It’s a short money week this week thanks to the panic-inducing stockup. Specifically, it’s a five-day week.
I won’t pretend that it’s completely fine. The whole point in tightening our financial belt was to pay back the pool table money asap. So having to re-up two days early is pretty damn frustrating.
But I’m slowly learning to accept that this is just life. Yes, our multiple chronic health conditions mean perhaps more surprises than most. Then again, we don’t have kids, who insist on hurting themselves or getting invited to other kids’ birthday parties or whatever.
So when I lapse into “Woe is me” mode, I try to stop and ask myself how often these unexpected expenses happen. The answer? A lot. So perhaps I should stop considering them surprises. They’re more like inevitabilities.
At some point during the month, a medical expense will rear its head. At some point, a grocery stock-up is going to make things a tad lean. At many points, we will pay the convenience tax because we’re not well enough to manage something more frugal.
If that’s true, then I can’t keep meeting each one with even mild panic. Even a healthy person’s system couldn’t handle that. So I’m trying to work on that.
Going with the flow
I think I’ve actually come a long way toward not melting down at each new life “surprise.”
Take Tim’s recent traffic ticket. If it’d happened even a couple of years ago… Well, my tirade would have come out as a Godzilla-worthy blast of flame, reducing Tim to a smoky rubble. And I’d then have sat my the smoldering remains of my husband, wailing in stress and frustration. (Probably with some marshmallows. I find s’mores very comforting.)
This time, I felt a flicker of panic and anger. Then I tamped it down by asking a very simple question: What good will this do?
Would a lecture somehow un-ticket him? Would it magically generate $200 to cover the cost of traffic school? Would it make him feel worse than he already did? (Actually, yes to that last one. I definitely could’ve made him feel worse. But it wouldn’t have been productive, so let’s pretend the answer is no.)
Instead of all that, I just shrugged wearily and said, “Well, nothing we can do about it. Be more careful in the future.”
These days, that reaction seems to happen a lot. Sometimes I worry that it lets us get too lax on the frugality front. Most of the time, I realize that it’s probably healthier. Besides, I can always use them as teachable moments in the future.
Really, it’s just that most days I don’t have the energy for a full-on, hide-under-the-covers-level freak out. So I make like Elsa and let it go.
Sometimes I wonder if things would be different if we had a more normal budget. If sudden expenses didn’t have to come out of a set weekly amount, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to cope with them. Maybe I’d have some padding in each budget category — or an entire category named the Argh Fund. (Or something a little more cuss word-y.)
Then again, I might be even more freaked out in that situation. I get upset because things aren’t going according to plan. In my mind, each budget category would be its own plan. Meaning there’d be oh-so-many more plans to get off-track. And at the end of each month I’d have to glumly review them and see where things went to hell.
It’s why I stopped budgeting. Well, that and my inability to set reasonable financial goals for each one. That didn’t help.
So yeah. Um.
Look, I was really hoping I’d have some great insight by the time I finished this post. Usually they come to me while I’m writing. Well, they’re not always “great” insights. But usually some “Now what did we learn today?” sort of pithy observation.
But I’m tired, my eye is being annoying again, and Game of Thrones is almost on. So you’re on your own, folks.
How do you handle unexpected expenses? More importantly, how well do you handle them? Has anyone started budgeting for surprises?
P.S. It took everything I had not to make a Spanish Inquisition reference. Which I guess I just did. Oops.