I started off 2013 with financial gusto–a good plan and a solid commitment to sticking to the plan.
Then it started…
- The dog needed surgery ($$$).
- I read a book about eating healthy and decided to start loading up on fresh fruits and veggies ($).
- I had a very busy few weeks and didn’t feel like cooking when I got home from work ($).
- I went on a work trip to Miami and bought a great pair of heels ($$).
I am generally very good at budgeting, but a few times a year, I find myself digging into a financial hole. The conservative amount I usually reserve for spending money is tossed by the wayside, and before you know it, I’m spending like one of the Real Housewives (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration).
When I start spending like that, I find that I tell myself any combination of three excuses:
Excuse #1: I deserve this!
Sometimes it’s true–do I deserve to eat well? Yes. Do I need to purchase fresh fruits and veggies at the nicest grocery store? Probably not–Aldi actually has a good produce selection. There’s a grocery store in town that I grew up with, though, and as stupid as it sounds, there’s a certain comfort level to shopping there, even if it costs more.
The even more unreasonable part of me comes out when I’m out shopping with other people. I get caught up in the moment and make shopping decisions that I otherwise would never make. The pair of shoes I purchased in Miami is much nicer than any one I’ve bought before. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a total slob. I generally dress okay, but my clothes and shoes are usually purchased secondhand, or at Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, sale racks, or outlet stores. The shoes might make a little more sense if I could wear them all of the time. I can’t though, unless the dress code at work starts resembling that of a Miami nightclub (doubtful, in Buffalo).
When I’m shopping with other people, especially those who make more money than I do, I get caught up in the fantasy world where I can purchase whatever I want. It almost feels embarrassing not to purchase something, even if it’s not in my budget. I try to make myself feel better with the, “But I work hard…I deserve this!” excuse. I always, always regret the purchase later.
Excuse #2: It’ll only happen this month.
This is another way that I excuse beyond-budget purchases. I tell myself, “Ok, I had a bad spending month. Next month will be better.” This is a very dangerous excuse, because if I want something, I will find a reason why I “need” to have it. Planning ahead helps with this–for example, I know that I will need to purchase new tires next month, so I’ll have to modify my budget accordingly.
The real trouble (for me, at least) comes once something unexpected happens. For example, we took our dog to the vet and found out that he needed surgery. After spending that unexpected money, my brain starts to excuse smaller expenses. I think, “Well, the budget is already shot for the month. It doesn’t matter if I spend $10 on a book, or $30 to go out to dinner.” I’m actually shaking my head as I write this, because it makes so much more sense to tighten the purse strings after paying an unexpected expense. Oops.
Excuse #3: I was too busy to keep track of my spending.
This one has come up several times within the past month. Work and life have been crazy, I’ve been out of town quite a bit, and at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Making time to track my expenses has been moved to the back burner week after week, so I’m left just trying to be good.
Great plan, you financial goddess.
It’s not as if keeping track of spending takes much time. Olivia over at Snyders Tell All has a simplified version of the envelope system that is popular with super savers. If I were to follow her plan, it would literally take 5-10 minutes a week to keep track of my budget. After working long hours and dealing with all of life’s other little interruptions, that 5-10 minutes can feel overwhelming, even for those of us who typically enjoy budgeting.
There’s still time left in February to revisit my monthly budget, and to figure out how to make the wisest financial decisions I can that will minimize the damage. March is a new month, and I will re-commit to my budget again. My reason for sharing these excuses is to show that it is so easy to get off track. Budgeting and saving for future goals is a marathon, and sometimes we all trip and fall (for some of us, it’s while we’re wearing our very cute new shoes). Recognizing the ways in which you excuse your spending is important, but you then need to take that information and figure out how to stop yourself the next time you’re tempted to excuse choices that aren’t aligned with your financial goals.