Forever is a Long Long Time

The biggest complaint many people have about sticking to a personal budget is the idea of “forever.”  It seems easy to skip their barista-coffee and stick with homebrewed for a day, but to never ever again in their lives taste the rich, creamy, alluring flavor of the exceptionally expensive coffee seems too much to bear.

This is only an example. It’s meant to stand in for whatever your individual indulgence is that you are afraid of losing when you think about saving.  Maybe it’s getting haircuts every other week, going jet skiing, drinking top-shelf vodka, it’s just that thing that you imagine your life without when you hear the word “budget.”

I personally made the decision that for me and my budget, expensive coffee was a worthwhile expense.  It ups my productivity.  And gives me pleasure from the brewing process and its wonderful aromas through the drinking process. 

We are all going to have budget decisions to make, and this was mine–I don’t drink alcohol (which destroys your budget very quickly), nor do I eat sugar. But coffee?  Totally worth it.     While it doesn’t seem worth it to me to buy chain coffee, if it does to you I’m not going to judge you.  I mail order bacon from Missouri that’s so good it makes me nearly cry, and while it’s pricey, it’s worth it to me.  Life should have some regular pleasures.

But there are many things I enjoy that I don’t get to have regularly.  I love a delicious restaurant meal, but I don’t go more than 2-3 times a month because it simply costs too much for my budget.

Sticking to a budget is very hard when it robs you of something you love, when it feels like a deprivation, a life without joy or hope.  When I look down the dark tunnel of the rest of my life without ever having a restaurant meal again, without ever savoring fresh sushi from a master chef, without ever enjoying a great rack of BBQ ribs prepared by someone older than time and speaks with an accent I can’t understand, without a big celebratory multi-course meal, things seem very dreary indeed.  Robbing ourselves of the things we love leaves us feeling hopeless. One of the tricks I learned early on in the process of getting my finances together is to forget about “forever.”  Nobody is asking you to scrimp and save and be a penny pincher forever.  All you should be worried about is today.  Can you stick to a spending plan from now until you go to sleep tonight?

This feels much more appealing to the human brain.  It’s a manageable amount of time, that can be conquered with a manageable amount of will power.  “Oh, okay, today only I spend according to a specific set of targets and goals.”  And that’s it.

Someday in the future I will have a ridiculously pricey restaurant meal again.  Just not today.

It’s doable.

Then, tomorrow you wake up and do it again.  But just for tomorrow.

Do that long enough and you’ve stuck to your budget.  And if you set up your budget correctly (we’ll have an article on savings rate in a bit!), you’re saving, taking care of your bills, knocking out debt and having some fun too.

The fun part shouldn’t be ignored.  This has to be fun. Your life isn’t meant to be drudgery.  But if you find yourself thinking that everything fun costs money that you don’t have, you’re going to get pretty depressed.  You will need to go find some fun things that legitimately make you smile, make you forget about time, and that fits in your budget.  Your budget can’t be starvation level on food, and it can’t be starvation level on life either.  You won’t keep to it for very long if it is.

Mindfulness is the general term for being present in your own life through activities such as yoga or meditation, which are both activities you can do for free (following a YouTube video guide or a book from your library) that will help you appreciate the things you already have without feeling such lack for the things you don’t have.

So, I combine a system of a few little luxuries in my day-to-day life (i.e., free-range pastured pork bacon, fancy coffee that I brew at home), with the knowledge that I can indulge a few times a month in things I truly love, and it’s easy to pass up spending money I don’t have to treat myself so that I can save to take care of my needs later.

But don’t worry about that now.  For today, just worry about the money you are spending between now and going to sleep tonight.  It makes it a lot easier.

Some Links on Staying focused on today: 


Meet the blogger

Charles Haine

Charles Haine

A long time artist and contributor to the Citizens of Culture print and web magazine. He writes to promote conscious consumption and the idea of thinking before you spend.The views expressed are those of a discerning young consumer, not a financial advisor and may or may not reflect the views of Logix FCU.