July of last year. Stop growing up, please.
I started tracking my money and keeping a budget back in 2001. I was living in Australia, working with a non-profit, and I was living off of my savings and some financial gifts from friends and family. Money was always tight for me and pretty much everyone there. So I kept a little ledger book and would write down all of my expenses, then total them up at the end of the month. If I was particularly spendy one month (“Iced coffee three times in one month?? Woahhh… Rein it in, girl”) I would be tighter with my money the following month.
This attention to detail did not let up when I got married. My income didn’t matter- or lack thereof, when I was in grad school. I liked writing down the numbers and seeing where all the dollars went every month. And I liked seeing how much I could save. Dave Ramsey would have loved me back then. And- what can I say- I am my mother’s daughter.
(It might shock you when I say that I was not that fun to be married to, when it came to the topic of money and budgeting. Pick your jaw up off the floor- it is true.)
I’ve shifted a lot in my view of money in the last couple of years. I could write 700 blog posts about that process, but today I’ll just keep it to one thing. And that is- sometimes, if you throw money at a problem, it really does get better. Budget be damned.
Example number one: My husband was working long hours and had a long commute for a few years. It was really hard. We had small kids. I was tired. He was tired. I was stressed. He was stressed.
You know what helped? Throwing money at the problem. In the form of babysitting and dates out that, according to our budget, we could not afford.
Example number two: A few years ago, my husband worked on a home improvement project that ended up taking many, many weekends in a row. It was really hard. We had small kids. I was tired. He was tired. I was stressed. He was stressed.
You know what helped? Realizing that that was a terrible idea, regardless of how well it turned out and how much money we saved. In another stage of life, weekends tied up in projects might not be a big deal. We’re just not in that stage right now.
Now when we have a project that will take more than a weekend or two to finish, we either throw money at it (and hire it out) or just don’t do it.
Example number three: My husband was traveling home from New York today for work. He missed his flight. When I got the message from him, I started the downward spiral, thinking of the chain of events that would have to be shifted around to deal with his absence. Sleeping babies would be woken up! Playdates would be cut short! I would have to drive the kids for an hour to pick up their sister at camp! I would be grouchy!
You know what helped? Throwing money at it. I called our summer sitter, who was (thankfully) able to come and cover the boys at home while I made the hour drive. No babies were woken up prematurely, no play dates were cut short, and it cost me $12.
Also- and most importantly- I wasn’t irritated with my husband for an honest mistake. There was no frustration layered on, as I woke the napping baby, cursing my husband for so foolishly missing his flight. (You know that feeling? Shaking your fist in the general direction of the Philly airport whenever the baby cries, because- dang it- he did this to me!).
Throw money at it, and sometimes it makes all the difference.
Other times it is entirely appropriate to throw money at a problem and see if it improves:
I can’t lose/just lost this baby weight and none of my clothes fit well and I feel frumpy all the time as a result. [Buy a few new shirts]
I am pregnant for the fourth time and think I will weep if I have to wear the same five maternity shirts for another nine months. [Same as above]
My spouse is working late/out of town again and I am running on parenting fumes. [Get take-out]
When it is not appropriate to throw money at a problem:
When the money really doesn’t exist and you aren’t paying your bills as it is and your spending is generally a way to escape from whatever ails you and is a consistent source of stress in your life and relationships.
Now that that’s out of the way- any other scenarios that we should be throwing money at?