I haven't blogged in a while because we've been swamped with living the good life: All-Star Baseball tournaments for my studly 8 year old and a family trip to Washington DC. I expected to have a lot of patriotic themed blog ideas after all that coolness - but the whole thing actually gave me my first huge writer’s block!
It all started great. Right before we left, I wrote an awesome post on how to pre-fund your vacation for maximum enjoyment for my first guest blog post! I’m tooting my own horn on that, btw - I asked if I could do it, not the other way around! (I’ll add the link here once she publishes it.)
But once I got to DC, I became overwhelmed by thinking of the costs incurred by the federal government to maintain all the monuments, memorials, National Park sites and the museums. I’m home now and still struggling! So, this post is about my struggle and a question for you - “Would you let her buy you lunch?”
Don't get me wrong, we loved our visit. The city was amazing and as far as a destination it may have been one of our least expensive vacations, because everything is free!
I was struggling in that environment where budgeting doesn't seem to fit. Sure, there is a lot of talk about budgets, but it seems to be more about not approving someone’s budget than sensibly assessing wants versus needs.
Budgeting is living within your means today so you don’t rob from your future tomorrow. It is not trying to look ‘fake rich’ to impress people that you don’t know.
Even as I was oohing and ahhhing the opulence of the Library of Congress, I was feeling uneasy guilt of enjoying the sites for free. If I had a friend who couldn’t pay her bills but habitually offered to buy my lunch, I wouldn’t let her do it!
I’m conflicted with all of these things if I think about budgeting as based off of my personal budgeting criteria of 1) expenses must be less than income for all budgeted items and 2) budgeted items are prioritized by needs taking priority over wants.
Our national debt is too high for me to fathom, yet the National Parks budget request for this year is $3.2B and the 2015 Smithsonian Budget request was $850M.
Smithsonian museums and the Smithsonian zoo, the DC National Park Buildings, the Library of Congress, Capitol Building and White House tours, and the Archives are all free to attend.
I like free lunches (especially if you throw in a sugar cookie), but if I wouldn’t let my broke friend buy them for me, why am I cool with all these free things from the government? That’s a rhetorical questions, peeps, I don’t have an answer!
Maybe because I feel that as a tax payer, I’m pre-paying my fees?
Maybe it’s because I really like museums. I like looking at pretty mosaics and majestic buildings.
And, the national debt doesn’t seem very real. I can’t even pronounce the number!
Back home in SoCal I see people with beautiful expensive cars and high end lifestyles and I can’t help but wonder how much is financed by debt? Does their debt seem real to them, or is it some big number that doesn’t have much to do with their day to day lives?
I think that many people don't realize the long-term costs of living like you are "fake rich". We get so caught up with surviving the day that it's hard to imagine retiring (i.e. stop getting earned income) or thinking outside of our current situation. But what happens when your income ends? What happens when you get used to spending more than you make and finally realize that you can't even scrape the minimum for your bills?
Btw, you do know that your income is going to end sometime, right? And, barring zombie apocalypse, most of us will be living a long time after we stop getting the earned income paychecks and will be financing our retired lives on Social Security, and any retirement savings that you have. If you are struggling to make payments on debt at your current income, imagine when it’s reduced.
It's hard to have any motivation to change if you don't know the facts. If the number doesn’t seem real.
I think the motivation to change comes from fully knowing your situation, feeling it personally, and HATING it. I need to step on the scale to see how much I weigh and be appalled before I will get serious about counting my calories and cutting out sugar cookies. My husband and I needed to KNOW (i.e. quantify) our debt total and KNOW (i.e. believe in our heart) that it was our real number, before we could HATE our debt (and decide to change our spending to pay off the debt.)
Do you know your real number? Maybe instead of deciding if you would let her buy you lunch, you need to ask yourself if you are the one who shouldn’t be buying lunch. Make a budget and brown bag it!
Thanks for listening, I hope that the next posts will have fewer unanswered questions!