Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stick to Your Guns

Stick to Your Guns - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
Photo Source:  pageonce.com
Living Large is not always easy.  While living well within your means and enjoying the things you love most in life sounds like a no-brainer, it actually requires discipline.  And restraint, whether it applies to your interaction with your kids, your employees, or yourself, can be taxing.  It is totally doable, though, and you’ll be happy you stuck to your guns on following your budget once the end of the quarter or year rolls around and you’ve managed to save more than you thought or spend less than you’d bargained.  

Once your budget is in place (click here if you don’t have a budget yet) the key to success is following it.  Assuming your budget is thoughtfully construed, meaning it's a relatively accurate account of expected expenses and is zero-balance based, meaning all money coming in over a specific time period, is accounted for as going out, whether to expenses, savings or investment, you’ve won half the battle. 

Planning and flexibility is required to stay on point with your budget. While you’ve probably already anticipated unexpected expenses in your yearly budget, you may not have considered the will power necessary to spend just the allowances set aside for each category, especially when shopping on the fly.  

Even though I have subscribed for years to the mindset of only purchasing what I’ve planned on buying, and nothing more, each day can be a new challenge. Just today, I visited a new gym I had planned on joining with my wife.  I had already researched the gym’s website and acquainted myself with its fees, its offerings, and its commitment and cancellation policies, yet I still decided we should visit it to get a feel before joining online.

I knew I hadn’t budgeted money in our recreation category for the year.  My wife already owned a pre-paid membership at a gym downtown and I had an existing membership at local pricey gym, currently on hold because I was on a long road of recovery from a recent knee surgery and was facing another one in the upcoming months, which will keep me off my feet and unable to utilize the gym for quite some time.  However, our situation had changed recently in that my wife’s gym was no longer easily accessible after a job change and I was recently given the clearance to use an elliptical machine, which I desperately wanted to try.  I was confident, however, in the fact that if I finessed the budget a bit and spent X number of dollars on gym memberships this year that I hadn’t planned for, I could spend the same X number of dollars LESS in another category in order to make my zero balance budget jive.  I just needed to adjust to the situation.

Armed with a dollar amount in my head that we could spend this year on memberships, we visited the gym, prepared to try it out and join on the spot if we liked it.  But we were met with roadblocks that made us reconsider.  There was no “trial” the gym offered for before joining unless a $20 fee was paid per person per day. No thank you.  The low monthly, no-commitment-based fee with an almost nonexistence sign-up charge was no longer available as of 2 days ago, but was replaced with a decent wad of cash for a joiner fee.  Top that off with the full-court sales press toward the super-sized membership that touted bells and whistles and had a price tag double the monthly fee plus a year-long commitment, and our day was all of a sudden not so clear cut.

My wife and I had to take a minute to regroup on our own without the salesman.  We considered every angle of the membership info that was thrown at us.  We quickly moved past our inability to “try the gym out” for the day before deciding and went right into negotiations.  We went back and forth with our separate lists of wants and needs, haggling the terms for half an hour.  Our visit ended with the two of us walking out, each from a separate set of doors on opposite ends of the gym because we were barely speaking, with no membership at all as we couldn’t make and combination of concessions work for our budget on the spot.  

On the longer-than-I’d-like-to-drive-in-a-car-to-get-to-a-gym car ride home, we bickered over the outcome of our gym visit, and ultimately I decided the location was too inconvenient an option for me to personally consider.  My wife went back and purchased the mac daddy membership she had, unbeknownst to me, wanted all along, for the exact price we had allotted for the total money spent for gym memberships.  She received unlimited guest passes with her sign-up, so I’m in for an elliptical workout or two a week with her.  It all worked out in the end after much scrutiny, but there was nothing enjoyable about keeping those scales balanced.

Some days are much easier than others and it just becomes a way of life.  It’s all a tradeoff though.  If you get into the habit of putting more thought into your purchases, maybe even just large ones at first, that will spill over onto smaller ones, it will become a routine.  Just like quitting a bad habit like smoking, it takes the same 21 days to institute a new good pattern, like sticking to your guns on your finances.


Give it a try.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a short period of time.  And then your attitude starts to change when you see how much money you can actually save just by preparing for purchases and honoring your budget.  You’ve got nothing to lose…..but spending too much green!