Personal Finance Tip

Most personal finance gurus continually stress the importance of budgeting for monitoring and modifying poor spending habits. However, I have noticed that most people who attempt to implement a family budget eventually give up on the activity, mainly because it takes the fun out of spending money. You know what, I agree! An impulse purchase here and there feels good! And as it turns out, an impulse purchase made on occasion won’t necessarily create a big problem for most us. The problems arise when we decide to make them on credit. Here’s an excellent personal finance tip for all you budget-haters out there – pay cash for all non-investment expenditures and eliminate your need to budget.

What is a Non-Investment Expenditure Anyway?

First off, let’s define investment expenditure. By my own definition, an investment expenditure is a transaction that involves the purchase of an asset that appreciates in value. On the flip side, a non-investment expenditure represents all other transactions. One quick check you can make before whipping out your credit card to buy something is to ask yourself, “Is there a high likelihood that I will be able to sell this item in the future for more than I am paying now?” If the answer is “no,” pay cash. If you don’t have the money, you can’t make the purchase. It’s that simple.

Examples of Non-Investment Expenditures

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our everyday spending is classified as non-investment expenditures. Groceries, fuel for the vehicles, dining out, your cell phone bill, a new pair of designer jeans – these are all non-investment expenditures. Some of these items may be extremely important, even life sustaining. But purchasing on credit, even for life sustaining expenditures, encourages excess. Let’s take food, for instance. To purchase enough food for the family to survive really does not cost much money. What costs us a pile of money are the rib-eye steaks, junk food, alcoholic beverages, and sodas we routinely buy. Moreover, these foods are bad for our health! Grocery shopping with cash forces us to reconsider the food choices we make, in terms of both health and money. And that’s a good thing.

What Else is There?

You may be asking yourself, “Would any of my spending be classified as investment expenditures?” For me, two things come to mind – your home and your education. A home is rather obvious because, over time, houses have always increased in value. A college education would also be considered an investment because it provides one the opportunity to earn more money than he would otherwise make. Because these two items are considered investments, taking out a loan to pay for them can be justified. In addition, home mortgages and college loans offer some of the lowest interest rates of any form of credit, making them even more attractive expenditures.

One Caveat to Consider

Although following the above advice can eliminate the need for a budget, one other choice must be made to assure financial success in the future. An automatic investment plan must be initiated to make certain your investment accounts are funded before all the money is spent. If you work for a company that offers a 401k plan, this is done automatically. If you have outside accounts, you will have to notify the firm to initiate automatic transfers from your checking account. With most firms, you can set up the automatic transfers yourself from your online account interface.

Summary

Although a budget is a fantastic tool for monitoring and modifying our spending habits, the cold hard truth is that many of us will never stick to one. Should these folks be doomed to financial hell for the rest of their lives for this so-called lack of discipline? Of course, not! Just follow our simple personal finance tip to pay cash for all non-investment expenditures and you, too, will reach financial success in the future.