Track your spending. Review your expenses. Keep a budget. These are the fundamental aspects of straightening out any money messes you may have gotten into and making your money goals happen. And for good reason. They work! But what if, just like rules, budgets are meant to be broken at times? How would you know?
Two nights ago, I went on Facebook. Not for my blog, but real life, MLM-riddled Facebook. There was a notification waiting for me: You have not updated your timeline in six weeks. Funny. I swear it’s been longer. Aside from sharing an ultrasound photo back in January, I pretty much steer clear of this platform.
As I scrolled through my feed, though, something caught my eye. It was a link to a new GoFundMe account, and a relative of a close friend from college was staring back at me. In the midst of planning her wedding, she’s just been diagnosed with cancer. Though she has insurance, it’s no match from some of the bills. Like the wig she wants to wear on her wedding day that will cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Instinctively, I went to click the “Donate Now” button, only to realize we’ve already maxed out our gifting budget for the month.
What in the actual hell is the matter with me?
There. You were thinking it, so I’ll say it.
I actually backed out of making a donation because I was worried about how my spreadsheet would look at the end of the month. I justified it away by telling myself that it would be the first donation we made in July. And then I came to my senses.
Budgets are meant to help us be smarter with our money, and sometimes they’re most definitely made to be broken. Here’s my personal checklist for knowing if it’s actually time to sabotage the spreadsheet.
- Can you spend this money without tapping into your emergency fund or other dedicated accounts? Do not sacrifice your financial security on a whim. You should make every effort to preserve these funds.
- Would you spend the money at a later date? If this is a spur of the moment expense, think about how you would feel in another day or week or month. Sleep on the spending for a night or two if you can.
- Is there a timetable tied to the expense? No, I’m not talking about clever email subject lines that have you convinced the only time something at Old Navy will be 60% off is right.this.instant. Sales come and go and come again. But if there truly is a limit to when this spending can happen, it might be time to pony up.
- Would you be content to spend the money if no one knew? No admirers to ogle your new purchase. No high fives for scoring a screaming deal. No rounds of applause to commend your charitable giving. If no one knows, would you still spend the money?
- Would you be content to spend the money if everyone knew? It’s always important to test the flip side. If you had to tell everyone that you busted your budget for another pair of shoes, would you still buy them?
- Is there a way to achieve a similar outcome without spending? Borrow, swap, trade, create, or even regift. But if none of those strategies solve anything, it might be time to spend.
If you’re looking to treat this like a Cosmo quiz, the secret to knowing that it is time to breakyour budget is five yes answers in a row followed up by a no.
And if you want to know if personal finance has turned me into the ultimate cheapskate or has forced me to channel my inner Scrooge, I can assure that it has not. Charitable giving is something that I’ll always be passionate about. Let’s face it. If we can’t spend on our passions, maybe there’s no point in spending at all.
So Tell Me…How do you know it’s time to bust your budget?