How to Budget like a Twelve-Year-Old

Author: Cathy Kirch

I pride myself in my ability to act my shoe size (7) rather than my age (23) and, for the most part, get away with it. Sometimes, I believe, life calls for a little immaturity. Immaturity breaks inhibitions better than alcohol and gets me pumped better than caffeine. So go on. Let yourself get overly excited about the littlest things. Pet puppies whenever you see them. Race to the playground. Build Lego sets. Climb trees. Get silly. Play.

HOWEVER.

There is definitely one area where immaturity doesn’t seem to work as well: money management.

If you were raised like me, you never had a ton of pocket money at one time. Your parents might let you pick out one toy from the store, one souvenir from the trip. Usually, there’s that one thing, whether it’s a Barbie, an action figure, a game, or a new set of roller skates, that you just have to have. So you save your pocket money (which is really your parents’ money) with your eye on the prize, and then go and get it. Kid money management is relatively easy. See. Want. Save. Get.

As an “adult,” I’m finally starting to make more money, but there are also other “necessary” expenses to take care of. Rent. Gas. Food. Most recently: new shoes when the old ones get holes in them (grrr).

And sometimes it can be hard to refrain from spending money on things that I want (books, movies, Lego sets) so I can save for necessities and, oh, moving to New York, for example. It’s difficult to think about money-saving as a goal, because even though I know I’m going to have to pay skyscraper-high prices on rent and transportation and food in the Big Apple come September, I still want the impossibly comfortable 80-dollar Nike running shoes that would be going on my feet now.

That being said, I am happy to announce that I have discovered a solution, a way of thinking about money that allows me to continue acting my shoe size while still saving as much as possible:

I think about everything in terms of comic books.

I love comic books, and they are usually three to four bucks a pop. Go to the movies? That’s about four comic books, five if you want popcorn. Out for dinner? That could easily be five or six comic books. Leave work early? I could lose anywhere from three to seven comic books right there.

So I wait for the film to come out on video, I eat at home, and I stay at work until the end of the day. I buy the cheaper, still comfortable shoes, saving myself over a dozen comic books worth of dough. I certainly won’t be spending all of the extra cash on comics, but by budgeting this way, I have that money to buy gas, pick up groceries, or stash away for NYC.

I have found that it is so much easier to stay thrifty by telling myself, “you could buy comics with that money” than by saying, “you need to save that money for New York.” Even though the second is more true, sometimes I just respond better to the immediacy of my child-like desires. And I have embraced that.

The lesson: Think of money in “want” rather than in “need” terms. It doesn’t have to be comics; it can be bottles of nail polish, songs on iTunes, magazines, or discounted video games on Steam. Trick yourself into saving for your needs by thinking about your wants.

Basically, think like a kid, and get away with it.

Happy saving,

~ Cathy

**This article was originally posted on Cathy’s blog. View it here.**

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