How to Splurge on a Budget
I’ll give you an intimate peek into our finances for a moment. My husband and I generally agree on finances. He is not uber-frugal like myself, but has a healthy respect for savings and loathes being in debt. When I met him he had paid off his college loans at 23 (that was a plus in my book!), was financially independent and had no other debt. On the other hand, my husband also enjoys a “toy” here and there. It’s one of these “toys” that we’ll be discussing today.
When Paul proposed to me and we sat down to have that first financial discussion, we calculated that collectively we were $25,000 in debt. On top of this, we wanted to get married sooner rather than later (in under a year), put a down payment on a home, and travel for as long as possible on our honeymoon in Austria. During this conversation, I brought up one of my own personal wishes. I knew firsthand how money can affect a relationship, and with marriage statistics being what they are, it was highly important for me to go into our marriage without debt. In my mind, if we took debt off the table, then there was one less obstacle for us to succeed. Thankfully, Paul agreed wholeheartedly. So we set out to buy a home, pay cash for our wedding and honeymoon, and pay off our $25,000 in debt (my student loans, his car, and our engagement ring) in 10 months (April the following year). It took us a little bit longer—4 additional months—but on September 10, 2010 we declared ourselves non-mortgage debt-free. What a day that was!
It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing since the debt-payoff as far as finances are concerned. We’ve had cars die, various appliance replacements, medical bills, etc. But all of these purchases have been with money, not with credit. On top of that, we have been able to save that extra cash flow and interest that had been going towards servicing those debts. So what is the problem?
What My Husband Really Wants
Paul has wanted a flat screen television for about three years now. It simply was not a priority when we were paying down debt, or when we got married, or when we did any other number of things (and I was perfectly comfortable with this), but we I don’t really have an excuse to vote him down now…except that it is just not a priority for me. I would much rather see that money in savings, or put towards something else for the house. I realize that I am not the sole person in this relationship, and that Paul has been quite patient about this. Three years is a long time, especially when we are in a financial situation (and have been) to be able to afford this upfront: we max out our retirement accounts each year, we have a healthy cash flow, put money consistently into savings each month, and have accumulated an 8 month emergency fund.
Would I be purchasing a flat screen television if I was by myself? No. But I am not by myself, and my husband and I have worked hard to be in a sturdy financial position. So here’s our alternative.
In order for Paul to get what he wants (and has diligently waited and worked for), and me to not feel like I am watching precious savings going down the drain, we came up with a compromise. My husband can have his television, but the money for it must come from outside of our budget. What do I mean by this? Essentially, we need to “find” the money through rebates or refunds, extra freelance income, from selling items around the house, etc. No money can come from our cash flow, which is already earmarked for bills, savings, investments, and retirement. As long as we meet all of the numbers we normally do each month, then I will consider it “found” money.
We did this once before for our honeymoon, and it worked amazingly well. In September 2009 I made the goal of putting $2500 aside for our honeymoon using as little of our normal income as possible. By March, 2010, we had “found” an amazing $2334.78! This was from freelance work, bank account opening bonuses, selling stuff, wedding shower cash gifts, rebates, etc.
The Results – Did We “Find” the Cash?
Call it Law of Attraction or what you will but once again I am floored by the cash we were able to “find” and focus towards Paul’s wants. While he has not purchased the television yet, we are close to being able to do so. Here’s a rundown from the past several months:
- Refund from our Natural Gas Company: Two months ago our natural gas company debited our account $169 in error (big error). That month we made up the shortfall and were still able to put the same amount into retirement and savings as previously agreed upon. So when we received the refund, I considered it “found” money.
- Google Adsense Check: I reached the payout level of $100 over the last three month period from my blog and will be putting this check towards the television purchase.
- Refund from our Closed Mortgage Account: Amazingly, we also received a $43.48 refund from our mortgage company after we refinanced our loan and they closed the previous account.
- Rebate on an Appliance: In January our dishwasher went kaput. We saved up money for three months on top of our normal savings to purchase a new one with cash (we did not want to take any money from emergency savings). Surprisingly, we found that the manufacturer was having a rebate for the installation and delivery of any of their appliances the week we shopped (we had budgeted to pay for installation and delivery anyway because we don’t touch plumbing and we do not have a truck). This added about $130 onto the pile from short-term savings we had earmarked to spend.
- Selling the Old A/C Unit in Our Garage: Two years ago we had to replace our central A/C unit after our home warranty had refurbished the inside (new compressor, new capacitor, new fan motor, etc.). I have been unlucky in selling it on Craigslist thus far, but we’ve had a few bites this time for around $175. Let’s hope it sells!
Potential Total: $617.48 (Actual total currently is $442.48)
This experience has taught us both so much. For me, I see that it is possible to meet everyone’s needs and wants with a little patience and smarts. For Paul, he has learned to be patient with his “toy” purchases, and learned that I am willing to compromise. Together, we learned that big ticket item purchases do not mean discontinuing our savings plan.
Of course, after the purchase I will definitely enjoy putting any future “found” money back into savings. What can I say? I’m a squirrel at heart—except my stockpile is at the bank.
It sounds like you and your husband work very well together! I love the idea of using found money on splurges and will have to try that for me and my family.
Thank you Linda! I hope it serves you well.
Sounds like you are a little selfish – he can have what he wants but only after he meets all your conditions. You should each have a “splurge” account. That way you don’t have this type of contention.
I would agree with your statement, but we do each have splurge month every month that we can spend on whatever each would like. (I did not think to include this information in the article, but it would be relevant!). The television is above and beyond the monthly spending money we each have.
I do admire all these goals but if you are not allowed to spend some money on enjoyment then what is the point of money? Also does he want these other house things as well… It seems like you are setting the rules and he has to jump through hoops to get there. After all of that was accomplished I would think the TV would be fine. I would have just said no going into debt for it. I am not blaming you I am just wondering what happens when you want something and have to jump through all these hoops as well. Now you are right money can effect a relationship but while being in debt does cause stress and strife not being able to spend it will do the same as well. A large bank account doesn’t necessarily make a happy family.
Great points you have made. It is definitely something I struggle with–spending money for enjoyment (though we did just come back last night from an amazing trip to Alaska, all paid in cash ofcourse;)).
I think this is where we both are learning from one another. I am learning (sometimes slowly!) to spend money on more enjoyment, and he is learning some frugality.
Amanda – My husband asked for the same exact thing after we had been “good” with money for several years. Except I couldn’t get him to agree to save up for it; he wasn’t willing to wait that long. Instead, I requested that he buy a reasonably-sized flat screen and try to get a good price on it, and he was totally cool with that.
He bought it from ourtvsarecheapandwepromisenottoripyouoff.com 🙂 and we crossed our fingers that we had used an actual website to make the purchase. LOL But we actually did get a 42″ at a great price, and I don’t regret giving in for a second. I’m the frugal one, so it was no small feat for my husband to stick by me for three years or so while I squirreled away all our money in anticipation of and immediately following the birth of our first child.
Thank you so much for sharing your similar experience. Sounds like a good compromise. And congratulations on the birth of your child!
This is a great idea! And I love the way you and your husband get along so well. And your husband’s patience is almost unbelievable. On the bright side, a flat screen is cost-effective when you consider how
You have to do whatever works for your relationship when it comes to money. Personally, we have a joint account for all of the bills and then our own personal accounts for fun spending. The TV would qualify for the fun spending.
I apologize on not responding to your great comments. My husband and I just got back from a trip!
Just a clarification that I did not think to include in this article: Paul and I each have our own fun money every month to do whatever we wish with. It’s an agreed upon amount that the other doesn’t care how is spent–we did this so that we wouldn’t feel suffocated by our finances being joined together. Works out pretty well!
The television is above this amount.