In the Mood for Something New: Budget or go bust


I love monthly observances. I don’t mean the common ones that make it onto our calendars each year — though those are great. I’m talking about the weird ones! For example, this month we have:

•  Sept. 5 Be Late for Something Day

•  Sept. 7 Salami Day

•  Sept. 18 Hug a Greeting Card Writer Day

•  Sept. 22 National White Chocolate Day.

These are just a few of the quirky observances listed among some more stern ones like Sept. 13 Blame Someone Else Day, which always occurs on the first Friday the 13th of the year and Sept. 22 Hobbit Day.

Joking aside, there truly are some that deserve our attention, such as Sept. 21, World’s Alzheimer’s Day.

When I’m looking for something new to do, I often turn to these strange, yet overlooked “holidays” for some inspiration.

At the end of August, I discovered that September has been deemed College Savings Month, and the guilt of an empty wallet and dwindling bank account told me that this was something to consider.

I devised a plan. Each week in the month of September, I would allow myself $40. Additionally, I would set $60 aside to be pulled from over the course of the month for special or unexpected expenses. (Note: neither of these funds included gas money). By Wednesday of the first week, I had only spent $7 and that was a combination of a snow cone and a coffee, which — let’s be honest — I did not even need. Typically, I would have spent at least $25 on food and coffee by this point alone, so I was quite thrilled with myself.

Then came lunch with a friend on Thursday, a lunch meeting with my boss on Friday and a close friend’s 21st birthday on Saturday. I ended up spending about $45 on the latter alone. Rather than pull the amount I went over from my $60 safety net, I chose to abandon my plan completely. After all, there were plenty of other special circumstances coming up within the month. It could never work.

Abandoning my budget also meant running from my diet, the one that had accidentally — but to my happiness — ensued as a result of not spending money on the greasy goodness of fast food, a habit often as compulsive as my spending.

I’ve reflected quite a bit on this experience.

There’s a theory in circulation that says it takes 21 days for a human being to break a habit. My freshman year of college, I surpassed this day marker and indeed saved money and lost 20 lbs over the course of a few months.

Does this support the theory of 21? Maybe. But either way, the temptation of the habit you’ve cut out is still going to be there. I’ve never smoked, but is that not what we hear from those who have successfully knocked out the habit?

When it comes down to it, I broke one of my own rules: when you try something new, stick it out to the end, whatever you determine the end to be! We’re a society that is impatient and quick to judge. When something doesn’t work, we don’t ask ourselves ‘why?’ We ask ourselves ‘what now?’

And so, starting tomorrow, I’m going to return to the endeavor I set out to accomplish weeks ago. And with me, I’m taking some old and some newly acquired budgeting tips.

Check out my progress for the remainder of the month at Join me on the budgeting board. After all, how can you try new things guilt-free without the comfort of a little extra spending money!

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