“So I bought the field, paying Hanamel seventeen shekels of silver.” (Jeremiah 32:9)
One probably doesn’t think about spending, or “mad”, money in the same sentence with “frugal”. However, it has been my experience that I tend to binge shop whenever I don’t allow myself, well, an allowance. Every time I have tried to save, to pay down debt, etc. if I don’t have that little something once in awhile–it can be as little as $5 in a given pay cycle–I start to feel deprived. And, the next thing I know, I’m dipping into that savings. It may be just a smidge, but when that smidge doesn’t ruffle the financial feathers too much, well, it can become a vicious cycle of a lot of “just a smidges’ more”.
Fortunately, I learned long before my accident in January 2019 that this just doesn’t work. And, though I was working a pretty low-paying job when I fractured my shoulder last year, I had still managed to save enough in the 16 months I had worked there to pay at least one mortgage payment, plus 4 months’ worth of my other bills, before my extended convalescence ran my savings dry.
You see, $5-$10 each pay cycle allowed me to throw an extra dollar or two into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmastime. It allowed me the occasional lunch “treat” of a veggie burger at Burger King. Or a trip to the local second-hand bookstore for new reading material. It may not sound like much, but it makes a difference. The money I put aside as savings remained savings. And that unexpected tire repair didn’t ouch so much.
Now, some may argue that that $10 could’ve been a little extra in that savings’ fund. Yes, maybe it would have been initially…until that ol’ devil depravity started creeping up again. And, depravity, well, it’s sort of like holding on too tightly. You lose control of yourself, your circumstances. It’s a fear that there isn’t enough. And, maybe, sometimes there isn’t. But it’s also another way of beating up on yourself when you’re already down. Again, we’re not talking huge amounts here. And, to be honest, there were many times that the $5 or $10 I put in my billfold the pay period before was still there when I got paid the next two weeks. I didn’t always spend it, but I knew it was there if I “needed” it. I could afford to replace the worn-out slip-on summer shoes with the holes in them…instead of trying to tuck them behind each other so folks didn’t see them. There is a certain freedom that comes with pocket cash…even if it’s only a small amount here and there. And, if you’ll notice, when I did spend, it was the second-hand bookstore, not the $30 hardbound best seller sitting on Walmart’s over-priced shelf.
Actually, keeping that allowance at a small amount is a key in all of this. If you place, say, $100 in your pocket as “mad” money, you might be tempted to buy that $30 hardbound best seller instead of a second-hand book. Your rationale will be that you can afford it…and it’s okay if your budget can handle such a splurge. However, when you keep a lower tab on that allowance, you’re apt to weigh each potential purchase more before you make it. If I buy this $30 book, will I have enough left over for X-Y-Z? Or you’ll realize you can have a lot of last year’s bestsellers, while also supporting a small business in your local community, for the same amount of money you would’ve paid at the big box store for this year’s…which will wind up on the shelf at the local, second-hand bookstore once another patron of the big box store reads it and donates it to them.
Sometimes my “mad” money has even became another savings’ fund. Like in the early-spring when I know the next Sheep & Wool Festival is coming up. By the time it gets here, it may only be $20-$30 in my pocket, but it’s also lunch out with a friend. And maybe a bar of patchouli-scented goat’s milk soap.
Of course, there are times when even a small allowance just isn’t possible. Such was the case last year for me. I am not suggesting that a bill, or much-needed groceries, get neglected entirely. However, when we can be kind to ourselves occasionally, we often find we have more in the long run.
May God bless you & keep you!