Discretionary Spending While Getting Out Of Debt

DH = Dear Husband
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
            Sometimes I think, If we took our discretionary money and put it against our debt, we’d make faster progress on our journey to debt-freedom.  But it’s a thought that doesn’t stick, and that’s a good thing. 
Just to recap, DH and I have individual and joint discretionary money:
Ø  Individual:  We give ourselves each $600 per month for things like charitable donations, gifts, clothing, entertainment, restaurant meals and snacks – not to mention items like tooth paste, shampoo, and shaving cream.
Ø  Joint:  We used to hire house cleaners to the tune of $100 every two weeks, but now we do our own cleaning, and the money is set aside in its own account.  We use it for larger household purchases that represent wants rather than needs.  In April, for instance, we bought a flat-screen TV with money saved in this account.
There are two reasons why I think discretionary spending allowance is important – even while getting out of debt:
1.      If you don’t give yourself any permission to treat yourself, you’re at greater risk of burning out and giving up altogether.
2.      Discretionary spending provides training for life after debt.  While it is a perk, it’s one that fosters delayed gratification – waiting while saving; it encourages thoughtful purchase – taking a look at what’s out there and at what the best deals are; it provides practice in measured spending.

DH and I Compared 

From the start, DH has been much better at managing his discretionary fund than I have been at managing mine.  He has been able to save for relatively big ticket items – like paying for his annual gym membership outright – while still maintaining a healthy balance at the end of every month.  Furthermore, DH got in the habit of putting aside all of his change a few months before we started our journey out of debt.  For over a year now, he has dropped his coins into a jar, and as it has filled up, he has considered what he would do with it – a week-end of snowboarding generally coming out on top. 
I, on the other hand, have had a hard time keeping my discretionary fund above $0 – let alone saving anything.  In my last post, I identified my biggest weakness in managing money:  I buy snacks and meals too often.  My discretionary fund has suffered from a chronic leak of $1.50 here and $10.95 there.  Nothing exorbitant or even unreasonable in itself, but over time, draining.  So it is no surprise that my discretionary fund generally comes out at around $0 by the end of each month.  It’s better than less-than-zero (which it always used to be), but it exposes a real deficit in my practice of the thoughtful, measured spending mentioned above.  So DH and I are living proof that two people with the same income and the same expenses can end up in radically different financial situations. 
Last week, I drew a line in the sand.  In the name of taking a trip out west to visit DD1 this August as long planned, I stated (in bold no less), “not another penny will I spend on treats or meals out until I have saved enough money from my discretionary fund to purchase a plane ticket.” 
This past Monday evening, DH asked me to come and see something.  He showed me his coin jar.  It was empty.  Then he showed me an envelope filled with bills and some change – amounting to just under $600.  “What are you going to do with it?” I asked.  He handed me the envelope.  “You can use it for whatever you want,” he said, “but I thought it would help for your trip out west.”  My eyes well up just writing it.    
I’m too touched by his generosity not to be inspired by it.  I will not allow this incredibly sweet and sacrificial gesture to go to waste.  In the name of learning to manage money wisely, I’m inclined to steer clear of the “not another penny will I spend” route and truly to master that thoughtful, measured spending which has always eluded me.  After DH handed me his envelope, I did have enough money in my discretionary fund to buy a plane ticket, and was therefore free of the vow I had made only a few days before.  “Discretion”, according to mydictionary.com, is “the trait of judging wisely and objectively.”  Measured spending shows much wiser judgement than knee-jerk “not another penny will I spend.”  So on Wednesday evening, I practiced discretion and took DH out for a treat at Tim Hortons.  It was all on me.

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  1. ‘He handed me the envelope. “You can use it for whatever you want,” he said, “but I thought it would help for your trip out west.” My eyes well up just writing it. ‘ My eyes welled up reading this. Well done DH! I love the image of coins saved in a jar building value over time.

    1. Thank you, Laurie! It’s all the sweeter because DH is the kind of man who is rarely accused of being sweet : ) I hope that this gesture will make the image of coins building value take root in me.

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