When I was walking into Walmart this weekend to finish my grocery shopping, four young men were getting into a car, each with a sub and drink from Subway in their hands (there is a Subway inside our local Walmart). It literally stopped me in my tracks. I have never wanted anything in my life as purely as I wanted a sub from Subway in that moment. It was then I realized that maybe, just maybe, I had set the bar just a little too high for all of us as far as debt reduction was concerned.
For close to 9 months now, we’ve had absolutely zero budget for eating out. We have eaten out on occasion, when we have been traveling and had no other options, and when my parents came to visit last July, but generally we have been very focused and good about not violating the eating out rule and have not set foot in a restaurant. And in that moment in front of Walmart I realized that I was walking a very thin line between total commitment and throwing in the towel. It is not that we were a family that ate out all the time. In fact, we usually went out 2 times a month or less. But we did occasionally eat out, and the cravings for food not cooked by me have grown stronger and stronger lately. Last week I was about 5 seconds away from ordering a latte at the Starbucks inside Target. This week I wanted to knock over some poor unsuspecting boy to get his Subway sub. I have a problem.
I didn’t order a sub that day, but I haven’t forgotten about it either. I’ve started to wonder if my desire for things I’ve eliminated from our budget is from a lack of focus on the student loan payoff, or my psyche crying out saying “Make life worth living! I want a treat!”. I had been thinking that because the credit card was paid off, I’d lost my drive a little bit, but after making the first student loan overpayment this weekend (more on that this afternoon) I realized I still have this desire to be debt free inside me. But I also have a desire to live a little more than we have been.
Before I crash and burn and do something crazy, I need to build a little wiggle room into our budget. If I have a little space to be crazy (not a lot, and not specifically for food, but just a little space) it might be easier to focus the rest of my energy on debt reduction and stay the path. If I set that wiggle at a specific parameter, I can think carefully about what I want to do with it, and save it up if I want to use it for something bigger, but not go crazy and completely blow the budget on a whim. At least, that is what I hope. And of course, I’d give my spouse the same wiggle room. He hasn’t complained but I know he’s been more than patient over not having any spending money.
Or maybe I just need to actually spend my birthday money this year (my birthday is at the end of March and my parents usually send a small check) on me and not on debt reduction. Or at least, give myself the option to do so.
Wiggle. Just a wee bit of wiggle, before Target and I have a not so minor meeting.
Note: For those wondering from yesterday, my freezer is in fact 0 degrees F, once I followed the instructions and left the thermometer between two frozen items for a few hours. So for now, the freezer is okay.