Every financial analyst you ever meet is going to give you this bit of advice: save until you have the cash for what you want and then pay for it so you don’t incur debt. Truthfully, that’s the best way to go but let’s be realistic; how many people really do this?

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In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I had multiple credit cards. I wasn’t really all that bad except for my propensity to eat out often, something I still do. However, every once in awhile there was something I wanted that I didn’t have the money for, and I wanted it now. What I would do is calculate how much my monthly payments would go up if I bought this item, figure out how much my next payment should be to mitigate it somewhat, and then buy what I wanted.

That sounds pretty smart doesn’t it? It was, except for the fact that I’d do the same for all my cards. Thus, in one year back in the 80’s I bought my first VCR, a receiver and double deck cassette player, a new 32″ television, and two new bowling balls. Overall that was $1,500 at a time where I wasn’t making tons of money. But my payments didn’t go up drastically and I altered it by changing some of the foods I bought; seemed to work out well.

But it didn’t, and eventually I had more debt that I could pay off. Luckily, I found a new job that paid way better than the one I had and I was good, but that doesn’t happen to everyone. And at some point it caught up with me again, and I had to deal with some things that I could have avoided if I’d been more careful in what I was purchasing and when.

One of the hardest things for most of us to do is deny ourselves. When we want something we want it now. When what we want is expensive it’s easy to turn it down for the moment; can’t buy a house with a credit card after all. And yet, you also have to deal with those trying to teach you how to save money telling you things like don’t buy your favorite coffee and save $200 a year; come on…

Life is about balance. If you have a favorite something you like to do that doesn’t impact your finances all that much, go ahead and do it. At the same time, find something else to take away and save that money for either bigger things or for those emergencies that are going to come up; yup, they’re coming up, no matter what you do. If you plan for the big things you can enjoy the small things and your life won’t seem so bad, or so limited.

And if you decide there’s a movie you really want to see that comes out in a month, is it really so bad if you might have to limit your favorite thing a couple of times a week so you’ll have the money for both the movie and snacks (after all, movies and snacks are costly these days)?

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