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Are you “just”ifying your future away?

Posted by idawrites on April 9, 2010 in Budgeting, Money, Spending |

You know what I realized the other day? The word “JUST” is an evil word we use to excuse everything. Seriously. When someone makes a hurtful comment and you call them on it, what’s the standard reply? “I was JUST kidding, jeez.”

What about when you’re in the middle of working hard on something and your significant other decides you’re doing it wrong? Have you ever told them to back off? What’s their response? “I was JUST trying to help!”

In the offender’s eyes, just = only or merely (dictionary.com: adverb – 12).  In the eyes of the offended, it’s not just, it’s JUSTIFYING = to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded (dictionary.com: verb – 2).

I’ve found that this is also true in money matters. At our house, our money leaks almost always begin with “but it was just…” We’re defending our poor choices by trying to downplay the impact it’s having on the offended party (our budget, bank balance, credit limit). Mark and I “just” spend $10 or $20 far more often than I’d like to admit.

We spend too much money in some budget categories and have to use money from other categories to cover it. Since we don’t borrow money or have credit cards, this means we’re taking money from other important savings goals (like vacations or home repair) to cover immediate wants (like going for a burger instead of cooking).

The last few months has been extraordinarily taxing on our family, with Mark’s layoff in January. We got disheartened and let the reigns out a little on our spending … not that there was much available to spend. We didn’t watch the budget as closely as we should have and ended up going through more of our emergency fund to float us through than we should have. All because of the word we allowed to take over in our weak moments… JUST.

What JUST Really Costs
Daily Weekly Monthly Annually
Coffee $    1.50 $     7.50 $   30.00 $  360.00
20 oz Soda $    1.49 $      7.45 $   29.80 $  357.60
iTunes Download $    0.99 $      4.95 $    19.80 $  237.60
Lunches Out $  10.00 $    50.00 $  200.00 $2,400.00
Books $      9.99 $    39.96 $ 479.52
Video or On Demand Rentals $    4.99 $    24.95 $    99.80 $1,197.60
Cigarettes $    5.00 $    35.00 $    140.00 $ 1680.00
Cheap Dinner Out $  30.00 $  150.00 $  600.00 $7,200.00
Vending Machine Snacks $    1.00 $      5.00 $    20.00 $  240.00
Social Networking Virtual “Gifts” $    1.00 $      5.00 $    20.00 $  240.00

Let me tell you, I’m kicking that word OUT of our house… out of our spending patterns, and out of our budgeting tactics. As Dave Ramsey loves to say about a million times a day, we’re back to putting our budget: “On paper, On Purpose, Every Month, Before the Month Begins”.

What about you? What if you’re JUST spending $20 a day over your budget (lunches, sodas, coffee, chewing gum, cigarettes, gym membership you’re not using, movies on demand, iTunes, amazon.com, kindle books, snacks from the vending machine, HBO, Cinemax, LJ user gifts, clearance office supplies you might use someday)? What if that’s JUST $20 a day per person? At $20 a day, 5 days a week, you’re justifying a steady leak of $5,200 a year from your goals.

What could you do with $5200 a year? Pay down on your credit cards? Take a fantastic vacation? Send your kids to summer camp? Take an extra week off work? Prioritize what you want to spend that money on. If you want that $10 a day for lunches (or books or coffee or movies or great shopping finds), then make sure you put that in your budget instead of mindlessly allowing your money to drip out of your account… or drip you deeper into debt.

Are you eluding the JUST in your life? Can you tell us how to? I suspect this is going to be an ongoing, uphill battle.

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