There’s a whole range of ideas out there on how much you should spend on a thing – hell, I made an entire budgeting tool out of those recommended numbers – but honestly, the best spending you’ll ever do is weird spending. By weird spending, I mean spending that seems way out of line with what’s “normal”.
Hear me out.
This all came up when I saw an infographic Statistics Canada published, which is a profile of the average Canadian and what they spent in 2015 on everything from housing costs to their pets.
And if you know me at all, you know I took one look at that pet number and tweeted my disbelief.
The only way $590 annually on pets makes sense to me is if guinea pigs are bringing down the average. https://t.co/aateCqlLUY
— Desirae Odjick (@half_banked) January 27, 2017
This was my reaction because in a normal, nothing-special year, my dog ran me $3382.23 if you count his emergency fund contributions.
While it made for a pretty fun Twitter conversation, the truth is that even though I know that $590 is laughably lower than my own pet spending realities… I don’t care.
In Pursuit of “Normal” Spending
There was a time, years ago, when I would have seen this one graphic and been like, shit, I need to frugalize my life. Dog, you’re on a budget as of right now.
In fact, this is legitimately a thing I did with coffee when I started reading financial blogs, because everyone was all “Never spend money, and also make your coffee at home!” That’s normal for personal finance folks, so I took those things way too much to heart, and it resulted in that phase where I made coffee using a sieve and paper towels.
Yes, I know it was nuts.
Yes, I have since bought a French press (this one) and it has radically improved my life.
But that’s what can happen when you run head-first into the financial blog-o-sphere (or into a StatsCan infographic) with no real understanding of how your spending makes your life awesome.
Back to Weird Spending
These days, I can sit back, peruse an infographic about what the average person spends, and my biggest, most forceful reaction is… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
And it’s all because I know what’s up with my spending.
I’ve made a plan for my money, that yes, involves saving a ton right now, but also involves spending on the things that really matter to me. It wasn’t a fast process, and it did involve spreadsheets (specifically, the one in this post) but it was so worth it I can’t even tell you.
At its core, this approach all boils down to knowing what you want, and using your money to get it. And as much as the world is crazy, and a floppity jillion kinds of messed up right now, I think that’s still something worth pursuing.
See, one of the biggest benefits from a heart perspective that I’ve noticed from all the tracking my spending, and making a plan for my money, is that I know in a pretty exact way how much “extra” I have. (It’s a lot of extra, I’m very lucky, and am working with boatloads of privilege up in here.)
So when things Go Wrong, I know how much I can divert from both my regular spending, and my goals, to help out where it’s needed the most. I can do this with full confidence that it’s not going to seriously derail my money, and that my dog isn’t going to have to go without his dental food this month.
Plus, There’s The Whole Confidence Thing
When you work through building a plan to align your money with what really matters to you, be it dogs, or activism, or travel, or whatever – and I mean really work through it, month over month, in a trial-by-error kind of way – you come out on the other side with a much more confident view of your money, and your decision-making abilities.
So when you see an infographic that’s all, “The average Canadian donates $652 to charity every year” and you’re like… “Shit, I donated $60 (or $6000),” you can do so knowing it’s fully in line with what matters to you.
If it’s not, that’s another thing entirely. But if $60 is what you can realistically give in monetary terms, while keeping your life on track and putting your own oxygen mask on first? You can own that entirely, and understand that your spending does not need to be their spending.
Can we just pause and reiterate?
Your spending does not need to be their spending.
So if you spent $3382.23 on your dog, literally six times more than the average Canadian spends on pets, but you know you’ve made that one of your weird-spending priorities? You go, fellow crazy dog lady.
If You Aren’t Weird Spending, You Need To Be
Clearly, the first step in all of this is to figure out what your own priorities are, which can be daunting enough when you’ve had years and years of shoulds thrown at you by friends, the media and basically the world at large.
I’m not even talking about the Big Shoulds, like buying a house – I’m literally referring to the fact that I feel like, as a millennial, I should want to travel more, or I should want to live downtown.
But once you’ve got your priorities in place, and you know that Thing 1 + Experience 2 + Place 3 make your heart sing? Spend money on those things.
Yes, even if it’s more expensive than an alternative, as long as your budget can handle it.
Yes, even if it means not spending money on the things you’re supposed to like / have / want / be.
Yes, even if it’s seriously weird spending.
Because if something makes you over-the-moon happy, like my dog makes me? It probably needs a disproportionate place in your budget. And no average, or “normal”, or formula, or blog post, should make you feel bad about how much or how little that amount of spending is for you.
Weird spending just means you’re doing it right.