My husband Michael, of 35 years, and I were riding home in our 15 year old car after babysitting our 1-year-old granddaughter when we both came up with this newest article idea. When Michael and I share mutual driving or walking time is when our thoughts flow most easily. Anyway, I asked my husband what he felt were the five biggest budget busters that we had both seen and experienced, and most of the following rolled off his tongue. Perhaps, armed with this information, you can keep a better lid on your finances too so that your budget doesn’t bust out.
NUMBER ONE—EATING OUT
No matter how you look at it, whether on vacation or simply at home, eating out—any meal—cuts more heavily into ones finances than any other activity or item. The concept is rather simple, really. You have worked hard all day, you are tired, and you deserve a treat. WRONG. You deserve to keep yourself on your budget if you want to get ahead financially. Remember, “What you don’t spend here, you can use or save over there.”
Perhaps the strongest case for dining in that I know of is Ben and Donna.* (Names changed to keep the sharers anonymous.) Ben had come to my daughter’s soccer game since he and Donna are wonderfully supportive. As we watched the game, he was lamenting that he didn’t feel he could ever retire because he and Donna just hadn’t saved what they need to. He is self-employed and excellent in his career; however, when I asked him why, he shared that he and Donna eat out several times a week. He also added that when he and his wife have friends over, they go out for dinner too. All I could see was RED, in his budget that is.
Here is a wonderful Godly man who has a wonderful Godly wife and wonders what his future financial will bring because of a consuming habit. What advice would you give? Well, I shared how two meals Michael and I had had at their home over the years had meant so much. Both were soup and bread, and personally, I thought both were elegant. When you have friends over, they (or at least I) rarely remember what we eat; instead, we remember the fun, the laughter, and the shared stories. So with friends, set a nice table with some candles and serve whatever you have—something that won’t set you back financially. After all, as long as your guests don’t come down with food poisoning, they will remember the fun, not the food.
And what to do about having meals at home instead of eating out? Several ideas come to mind.
- If you are watching your waistline, eating out is NOT a good option because at least in America, dinners are generally larger portions than one person needs.
- Have a few quick back-up dinners in your pantry or freezer that are fast and easy. My favorites are canned pasta sauce and dried noodles, canned soup, boxed macaroni and cheese with a can of tuna added, scrambled eggs for dinner, or a frozen pizza (or better yet one you make using a bread machine). (Our bread machine cost $12 from the thrift store.) Come up with five of your quick favorites, and make sure you have them on hand. And for lunches that you want to eat out, get into the habit of “brown bagging it” or packing your own noon meal the night before. Big savings come from making lunches and dinners at home.
- Have your child or children make dinners for you instead. Even if all they can prepare is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make it into a fancy meal by adding placemats and candles. What a great way to get your kids involved in the family budget.
- And if you must eat out, then just order one meal for two people and ask for an empty plate. As senior citizens, Michael and I are keenly aware now of how little food it takes to add pounds, and oddly enough, when we split a meal, we both feel full. If you need more food, then order an extra salad.
- As I have shared before, when you want to have a date with your significant other, then dine in! Simply use a previously prepared dish (of which you froze half), set the table, and stay at home. Why put financial stress on your marriage or dating life when you don’t need to. Friends of ours with twelve children, The Breeden’s, used this practice “home-style dating” by going into their bedroom for a meal and date while one of their older children got the younger ones to bed. Sharon Breeden even bought a small white wrought iron table and two chairs at a yard sale and kept them permanently in the bedroom. That furniture was a reminder that home-style dating never goes out of style!
NUMBER TWO—BUYING STUFF ON SALE
No matter what country or continent you are in, four letter words seem to get the best of us all. But by now you know that my favorite four-letter “F” word is “FREE.” But a second serious contender is “SALE.”
For the past fifteen years in Poulsbo WA a furniture store has always posted “Going out of Business SALE.” How one can go out of business for fifteen years is beyond me, but that “S” word was part of the front signage. Finally they did go out of business, but I often wondered how many folks were suckered into purchasing because of the “SALE.”
And too often, buying items on sale equals buying “stuff” you don’t need. Even if it is on sale, you are still spending money, hard-earned money; it takes a lot of will power, but just stay out of stores, and you will stay away from sales.
NUMBER THREE—GETTING A NEW CAR EVERY THREE YEARS
Here in America, cars are a status symbol. And many people purchase or lease one every three years.
Whether we will admit it or not, most people turn their heads towards an expensive car and move their noggins away from a clunker. I personally notice BMW’s and fancy sports cars; but such cars come with more than just a high sticker price. They require costlier insurance, worry that someone will scratch or dent them just for spite, and a more mechanical expensive up-keep. Older used cars are just that—older and previously owned (dented and scratched). So what can be done if you are locked into getting a new car? Learn to live without.
We recently purchased a small used car with cash in celebration of our 35 years. It will replace our other car which is 15 years old and our truck which is 23 years old: total car years 38. In my personal study of frugal millionaires, many have purchased used cars and have driven them to over 200,000 miles. Likewise, in their book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, they address millionaires who are used vehicle shoppers. This type of millionaire says Stanley and Danko, “Inoculate themselves from heavy spending by constantly reminding themselves that many people who have high-status artifacts, such as expensive clothing, jewelry, cars, and pools, have little wealth.” And the authors have noted that for the average earner, “Success in accumulating wealth is based on living well below his/her means.” So a new or leased car every three years? If you want to build wealth from whatever income you are making, definitely not.
NUMBER FOUR—GIVING IN TO YOUR ADDICTIONS
Now before you visualize some poor soul living on the street, reformulate in your mind, if you will, as to what is meant by “addictions.” Addictions are too much of anything; and that can range from eating or drinking too much, to having too many activities, to too many things, or to gambling too much. The bottom line is “too much.” The Bible is clear on this subject.
Proverbs 23:19-21 (NRSVCE)
19 Hear, my child, and be wise,
and direct your mind in the way.
20 Do not be among winebibbers,
or among gluttonous eaters of meat;
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and drowsiness will clothe them with rags.
Similarly in Sirach 37:31, (RSVCE), it warns of what will happen if you can’t control your addictions.
30 for overeating brings sickness,
and gluttony leads to nausea.
31 Many have died of gluttony,
but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life.
It is with prayerful consideration that each of us must determine what our “too much” is. Then with God’s help, we can regain balance.
NUMBER FIVE—REFUSING TO TITHE
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. Malachi 3:8-10 (RSVCE)
Want to keep your budget and finances in the black? Then skim off that top 10% and live off of the other 90%. Just think about it this way: God gives you the whole 90% and only asks for 10%, but if you refuse, then the enemy eats up the 10% and digs heartily into your other 90. Your choice; but it is a behavior with a promise. Who would not want the windows of heaven opened on us with an overflowing blessing?
Michael and I know, as do millions of other Catholics from all financial walks of life that you can never out give God. The more you give to Him and trust in His providence, the more your life will be blessed. Think of this final budget buster as one with teeth. You can never out give God. Period.
So rethink these five budget busters and their significance in your life then figure out your own methods of busting back.