I went through my closet yesterday, and stuffed a bunch of clothes into a giveaway bag. Some of it still had tags on it, and other things I had worn once or twice. I suffered from buyers remorse in thinking how much richer my bank account would be, if I hadn’t bought impractical things that have no real place in my actual life.

It has taken me several decades to learn, for the first time, that you have to live the life you have, not the one in your head. My “dream” self is a fashionista who looks like she just stepped out of The Devil Wears Prada. My reality is I live on a ranch. I visit feed stores more than the mall. I attend the theatre once a year, if that often. I occasionally drop everything to chase a cow out of the yard or whitewash an old barn. My daily wardrobe consists of jeans and a tank top. Stuff you can “sweat in, live in, and throw in the wash.” Even though I love them, I don’t have many places to wear dresses, especially now that we are all “casual.” Go anywhere in a nice dress in these parts, and you are “overdressed.”

I argued with myself that I should keep that black dress for funerals… but the truth is, it’s too fancy for a funeral, and black isn’t my color. My darkest color that doesn’t make me look like death is navy blue; I have one navy blue dress that can learn to adapt. I need stuff I can throw in the washer, not that says “dry clean only.” That’s the reality of my life. I wear about a fourth of my clothes.

So, why did I keep buying classic pieces? Stuff that is retro and cute but impractical? Stiff formal wear? Dresses? I don’t know. Habit. And then my mother asked me, “Why do you keep buying dresses when you have no place to wear them?”

Um. Point taken.

A few months ago, I went on a Dave Ramsey kick. I have always been frugal with money but was never sure at the end of the month how much I had spent or saved. Money came and went. I saved, I spent. I decided for the first time to do a budget. I used his free service, EveryDollar.com.

Not only is it useful (I now know just how much money my cats cost me per month), it’s fun. It’s fun adding numbers to columns and watching them change. Fun to set myself a “fun money” budget and decide whether that item is really useful or part of “the dream life.” I have impulse-bought things in the past I won’t do again. Half of them are in the plastic bag I’m taking to the thrift store tomorrow. I can thank them for allowing me to dream on them for awhile, and let them go to someone who will use them. The rest, I will keep and wear. I am hoping budgeting will teach me to love the life I have, and to live it.