21 Days to a Better Budget, Day 11: Give Yourself Some Breathing Room

21 Days to a Better Budget, Day 11


When my husband, Frankie, and I first started budgeting, we were really gung-ho. Our #1 goal was paying off debt and we wanted it done, like, yesterday. We cut everything and anything we could out of our budget. We went from living beyond our means to walking a tight rope every day.

It was a classic rookie mistake – we were so enthusiastic that we didn’t give ourselves any breathing room.

After a month or two of nail biting stress, we finally realized that if we were going to stick to our budget for the long-run, we needed to give ourselves at least a little bit of wiggle room in the short-run.

So we added a new category in our budget – and we called it “Blow Money”. My grandmother used to call this kind of cash her “mad money”.

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Both Frankie and I get a predetermined amount at the start of every month to do whatever we want with it. At the beginning, when we were working hard to get out of debt, we only budgeted $10 per person. Definitely not a lot of money, but shockingly, it was more than enough to let a little air out of our over-extended budget balloon.

As an added bonus, not only did it give us a bit of “splurge money”, it also gave us a chance to be accountable to no one other than ourselves.

You see, with every other line item in our budget, we are 100% accountable to each other. A budget is about commitment. The commitment to uphold this fiscal agreement that we make with each other. If you are single, a budget is still a commitment – a commitment you are making to yourself.

But blow money? That’s all yours. No agreement, no discussion, no guilt trip. Now that Frankie and I are out of debt and have a fully-funded emergency savings account, we have bumped our blow money up to $25 per person per month. It’s still a small amount, but believe it or not, most months, I don’t even use it all.

As with anything else in your budget, the “right” amount of money for your blow money must be balanced against all of your other expenses. If you have a major money goal – like we did when we were paying off debt and saving our emergency fund – then the number may be very small.  But as my husband and I learned, a little goes a long way when it comes to breathing room.

Even if you have more flexibility with your funds, I don’t recommend budgeting a huge “blow money” category. Instead, make sure that all the categories in your budget are sufficiently funded. That way you won’t feel a need for very much blow money.

Your homework assignment for today is to put a Blow Money category into your budget. It’s good for you, it’s good for your marriage and it’s good for the longevity of your budget.

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