PaidTwice tagged me with this meme of your five budget busters. She decided that hers are not really categories, but behaviors and attitudes about money. I couldn’t agree with her more! I’ve been budgeting long enough to have the basics always covered. I’ve never been short on rent or missed a car payment, for example. However, my very biggest budget buster is the credit card, as I explain in “A Tale of Two Budgets.” So, my top five budget busters are the dreadful little justifications I use to charge things that I don’t have money to pay for.
1. “It’s shoe destiny.”
I used to love to shop at DSW. Near my house in the Maryland suburbs, there was the loveliest DSW of all. You took an escalator up to the entire second floor of women’s shoes. Literally, my heart would beat a little faster as we were carried up to all those rows and rows of shoes spread out for the taking. Now, if you’re a shoe shopper, you know that at DSW, you’re not guaranteed to find your size in a shoe that you love. Often, I would spy something adorable only to scan the row of boxes and see all 5s and 7s (I’m one of the cursed size 10s). When the perfect shoe, price, and size all came together. . . that’s what a friend of mine called shoe destiny. After our 45 minutes to an hour of methodically trying on shoe after shoe, it didn’t mater if I didn’t really have the cash for shoes; it was a date with destiny!
2. “Since I saved $250 by passing on the Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, I can certainly buy this $125 dress.”
Many a time, I have fallen trap to the false saving calculation. I’d feel virtuous to pass by something really expensive, like beautiful shoes at Nordstrom or a really cool shirt at Neiman Marcus. Then, in course of our shopping day, by the time we got to Anthropologie, I felt like I’d saved all this money by not giving into temptation. Certainly, I could afford something less expensive. The problem with this math was that I didn’t even have the $125 for clothes, I just had the credit card or the student loan. So, no matter what I was “saving,” I was still going into debt!
3. “It’s Amy’s new thing!”
When it comes to hobbies, I am a true dilettante. Over the last few years, “Amy’s new thing,” as my friends affectionately call it, has gone from photography to backpacking to yoga to sewing to running to cooking to canning to scrapbooking to long-distance cycling to knitting to . . . well, you get the idea. I love, love, love to try new things. I have this odd ability to really BELIEVE that whatever new hobby I’m into will be the one to which I’ll become fanatically addicted. Of course, each and every hobby requires instructional books, supplies, and, sometimes, specialized equipment. Out comes the credit card, because, this hobby really IS the new one and will totally stick, says my irrational brain, despite all indications to the contrary.
4. “They can’t repossess travel.”
Here’s another phrase I used to toss around with friends. Graduate school creates a very odd economy. We all feel like we’re dirt broke because we’re still in school while old classmates are out earning “adult” salaries. We also have enough free time (or too much free time as one wise friend put it) to cook up all sorts of fun ideas for travel. Even more dangerously, we have enough free time to actually take those trips while our old classmates are toiling away with two weeks of vacation a year. We have this easy source of fairly inexpensive credit while most of us aren’t paying for tuition. We also love to analyze and theorize, so we can come up with any justification we want. It is a very dangerous combination of factors, one that led me to two-week road trips, week-long camping trips, even trips overseas. Without the loans or credit cards, I could have afforded maybe one trip a year. With all that credit, well, we cooked up justifications like “they can’t repossess travel” to dash off on our next fun adventure.
5. “But it’s not for me!”
My final budget buster was gifts. Here’s where credit can really ruin your brain. Since I was spending so much credit on myself, I felt really guilty about buying gifts that I actually could afford. If I could charge something wacky for myself, I could certainly buy something nice for my mother, the woman who gave me life! Then, once I started down that road, of course, everyone deserved a special gift. I might not have had the cash for it, but as long as I was far from my credit limit, one more little thing wouldn’t hurt.
So, whew! There you have it. Those were my five budget busters, really my five excuses to use my credit cards. Basically, shoes, clothes, travel, hobbies, and gifts put me in the hole. Now, I have that monthly “fun” budget to save up for those things. So hopefully, I can stick to spending money I actually have rather than using the credit cards. Now, I’m tagging:
What are the things that bust your budget? Have fun!