EXTRA EXTRA: Embracing and Maximizing Your Budget for Extras

It was a rainy Sunday morning, the perfect morning for brunch and some shopping.  We went to one of our favorites spots, White Dog Café.  The entire restaurant is adorned with beautiful art pieces of the many dog breeds.  The food is farm to table, and did I mention the unlimited adult beverage service on Sunday mornings?  We were setting ourselves up for an amazing family day.


Brunch was fantastic as expected.  Mark, my husband, had previously agreed to shop at the Anthropologie across the street.  I have several upcoming business and personal events, and I had saved my extra money to buy some new things.  I was also excited that I had a coupon for 20% off my entire purchase; at least I thought I did.  As we were getting out of the car, I said to Mark, “What should my extras budget be?”


This whole scenario brings up many interesting points in regards to spending money and relationships.  Every couple has a unique way of handling the finances.  Some couples have all of the finances combined, others have everything separate; there are some couples who magically split everything perfectly down the middle.  Whatever your situation, having open communication will allow you to truly enjoy your fun budget without guilt.


Maximizing your extras budget can be interpreted differently by everyone.  For some, it may mean to buy as much as possible with the money allotted.  For others, it can mean to use your fun budget to purchase the one item that you have been considering for months.  It can also mean that you use your fun budget to save and invest.  Whatever your fun budget is planned for, the key is to maximally enjoy whatever you do with it.


I am not ignoring the fact, that sometimes a fun monetary budget may not be available.  Perhaps you are changing jobs, or are without a job, or have two kids in college, or you are buying a house.  At these times we can make fun budget mean something else. 


Your fun budget can be an extra 15 minutes you reserve for yourself daily without guilt.  Maybe it means meditating and creating some extra head space.  Perhaps it means giving yourself some extra self love and reciting the mantra, “I am doing my absolute best.  I am embracing progress not perfection.”


If a fun spending budget is available to you, it is important to acknowledge your awareness of this luxury.  Maybe you worked some extra shifts to have this budget?  May your side gig has provided you some extra money.  Being grateful will make this experience richer.


If you do not have a specific budget set, then you may want to consider what your spending limit is and once it is spent, how long before the budget replenishes itself.  Does yours replenish weekly, monthly, yearly?  Having a well defined spending plan will dramatically decrease impulse purchases. 


I have had many clients tell me that they relieve stress by online shopping.  Online shopping can be done anywhere and how convenient that our most shopped at sites have our credit cards saved.  Even more, our smart phones are equipped with our favorite store apps.


So how does online shopping relieve stress?  It always makes us feel better in the moment.  The answer is simple.  One simple click of the computer for a new purchase gives us a nice juicy hit of dopamine.  We crave the effects that this feel good neurotransmitter provides.


When we relieve our stress with online shopping we are rewarded with new items and extra dopamine.  What do you think happens next?  We strengthen the pathways that urge us to shop in order to create more dopamine.  Every time we go through this scenario, and give into an impulse buy, the pathways become stronger and stronger.  A habit is formed.


One tactic that I recommend for those struggling with impulse buys is to fill the online shopping cart with the items they want to purchase with no intention to actually buy them.  They can think about the potential purchases for 24-48 hours and then reconsider.  If the purchase is still desired, then it can be made.  When a purchase is planned and not impulsive, then we will break or prevent bad habits.


I entered Anthropologie.  I had my budget set.  I decided on some beautiful pieces.  I couldn’t wait to purchase them.  I felt no guilt because my shopping trip was planned and I had a coupon! As my order was totaled, I realized that my 20% off coupon was not in my possession. 


With this, I want to share one last tip when trying to maximize your extras budget.  Never be afraid to ask for a discount.  What is the worse they can say? 


I explained my coupon situation to the saleswoman, and to my surprise she honored my word.  What a successful day.  I had made planned purchases, I took a chance on being rejected, and I maximized my budget. 


I could enjoy my purchases without guilt.  I was grateful.  I did some self reflection.  While doing so, the most amazing thing happened.  My 6-year old provided me with some unexpected dopamine.  She said, “mommy, you look so beautiful, and I really missed you when you were in the dressing room.”  My daughters are my most prized extras.