In our current budget everything above our living expenses is going toward debt. We painstakingly review each line item and ask ourselves if we can get rid of it and what life would be like without that item. We’ve even considered going a month without gas for the car to save money (this was Daniel’s crazy idea). I once heard one Dave Ramsey caller say that she saved $30 a month by taking her own trash to the dump. Calls like that one make me wonder: Are we watching our budget dollars close enough?
The Monetary Cost
Daniel and I have things in our budget that may seem like a luxury to some, but for us we have found them to be essential to keeping a positive frame of mind. Entertainment is a category that we keep around despite its stigma of being an unnecessary expense. When making financial decisions Daniel always asks “What are the numbers?” A month of Netflix, Spotify, DirecTV, and two in-theater movies costs us about $120. Over a year that is $1,440. Our total debt is around $67,000. What we spend on those entertainment items is 2.2% of our total debt.
The Emotional Cost
To save $1,440 we would have to cut out all cable, cut our access to commercial-free Netflix Instant for the kids, cancel access to Spotify’s music library, and not go out with friends to the movies for an entire year. Just typing that sentence makes me sad. This may be a suburbanite first-world problem, but it matters to me.
When we couldn’t pay our DirecTV bill this summer we went without cable for over a month. It made me feel poor and I didn’t like feeling disconnected from the world. Yes, we were still able to live our lives, but I hated it.
Daniel works at his desk day and night and having access to millions of songs on Spotify keeps him going. I also love being able to pull up commercial-free, age appropriate songs for my children in the car and not being locked into listening to one of the 2 kid CD’s we own. It is worth it for me to protect their ears.
We love being able to go to an occasional movie with a friend. For us this is a quality of life item that we aren’t willing to cut out from our budget.
The Cost of Maintaining Sanity
These quality of life items keep us going and save us from feeling depressed. When we are broke we start feeling poor and then that leads to feeling depressed. When we are depressed we aren’t motivated to fight. Getting out of debt is a fight. When we are depressed we begin to hide from our friends and just go through the motions of the day. We have experienced all of these emotions and know them to be true about ourselves.
There are simply a few small items that we aren’t willing to let go of while getting out of debt. However, there are other items and experiences that we can happily live without. For example: we drive one car, we haven’t repaired the disintegrating back fence, we wear the same clothes over and over, and we use old appliances until they give out. We like the trade offs we make so we can afford and keep a few luxuries.
When we look at the numbers, the emotional costs, and the money we bring home, then we can really decide how focused we need to be to pay off debt.
What items do you feel like you couldn’t remove from your budget?