Mistake #2 - Celebrate Good Times, C'mon (dance with me now)
I previously confessed that once you start spending money it is harder to stop than saying no in the first place. Strange isn't it? But true. You can trust me:-)
Celebrating an accomplishment as long awaited as this, we are talking decades, is an important part of the journey. And I would never discourage a celebration.
Years before we actually signed a contract we talked about what we were going to do to mark the culmination of years of training and sacrifice. We decided that we would take a family vacation. A real family vacation.
What do I define as a vacation? A vacation is a place you travel to that is farther than a 3 hour car drive; it lasts longer than 3 days and 2 nights; includes experiences that you cannot repeat every 6 months; the lodging is better than what you have at home, and the food is better than 95% of the restaurants you have eaten in in the last 6 months; selection of activities appeal to the entire family and doesn't include sitting around watching cable tv.
Up until this point we had not had a vacation as a family that didn't include traveling to see family once every other year and sleeping in guest rooms with children spread out on sleeping bags; eating at the kitchen tables that we grew up at; hanging out at home visiting grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncle, cousins, previous neighbors, etc. Oh, and one time for our anniversary we crossed state lines for a long couples weekend, alone. Once in ten years.
My children looked forward to this vacation since they could talk. Years before we would actually go they were telling people we were going. I was afraid that it would lose it's magic, but it never did.
Yes Magic! That was the name of the ship we were destined to sail on. It was going to be amazing. It actually was pretty amazing. It was 7 days at sea traveling to Cancun and The Grand Cayman Islands. It was pampering, it was entertainment, it was obesity inducing food (I did gain 5 lbs that week), it was everything we thought it would be and more. The looks on my kids faces was priceless and every day was amazing. They still talk about it. It was the best celebration we could have planned and money well spent. And it felt good to spend that money for this experience.
So how does this post make it into my series on mistakes? You must surely be confused.
Here is the warning given in love from someone who was very recently there:
We had chosen our "celebration" in advance, and then proceeded to name every other purchase that was out of the norm as a celebration. So what was the celebration? Was it the new cars, the actual vacation, the watch, the purse, the necklace? When everything becomes a celebration nothing is.
The night we signed the contract, we celebrated by going out to dinner. The night we mailed the contract back we celebrated. The day the stipend was deposited we celebrated. The van my husband bough me was a celebration of our good fortune. The car my husband purchased was his personal celebration. The necklace my husband bought me while taking his boards was a celebration of my hard-work and long suffering and his acknowledgement of it. The watch my husband bought me while on vacation was a celebration of our vacation celebration and a souviner. The extra pizza we eat each month was a celebration. Do you see what I mean?
A proper celebration happens once, it doesn't repeat itself every week, or every month.
When my husband came home with the van and then his car, and we had called those purchases celebrations,there was a moment when I was afraid our true celebration that we had been waiting for might not happen. It seemed ridiculous to take on credit card debt for our vacation that was supposed to be a celebration of having excess cash when before there wasn't. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Don't jeopardize your planned celebration.
Celebrating a major accomplishment is important, and please celebrate! Use the word celebration sparingly. Decide what that celebration will be, and enjoy it. Don't call delivery pizza a celebration. It's not (unless that is what you decided it would be).
Give yourself a small raise. If you have opened a separate checking account for your stipend to be deposited to, give your budget line items a raise. Increase your food budget 10%, set aside some money for a special date night out once a month. Decide how much of our stipend you will "use" and make a direct transfer to your household account once a month. Don't abandon your budget because you mistakenly believe you no longer need a budget.
There you have it, but there is more.