Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Budgeting lessons from a little green bird

If you're new around here, this might be a spoiler alert...but we budget in the Thrift for Today house.  We know each month how much money we've allocated toward all the regular things like gas, groceries, dates, etc.  We also each have a "fun account" that we use for our own personal things.  This is for all the things that we just want for ourselves, but don't really need.  That's the thing about the helps distinguish our wants and needs pretty clearly.  

For me, this most often plays out in the form of coffee, ice cream, dinner with friends, and/or new shoes and clothes.  With my fun money, I can feel free to buy whatever I want within the allotted amount without feeling one bit guilty about it.  And because this account is for wants, when it's out, it's out.  

So, imagine my dismay when I was in Kirkland's (favorite store) two months ago and found baskets of these ADORABLE ceramic birds.  Oh!  I wanted all of them.  How cute would they be on my bookshelves?!  Or the mantel?  Or my nightstand?  Had to have them.  And then I remembered that not only was it the end of the month, but it was the end of a month when I had spent my whole budget.  I was SO SAD.  

And my little bird was just $2.99.  Oh, I was sad.  And even though I could have technically just gone over the budget (it was just $2.99 after all), I decided that I couldn't do it just on principle. You see, the fact was, it was just $2.99, which is conveniently enough just about $0.30 more than a grande iced caramel coffee with skim milk from Starbucks (other favorite store).  And when I looked back at all my expenses for the month, I had had a lot of iced coffees.  And so I left the store.  

I share this because I think it's a pretty good illustration of the choices that we make when we create and then commit to our budget.  How we spend our money says what we value.  And our budget is the clearest picture of the way we want to demonstrate that.  Before I ever stepped foot in the store, I had determined how much I should spend on random things that I want.  

Committing to a budget means that we are constantly making choices.  The choice to say "yes" to one thing, like an iced coffee, is a choice to say "no" to spending that money on something else.  Two months ago, I decided to say yes to a lot of coffee (and a new pair of boots, but anyway...).  And even though in those moments, I didn't know that I would want to say "yes" to the bird, by getting to the bottom of the account for the month, I did say "no".  

I think of money often the way I think about time.  We don't have infinite amounts of it.  And we budget it, right?  I have to drive X amount of time to work and I have to spend 40 hours there each week.  And I want to spend time with my friends.  And with hubs.  And sleeping.  And blogging.  And every time I say "yes" to something, that's a "no" to something else.  

Could I have gotten the bird anyway?  Sure.  I am 100% certain that we wouldn't fight about $3.00.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I really wanted it, hubs would have been happy to buy the bird anyway.  But it's the principle.  

And so I waited until the next month.  And they were sold out.  So I waited another month.  And with a 10% coupon, and an additional 10% special, not only did I get the bird, but I got him for just $1.94.  Within my budget and well worth the wait.  

Have you ever been challenged to stick to your budget?  Are there times where you have had to skip out on something you wanted because you chose something else?

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