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Have you ever started the day thinking, “Why couldn’t I have made a better decision last night?” I find typically this kind of discussion is related to food–yum, yum–but often times it also is related to money.

It’s not always the big expenses that throw us off. Sure, an unexpected trip to the mechanic, a forgotten annual check up for our pets, or a spur of the moment jaunt out of town “just to get away” can really put a monkey wrench in our budget–but so can “nickel and diming” ourselves.

The small expenses add up–sooooo dang quickly! A quick soda at the gas station here, a candy bar there, a new tube of mascara, little “I’m thinking of you” presents or cards for friends or relatives. My daughter is IN LOVE with Hello Kitty and My Little Pony. Today she wants me to pick up Hello Kitty Band-Aids for the ouchie on her toe. Is there an ouchie? She says there is. Is there something that I can see, something Band-Aid worthy? Um, yeah, no. Will I buy her the Band-Aids? Probably.

I set out every single month to have all my dollars and cents fall in particular areas. I have a plan to keep money in savings and keep us all entertained by doing things that don’t cost a lot–if anything at all. Even when we do take a quick trip “just to get away” I have a budget in mind for that event. Sometimes things fall right where I want them to. Other times I/we have an “Oh! That would be AWESOME” moment and realize that WHILE I HAVE THE CASH, while I am NOT in any way, shape, or form causing grievous harm to my family’s financial well-being–boy howdy do those dollars and cents just seem to disappear.

Case in point: I went to the Type-A Parent’s Blogging Convention this weekend. I had a budget, it was a good solid budget. Emphasis on “was”. I underestimated what I would need to spend on food. I went over my food budget by about $40. I went over my “gift” budget by $120. (Mostly because I didn’t plan on buying any gifts and I did.) I went over my “me” budget by $100. (Again, I didn’t plan on buying anything as a momento, but I did…a few things in fact.) So, $260. Gone. Is my family going to suffer for not having that money? No. It’s money I wish like hell I’d left in savings but by spending it I did not interrupt our regular flow of life. I would not classify this as “Buyer’s Remorse” as I do not regret the purchases I made. I do, however, classify it as “Spender’s Remorse”…I could’ve more effectively spent those dollars (or most of them anyway) if I’d said “No” to the frivolous stuff.

My husband and I plan for some flexibility in our spending budgets. He and I work very well together as a team to keep things flowing and adjust as necessary. Every pay day all the bills are paid before lunch time. What we have left goes to savings, groceries, gas, miscellaneous spending, pocket change, and date nights. We talk a bigger savings game than we play sometimes. It frustrates us both and we are working diligently to find ways to hold each other accountable and keep our spending down.

What I’m trying to get at here is that we are all HUMAN. We are going to make mistakes–but we HAVE TO PLAN for those mistakes/errors/snafus/changes in plans/last minute “oh, I want tos”. It’s kind of like I tell all my students when we’re working on Emergency Savings–it’s not if something happens, it’s when. It’s not IF my husband is going to want to eat out or get a soda, it’s when. It’s not IF I’m going to want to buy a spur of the moment gift for someone (whether that’s a card, buying them lunch, or actually buying a “thinking of you” gift), it’s when. It’s not IF my husband is going to take our daughter out for lunch…and then a movie because her behavior was so good at lunch…and then ice cream…because her behavior was so good during the movie…and then to the store to buy a toy…because they’ve been having so much fun together. It’s not IF I’m going to go to conferences for work or school…and then need a new blouse that will help me make the impression I want…or those great new heels…or new lipstick…or those highlights…I know you see where I’m going here.

Creating flexibility in your budget is absolutely key. Slade and I have spent over 11 years figuring out how to build in flexibility that works. It’s not always easy to build in that flexibility. Sometimes you just don’t have enough money left after all your needs are taken care of. Sometimes you’ve planned for flexibility, but then the electric bill is higher than you planned, or the car needs to be repaired, or the dog has to go to the vet.

I’m not going to provide any answers right now. I know what suggestions I would make to someone, I know how to make the changes I want to make (I just have to buckle down and say “No!” to myself…and my husband…and my kids) but what I want to know is HOW DO YOU PLAN FLEXIBILITY INTO YOUR BUDGET?

Let me know how you provide flexibility in your budget, or if you have a question about doing so…you can respond to this post, @KateMielitz on Twitter, or facebook.com/financialwellnesscoach.

I look forward to hearing from you and generating some discussion on this topic!

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