Don’t take it personally, you just can’t afford it.
It doesn’t mean anything about you except that it’s not in your budget. Maybe you don’t earn enough. Maybe you have too many other bills. Maybe you don’t have enough saved. Don’t make this into a chance to loathe yourself or your financial mishaps. Remember, to budget effectively, it’s important to love yourself.
I can’t help but wonder how many people need to hear this important message and, without it, are tying a stone around their financial necks and jumping into the lake with the rest of the Joneses by making purchases they simply cannot afford.
Remember the “Sex and the City” episode when Burger (don’t you just LOVE him?) says to Miranda, who is wondering why her date didn’t come up to her apartment, “He’s just not that into you?”
So blunt, so true, so refreshing, so freeing.
My hubby, daughter and I spent a lovely evening with some close friends the other night and were talking about how expensive a trip to Disney World has become (not that it was ever an inexpensive vacation, another friend says that you “hemorrhage twenty-dollar bills” there).
We LOVE Disney World. It really is magical. Don’t even get me started on the opening ceremony for The Magic Kingdom; I cry every time. We’re not one of those “We go four times a year and own a time share there” families but we really enjoy going. And save up for it for a while.
Gasp! What do you mean the financial planner has to SAVE towards a trip?
Doesn’t she make so much money that her family can just go?
No, of course not, that’s crazy talk.
Besides, why would you take advice
from anyone that didn’t actually practice what they preached?
I’m the last person who will tell you not to take a trip with your family; I think vacations and traveling in general are very important components of a fulfilling life. I heard a wonderful interview by NPR’s Bob Edwards with travel guru Rick Steves. (Sorry I couldn’t find the link but I found Rick’s own blog post about that and other interviews he’s done to promote his latest book, Travel as A Political Act.) Steves discussed how crucial it is, especially for Americans, to get out of dodge, explore other parts of the world (more than the “get-off-the-cruise-ship-take-your-photos-and-buy-your-souveneirs” routine) and to spend time talking with the people there. I couldn’t agree more.
While I didn’t get a chance to talk with the roadside barbers in Mumbai (photos courtesy of Partha Iyengar of Your Life and Money), I really wish I could have. There were also roadside tailors; just guys under a tree with their sewing machines. I love this.
Keep in mind that, while some trips can be a big bill, there are many excursions you can take on the cheap. Just try. Don’t harken back to your frugal parents who, instead of stopping at a restaurant to eat, always brought the darn electric skillet on all road trips in order to make canned potatoes and stuff in the motel. And don’t even get me started on the granola bars. What, was this just my parents?
C’mon, some of you must be struggling with memories of eating your humble PB&Js at an amusement park while your friends headed over to the snack-shack to gulp down a burger, fries and milkshake and you vowed at some point (maybe by the time you ate one-too-many granola bars) not to be the el-cheapo parents, right?
Do you know why your parents were cheap? Because they had to be.
And they took you to the amusement park, you ungrateful wretch, what else do you want?
I’ll admit to packing a huge bag of food for our trip to the Ripley Aquarium in Toronto. It saved us quite a bit of money (but I truly wasted $2.45 on what was possibly the worst cup of coffee ever). Of course eating in the parking garage left much to be desired but we were only there a little while and we probably would’ve spent at least as much time waiting in line for over-priced tourist junk food.
Back to my original objective with this post: How can you determine what you can afford?
You draw up a budget.
- Add up all of your income.
- Go through all of your “non-discretionary” (meaning, you cannot NOT have them) expenses (food, shelter, clothing, medical care, required transportation, savings).
- Then see how much you have left over for discretionary (meaning, you CAN do without them) expenses.
- Carve out an amount for your must-do trips (set aside money each month towards that trip) and allocate the rest to other things you may want but not need (Swedish fish, a new wallet, new curtains, jewelry etc.). Keep this in your “fun” account (a separate savings account can help).
- Then, when you are faced with an unexpected expense that you truly don’t need to make, you can say with confidence, “I can’t afford it, the money’s allocated towards __________.” Done. Say to the expense, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m already in another relationship.” (Meaning, the one you have with yourself and, therefore, are taking care of yourself.)
There is a great book I read ―twice actually ―titled The Glorious Pursuit: Embracing The Virtues of Christ by Gary Thomas. In it, there is a chapter devoted to each virtue (love, detachment, surrender, vigilance etc.) but there are two chapters devoted to humility. Why? Because the lack of humility is usually what causes us to sin/behave badly because we’re so focused on what we want that we can forget that it’s not all about us. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
“The inner discipline of humility acts like a filter, saving us from the tyranny of grossly unrealistic expectations that everyone and everything should bend our way.”
I love that, especially the part about the “tyranny.”
Humility fosters truth and truth is a form of love. Be honest with yourself and your family about money as a way to bring more love into your life.
Great article Amy Jo! My husband and I pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to this day, on every trip we take, whether it’s a road trip or plane trip. Sometimes it’s just, we CAN afford it (to eat out), but we’d rather spend our money some other way, or SAVE it, heaven forbid. And we don’t like junk food anyway. And better food can be more expensive and a longer wait in line. Okay, I’ll admit it, we’re cheap! But it works for us.
Love it Pat! Your last line (“But it works for us.”) says it all. Yep, I enjoyed my PB&J yesterday. Mom was right (as usual).
Thank you, Amy Jo! As usual, a sensible, thought-provoking, article.
My family went to the beach a LOT when I was a kid. We rarely stopped at the gazillion roadside food emporiums on the way back, except for the best ice cream place in the world, occasionally. To this day, I think there is nothing better than a tuna or pb&j sandwich, ocean side, with seagulls flocking around, begging for bread crust. I wouldn’t dream of not packing lunch for a day trip to the beach.
My 14 year old Godson is coming out for a few days, the week after next. I hope he can tolerate my style of frugality. His mother’s style is a bit different from mine. Fortunately, he wants Tai Chicken and Broccoli for dinner every night. I make it really well. “Less is more” has only been my lifestyle for the last couple of years, but it works so much better for me. Who’d a thunk?
Tomorrow, I will meet a couple of friends for Shakespeare in the Park’s, “Twelfth Night” (for free). We’re all bringing something for dinner. It’s a picnic. How much fun is that?
Good for you Susan! I adore Shakespeare in the Park, one of our summer must-dos. And I’m glad you’re modeling frugality for your Godson because it’s a skill that appears to be going the way of the stained glass artist or the shoe repair shop.
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I do believe all the concepts you have offered in your post.
They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for starters. Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.
That’s an interesting request Bhairav, since I’ve received the opposite request (un-posted) to keep my comments brief and to-the-point. I guess we all need something different. If you like what I have to say and wish to learn more, I invite you to purchase a copy of my book Living Inspired and Financially Empowered: Aligning Our Spiritual and Material Lives which is available online through Barnes & Noble. Best regards, Amy Jo
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