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The Trouble With Budgeting

The Trouble With Budgeting

By on Jun 5, 2013

Budgeting doesn’t come easy for us. We both lack, what do you call it? Oh, right… willpower.

We’re not big spenders in the traditional sense. We don’t buy a lot of ‘stuff.’ At least, not anymore. Our furniture all comes from IKEA and, now that our cats have had their way with it, looks like we hauled it in off the street.

We don’t buy a lot of fancy clothes (since we both work from home, yoga pants are about as fancy as it gets for me) and, other than tacky magnets from our travels, we don’t really collect things.

Where our money goes is on experiences – namely food and travel.

Wave a discount airline ticket under our noses and we’re putty in your hands.

You’re going to be in Berlin for the weekend? Sure! We’ll drive on over there to meet you for dinner. It’s only 765km.

While I shudder at spending more than 20€ on a shirt, I’ll think nothing of dropping 120€ on an incredible meal. Michelin-starred chef? Yes please! Pass the foie gras.

Budgeting - Not our idea of a good time.

Budgeting – Not our idea of a good time.

For us, it’s all about priorities and, right now, our priority is to live our life to the fullest and make as many memories while we can.

There’s a good reason for this. We’re finally living a life we (mostly) enjoy.

This is not to say our life before was bad. We just spent a lot of time trying to fit into the wrong box.

We got married (fairly young for these days); we bought a house in the burbs; we filled the house with stuff; we commuted to the city to work so we could pay for the house and the stuff in it; we accumulated debt; we mowed our gigantic yard on weekends; and then we did it all over again.

It was a good life (other than the debt part) and to be honest, I didn’t even realise it wasn’t the life for me until everything changed.

We always knew we wanted to travel, but like most people, we thought we would do it ‘someday.’

I never dreamed of living overseas. In fact, it never even crossed my mind until we were temporarily transferred to Amsterdam. Even then, I didn’t expect to be living in Belgium a year later. (How we ended up here is a long story you can find, our site about expat life in Belgium.)

But there we were, selling our house, our car, and all of our stuff we had spent so much time and energy accumulating. We’ve never missed any of it for a second. All that debt we had accumulated was really for nothing, in the end.

We learned quickly we don’t need things to make us happy. As we travelled and discovered our new country and continent, we realised it was experiences and memories we craved, not stuff.

We learned some other things about ourselves on our expat journey too.

  • We don’t need a big house to be happy. In fact, we adore our small flat and it will be one of the hardest things to give up when we move to full-time motorhoming.
  • We’re not suburb people. We love being right in the middle of the city, where we can walk to everything we need.
  • Commuting sucks. We both love driving (which is a good thing considering our dream is to drive all over Europe in an RV), but driving back and forth to work in traffic holds no appeal to either of us.
  • We can feel ‘at home’ just about anywhere. We’ve lived in a lot of places over the years and as long as we have each other and our cats, we can be ‘home.’

So, back to the debt issue; Now that we are finally living a life we enjoy, the money we spend goes to things we really want – experiences – travel, good food, making memories. It makes it that much harder to cut back and budget.

Good Food

Good Food? We will definitely spend money on this.

The thought of not travelling for the next 1066 days (but who’s counting) is, well unthinkable. And while we know we need to cut back on eating out and drinking, we’re weak. Let me say that again. We. Are. Weak.

We’ve heard countless stories about people who waited to live the lives they wanted only to have something terrible happen. Their dreams went unfulfilled. We definitely don’t want that.

So, we struggle with passing up opportunities today for something down the road. What if something happens and we can’t live this particular dream in three years? It’s a tough call.

There’s another small problem with this whole not travelling and not eating out thing. My main job, my main source of income, comes from writing about living life to the fullest in Belgium. I need to travel, eat, explore, to have something to write about… right?

So, this is our challenge – Live well now, or live even better soon?

We have a few ideas for cost-cutting measures. Is there a way to pay off our debt, save the money we need, AND still live happy and fulfilled lives for the next 1066 days? We don’t know. But we’re open to your suggestions.

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Writer and Photographer at
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a freelance writer and travel photographer. In 2005, she landed in Belgium where she founded a travel resource for slow travel in Europe and beyond. She dreams of the open road and exploring Europe’s hidden secrets in her motorhome, Amelia, with her husband, Andrew, and her spoiled house-cats. She can often be found with a Nikon, a good book and a glass of red wine within reach. You can also follow her on Google+ and @Acornn on Twitter.

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