“Know your financial limits! Make sure you save money from every paycheck! Never put money on your credit card unless you can pay it off the next month! Same old, same old!”
It’s not going to happen.
Yes, you have financial limits. They might be very stringent, with every area of your life budgeted down to the nth degree. Or they might be more flexible, thanks to a higher salary or fewer goings. The amount is not actually the area we’re going to focus on; it’s the mere existence.
It makes sense to get this out of the way so we don’t have to keep saying the same thing. Budgeting is a positive. Living within your means is positive. Being prudent with money is a positive.
But let’s also be realistic: life is short. How many people actually save the amount they’re supposed to? Very few – because there always seems to be more exciting things to spend your money on.
That means you can fall into a very nasty habit that is the cause of more stress than it’s worth.
You get paid. The family finances are mapped out in front of you; you know what’s being paid where, when, and how. You divide the money up into little pots. Then you peel off an amount for savings, tuck it away in another account. Taxes, retirement, funds for school supplies – you divvy those all up. Then you add to the entertainment budget.
You’re left with everything tucked into its neat little boxes. There is no money that doesn’t have a purpose. Standard financial advice would even try to convince you that if there is any money leftover, you should save it.
Eventually, living by such restrictions will grow tiresome. There are few truly parsimonious people among us; for the rest of us, it’s a daily chore, of convincing ourselves that it’s right to be financially sensible even though our internal monologue is screaming: “BUY ALL THE THINGS!”
Then that pressure will mount, and it will break because you are but human. You will overspend, potentially using credit to do so. Because you work hard and you deserve a treat.
Then it will be back to the same financial planning – perhaps even tighter, to cover your slip up. And then the cycle begins again.
Every so often, it’s worth allowing yourself to some organized financial freedom. Do with it whatever makes you happy. Maybe you can finally hire someone in to take care of your weed-strewn back garden. It might be taking steps towards car ownership or upgrade, taking the chance to get more info and see if it’s something you could actually do rather than dreaming about. It might be looking into that home extension you have always wanted with a real view of making it a reality. Or it might just be buying a range of nail polish, a gift for your spouse, new furniture for your children’s room – no one said it has to be ‘serious’.
So long as you have set the money aside for the essentials (heating, rent/mortgage, food – the things your life can’t function without), every once in awhile, it’s okay to – in the words of Parks & Recreation – “treat yourself”. Let yourself dream, explore ideas, and have an outlet on all of the financial management you usually subject yourself to. If you don’t, then you will hit the real financial limit: the one where you’re bored of missing out, to the point you make potentially catastrophic, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Try and control the chaos and you’re onto a winner.