Thanks to all of you who participated in our February Giveaway Challenge! We’re happy to announce that the winner was Melissa B. — congrats on your Amazon gift card!
Obviously with a blog name like Our Freaking Budget, we’ve got a budget. In fact, here’s what a sample monthly budget looks like in our house. But in addition to our overall budget, Johnny and I have limits in our heads for pretty much every single transaction. In other words, single purchase budgets.
It’s kind of like the financial version of the rumble strip on the side of the freeway… if your car drifts too far to the right, the vibration of those strips on your tires gets you back on track real quick. If we’re thinking about buying an item that hits or goes past that limit, little alarm bells sound in our head and a booming voice says, “WARNING. TOO EXPENSIVE. BACK AWAY FROM THIS PURCHASE.”
And even though we’ve been debt free for 15 months, we’ve realized that those warning lines haven’t moved anywhere. So what is our spending threshold for certain items before alarm bells sound? Here are a few examples:
$10-$12/plate — If a restaurant costs us more than this, you better believe we’re there for a pretty darn special occasion. We’ve had our eye on a steakhouse near our home that runs about $40/person, and we’re waiting until our anniversary in June to try it out.
$5/person — Since our dating days, Johnny and I have been dollar menu peeps. And this still rings true. Unfortunately, Johnny’s been eating a lot of fast food for lunch since Baby Girl was born and neither of us has had time to make him lunch every day. As long as he keeps it under 5 bucks, neither of us starts feeling panicky.
Weekend Date Night
$20 — Our typical weekend date night includes takeout and occasionally a trip to a frozen yogurt shop. A couple times a year we might go to a movie together.
$40 — You’d be hard pressed to find many shoes in our closet that cost more than $40. In the five years we’ve been married, I think we’ve each purchased two pairs of shoes that were more than that, but they were still less than $100.
$40-$60/night — If we can’t get a deal on a hotel, Johnny and I won’t be staying there. In fact I don’t think we’ve ever purchased a hotel room without the aid of a deal site like Priceline or Hotwire. And then there’s always his $20 trick.
$20/day — Same story as the hotel. We’ve never rented a car without Priceline or Hotwire, and we’ve never paid more than $20/day.
Gifts for Family and Friends
$20/person — Johnny and I set this limit while we were in debt, and it still stands today. We’ve let the limit slide a few times, but for the most part, our alarms sound at any price higher than this.
$250/RT/each — We have two credit cards that we gain air miles from, so about half of our flights are paid for. When they’re not, we try to hold out for a deal. If tickets cost us much more than $300/each, we both start feeling sick to our stomachs.
Disclaimer: This isn’t to say we’ve never purchased anything above these limits. There have always been exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions almost always set off the “WAKE UP! YOU’RE ABOUT TO DRIVE YOUR BUDGET OFF A CLIFF!” warning.
Our sensitivity to limits outlined above is actually one of the few reasons we actually feel grateful to have incurred debt. Without our rendezvous with the Debt Monster, there’s no telling where our limits might be today. And while we’ve got more money flowing into our pockets with no debt obligations, we’ve become so accustomed to our limits that they haven’t changed. Fingers crossed, that’s how we’d like it stay.
This is clearly one of those personal finances are personal posts, so some of our “freak out” limits might not match yours. Which ones seemed high/low to you? Do you have any other purchase limits that trigger alarm bells in your head?