To accomplish your financial goals, budgeting should be a core component of the plan. It helps you understand where you were, where you are, and where you want to be. Compliance with each category of the budget takes you one step closer to your goals—whatever they may be. In the words of Ramit Sethi, author of New York Times Bestseller I Will Teach You to Be Rich, “Show me someone’s calendar and their spending, and I’ll show you their priorities.”
While budgeting and compliance with a budget is important, I submit that there are certain line items you should get a “pass” on occasionally. Our family budget currently has 28 categories*; however, there are three categories I NEVER question when we exceed the monthly budget. Each of the three categories has a different intended purpose and impact, and I’ll discuss each one below.
- Charitable Giving: This category is one my wife and I prioritized since the early days of our marriage when we started the financial monitoring and budgeting processes. We believe in the importance of giving back a portion of the many blessings that have been bestowed on us over the years. Because of this, charitable giving is something we do every single month without exception. We choose to give to our church monthly, to United Way through monthly payroll deductions, and we each give to a charity of our choice quarterly. We consider this to be one of our key callings as Christians as well as just a good thing to do to help fellow human beings.
- Health and Wellness: Spending on health and wellness is something we all do—some people more than others, which is okay. We’re not currently members of a gym, so our spend consists mainly of things that prolong our lives on planet earth by taking better care of our bodies. The reasons for this attitude are simple: we want to be around to see our kids grow and develop into responsible citizens, we want to continue to do our part to improve this planet where we live, and we would like to continue improving the lives of others as much as we can.
- Gifts: This one might come as a surprise, but there’s a reason why it made the list. During premarital counseling, my wife and I took the “5 Love Languages” test to determine what our respective love languages were. Quality time was the top answer for both of us; giving gifts was the lowest for both of us (how’s that for compatibility?). I’ve never been a big gift-giver and find most gifts to be more of a formality; I just don’t derive much satisfaction from giving gifts. However, therein was the flaw in my thinking—I was focused on myself and my satisfaction rather than that of others. Over the years I’ve noticed how much gifts mean to some of our closest friends and family. Even simple or cheap gifts can brighten someone’s day, week, or month under the right circumstances. As such, we prioritize spending on gifts for others.
In summary, I want to convey that it’s okay to splurge on some items sometimes. What’s important is to decide those areas that are priorities for you and spend accordingly.
*If you’re interested in the 28 categories we use to budget, please contact me and I’d be happy to share.