“There’s always something,” said Ingrid, a young public relations consultant. “We can’t get ahead because every single month an unexpected expense pops up, and takes the money that we were going to save.”
“What if that money you were going to save, that you end up using for your unexpected expense, wasn’t there to spend?” I ask.
“I guess I would use my credit card,” she answers.
“No you wouldn’t. You would find that “always somethings” isn’t always,” I suggest.
Everything is relative. The term ‘unexpected’ is relative. The term ’emergency’ is relative. And the term ‘need’ is certainly relative. And it’s our relationship and (dis)comfort with relativity that puts us into this “always something” conundrum. Our address-expenses-first and save-money-last mentality is what leads us into this perpetual pickle. There is “always something” if you allow there to be, but when you eliminate the funding for it, then you will actually eliminate several of the “always somethings”.
I love Rice Krispie Treats. And if a pan of them are around my house, then I will eat them hard. Next to my wife and my daughter, Rice Krispie Treats make me smile more than anything in the world. Even when I’m not hungry, have eaten too many calories in a particular day, and don’t feel like I need a Rice Krispie Treat, I will eat one if they are present. If they aren’t present, then I am much more objective as to my hunger and desire for Rice Krispie Treats. If I truly “need” one, then I have to either make them or steal them…err buy them.
The same can be said for the “extra” money in your checking account. If it’s there, then you tend to be not very objective when evaluating a spending opportunity. If you had saved the money to begin with, then you will need to go into your savings account in order to get to the money. And as you know, that’s a terrible feeling. You will avoid this terrible feeling. What you will find is that those “always somethings” aren’t always. They are always if you allow subjectivity to slip into the equation. You can completely eliminate this by saving money first. Everybody has a certain amount of money that their “always somethings” cost. Is it $150 for you? Is it $500? A $1000? Whatever it is, just save that amount of money into your savings account right after you get paid. This will help eliminate the “always somethings.”
Will this method always solve “always something”? Nope. But it will solve “always something” more times than not. There are two other primary causes of “always something”:
- Poor planning – License plate fees occur every year, insurance premiums need to be paid, and Christmas is always on December 25th. So why are so many people shocked when these expenses pop up? It would suck if your financial failure was caused by your general lack of realism. You can prevent this by sitting down and thinking through your year. What expenses generally occur in September, October, etc.?
- You are an unlucky bastard – I have one particular friend who is the unluckiest person that I have ever met. There are some people who have a way of finding crappy situations that cost them money. I hope this isn’t you. Many people feel like it’s them, but they are most likely a poor planner or not saving their money first, like they should.
You need to be intentional about ridding yourself of “always something”. If you don’t, then there will always be something.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.