired from working long hours, I didn’t cook dinner or pack a lunch for work. So I ate out instead.

I bought an espresso machine because it will pay for itself in a month or so. But sometimes I still buy espressos or coffee when I’m out.

I’m trying to be more conscious of what I spend, but my husband’s spending habits are messing up my plans!

Like I said, it’s amazing how similar we are. Contrast those paraphrases with exact quotes from my old journals:

I know I said I wouldn’t eat out this week, but I forgot my lunch on Monday and Tuesday. Then everyone went out for Mexican on Friday. What was I supposed to do - starve?

We finally got rid of our landline! I did have to up our cell phone plan to make up for the extra minutes we’ll be using, but it’s still a little less money!

I swear, every time I start doing better, S goes behind my back and spends more money. Ugh!

So What’s the Point?

I said it once, but I want to repeat myself: I’m not writing this post to bash LBL, her husband, or her blog. How can I talk smack about someone who is obviously my separated-at-birth sibling? Plus we’re Twitter friends now, so there’s no way I’d violate our potential BFFness.

When I found LBL’s blog, I was oddly overjoyed. Not because someone else is struggling with debt and overspending, but because it reminded me that I’m not the only one who has climbed this mountain. Most of my blogger friends have made far better financial choices than I have, and it’s easy to get depressed and feel like a loser. Finding another competent mom with a professional career who is in my (previous) situation helps me remember that I’m not the only person who is recovering from mistakes.

Also, I feel like I have unique insight into LBL’s situation since I’ve already been there. Judging by her posts, she’s where I was 5 years ago - trying to get a handle on her money but still fighting a lot of difficult habits. In my case, it took several more years before I was truly ready to make lasting changes. That doesn’t mean she won’t get there sooner; in fact, the day I found her blog, she tweeted that she and her husband were going to sit down and go over all their finances together. That milestone never happened when I was still married.

I wish I would have blogged back when my spending was at its worst. Honestly, though, I’m not sure my skin would have been thick enough - it’s much easier to write about it now that it’s over. You guys met me when I was finally taking control, so you missed out on the insanity of my spiral into debt hell. If you want to know what it was like, LBL’s blog is the perfect opportunity to find out.

I encourage all of you to check out Little by Little. I’m NOT sending you over there to attack her and make her feel like crap, so if that’s your plan, don’t bother. But I do think she could use some support and cheerleading as she fights this battle. Most of us know how hard it is to discuss our finances with family or friends, so I think LBL deserves a kickass community of online support like you guys have so graciously given me.


I Think I’ve Met My Financial Twin!29 Comments

  1. It's interesting and heartening to look back on where we've been and to see how far we've come. Its also a bit humbling because we realize how far we still have to go. I'm glad to see someone you connect with. It's always a good growth experience for us to connect to someone similar. It helps us feel good, you know?

    I have issues bringing my lunch to school. I usually do goo the first two months of the semester, but as it all drags on, I get bad about it. I'm starting a new job in May and my employer is a family friend. He's a doctor and is used to having lunch bought, but I'm concerned about how that is going to affect my waistline, more than my pocketbook. >_<  Its hard to make the habit and stick to it.

    • Taking my lunch was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to. I never really got the hang of it. It's SO HARD to eat a sandwich or frozen dinner while everyone else is going out to eat. Add in birthdays, secretary day, and other random holidays, and you can spend a lot of money in a hurry. I did learn that it helps a lot if you have a coworker who also brings his/her lunch - it's like having a built-in accountability partner.
      Since I've been home, I've noticed my restaurant spending go down dramatically. When I'm here, it's much easier to go to the kitchen and grab something than leave the house (especially since I'm usually in my pajamas!). I'm hoping to see some weight loss as a result.

      • Random observations (and not a criticism, just a bit of a warning) staying in my pajamas all day makes me feel really depressed and lazy. I only stay in my pjs all day long if I know for a FACT that I have no obligation to do a damn thing all day.

        Pajama days kill any writing I want to do, homework I have to get done or chores I need to do. I read on an organization and depression-managing website (I also suffer from depression, so for me, it was valid) that just the act of getting up and getting dressed in the morning is a great way to keep our brains in gear and to keep ourselves moving professionally. BTW, this is April. I realized that the log in thing is using another account for some odd reason.
        Anyway, the point I'm making is that while I believe in you, I also know that the working at home thing is a new thing for you and I want you to succeed so hard it busts people in the FACE, hence why I'm mentioning the psychological importance of getting dressed to shoes before 'working'…but then again, you are also a counselor and actually have a degree in psychology unlike me so it's probably un-unnecessary advice soooooo I'll shut up now.

        • Good points! I know many people who get up and get dressed every morning to make themselves feel like they're going to work. So far it hasn't been a problem for me - I've been very productive and work far more hours now than I did when I worked for someone else. If that ever ceases to be the case, I'll probably start getting dressed in the morning. :)

  2. Wow! was going through her blog, and I can relate to a lot of it too. I can relate to it right now at this point in my life.

  3. Oh My God! Sounds like the blog you found was created for me! Heading over there now! I do all of the above and I am trying soooo hard to change it. We have the same problem of making good money, living in a small condo, riding public transportation and still living from paycheck to paycheck. It is totally wrong but it can be blissful. I can't believe I said it! lol

    • Admitting it is the first step! When I was married, we lived paycheck to paycheck despite making good money. It was so frustrating. But until you truly decide to make some changes, it's hard to get out of the cycle. Definitely check out her blog - I think you'll find it worth reading.

  4. I always like finding blogs similar to myself because it makes you realize you're not alone. It is HARD to give up things and say "I can't afford it" when friends your age are buying their first house, going on vacations all the time, and moving on…it sucks.

    • True story! It's been hard for me because I'm getting my act together just when everyone I know is really stabilizing their situations. So they're doing all the fun stuff and I'm still stuck paying off debt. But I know a lot of them, while stable financially, are wasting tons of money and using credit cards when they shouldn't have to, so I try to make myself feel better with that knowledge. :)

  5. Whatever problems you may have, there is always someone in the same boat as you. So if you can find that person, that's great because you can inspire and encourage each other 

  6. I'm headed over there right now.  I think it's cool that you wrote this post because it feels like a 'light at the end of the tunnel' kind-of encouragement for LBL.  Nice write up.

  7. WOW!! Well I did check out her blog and I have my super-big judge-y pants on so I'm glad I read it via your blog….I'll hold my tongue, no I'm speechless, I don't have a lot of kind words.  I'm glad you're on her side, she does need support if she wants to change that financial trainwreck.  Really, truly I'm glad she has someone who can relate.

    • I don't think she's a trainwreck…the majority of people do not live like PF bloggers, and she's certainly not in the worst shape that I've seen. She's starting with small changes and trying to make it work. I've made mistakes along the way…made a few last month actually. But I'm in a better place than when I started. And it's always a good idea to take off your super-big judge-y pants. And put on your gracious and encouraging pants. Occasionally paired with your tough love shoes. Okay, this metaphor is running away from me.

      • Agreed! I think PF bloggers are some of the most judgmental people I've ever known (not all of them, but quite a few!). I'd love to know how many of them gloss over their mistakes in order to present a perfect face to their readers. I just can't do it. I have to tell it like it is. And I applaud LBL for being honest about her failures - she could easily pretend everything is fine. It takes a LOT of courage to really put yourself out there for people to judge.

    • There is a lot of room for improvement, sure. But I did it and I believe she can too. It's easy to get frustrated when you see someone making mistakes - personally, I believe people can change and i know her situation will get better as long as she and her husband make the effort.

  8. Yup - we've all been there, worn the T-shirt and have now turned the corner. 

    Well no doubt some have manged by sheer brilliance, wisdom and foresight to avoid it just as they managed to avoid buying property at the wrong time, get out of Enron at the right time, have never lost their job, had an ill child and always find the shortest queue at the post office where the person in front is not sending individual letters to Saudi Arabia and renewing her driving licence that she can't find under her burka.  There are such happy folk who drift through life and the door of fate is always opened for them, the silver spoon applied and the magic carpet whisks them all the way to Hollywood.   Mostly they are politicians of course.

    It's good for LBL that you found her blog and the mob will now take her in hand, so to speak.

  9. Pingback: Clarification & a Thank You! | Little by Little

  10. I'll check out her blog :)

    And all that spending on stuff sooo adds up. I went through my spending for December and there seriously was almost NOTHING that I bought that I actually needed to buy…

  11. We're very strict on our spending now too, eat out once a week, make coffee at home, bring lunch to work, the whole nine. It's a great feeling at the end of the month to know that you save a bunch of money that can now be use to pay off debts or goes into savings.

    • I'm absolutely shocked when I look back at how much I used to spend on food. When I was married, it was easy for us to spend $900 a month between groceries and eating out. Ridiculous! Now that I'm working from home, it's much easier to save.

  12. Thanks for sharing this blog link. As a PF blogger who has made horrible financial decisions, it is nice to know that not everyone is perfect. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel with enough hard work and diligence, even if you get sidetracked every now and then.

  13. I think it's wonderful that she realizes that there is a problem with their spending and tries to work it out with her husband. It's so easy to be judgmental but as she said, it's little by little, step by step for them. You don't just change your habits overnight (unless you are forced into it) but they are building habits for life right now, not just getting rid of debt.

  14. My biggest hurdle is bringing lunch and not going out to eat. Since part of my role involves meeting clients outside of the office, restaurants and coffee shops seem like the perfect fit. I am trying to change that.

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