I just spent a large amount of $$ on plane tickets for a trip I’m taking over spring break. I’ve known I was going to make this purchase for a while, and I’ve had the cash in my bank account for about a month, but I’ve been putting off actually buying because every time I thought about it I had a minor freakout. So much money. What about my net worth goals?!
It amazes me over and over again how much my emotions about money impact my mood on a daily basis. If I’ve just gotten paid, I feel flush and ready to meet emergencies and setbacks head-on; if I’m contemplating a big purchase, my emotions get more complex, as I both want the thing (who doesn’t want a spring break trip?) and worry about the lowered levels in my savings accounts. I definitely don’t have the kind of cushion where I can be all “eh, who needed that $700 anyway?” Herewith, my not-guaranteed-foolproof techniques for pulling myself together and acting like a grownup!
Rule 1: Don’t Panic
I break this one all the time — like, the reason why I was putting off buying the tickets was that I had a very mild choked-breathing episode every time I thought about it — but it’s a good rule anyway! Panic or anxiety can be good if you don’t usually feel them, because if they’re unusual feelings, then if you have them it’s probably a sign something is genuinely wrong and you should pay attention. But if you’re, how shall I put this, prone to them, it’s a different story; in that case, instead of focusing you on what’s important, panic is paralyzing.
Rule 2: Make a List
There’s a reason why I love budgeting so much: it lets me make lists, and I love making lists. Like any other money emotion, this one is about giving me control — over my cash and also over my own responses. In the case of my plane tickets, when I started to feel that anxiety, I reminded myself of all the reasons why it was ok to spend this money: I had it saved specifically for this purpose, so I’m paying in cash, not credit; I have a secure job for the next 18 months, so there’s time to keep building my emergency fund and I don’t need to hang on to every dollar; this is a trip being made for really legitimate purposes, and while I’m on it I’ll spend varying amounts of time with four good friends, get some sunshine to break up the winter blahs, and even do some work by giving a conference paper. The list reminded me that this was a reasonable decision, not an impulse buy that I was going to regret later.
Rule 3: Get It Off the Balance Sheet
This is another way to remind myself that I have control over this decision. Once I’d bought the tickets, I went to YNAB (affiliate link; gets you a $6 discount) and immediately entered the purchase and moved enough money from my travel fund into my checking account to cover it; then I went to my bank’s website and made the same move. Well before my next monthly update, I will already have paid off the credit card using this pre-saved money. Not seeing the charge sitting on my credit card will help, because I won’t look at the card and think “Oh (&^)*&^#, I’m in debt!” Once it’s paid for and the card goes back to zero, the whole thing will be over and done with and I’ll calm down.
Rule 4: Relax and Enjoy It
I’ve been working hard on my money for the last year. I’ve made some fairly serious sacrifices, like living in a rented room instead of an apartment, and cutting way back on food costs, in order to get to where I am now. But refusing to spend from my travel savings account isn’t going to get me to financial freedom within the next few years. I’m going to be working over the long haul. In the meantime, I have to get used to allowing myself to spend money on the things I’ve saved it for and not guilting out about it! Otherwise I will be a relatively richer but much more stressed out 60-year-old one day, and that sounds like it would produce more wrinkles than I want to have.