Money decisions are made in a split second, based on the needs that we have at the time. All of the budgeting in the world doesn’t do any good when you’re ravenous, in the car, and passing by a McDonald’s. Critical moments like these require observation and the ability to step back from the situation to realize that there is a bigger picture at stake. That $10 spent at McDonald’s could have been spent on something else – like paying down your personal debt. Your decision to stop into the drive thru was made in a split second.
Let me tell you a brief story.
Yesterday, my guy and I were deep in conversation when we both realized that he had to go to class. He asked me if I wanted to join him on the car ride over to the school so we could continue this conversation. I hadn’t eaten yet, but I made the split second decision to join him. I threw on some shoes (without socks!) and was ready in less than 5 minutes. I had been planning to eat after he left, but the plans changed.
So, I was hungry. There was two hours to kill during the course of the class. I had the choice about whether to go home (a 45 minute drive – also adding 2 gallons of gas to the total) or to wait until he was done. If one of us is going to eat out, we both are, so I wasn’t going to stop at one of the many places available on the trip. When he got out of class, both of us were ravenous, and we decided to spend $25 on a great meal of pho and basil rolls.
Now, we could have waited until we got home. That would have been more cost effective. I knew that I couldn’t last for the car trip without snapping at him or looking at his arms like tasty treats. I could have stopped by one of the many grocery stores along the way to spend the $25 and gotten more than 5 meals out of it (an average of $5 a meal is the highest that I ever want to go). I could have gotten something at a gas station in the interim, too.
The point here is that nothing will trump good preparation when it comes to your budget. The ‘bad’ decisions that you make about money are generally made in a split second, where you find yourself needling away at your income until there’s nothing left. Suggestions abound on this site (and the sites of all of the writers contributing to it) on how one can prepare for the unforseeable future. Every last one of us makes these types of split-second money decisions, but I ask that when you make one, think about the larger picture for a second.
Emily Hunter blogs at Million Ways to Save, where she looks for the best ways to save you money. Along with tips, she also offers ideas on making money, debt reduction, and making your lifestyle work.