Day 177– 2,024 Words/Day Process Log – Budgets are Freedom

Being a single woman who spent most of her adult life living on her own, I’ve had to be good with money. I knew that no one was coming to save me. I knew that I was responsible for taking care of myself in my old age to the best of my ability because I have not been someone who would elicit sympathy. I’ve been told over and over again that I’m responsible for my life. And you know what? My life got better when I accepted that responsibility.

One of my favorite subjects, though, is sinking funds. Once I discovered that concept, all of a sudden, budgets became fun and led to my philosophy that budgets are freedom.

I’m bringing this up because I was recently at an afternoon tea with new friends when the subject of money came up. I believe everyone has a “thing” that they spend money on. Over the course of my life, my “thing” has been books, quilting supplies, nail polishes, and candles.

It’s gotten to the point that whenever I find myself obsessed with a new hobby, I put the reigns on it and look at the items like how can I get the most for the least amount of money while I’m exploring and how can I send these things to better homes –selling, giving away, or donating to charity – when I’m done.

In this case, the lady’s “thing” was thrifting objects. And she was good at it. The pieces were classic, chosen with care and she’d gotten them for a great price. Then, I said the one sentence that has led me to this blog post – why don’t you just put it as a line item in your budget?

I didn’t say that she had to stop collecting items that were well-loved at one point and now had been freed so that another set of people could enjoy them. I didn’t say that she was spending too much. I basically said, find a way to enjoy what you love doing without the guilt.

That’s why I say that budgets are freedom. Back when I had a mortgage and a 30-mile one way work commute, keeping a budget was the only way that I could make sure I could fit everything in. I didn’t have to wonder how much money I could spend at the quilt shop. It was in the budget. I knew how much I had that month to buy fabric and reach my retirement goals. It took the worrying out.

Later, I added sinking funds. Each pay period I set aside a certain amount of money for writing. This would go to things like writing workshops, research books, and web hosting. If I didn’t need the money, then it sat in the account building.

It was because of that sinking fund sitting and building that I was able to take advantage to attend a workshop on short notice on the other side of the country. The cash money sitting in the account along with the airline points I’d been accumulating allowed me to take the trip without blowing my budget…because it was in the budget all along.

Notice I didn’t say, I can’t or these items or these interests are a waste of money. Instead, I said – how can I enjoy myself? How can I make the best use of the funds I have available?

So, that meant 2 things:

1. Putting Fun in the budget, giving it its proper respect and

2. Becoming an expert in the things I cared about so I knew what was a good price and was able to get good deals.

For number 2, that meant that for example, knowing handbags. I know that my current favorite brands – Coach and Dooney & Burke have end of season sales. When I see a bag I like, I screenshot it and put it on my wish list. I’m on both companies newsletters so I know when they’re running sales. I know the price I’d like to pay. If I still want the handbag by the time it goes on sale or reaches the price that I like, I put it on my travel credit card to earn points and then transfer the cost of the bag from my Fun Account to my regular checking account.

Done, done, and DONE. I don’t feel guilty about the purchase because I’ve been looking at it for months and I got it for a good price, and it literally was in the budget. Plus, I got a good deal which means that there’s more money available for more fun things and experiences like a Broadway theatre trip.

It’s easy to think of budgets as constraints, but I think of them as boundaries, as challenges – how much joy can I get from this one dollar? One of the best things I ever did was put myself on a budget. It allowed guilt-free enjoyment.

And because I opened my mouth, I’ve been asked to pull together a workshop on budgets and finances. Which is cool and also part of the reason why I’m writing this to get my thoughts together.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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About Irette Y Patterson

Irette Y Patterson is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. She has been published in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Translunar Travelers Lounge and on the website of The Saturday Evening Post. When not writing, you can find her digging around in her garden or catching the latest musical in the theater.
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