Every weekend, I enter receipts into Quicken. Usually I feel good about this process, but yesterday’s session left me bummed. I feel broke. My checking account is down to $38.90. After I get gas this afternoon, I’ll have about $10. Meanwhile, several major expenses are looming: I have a toothache, my car is acting funny, and we’re having some plumbing problems.

At least I’m not frittering money away on comic books and video games. I’ve just had a lot of one-time expenses: $56 to have a picture framed, $40 to get two suits dry-cleaned, $28 for an oil change, $180 on a weekend getaway. We’ve also been dining out with friends quite a bit. These thing add up.

Don’t forget that I put $3,350 toward my Roth IRA at the beginning of April. It felt great at the time, and I know it’s a smart move, but now the lack of money hurts. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to save and to pay down my home equity loan.

The combined effect of all this is that I’m feeling broke. It feels like I just can’t catch up. I come this close to getting ahead and something happens. What’s the solution? In addition to reminding myself that things are fine, that I’m on the right path, that all of the stuff I share with you here also applies to me, I’ve decided to do three things.

  1. I will create a rough budget. (Remember: I’m not a budgeter.) Nothing fancy — just enough to plan income and expenses for the next three months.
  2. I’m going to build a cash cushion into my checking account. Lately I’ve been using every spare cent for saving and investing. I’ll hold a little back this month, just enough to free up my cash flow.
  3. I’ll also spend the next few weeks being more frugal.

These aren’t big changes, but they should be enough to improve my psychological outlook, to keep me from feeling broke. It’s amazing the difference small moves can make. I know from experience that if, for example, I had opted to wait to have my picture framed, that extra $56 in my bank account would put my mind at ease.

(In some ways, my current state reminds me of Annie, who last month wondered, “When does this all pay off?”)

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