Alternatives to Overspending on a Budget

I’ve been known to go to great lengths to fund my book habit.  The obvious answer to this is to use my public library, but actually, I don’t buy a lot of books for myself. I buy them primarily as gifts, and let’s face it: giving a library book as a gift would be tacky and impractical. The trouble is that it always has to be the perfect book, no matter what the cost.  Not available in paperback?  It doesn’t matter: this book is the one!

We all have little luxuries we couldn’t imagine living without, whether you’re a foodie whose always chasing the prettiest little jar of locally-made tapenade or you’ve got a soft spot for great movies and watch your cable bill creeping up as you continue to click “Watch Now” on the newest films available.  If you find that you’ve been envelope-budgeting and your envelope is empty, month after month, pretty early in the game, most people will tell you to choose between two seemingly unrealistic options: love it or leave it.

“Make a bigger budget.”
If you’re consistently going “over board” in a certain area, consider increasing the size of your boat and setting yourself up for success.  Admit your passion, prioritize it, and eliminate dollars in other areas of your budget to make room for this expense.  Nobody likes feeling guilty or “in the red,” so get over yourself and give up something else, something less important to you.  There’s nothing like negative energy around your finances to put a halt on your motivation to build a healthy financial lifestyle, and that’s the last thing you want to do.  This is a good strategy if you’re not talking about a significant portion of your income, and if you have the funds to cover it.

“Stop spending.”
Maybe you need to seriously evaluate and decide to cut back.  If you’re constantly consuming in a way that you simply can’t fund or make more room for, then it’s time to stick to the budgeted amount and—well, suck it up.  While it might feel like a bummer, you can look at the bigger picture: financial freedom won’t come without a few sacrifices.  You might consider this option depending how far over-budget you go each month.

These are the obvious solutions to over-spending in a particular budget category every month, but in general, I’m pretty against presenting options so polarizing, and, honestly, somewhat unrealistic.  So, what if you could both enjoy your favorite little somethings without the feeling of guilt and without that guilty feeling of being “in the red” a little bit each month?  Wouldn’t that feel like heaven?

Join the Club.
Memberships, subscription services, and rewards programs exist in all kinds of industries that benefit the consumer and the community.  Got a clothes habit that gets your closet overflowing?  Start an account at your local consignment shop, and you’ll earn money while other people shop for your clothes, and all you have to do is drop them off.  The same goes for used books programs: my local indie will pay customers for gently-used books, leaving me room to declutter my shelves, earn a little store credit, and put the money toward future purchases.

As for subscription services, calculate where you’ll break even to see if you’d save by subscribing.  If you’re already a subscriber, and you’re not regularly getting your money’s worth – maybe it’s time to go a la carte and cancel. A best practice may be to set a reminder on your phone calendar for 60 days out to be sure you assess whether or not it is worth it.

Time Is Money.
Time is money, so when you’re wide on time and short on funds, give freely.

If you love to eat organic, for example, but find it out of your price range, consider giving a few hours a week at a local farm or farmer’s market, and you’ll often find yourself with armfuls of organic produce.  There are networks like WWOOF that can connect you with local farmers.  Your volunteer hours are also hours that you’re not out spending money on other forms of entertainment, and perhaps best of all, they often lead us to people with similar values and shared interests.

Work Your Passion.
Giving time away for free isn’t an option for everybody, but you can still make your passions work for you.  I recently stayed with a friend in Detroit who, in addition to a full-time desk job with a high-end real estate developer, serves one night a week at one of the city’s trendiest restaurants.  While giving up a Saturday night doesn’t always sound like a blast, she not only makes money on the deal, but she also stays current on the latest food trends and enjoys family meal once a week at the restaurant, on the house.

Whatever your industry, a few hours a week devoted to your favorite extracurricular will bring in a little money and keep you up-to-date on trends in the field.  Plus, retail jobs can offer sizable discounts on their merchandise to employees that increase with time.  Consider exactly how much you overspend each month before deciding if this is worth the commitment for you, but it might help you not only eliminate spending but earn more at the same time.

As for me, I keep my book habit, and I learn to love myself for it.  I still work Sunday afternoons at my local bookshop because I love being in-the-know and having access to everything current.  To me, it’s worth “giving up” my Sunday because I love talking books and recommending a novel I know can change someone’s life.  If you’ve got the passion and the interest, share the love, and put it to work for you.  There’s no reason to go broke when there are so many opportunities to make a life around what you love.

Have you kicked a spending habit or learned to love it?  Join the rest of us at Cinch!

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