I’ll admit. I was riding high there for a while. Planning elaborate budget spreadsheets, setting up multiple savings accounts, scheduling automated withdraws. Educating myself on both financial and happiness philosophies. I was strong. I was motivated. Actually, I was broke. My budget was purely hypothetical, just numbers on a page. I had financial plans but it wasn’t connected to reality.
Then something miraculous happened. I got paid two paychecks at once. (Keep in mind, I am a freelance writer so I get straight cash, no taxes or nifty 401K withdraws taken out.) Instantly, I was RICH! Well, a lot richer than I’ve been in a very long time. I think my checking account fainted from surprise. Hell, I know I was shocked.
I don’t know about you but when I am long working from a “scarcity mindset” (fancy financial term for being butt-ass broke) and suddenly shift to a positive cash flow situation, I snap.
I want that big celebration meal, sushi or steak or expansive wine. God lord, I want that wine. I want new shoes. I want a new outfit. I want to take Uber instead of riding the bus…hell, F that. I want a monthly rental car. I want pedicures and facials and a trip back east to surprise my friends. I want toys and clothes for my daughter. I want to pay back everyone that I borrowed money from all at once. Sure, sure, save but more spend, spend, spend.
And to an extent, I did. I did have that celebration meal. But it was at a local taqueria. (Sadly, one beer instead of a bottle of wine.) I did get new shoes (1 pair) and a new outfit, all courtesy the exclusive boutique, Tar-get. I took the bus. No pretty toes and no trips. My daughter got a dress and a toy (because I’m a sucker). I did take Uber a bit more than usual.
For the most part, I worked my plan.
WHAT? I know! I’m shocked, too. I saved what I had planned and paid what I planned. An apartment was located and know I’ll have enough for the move-in costs because I planned it that way. I’m actually super proud of myself. Yes, I did spend a bit too much when the money finally arrived. But I didn’t “blow the budget.” I splurged a bit but I did far more right than I did the wrong. I paid toward my debts and even managed to save money.
Know thyself, someone really famous and now dead said once.
I must know myself well enough to know that nothing balances out to the penny in real life. I knew my financial plan was “on paper.” I knew that I can make anything look good on paper. Hell, it’s what I do for a living!
A budget isn’t real life. Well, at least it is not yet for me. I still don’t use a check register. I don’t write down where every penny went. But I do know how much I put aside for what and when.
What saved me was a good financial plan, a bit of restraint, a lot of determination and wiggle. Yes, I said wiggle. You see, that is what I call the last row in my budget that shows the variance between income and expenses. It’s my margin of error. It’s my safety net.
And, hey! If life doesn’t allow for a little wiggle once and a while, what fun is it anyway? If you don’t have a little wiggle in your budget, you might want to work one in. It’s my savior this week and I’m grateful for it.