May Challenge – A Vow of Financial Celibacy

This post was featured by Rockstar Finance. If you clicked over from there, THANK YOU, and I hope you enjoy the read. If you just happened to wander over here and are interested in all things Personal Finance or FIRE (Financial Independence/Early Retirement), I highly recommend you hop over to Rockstar Finance to check out their site and all the awesome bloggers they host weekly.  Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Rockstar Finance Forum where you can chat PF to your hearts content. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will follow along on my long and winding road to FI!  Now, on to the post…

This year I decided to start building better habits.  It started with walking, then taking vitamins, then adding on a bit of working out and, last month, dental hygiene.  This month, I am taking a step in the opposite direction.  Instead of focusing on a habit to build, I am focusing on a habit to BREAK.  A bad habit.

You see, the path to FI is a long one.  The end result is years away but we chip away at it daily and with constant dedication.  It is the daily that I am stuck in…like a mud slide in hiking boots, it is time to loosen the laces and step free of the load that is holding me back.  The day-to-day number crunching that I have become addicted to is making the entire journey less enjoyable.  I have read sooo many posts from my PF friends that are having the same issue – living in the now.  Heck, I even wrote about it myself!!  And while my words still ring true in that post, I am enjoying the journey to FI, I am also wringing my hands in the background waiting to get there.  The only way I can break this twitch is to stop cold turkey.  It is with this in mind that I have declared May my month of Financial Celibacy…

I WILL NOT CHECK MY BALANCES UNTIL MAY 31.

Young woman being dragged away from her laptop computer, as she tries to hang on to it.
~via~

The first step was to recognize it.  And I did.  I recognize that my financial tracking is out of control.  It is a complete free for all.  I don’t tally my numbers once a month.  I do it every day.  It is constant.  It is time-consuming.  It brings me equal parts joy and madness.  All of this information is at our fingertips.  I can check the market, check my balances, check to see if a purchase went through and has posted.  Every moment I am doing this is stealing moments that I could be doing other things.  

Those who have been following my quarterly net worth posts know that I am an avid net worth tracker.  Beyond that, I am meticulous when it comes to tracking my spending.  For the past 28 months I have tracked my spending like a lion tracks its prey…precise, calculated, and with purpose.  I have been so meticulous, in fact, that I can tell you exactly when I purchased what within the past two years.  Work shoes?  May 2016.  Haircut?  June 2016 (sheesh – probably due for another!).  That being said, I am not at all as insane as some people who track how many sweet potatoes they purchased in 2016.  #NoJudgement.  😉

Yesterday, May 1, I removed all finance apps from my phone (except my normal checking account).  For good measure, I also removed the apps from my Ipad as well as the bookmarks from my computer.  It has only been 24 hours and already I have gone to log on several times before having to smack the ruler on my own trembling hand.  In an effort to compose myself, I double checked my graph from the Mad Fientist’s Lab and, yup, still many many months to go…

MFgraph.png

MFCD.png Don’t get me wrong, seeing these numbers is still motivating to me.  In fact, I am a few months ahead of my original plan*!!  With some good luck (and increased earnings over the next few years), I will be able to shave a few more months off and perhaps even make it to FI with the class of 2021!!  In the meantime, I need to get a grip!

Addiction is described as the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.  Check.  I consider this my 2 step program to get me back on my feet.  To break free from the constant checking and tallying, both constraints that my daily practice has tied me with.   This is my month to make good on all the missed moments in the past.  All the times I could be up and out and doing things instead of thinking about my numbers or looking down at my phone jumping from app to spreadsheet to fill in a blank.

My rules for this months challenge are simple:

  1.  DO NOT check specific accounts until May 30
  2. DO NOT tally daily spending
  3. ENJOY THE RIDE!!!

There is one caveat – I am keeping access to my regular checking account just to make sure nothing gets hacked and my deposits go in on time…the worst thing for a frugal gal like me is to see an overdraft fee creep up due to a clerical error.  NEVER!!!

The bonus to my challenge is hopefully the benefit of realizing that I don’t need to check my balances multiple times a day. I also don’t need to worry about my spending because I know I don’t spend out of control. I think I got so worried about my numbers when I made them public that I started scrutinizing everything that didn’t need to be scrutinized. This exercise will show me that I am still in control even if I’m not watching everything daily.  Fingers crossed this is the outcome. 🙂

So, what do you think?  Can I break this bad habit in a month?  Do you have any habits (good or bad) you are working on??  Let’s chat in the comments below!

Until next time…

*My original FI plan date has changed for the better but that isn’t the best news…  When I first set up my Mad Fientist Lab assumptions I was using my current yearly expenses (1500/month = 18k/year).  Some time between then and now I decided to up my ante to $2500/month = 30k/year.  It is this number that my assumptions are now built on.  So, not only did my FI date get closer (even with 1000 extra per month), my FI quality of life will be better…and less risky!  Had I kept my original numbers, my FI date would be September 2019!  I still consider that my first tier FI, but were I to move or have to pay for housing again, I would be more comfortable with a bigger buffer.  2500/month is my buffer.  Oh, and just for kicks I also checked out how long it would take me to get to 3k/month.  At this rate?  November 2023.  🙂

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52 thoughts on “May Challenge – A Vow of Financial Celibacy

  1. TheRetirementManifesto

    Good for you, Miss Mazuma! Would you believe I only check/update our Net Worth ONCE PER YEAR! Once I automate all of our savings, I know we’re ok for the year. Spend only what is flowing into the checking account, and I know we’re saving 25%. No worries.

    Speaking of worries, does this mean all you’re going to be doing when I meet you in June is checking your balances? Come on, Rule #3 HAS to extend beyond your One Month Of Celibacy!!

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    1. Haha – no! I promise not to check it but I can’t promise I won’t be thinking about it. I am amazed you only check once a year…but in fairness, you are much closer to your date!! It’s pretty much all gravy now. And I don’t HAVE to check mine – it’s all set up to allocate properly. Savings/investments/401k. They are all taken before it goes into checking. I just ❤️ looking at it. It’s crazyness I tell ya!! I’m hoping this break will be enough for me to relax a bit. It will be REALLY hard on the 20th when I get pay so I may need to spend 5 minutes just making sure everything went where it’s supposed to go but that will be the only infraction… See?? Already making excuses for myself!! Will it ever end?? 😩

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I would like to say that checking your net worth daily is actually a quite normal and healthy behavior. The only days I don’t check my net worth is usually during market declines, which probably works to my benefit. However, when the market increases, I love to check my balances.

      I found that my FI date kept moving up sooner and sooner as the success of our investing and our large savings rate continued. I also was very conservative with my forecasting. I always assumed 9.7% historical future compounded stock market returns. However, I also assumed that we would make no future contributions to our retirement funds. That was not a realistic assumption given our pre and post tax savings of 47k socked away last year.

      I would like to see you retired much sooner than your forecasted date. I am confident you will be able to.

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      1. Ok , I LOVE YOU!! First off, I’ve rarely been called normal but if it means I can continue checking my stuff constantly then it works for me!! :). And next, I hope you’re right about those returns! I use the basic 7% so I definitely like yours better!! It is very difficult to guess where the market will be in 5 or 10 years which is why most of this stuff is just a crap shoot. The one thing we know is, over time, the market ALWAYS goes up…maybe I at the time you want it to but eventually it does. Just in case, I’m keeping a large cash cushion for the “oh shit” moments. 😉

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  2. Good luck! I’ve noticed I’ve organically stopped checking my accounts. It was with immense pride that one day people were commenting on the market and I didn’t know what it was doing!

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  3. centsiblyrich

    Ooooh, financial celibacy. Well, that’s better than the other kind… 😉

    Anywho, I have no doubt you’ll kick that habit to the curb! If it was stealing your joy, it needed to go. Can’t wait to see what your insights are at the end of the month.

    I do everything once a week, and sometimes I go a little longer than that. I think that’s about right for me – I feel rather neutral about it, though when we are saving more/spending less I look forward to it a little more.

    Congrats on the FI date! You are killing it, Miss Mazuma!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once a week sounds ideal. I think because I travel I was always checking for fraud charges and then it just spiraled! I don’t even check my market accounts as much as I check my spending to see if I’m on track…and I usually am! It’s silly how these little things can build and take over. No more, I say!! Thanks for for stopping by and for the encouragement!!

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  4. ChooseBetterLife

    Best of luck! It will get easier 😉
    I only get paid once a month, so we usually update then because other than that input we’re only tracking market swings, and we try so hard not to pay much attention to the market because we can’t control or time it.

    Like

    1. I only get paid once a month too. I thought that was my problem last year so I switched to 2x per month and it was chaos! This is so much better. Thankfully I don’t pay close attention to the actual market. If my stuff is up, it’s up. If it’s down, it’s down. I think it is all about over optimizing every dollar. Sometimes you just have to chill. What’s the old saying about squeezing sand too tight it will slip out through all the cracks but if you hold it in your palm it can stay much longer…something like that. I need to open my palm!

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  5. Good luck! I don’t check daily necessarily, but I do probably check more often than I should… But I also go through phases… Right now I’m on the check often phase, but before I started collecting my info for the end of the month I hadn’t checked in almost 3 weeks…

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    1. Hi Jena! Thanks for the good wishes…it seems I must be checking my accounts more than most people. How did I let it get so out of control?! Haha – all I can say is don’t become like me! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so glad I didn’t learn about this whole FIRE thing until I was almost there! I would have been doing the exact same thing… Good luck with your plan! I think it will get easier as time goes on. It’ll open up some mental “bandwith” for you too!

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    1. Right?! I always tell people who feel like they started too late that they should be glad they lived in blissful ignorance for all that time before they learned of FI. When buying another round of drinks was just another round of drinks, not $100 multiplied by 7% minus 4% inflation over the next 10.2 years. 😅 I just need a rapid detox from numbers!! Oh, and maybe another round… 🍷

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ll do just fine Miss Mazuma.

    I think once we have our act in order financially, the biggest challenge on the road to Financial Independence is boredom. When you’ve automated the bills and investments, you only need check in occasionally to make sure nothing has gone wrong. After that it becomes time to get a hobby or a pet or a boyfriend to fill out the rest of your new found free time!

    Fritz has the right idea, though I must confess I do mine monthly rather than annually. Provides a feeling of progress, the intervals are far enough apart that there has been movement, yet close enough together that I can rescue things if the wheels have come off.

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    1. I guess I should tell my dog and boyfriend to take me out more often?! 😂 I have everything on autopilot and I’m STILL obsessed!! I have to say, some of this may be the fact that I work odd hours and am home for days on end. You’d think with that amount of time I would be posting more often! Instead, I am focused on the tiny steps and not the giant leaps. I’m glad I’m taking this time off to get out of my head. I got myself into this, time to get myself out of it. Thank goodness I have you guys to hold me accountable!

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  8. I used to check my accounts much more regularly, and I did my bill payments and saving transfers manually…I was a little nut about making sure every penny was put to work. I’ve let that go though and automated almost everything. Now I usually only check on payday (twice a month) to make sure my deposit went through.
    I rarely check my investments but that’s not for lack of interest I need to have a pretty good grasp on the markets for work and read through the high/low lights every morning.
    PS…end of the second day, still on track 😉

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    1. Feeling good! 3 days in and no twitch (I did check my BFs vanguard though!). I think with a bit of distance I can get back to a “normal” pace. Payday will be the real test! 17 days and counting…

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  9. We love you Miss Mazuma. lol! yeah, I’m guilty for checking my stats pretty often too, but it’s a bit depressing because it seems so far off. I need to find a healthier balance between saving a lot, but living life now as well. Good luck my friend!

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    1. Yes! That the problem – it seems so far off so knowing my numbers makes me feel more in control of the process. I am hoping this exercise will help me throw caution to the wind and trust in the process. Perhaps next time I look I will be a millionaire!!!

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  10. I think this is a great idea! Honestly, I think we are guilty of this too. I think I might suggest this to Mr DDU, we are waaay caught up in thinking about FI, or how we can semi-fire, or when we can, or if we move to x place, could we achieve it sooner? these thoughts are all. the. time. right now, and I think it’s being a bit of a drain instead of a positive thing.

    Mrs DDU

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    1. Yes! Total drain. It’s going to happen regardless of if we are checking so why not let go and enjoy the process?? Why? Because we are control freaks! Haha – I have to tell you, 3 days in and I’m still feeling good about it. Getting the apps of my phone was a HUGE help. Good luck to you too!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am already retired, still saving (mainly automatically), but I still like to check everything once or twice a month, mainly to watch for any unexpected movement. Where I have really changed my habit is what I invest in. Now that I mainly use tracker funds, instead of individual company shares, my watching / reading / worrying about the market has stopped. Such a lot more free time, and then I started blogging….

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    1. Haha – blogging will suck the time right out of you! I have to go to the library to write (too many distractions at home) and once I’m there hours can fly by before I realize I forgot to eat lunch.

      I agree with the stock choice. In the beginning I did a few individual stocks but, though I’ve kept them, I now invest solely in index funds. It’s interesting to see the individuals grow (or not) but I don’t feel the need to check them much. I know I have little control over it! I am more apt to check all of my spending obsessively. This real has given me a chance to chill the eff out! I imagine if I was already FI or retired I would be checking the markets more frequently knowing that it is my livelihood. For now, I know what I’m getting paid based on what I work – so much easier to budget!! 🙂

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  12. You are so diligent and supercharged to reaching FI. I’m going to use that awful “D” word. You deserve a break!

    Even at FI but before RE Mr. G was checking the market obsessively. In 2016 he vowed to pull back to once a month and he’s stuck with it. Luckily that’s one area of our life he takes the lead in so I can stay blissful unstressed in that department. However, I watch our checking and credit card accounts once or twice a week.

    My habit changing stuff this month is health related. I’m determined to be 125 on my scale by my 58th birthday (on Mother’s Day). Only 1 pound to go. I’ve been eating a very bland diet and I must say my gurgling tummy feels so much better. I still need to add probiotics – I should ask Amy at Life Zemplified which one to get. I also began taking fish oil and I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic, but after only a few days I feel much less moody and have more energy.

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    1. Ohhhh – perhaps I need fish oil too! I have to say, so far I am just fine without checking anything. I guess it was more of a twitch then a mental need. I also realized that maybe all that number crunching was because I set such lofty goals. Who cares if my savings rate drops from 70% instead of 75%?? It’s still fantastic either way!! I have to stop being so hard in myself and pushing. Isn’t that why I have the job that I have? So I don’t have to work 80 hour weeks slaving away? Time to chill out and enjoy the ride. 🙂

      Good luck on your goal!! It’s hard to lose those last few pounds. Only one more?? You should be so proud!!!

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      1. I started with under 10 vanity lbs to lose which is very tough when you’re at the right weight. But I feel better lighter. I must share that the ONLY thing I stumbled upon that has worked (aside from prepping for a colonoscopy, LOL) is doing a repetitive diet. I eat pretty much the same thing every day M to F. 1700 calories which put me on track to lose 10 lbs in 2 months (I still want to get to 120). No bread, rice or cheese, very little pasta, plus oatmeal and sweet potato for complex carbs. Lots of chicken, hard boiled eggs, salad.

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        1. Oh my! That’s a tough diet for sure but a healthy one. All that processed crap is hard on the body. Today’s breakfast consists of packaged crap oatmeal, ritz cheese crackers, a few almonds, and popcorn. Basically everything that is on the plane or that customs didn’t take. 😢 I’m craving protein in the from of a 5 lb steak…and I don’t even eat meat!! Since living at my boyfriends I have no scale so I don’t know what I weigh…yet another reason to never go home! 😜 I’m around 115-120 but I’ve realized it is closer to 120 the past few years. I was always happy to be getting older but I forgot to factor in that my body would get older too. Damn!

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  13. I’m getting the shakes on your behalf.

    I still check at least once a day. Would you believe that that is actually an improvement? At this point though I’m checking not so much to watch the total (though I do peek at that too) as to keep track of my day to day credit card transactions and make sure nothing unexpected has snuck on there. Just last month one my credit cards was stolen (not physically stolen) and used to buy tickets online. I noticed while the charges were still pending and called Chase.

    One thing that helped was turning ON 2-factor authorization wherever I can. Now I know that logging on to Mint is no longer ‘free’ – I have to enter a bunch of 6 digit codes to actually access some of my accounts and that makes it painful to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Girl, I knew we were related! It’s 5 days in and I’m doing good. I definitely check my checking account more than anything else. I’ve lost wallets before and it’s a nightmare!! Good for you for catching it quickly. As for the 2 factor – I can’t! It’s so time consuming (extra 3 seconds!😂)!! I only recently stated a Personal Capitol account so I’m not yet addicted to that. I have noticed that sometimes it has different number than the actual accounts. I have 15 more days before payday and I’ll give it a peek then…pretty sure I can make it! 😉

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  14. Laurie Frugal Farmer

    Great job, MM! We had a very expensive April with car and house repairs and some dental bills. Our financial celibacy month is out of sheer necessity, but so far it’s been good. 🙂

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    1. Dentil bills. Bleh. April was a bad one for me too…which might be why I didn’t want to check May at all!! To be fair, part of that was because I took out a bunch of cash to change into euros for our trip to Cuba this week. So excited!!! Keeping my fingers crossed for a better May for both of us!!

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  15. Congrats on the Rockstar treatment, lady! I go back and forth on this as well. At the moment, I’ve got ELEVEN financial apps on my phone. To keep things under control I put them all into a folder that’s not on my main screen. Seems to help a bit, but I’m still checking multiple times per week. I probably need to do my own financial cleanse soon

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    1. Yes!! I know we tweeted about this when I first published the post. Removing those apps was the best thing I could do for myself. I now find myself staring at my phone because without the apps I have no place to fidget but then I blink and move on. I guess it’s going to take some time to really remove the habit. I am soooooo curious to know if my spending is on point this month!! Only a few more weeks to go! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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  17. zeejaythorne

    It is addicting to check in on these numbers. I’m glad you are giving yourself a re-set to restore the balance you need in your daily living.

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    1. Right?! A re-set is exactly the right phrase for what I am doing. I got way too deep into it. It’s now the 11th – I have checked my bank account 3 times and Personal Capitol once (I as trying to sign up for their affiliate program but it turns out I’m completely inept at these types of things). What I have found is the more I remove my triggers the easier it is for me to adjust. It may be just coincidence, but I actually posted two weeks in a row!! I certainly think that is proof of progress. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Jacq

    I check my numbers because it’s ‘normal’ to be logged in to that at work, over Facebook. Then I put the numbers in a spreadsheet and I look busy. I do sometimes need a small brain break from my work, but I ought to find something better than fb or checking my accounts.
    I had an unsettling experience a year ago where despite in oerson handing my rent check to the office, it was assigned to another account and I came home to an eviction notice on my door. Of course the office was only open 9-5, and things were straightened out in person, but that was a tense night. I like to verify payments are going through in a timely manner to avoid future issues like that.
    Congrats on making it to day 11! You’ve got this!

    Like

    1. I love what our definition of “normal” is…dodging work to fill in spreadsheets is hysterical! That sounds awful about your eviction notice. I can’t even imagine the stomach drop you must have felt!! I agree, most of my credit card checking is about verifying what has and has not gone through. When things are pending it makes me crazy!! The best part of this break is that I’m learning to trust my spending in a better way. I don’t have to look at it. That being said, due to fraud and what not, I have checked the balance a few times to make sure nothing is terribly off (I don’t leave a lot of margin for error in my checking account!!). So far so good! Thanks for the support and thank you for reading. 🙂

      Like

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  20. Wow. This is my first exposure to you and your “addiction” but I’m over here thinking we should go get a drink together and chill out. I’m definitely a newbie to tackling my finances and I definitely did go through my “fanatical” phase myself. My personal spin on personal finance is living a “profitable life.” For me that means having my bills paid automatically, my savings deducted automatically, and crawling out of tax debt. It also means living in the now and in the future….and forgiving the past. It’s mid-May as I write this and I hope you are finding that there’s lots to enjoy. Cheers! The Lady at theladyintheblack.com

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    1. Haha! Definitely a drink…or two! I got paid today (I only get paid once a month) and I am DYING to fill in my spreadsheets. Still holding strong. 😉

      I like the idea of living a profitable life. I used to think if I didn’t make money everyday that I was failing…I’m over that now. Being profitable means so much more than a daily balance sheet. Having everything done automatically is key to being ale to let the little things go and focus on the larger ones…looks like that tax debt is your main focus for now. I hopped over to your site but I need to do a bit more reading to get the juicy details!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. And I LOVE your blog title! My family and I are always the ladies dressed in black. I read your spin on it, which is AWESOME. We’re Italian so we joke that we are always dressed for a funeral…you know, just in case. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome to hear from you! Hang in there, girl. You are right about the automation. My first true financial goal was setting up the automation so I didn’t have to stress so hard, and so often. It’s awesome. And yes, I track my account/spreadsheet daily too but only because I’m freelance and my salary isn’t stable so there is the possibility of PROBLEMS! Thanks for checking out my blog. And, yes, black is the new orange. (Wait, is that right?!?!? LOL) Keep in touch.

        Liked by 1 person

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