My car bucket is getting low. The bucket of money I’m using to one day buy a new car, that is. (I keep my money in buckets. You could call them envelopes, or accounts, if you wish, but I prefer the term buckets. It makes me feel like a guy whose pockets aren’t big enough to hold all his cash! I hope to upgrade my buckets to wheelbarrows some day, or maybe dump trucks.) Our income is down a little this month, so we’re tightening our belts and dipping into some buckets that we normally wouldn’t be touching. It pains me to spend money out of the wrong buckets, because that means we’ll have to wait a little longer to buy what we were saving for. Now I have to put off that car a bit, or buy one without all the bells and whistles that I really wanted.
But when the choice is buying a car someday, or putting food on the table right now, the food wins every time. Some of you are probably shaking your heads, because that money should be sacred, used for its intended purpose and nothing else. Others of you probably wish you had other buckets you could dip into when needed. As it happens, I feel both of these emotions at the same time. I’m upset that I’m raiding funds that have been set aside for other things, but I’m also grateful that I have the other funds in the first place.
Which brings me to the point. Money can jerk you around. Income can ebb and flow. Just the thought of money can batter your emotions like a ship in a storm. Would you rather have buckets of money here and there that you can dip into, or would you rather wonder where your next meal is coming from? Let me suggest that if you start saving money for a specific purpose, and one day you end up using that money for something you didn’t initially intend, you’ll still be happier and in a financially better position, even though your initial purpose was thwarted. The hope of one day buying a new car (or some other goal that excites you) may be the hope that saves you in the next downturn.
If you are in the happy position of being able to pay all your bills at the moment, you might consider squeezing a little more out of your budget and socking it away somewhere. My money says you’ll be happy you did.
This article originally appeared in the April 23, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.