Last week I linked to a Wise Bread article listing the Best and Worst Things to Buy in December. Since I posted that article, I’ve been thinking a lot about spending.
While I’m trying to reduce my debt, the main focus has been on decreasing my spending. That’s logical. Very quickly, however, “decreasing my spending” can become “it’s bad to spend money.” That’s not true. We make money for the purpose of spending it. The trick is to stop spending on things that don’t matter so that we can spend more on what does matter.
This is why personal finance is such a touchy issue. What is important for one person (brand of toilet paper, model of car) might seem frivolous to another. The difficulty in my budget is discerning when something really matters to me versus when I’m simply being lazy.
So the organizer in me decided to make a list. I’m trying to order these in importance, but some things fluctuate from day to day, so it’s difficult to determine “most important” to “least important.”
#1 on my list, and I’m sure my kids are grateful. Even in this category, you can start to “subcategorize” because some things that go under food are still just “wants,” not needs. (See my coupon discussion – sometimes I want to save time, other times I want to save money. At this season in our lives, we are trying to save money, so I’m willing to do things that will take more time in the kitchen in order to do so.)
Paying our mortgage note comes in second. No matter what else is going on, we need to have a place to live. We’d be willing to sacrifice a lot of “extras” in order to make sure that happens each and every month.
Paying Off Debt
This has, unfortunately, not been a primary goal for us in the past, which is the main reason we are in such a financial mess. I’m hoping an intense season of saving, cutting expenses, and working hard can change the way we think about money and fix our current problem so that we can cross this one off the list – once and for all!
I feel guilty that this is #4 on this list. My heart wants it to come before paying off debt, but my mind says that if we can get the debt paid off that we will be in a better position to give. Can we give to others with a clear conscience if we are not meeting all of our obligations? I don’t have an answer to this; it’s still something I’m wrestling with.
Making Home Repairs/Additions
Our family needs more room! There are seven of us in our 2000 sq. ft. home. It’s getting very cozy as our boys grow – right now our three boys are sharing a room and the two girls are. This has worked fine up until this year, and we are starting to feel less “cozy” and more “cramped.” We need to improve our financial position so that we can make the changes to our house that will accomodate our growing children.
(Someone should really warn you when you have kids that they are going to grow!)
Again…these kids keep growing! The audacity. They tell me it’s not an “emergency” either, so I’m trying to budget for it. For some reason, though, everyone seems to outgrow their jeans at the same time. The same thing with shoes. It seems like we could at least stagger it a little bit to lessen the blow, but it hasn’t worked out that way yet.
Saving for Retirement
I don’t know…this one’s boring. It’s on my list because it seems like it “should” be, but I can’t say I have any emotional attachment to this one. How important is it?
Saving for College
My kids are going to have to work through college. With five of them, we will at one point probably have three in college at once. I would still like to have a good amount of money set aside to help them, though, if it’s possible.
See? I told you: what’s frivolous for one person is important to another. Lots of you are going to roll your eyes at the thought of Dr. Pepper being on my “important spending” list. But think about your list – is there any pleasure that you know you could live without, but that you still spend money on anyway? Even if it’s silly, do you find yourself buying it anyway? I will say that I have decreased the amount of money I allow myself for this particular “guilty pleasure” in light of our current financial situation. I think the question needs to be, “Where is it on your “importance” list.” If Dr. Pepper outranked “giving” or “getting out of debt,” then I hope someone would send me a friendly reminder that my priorities are out of whack.
I love clothes. Boots. Belts. Dresses. I enjoy dressing up and putting my (beautiful) children in cute clothes when we go places. Maybe you could call it a hobby. Yes, let’s call it a hobby…
Since “clothing wants” is coming it at number 10, though, I am not budgeting any money for this particular category until #3 is taken care of.
This changes from season to season, sometimes day to day, but it seems like anything that is fun costs money. I want my children to be able to have interesting experiences, do fun things, have exciting adventures. That’s another reason to get out of debt – once we free up that extra money, we will be able to plan more things like this for our family.
Having an Organized Kitchen
Coming in to the holiday cooking season always makes me realize how many glasses are chipped and cracked, reminds me that we broke the big mixing bowl last year, or that we need new cookie sheets. Maybe I’m the only one, but I always feel like, if I had just “one more thing,” then cooking would be really easy and enjoyable. Of course, that “one more thing” is usually the most expensive thing I can find at Bed, Bath, & Beyond…
These are just a few things that are on my list right now. Everything takes a back seat to our debt reduction plan right now, which is as it should be, but every once in a while I get a glimpse of what life will be like when we move on to the next phase of our financial plan.
What about you? What tops your list of spending priorities? And what’s the “guilty pleasure” you spend money on?