Budget and Spontaneity Are Not Mutually Exclusive

July 11, 2017

I went garage saling with my sister last Saturday morning. If you’ve never been, you haven’t lived. Jeff Foxworthy has this to say about a Saturday morning American pastime:

“I love yard sales. My wife and I get up early on the weekends, trying to beat other people to this stuff. These people are selling junk out of their garage they don’t want, we dig through it like we’re going to find priceless treasures.”

I was not looking for any priceless treasures in particular, but boy, did I ever!

My sister and I each fell in love with and bought a really expensive article of clothing from Lisa in Park City. Mine is an Italian-made leather long vest. I know this description doesn’t describe it very well, but trust me (and my sister) when I say:

  1. It’s awesome.
  2. I like it a lot.
  3. It is something I would probably never choose to afford brand new.
  4. It was definitely not in my budget or on my list of wardrobe “holes”.

But you know what? Sometimes you can’t plan everything in life. You can’t plan every single purchase or event in life. And sometimes it is the right thing to do to be spontaneous.

The beauty of spontaneity

The fun stuff comes when someone is not so strict on sticking to the script. You’re allowed the spontaneity, and great moments can happen.  -Jennifer Aniston, perhaps best known for her role on “Friends”. Also known for her great hair.

While not the most philosophical quote in the world, I like Jennifer and it is fun to think about life as a movie/play with a script. Our goals and plans—including financial plans like a budget—are akin to the script. It’s a really good idea to have a script and an idea of where you are headed with the movie/your life.

But the times when we “break script” can be some of the most memorable, pivotal life moments. I am not claiming my Saturday purchase was a pivotal life moment; it’s an analogy for the bigger spontaneous moments. Like, when you choose to go on one more blind date, or when someone suggests a day trip where you discover one of your great interests or callings in life.

While I do firmly believe in personal responsibility and duty and purposefully striving, I also believe in God and that He has some marvelous possibilities for our life. Many of those things are things we wouldn’t even think to add to our plan and others are behind doors we would never choose. Perhaps the spontaneous moments when we drop the script are little connections with Heaven. For a little snapshot in time, we open ourselves up to something better or different.

Spontaneous spending

Anyway, back to “breaking the budget.” The beauty of a budget is that spontaneous purchases like my Italian leather coat can’t just blend into the rest of my spending. I know that the money I used to pay for it was designated for other jobs, and I needed to reorganize the money in my categories a little bit to cover my spending.

[Sidenote: while advocating spontaneity, I should share that I regret most of my spontaneous adventures or purchases that I put on a credit card.  Given my experience with credit, I can’t recommend you indulge using credit. You will end up regretting it in the near and/or long term. Indulging is a totally different thing when you live by a budget and pay cash for all your purchases. In those circumstances, I think it is okay—more than okay, in fact—to be human and live a little:)]

Besides an occasional big unplanned purchase, my overspending more often happens a little more gradually. I overspend categories by a little bit here and there without thinking or sometimes consciously without deciding where it’s going to come from. And I end up with a category or two in the red. Or, in cases like last month, I had even more categories than this with negative balances.

And even after shuffling money from other categories, I need to divert money away from one of my bigger goals. I don’t love that at all, but thankfully it happens infrequently and always inspires better behavior. A month starts over, new money comes in, and I get to choose to be better. Again.


Spontaneity is awesome and perhaps literally Heaven-sent. Being practical all the time might, in fact, keep the door closed on some life-changing experiences.

Even budgetarily-speaking, allow some spontaneity. Hopefully not the kind that will have you stressing later about how to pay such-and-such bill or wondering how to pay for gas for your car. But enough that you will actually stick to your budget for the most part and not quit. Being a 90% budgeter is way better than being a 0% budgeter.

And when you do go over budget, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just choose—again—to get back on track so that you are not in the hole for the possibilities around the corner. When you are pretty good (financially) most of the time, you have more resources and discipline to say yes to the occasional splurge. Like a spur of the moment summer trip, or an invitation to go to something outside your comfort zone. Or an ambiguously described but awesome yard sale find.

To what spontaneous thing have you recently said “yes”??

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