I have a tendency to become one-track minded, which essentially means that when I am fixated on something, it’s hard for me to let that something go. This trait has proven to be both helpful and harmful, where I am more likely to follow through on goals, but may be more resistant to change direction when I should. To compound the challenges that may emerge from being one-track minded, I’m also a pretty analytical person and can rationalize almost anything. This attribute can also be both positive and negative.
Bottom line, after 30 plus years I understand myself and my quirks – and how they may support (or not) my personal finance goals. I was recently confronted with a relatively small decision that illustrated my reasoning when it comes to personal finance. Comedian Kevin Hart performed in Madison about a week or so ago, and upon hearing about his show I instantly thought about going. I then went online to scope out ticket prices relative to the seats that I would want, and checked my calendar to ensure that I would be free on the date of the show. After confirming that I was free to attend, I then began to think about outfit choices that I wanted to consider, and hair and makeup options. I also thought about the night as a whole, and the restaurants where I might want to dine at before the show. Before I knew it, I had mentally organized an entire evening’s worth of activities to support my going to the comedy show – one that I organized prior to consulting with my budget.
My budget is that lovely tool that I created to help guide my decision making when contemplating purchases, and to help prevent me from deviating from the financial plans that I have set into place. Now there are different recommended approaches to budget construction that exist, but I’ve found what works best for me is making sure that I’ve covered all necessary and anticipated expenses, as well as money that strictly goes toward expediting debt payoff, while also leaving some money around for fun activities and the occasional trip to Starbucks or Chik-fil-a.
I try not to be too restrictive with my budget, but also want to ensure that eliminating debt and saving maintain the priorities. After making awesome mental plans about my attending the Kevin Hart show, consulting with my budget revealed that while I had the money to attend – deciding to do so would take away from other plans that I had for the remainder of the month. And dipping into money set aside for other things was not an option that I wanted to entertain. Now if the show were an emergency car repair – then sure, the purchase would’ve been made. But an emergency it was not. So rather than becoming fixated on attending and rationalizing why I “deserved” to attend, I made the difficult decision to pass on the show. My decision was not because I couldn’t afford the evening as I envisioned it, but because I hadn’t budgeted for the event. I am a firm believer in treating myself, and had I pre-planned and set aside funds specifically to laugh it up at Kevin’s antics – then I would’ve been there, front and center. But instead I chose to focus on the fun activities I had planned in advance, and saved up to attend. I can admit that this was a hard decision for me to make, but one that I ultimately realized was the best decision for me. Not only could I dap myself up for being disciplined when it comes to my spending, and not allowing my one-track mind to become so fixated on the show that I couldn’t not go. But I also strengthened my ability to resist making an impulsive purchase, and to maintain a commitment to planning and saving for fun excursions. Yay me! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has successfully confronted walking away from a desired purchase that might have taken away from other financial goals. Or maybe you’ve made some purchases that you regret. Either way, we would love to hear from you! Feel free to send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can cheer you on or offer support as you dust yourself off and try again.
Angela is a researcher/program evaluator by day, and crime fighter by night. And by “crime”, she means the perceived inability to turn dreams into reality. She can be reached at email@example.com if you’d like to share your money story, chop it over life goals, or all things Shonda Rhimes. Also, check out Brown Girl, Green Money on the book of faces at www.facebook.com/browngirlgreenmoney.