Why You NEED Blow Money
|September 20, 2012||Posted by Roshawn Watson under Personal Finance, psychology|
There’s an EPIC battle going on. The stakes have never been higher. Your very destiny hangs in the balance. Both sides have experienced warriors, and only ONE will emerge victorious.
I’m speaking of the battle between your self-control and your desires. One of my biggest exposures to this conflict occurred when I was in debt. I went contrary to much of what I read and heard. I insisted on retaining some “blow money” (discretionary funds). In order to achieve my aggressive timetable for paying off my debt, I counted blow money vital. Now, the amount allocated for this was marginal: the pitiful crumbs that I kept for myself paled in comparison to what I gave my debtors (mainly Sallie Mae) each month. However, it provided a degree of balance in an otherwise unbalanced process. I found blow money necessary to maintain my tenacity over the long term. It was my lifeline to normalcy. To this day, I consider blow money an important part of my budget, and to my delight, I recently read a great series of studies supporting why you should have blow money too!
Constant Denial Depletes Your Energy
I know few people who love budgeting. We tolerate budgets. We abide by budgets, but we don’t generally love budgets. Budgets typically require discipline, and until it becomes habitual, budgeting can be downright dreadful. We will be painfully aware of every sacrifice. We will count the days until the misery budget ends. It will require our continual effort. The whole process will feel unnatural. That’s because it is unnatural. If you have budgeted and failed, find solace in the fact that MAYBE YOUR BUDGET WAS RIGGED TO FAIL FROM THE BEGINNING. I know that is a bold statement, but hear me out. Understanding the implications of the following eight words will save you MUCH pain related to budgeting, dieting, and any other activity the requires you to deprive yourself.
Constant denial depletes energy needed to resist temptation.
In other words, you may look the same when you are tired as you do when you are fresh (excluding the dark circles underneath your eyes); however, studies from Baumeister and others have now repeatedly shown that you are NOT the same person. Your will and strength to persist can diminish with constant conflict. Tired eyes rarely see a bright future.
Related Article: How to See a Bright Future
We see many applications of this principle. From detectives wearing down the wills of compelling suspects to divulge incriminating details of their alleged crimes with lengthy interrogations to grocery stores placing the most delectable treats right by the checkout counter, the concept of resource depletion has tangible implications to your overall wellbeing, your waistline, and YOUR WALLET.
One of the things that I found the most interesting about this research was that it apparently did not even matter what area a person was trying to exercise control in, if he had already performed acts of self-control, doing so diminished his ability to exercise control in the future. For example, researchers looked at subjects’ abilities to watch a comedy without permitting themselves to laugh, to resist chocolate chip cookies, to use a handgrip, and to persist in the face of failure on unsolvable anagram.
With respect to budgeting, this means that: without blow money, you are more likely to spend impulsively. After all, the very resources you would use to resist impulsive spending would be depleted through prior efforts to tame your spending beast (aka, prior denials).
Blow Money Can Replete Your Energy
One of the biggest reasons why having “blow money” works is because it allows you to strategically deviate from the savings, investing, and (sometimes) giving script with minimal, if any, harm to your overall goals. Conceptually, I consider blow money the same as having weekly “free day” as a part of a healthy diet. As anyone who has been on one can attest, diets can be very difficult to abide by. Indeed, the diet industry would not be a $60 billion industry if diets were easy. Some of the best advice I have heard regarding dieting is to allow yourself a “free day:” a day when you can eat anything in any quantity you want. Part of the rationale behind the free day is that: if you had to eat healthy ALL the time, even when many of your friends and family are chowing down on all sorts of deliciousness during weekend outings, holidays, and special occasions, then your diet is impractical. One reason is that such a diet isolates you, and that in itself weakens you. The same is true for your budget. If your budget alienates you from any fun, what incentive would you have to stick with it? Another reason this diet sucks is because you would become MORE sensitive to the effects of high-sugar, high-calorie treats. Believe it or not, I’m not just referring to the psychological impact of such deprivation. Biologically, data in rats suggest that deprivation leads to increased sensitization to bad foods. If impractical diets are unsustainable, why would anyone think impractical budgets would work?
Diets are to eating plans, what budgets are to spending plans, and if having an free day, where you enjoy yourself, is considered a vital part of a reasonable diet, then shouldn’t the same apply to budgets?
Interestingly enough, I often find that I am more motivated after changing things up, as it kind of allows time to take a step away from the mechanics and gain a better, more objective, perspective of the best plan forward. Financially speaking, “blow money” serves to reawaken you to why you save in the first place. That way, you can approach subsequent challenges to your budget from a position of strength rather than one of depletion.
Related Article: Why Do We Save Anyway
Blow Money Neutralizes the “Well, I Already Screwed Up” Scenario
Another interesting rationale for keeping blow money a part of your budget is that it absolutely neutralizes the “well, I already screwed up” mentality. This behavior was described well by Polivy and colleagues. It occurs when you screw up from a plan (i.e., budget or diet), feel embarrassed about or ashamed of your mistake, and then count the day’s efforts to control yourself entirely lost because you already dropped the ball. Consequently, you let yourself go (lose control) even further. In other words, if your willpower isn’t enough to prevent you from partaking in a cookie, you are likely to get a double hamburger with cheese fries and a milkshake too.
Once you flirt with chaos, it has a way of owning you.
This is equally true with budgeting. Once you lose control, often it is hard to find yourself again. When you don’t have blow money, you are wrestling with the pleasure you feel from satiating your desires through impulse splurges and the guilt that you have over deviating from your budget. This is obviously a weak and unhealthy position to place yourself.
Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case. For example, if you include “blow money” as a part of your spending plan (budget), then when you blow money on something that you deem “fun,” you haven’t messed up. This spending was already budgeted for. There wouldn’t be the same excuses to abandon your budget if you included blow money in your budget in the first place.
Related Article: The Dreaded B Word
Budgets certainly do not have to be swear words in your house. Successful budgeters remember to establish some flexibility to their maintenance plan based on their needs, such as “blow money.” They don’t risk not achieving their spending goals by having unrealistic budgets that only work if everything goes perfectly and if they deny themselves fun from today until retirement! They systematize their saving, investing, AND spending. They don’t expend so much energy resisting temptation that they lose sight of why they save anyway!
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Image Credit: Images of Money