Chapter 5: Open Your Eyes Before Your Wallet

To say that Red fought having to deal with her family finances is a huge understatement. But she finally summoned up the courage to start looking at their financial situation (well, maybe not so much courage as it was surrendering to Black's insistence) and slowly starts working her way through Black's six step "Where Is Your Money Going" checklist. As she prepares to tackle Step 4: Develop A Realistic Budget, Red gets to break some surprising news to Black about a fond childhood memory.

P.S. – Red rarely gets the "upper hand" in terms of her older sister, Black, and for it to be related to money makes it even sweeter. Yet, she'll admit that for all the enjoyment of getting to "break the news" to Black, she'd have been better off having the same childhood "punishment" as Black.


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OK. I'm ready to tackle Step 4. Is this something we can do via e-mail or do I need to come over and see how you do your budget?


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Here is where I have to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," because I have not done a personal budget in years. But I can remember my first one.


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You remember your first budget? You have a strange collection of fond memories!


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It was when Mom put me on a clothing budget. She gave me an amount I could spend every year and wrote it on a big manila envelope. Every time I bought something, I would deduct that amount from the total and put the receipt in the envelope. I always knew how much was left in my budget, so I never had to ask if I could buy something. Mom was brilliant!


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[Silence for 5 seconds, followed by a burst of laughter.] You're kidding, right?


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No, it was brilliant.


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No, it was a punishment! It wasn't Mommy's way of teaching you about money; it was her way of controlling you. She was tired of you constantly wanting to buy clothing, and so she did it to shut you up.


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Are you sure?


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Very. Mommy told me the story many times. You loved expensive clothing, so she came up with a number that was less than she was willing to spend and told you that was your "budget." I only liked cheap stuff, so she never gave me a budget.


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Then she did you a huge disservice, because whatever the ulterior motive, it was brilliant. Besides teaching me how to budget, it taught me to save for future purchases and motivated me to get part-time jobs in high school so I would have more money. Which all probably contributed towards making me feel comfortable with finances. I ended up being one of the few women in graduate school majoring in finance and spent the first half of my corporate career in financial planning and budgets.


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Fine. You live a charmed life! You're the only person I know who could turn a punishment into a career.


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But remember, I had no idea it was a punishment. Until today.


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Which I find hilarious. Especially since everything is usually so damn obvious to you.

Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.

P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …


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I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!


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If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.


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Type faster. What's the secret?
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Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice

Three months into her "crisis" (Red's word, not Black's), Red looks back and begins to realize the impact of the lessons she was forced to learn were truly invaluable. And that as much as she initially fought having to face reality and actually make changes, vs. just hoping she could "wish" everything to be better, that would've fixed nothing. In fact, it would've only made things worse. Of course, she'll always question how Black could have been so optimistic, going so far as to say Red's crisis was going to be the best thing that ever happened to her.

P.S. – Red still questions Black's optimism, but that's because she's come to realize her natural tendency is to initially focus on the negative. She claims it's because she's "wired" that way, but that's ok because she has learned that just means she has to work harder to overcome the negative and focus on the positive. And challenging times are the perfect time to remind herself that although this mindset and approach may seem hard to do, the results can be so much better than initially hoped for.


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I'm surprised to find you online again.


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Why? Typical Saturday night. Done with dinner and no one to talk to once I get home. Only tonight home is a hotel and there is no one snoring on the couch.


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Sorry.


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No reason to be. Everything will work out. One way or another.


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That's what you told me when Nick was fired. In fact, you went so far as to say you thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Did you really mean that, or were you trying to make me feel better?
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Red has always admired Black because she can go for a run or exercise with weights as a mental break from her day, not to mention the physical benefits derived from her workout routine. She's always envied people that exercise on a regular basis as she thought they obviously have more spare time than she did. Then, when she was in the midst of her "crisis", Black helped her realize that it might be that other people just prioritized exercise higher than she did.

P.S. – For Red, making exercise a priority still presented a challenge even though she knows all of its benefits. (How could she forget with Black's dedication to exercise serving as a constant reminder?) Ironically, the pandemic made Red look to exercise as a possible way to help reduce her stress. And it worked! So now her daily walks are a top priority. (Maybe we should make "positive changes due to the pandemic" a future post?!)


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Quick question. I was wondering if, and I repeat the word IF, I wanted to start exercising, how would I go about it?


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Hello. Hello. Who is this? You must have the wrong number.
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