Featured Blog: It’s Okay, You Just Can’t Afford It

The following blog is by Amy Jo Lauber originally published on her blog page.

Don’t take it personally, you just can’t afford it.

It doesn’t mean anything about you except that it’s not in your budget. Maybe you don’t earn enough. Maybe you have too many other bills. Maybe you don’t have enough saved. Don’t make this into a chance to loathe yourself or your financial mishaps. Remember, to budget effectively, it’s important to love yourself.

I can’t help but wonder how many people need to hear this important message and, without it, are tying a stone around their financial necks and jumping into the lake with the rest of the Joneses by making purchases they simply cannot afford.

Remember the “Sex and the City” episode when Burger (don’t you just LOVE him?) says to Miranda, who is wondering why her date didn’t come up to her apartment, “He’s just not that into you?”
So blunt, so true, so refreshing, so freeing.

Disney's Cinderella's castleMy hubby, daughter and I spent a lovely evening with some close friends the other night and were talking about how expensive a trip to Disney World has become (not that it was ever an inexpensive vacation, another friend says that you “hemorrhage twenty-dollar bills” there).

We LOVE Disney World. It really is magical. Don’t even get me started on the opening ceremony for The Magic Kingdom; I cryevery time. We’re not one of those “We go four times a year and own a time share there” families but we really enjoy going. And save up for it for a while.

Gasp! What do you mean the financial planner has to SAVE towards a trip?
Doesn’t she make so much money that her family can just go?
No, of course not, that’s crazy talk.

Besides, why would you take advice
from anyone that didn’t actually practice what they preached?

I’m the last person who will tell you not to take a trip with your family; I think vacations and traveling in general are very important components of a fulfilling life. I heard a wonderful interview by NPR’s Bob Edwards with travel guru Rick Steves. (Sorry I couldn’t find the link but I found Rick’s own blog post about that and other interviews he’s done to promote his latest book, Travel as A Political Act.) Steves discussed how crucial it is, especially for Americans, to get out of dodge, explore other parts of the world (more than the “get-off-the-cruise-ship-take-your-photos-and-buy-your-souveneirs” routine) and to spend time talking with the people there. I couldn’t agree more.

While I didn’t get a chance to talk with the roadside barbers in Mumbai (photos courtesy of Partha Iyengar of Your Life and Money), I really wish I could have. There were also roadside tailors; just guys under a tree with their sewing machines. I love this.

Keep in mind that, while some trips can be a big bill, there are many excursions you can take on the cheap. Just try. Don’t harken back to your frugal parents who, instead of stopping at a restaurant to eat, always brought the darn electric skillet on all road trips in order to make canned potatoes and stuff in the motel. And don’t even get me started on the granola bars. What, was this just my parents?

C’mon, some of you must be struggling with memories of eating your humble PB&Js at an amusement park while your friends headed over to the snack-shack to gulp down a burger, fries and milkshake and you vowed at some point (maybe by the time you ate one-too-many granola bars) not to be the el-cheapo parents, right?

Do you know why your parents were cheap? Because they had to be.
And they took you to the amusement park, you ungrateful wretch, what else do you want?

I’ll admit to packing a huge bag of food for our trip to the Ripley Aquarium in Toronto. It saved us quite a bit of money (but I truly wasted $2.45 on what was possibly the worst cup of coffee ever). Of course eating in the parking garage left much to be desired but we were only there a little while and we probably would’ve spent at least as much time waiting in line for over-priced tourist junk food.

Back to my original objective with this post: How can you determine what you can afford?

You draw up a budget.
Like, really.

  • Add up all of your income.
  • Go through all of your “non-discretionary” (meaning, you cannot NOT have them) expenses (food, shelter, clothing, medical care, required transportation, savings).
  • Then see how much you have left over for discretionary (meaning, you CAN do without them) expenses.
  • Carve out an amount for your must-do trips (set aside money each month towards that trip) and allocate the rest to other things you may want but not need (Swedish fish, a new wallet, new curtains, jewelry etc.). Keep this in your “fun” account (a separate savings account can help).
  • Then, when you are faced with an unexpected expense that you truly don’t need to make, you can say with confidence, “I can’t afford it, the money’s allocated towards __________.” Done. Say to the expense, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m already in another relationship.” (Meaning, the one you have with yourself and, therefore, are taking care of yourself.)

There is a great book I read ―twice actually ―titled The Glorious Pursuit: Embracing The Virtues of Christ by Gary Thomas. In it, there is a chapter devoted to each virtue (love, detachment, surrender, vigilance etc.) but there are two chapters devoted to humility. Why? Because the lack of humility is usually what causes us to sin/behave badly because we’re so focused on what we want that we can forget that it’s not all about us. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

“The inner discipline of humility acts like a filter, saving us from the tyranny of grossly unrealistic expectations that everyone and everything should bend our way.”

I love that, especially the part about the “tyranny.”

Humility fosters truth and truth is a form of love. Be honest with yourself and your family about money as a way to bring more love into your life.


About the author: My mission: I help people make good financial decisions with confidence. My purpose: I help people find peace with money. As President of Lauber Financial Planning, I provide financial advice, guidance and coaching on a fee only basis (no products, no commissions). I run a monthly support group called “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)”, offer classes and seminars, speak around the world on the psychological, sociological, spiritual and emotional aspects of personal finance, and am the author of the ground-breaking book, “Living Inspired and Financially Empowered: Aligning Our Spiritual and Material Lives.”


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