The New Normal: Luxury or Necessity?

I’ve been a pretty frugal person for my entire married life. We clip coupons. We eat at home. We don’t have cable.

Yet, extras still manage to creep into the budget. They never seem like a big deal at the time, but before you know it, you’re out an extra $25-30 per week on things that just seem normal.

Spirit Week participation at $2 per day. A $4 stop for hot cocoa on a cold, rainy day. A $10-15 girls’ night.

Some I would argue are necessary — time with friends is precious and vital to my soul. Others are simply things we want so badly, they feel like needs. That hot chocolate sure felt necessary after standing in the rain and hail for 4 hours on Saturday.

But, as time goes on, things that were once luxuries find their way in the budget on a regular basis. The coffee treat becomes a daily habit. The mani-pedi becomes a standing appointment. The occasional pizza night becomes a weekly part of the menu plan.

The key to controlling your budget is to stop, take a look at your habits, and determine what is truly needed and what you’ve simply grown accustomed to. It’s a hard battle, especially when there is a fine line between want and need.

We need a solid marriage. We want a fancy date night to keep up with it. I need quality time with my friends. I want to join them for lunch. Or dinner. Or drinks. My girls need a good education. They want the book fair money and classroom treats.

But this is not the time for wants, especially if we want to have presents under the tree at Christmas. This is the time to buckle down, be smart with our money, and stick to the things we actually need. So, we’re cutting out pizza night. I’m skipping the salon wax. We’ll plan dates and family fun nights at home.

So we can afford the bigger things we want later in the year.

What luxury has become a regular part of your budget?

A big thanks to Citi for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Photo Credit: Flickr user ambernectar

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