I sat looking over my budget for May yesterday evening. Quite frankly, it has been an expensive month. I've made choices that perhaps in previous months I wouldn't have made that have simply added up: weekend in London, extra groceries, a one-week trial of Gousto to name a few. I'm pretty comfortable with these extra expenses, though, because all expenses have been accounted for on my budget spreadsheet and most have been completely worth it. However, I reflected on whether these extras line up with our goals - to buy a minivan/7-seater, decorate the house, take the family to Disney World next year and, ultimately, to pay off our mortgage early. You may be thinking, "Man, oh, man, Lauren! How in the world are you possibly going to do those things?" Answer: one penny at a time.
While looking over our budget yesterday evening, I asked myself what I actions I need to take right then and there to keep us in line and on track. I knew we had very little wiggle room in the budget for anything extra on the last day of the month, so despite wanting to take the girls to the garden centre before visiting our friends for the afternoon, I decided that we would go to the garden centre but not spend a single penny. I told the girls this morning before we headed out the door, that we wouldn't play on the soft play area but told them that the £4 that would have been spent on soft play, I would add to our savings for Disney World - Ellen (6) understood and agreed immediately, but Brenna (4) needed a bit of persuasion, but once she understood, she agreed as well. We would enjoy our (almost) free hot drinks but wouldn't buy any cake. A quick explanation about the almost free drinks: I pay a £10 annual membership for the Dobbies Club which gives its members 2 free hot drinks per month and discounts throughout the year.
Once at Dobbies, I highly considered going against my promise of buying nothing and buying a pot of flowers for the front of the house. Admittedly, the front of our house is calling out for a bit of colour, but since our two pots were stolen from our front step last summer, I didn't want to go against my promise only to risk another pot being stolen and wasting money - today, at least.
The girls did really well - they didn't ask to play in the soft play area and when they asked if they could get a piece of cake (they always look delicious!), I just said, "Not this time. We'll have cookies (that I made) after lunch (at our friend's house)". We did look around the garden centre after we had our cappuccino and hot chocolate, and again, they asked if they could get various toys, but I just said, "Not today".
"Not today" doesn't mean "Never". It simply means that I'm making a small choice that's moving me in the direction of our goals. Not only are we saving money, but I'm teaching the girls that there are trade offs to make - if we bought the pot of flowers (£14), a slice of cake (£3.50), soft play (£4) and a toy each (£10), I could have easily spent £30! I'm also trying to teach them that it will take a whole family effort to afford to go to Disney World next year and that it won't just "magically" happen.
Are your actions in line with our goals? If you want to pay off your debts or have another financial goal, do you follow a budget and save money each and every month to move you towards that goal? If you want to be more active, are you deliberately carving out time in your day to so? If you want to get more sleep, are you going to bed earlier (one of my goals and one of my struggles)? If you want to start a job search, is your CV up to date? Whatever your goal, are you making the right choices to get you there?
No kidding it's not always fun. No kidding that it takes sacrifice - "Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain" - one of my favourite quotes from the Dave Ramsey show.
I added that £4 to our Disney World fund - small steps in the direction of my goal will eventually get us there!