I obviously do not understand the spirit of the word budget. According to Merriam Webster, a budget is "an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time." For me, what comes in is what comes in, and what we spend, is the amount it takes to enjoy life over a particular period of time. In my world, the budget is the result, not something to be defined at the outset of an endeavor.
Scary, I know. But, the cliches ring true for me - you only live once and you can't take it with you. I'm also starting to believe that the conventional definition of the word no is lost on me, as well.
There are clear areas of potential improvement for this over-spender. For example, when I discover something interesting or want to try a new project, I don't just dabble. I dive headlong into this new thing, abandoning anything deemed "extra" or "unnecessary" like showers, laundry or other aspects of home organization. And, I need to have every tool or material that this thing requires. This hyper-focused fascination can last days as the Amazon boxes pile up and the bin of stuff begins to petrify on the dining room table.
I could try to tone this down a bit. The bigger drawback here is not so much the financial expense as it is my craftiness at the expense of others like my husband and our nanny who deplore such periods of creativity, especially when everyone has to eat on the couch because there is no room left at the table.
Re-buying something I already have, because I can't find the one I already bought, is another place to trim the fat. This is deplorable and remedied by employing simple organizational tactics. It goes hand in hand with NOT returning unneeded items in a timely manner. When one does all of her shopping online, one tends to overbuy as the size or quality may not be spot on. There is always a pile of boxes awaiting return - at least a few hundred dollars on any given day. Also of similar shame, is the fact that I am so far behind on my work expenses. I can hardly think about it. Numbers make me nervous, but I vow at this moment to do better.
The last potential quick win, relates to any bills that cannot be paid automatically. There are a few credit cards with perks that do not allow for auto-withdrawl, as is the case with the mortgage on the condo. If I slip, there is a late fee involved. It infuriates me, but I don't always get to these on time. I ask, how hard is it for a f@cking financial institution to offer auto-pay?
Last I checked Bank of America, you were profitable. Please make "offer auto-pay" an action item.
One place I don't see us changing it up is the spending-on-experience factor. Growing up, my parents spent most of their hard-earned money on me - tuition, clothes, classes and so on. Anything "extra" went in the Christmas Club fund. We didn't take family vacations and we didn't blow it out when heading out to dinner. I'll have a glass of wine when we get home. I can get a whole bottle for the cost of one glass here.
Like normal people, they allowed one treat at the festival/amusement park/museum and it had to be something good. That light up wand is a piece of junk. Pick something more memorable.
In retrospect, it has always been a house divided on this front, my mother is all for trinkets and souvenirs. My dad is the tougher sell. My mom (like my eldest daughter) can happily spend hours in the gift shop. Dad ... not so much. Lots of watch-checking.
Growing up, the three of us went to the Milwaukee Museum often as a family and never missed the gift shop on the way out. I managed to amass a robust, rainbow assortment of rabbit foot key chains. So gross upon reflection, but I loved those.
I always wanted the junk. It held the promise of lasting fun from little things you can only find at that one place selling them at that moment. Somehow, the junk lends itself to the ceremoniousness of the occasion. And so, we end up with the $15 snow cone with commemorative cup at Disney on Ice and the strobe-flashing rings at Ravinia - you know, the kind that melt your retinas and send epileptics into seizure.
We are those people. It's not a total budget buster for one kid, but with three, a trip to the Renaissance Faire costs a small fortune. More than the junk that goes with it, the journey is the great part and being able to travel with kids is important to us.
There are the trips to see family and people or places very different from home. And then, there's Disney World ... that type of trip is in a class all its own. If it were up to me, we would go every year until the kids are too big to enjoy it. The pictures, meltdowns and lasting memories are all worth it. Our next trip is Colonial Williamsburg, and we can hardly wait.
For now, I will do my best to tackle the areas with the most potential for immediate success. I am not going to address the experience factor, nor am I going to discuss the over-the-top birthday parties at this juncture. Birthday season is almost as fun for me as Christmas with all three kids' big days a few weeks apart.
I will work on an organized home, retail returns, timely expenses and paying random bills on time. For now, I will suppress the urge to order several new skeins of yarn and give knitting another go. For now, writing is my project - no bin or table space required.
And, just maybe, writing will help me balance the budget.