YNAB BLOG

Fifty Lashes (Well. Make That Three Hundred.)

Alex here. I admit it. I’m a fool for fakery.

Specifically, I’m a fool for having hundreds of synthetic polyester fibres painstakingly glued to my face every four weeks.

Fake lashes. Lots of ‘em. And they cost me a pretty penny, which I always find is an interesting exercise in explanation whenever someone asks me how much they cost.

See, people who know me understand I live and die by My Budget. I turn people down for drinks because It’s Not In The Budget. I decline going out for lunch because I’ve Already Spent This Month’s Restaurant Budget. Yet I turn around and drop a hundred bucks a month on something that seems so frivolous.

But there it is. I love the time saved by no longer having to put on makeup. I love not worrying about my mascara smudging when I’m slinging tires at the gym. I love how they give me an instant eye-lift in a world that makes women feel crummy if we’re not Botoxing and threading and Juvederming and trying to look like we’re twenty-eight instead of however old we really are.

We all have our luxuries. And in my (tightly-budgeted, single-parenting, self-employed) world, I have two: wine and eyelashes. (When I first threw my hat into the ring to get this blogging gig with YNAB, I confessed to Mark that I spend the equivalent of a plane trip to Guatemala every year…on wine. But that’s for another post. (And sometimes I share it with others.) And besides, that’s nothing compared to the return trip to Singapore I’m hucking away on eyelashes.)

I save for my children’s education. I save for their braces. I pay hundreds for life, critical illness and disability insurance. I save for Thing One’s trumpet lessons, for Thing Two’s gymnastics lessons, for their annual passes to the museum, the pool and Miniature World. As for me? My monthly clothing budget is $30 (oh yeah, baby, it’s Alex what’s keeping Value Village #yyj in business). My electricity budget is $20. My iTunes Store budget is $5. So I’m not a reckless spender. What YNABer is?

But – and I’m sure others who have oddball luxuries that they seem to spend ridiculous amounts of money on will agree – this apparent inconsistency in meting out money to the various fiscal arenas of life is sometimes difficult to explain to people who aren’t acquainted with a) YNAB, or b) budgeting in general. And it still raises eyebrows, even when I explain that it’s a measured choice. That I can afford the lashes because I have cut away the other frivolities, like Starbucks coffee, and new shoes, and movies out, and pedicures, and things at Costco that aren’t really necessary but which are such a good price they just have to be purchased.

I explain it anyway.

So now it’s your go: What expenses do you find tricky to justify to those people who challenge your budget allocations?

54 Responses to “Fifty Lashes (Well. Make That Three Hundred.)”

  1. Sarah Ignelzi Dearr

    Thank you for your post. Eyelashes aren’t my budget buster of choice but my Amazon Kindle budget might rival that. I think that everyone needs something “fun” to spend their money on. With that being said, the remainder of the budget is not a free for all! Besides, people will always judge you for something – it’s up to you whether or not their comments mean anything to you!

  2. Jana

    Cute post, but, why would an adult feel the need to justify or explain anything to anybody? Your words…tightly budgeted, single parent, SELF-EMPLOYED world. Clearly, you’re not a kid any more, so why feel like one?

  3. Ruth Martin

    My Starbucks Addiction. I spend about $50 every month on Starbucks, and my family keeps threatening to do an intervention.

    • Beth

      That’s not an addiction, it’s a donation. Invest in a good glass drip carafe, filters, the very best (however pricey) coffee of your choice, and a milk-foamer. If you travel with the cup, get something nice that will treat your drink respectfully. And revisit the directions to see how much coffee you need per cup. You’ll save money (annualize the supplies investment) and time. My goodness. How much do you give to charitable causes each year? Put the $170 toward making your world a better place and take the tax savings to the bank. You can have it all for a whole lot less.

      • Cath

        Isn’t the whole point of budgeting so that you have money to spend on things you value? So Ruth enjoy froofy coffee that she doesn’t have to make or clean up after. That’s her business. Are you going to tell Alex she should just buy some expensive mascara so she can stop “donating” to the esthetician? Why is coffee any more frivolous than falsies?

      • simplify...

        Well said. Without slinging mud, you hit it on the head. Alex already professes to save for her kids college, the various extra-curricular activities, etc. Also, their needs are met. You did not see in her post, nor were we able to read between the lines (at least not in my estimation), that her kids want for any necessity (because of her splurge). if wine and lashes are her thing, and she can afford them, then who are we to judge.

  4. Nathan

    My LEGO collection. Hard for many to understand a grown man wanting to continue to buy toys designed for children.

    • simplify...

      Not that hard. Have you invested in the Kra gl e. (Perhaps, if you haven’t seen the movie, that reference is a bit obscure).

      • alexblogsforynab

        We have a Kra gl e!! I haven’t seen the movie, but the tube itself, and my son’t explanation of how it fits in the movie, is enough to make me laugh.

  5. Rebecca

    I recently had to choose between monthly hair salon treatments or (reasonably) nice clothes. I just can’t afford both. I actually hated having my hair colored, but I felt so pressured by our society to try and look younger. My awesomely supportive boyfriend suggested I let my hair go au naturel and I decided to give it a try! I’m actually really excited to let the grays come in and be the real me as I age (hopefully) gracefully.

    • Minnie

      My mom recently stopped dying here hair after about 30 years. She actually gets a lot of complements on it.

    • Rachel

      I am 35 and I have white hair. Two year ago, I decided to stop coloring it. It was the best decision I have made – seriously. Strangers stop to talk to me about my hair (weird) but most people ask me who my colorist is – HA! I just respond that I have bad genes :) The next question (always) is how old are you? It’s been a very good thing.

  6. Sarah

    A housekeeper. The people who know how tight our budget is are not the people who know we hire help for cleaning. I am an at-home parent with school-age children and still feel like a constant housekeeping failure. I found a warm, wonderful woman who comes every two weeks and puts things more or less in order, kills any science experiments that might be growing, and makes our family life immeasurably better.

    • alexblogsforynab

      And there is something to be said for that. If you aren’t strong in one area, or if it drags you down (and I totally get you on the housekeeping vibe), then good for you for delegating. It’s a measured choice, and it gives you peace of mind.

    • JennF

      Sarah, we also have a housekeeper that comes every two weeks to clean for us. I’m not horrible at it, but I hate it, and hubby hates it, and it was one of the few things in our relationship that actually caused arguments. Worth every penny to put it in someone else’s hands and take the pressure off of both of us!

  7. Kristen

    My weakness is buying whatever I want at the grocery store with no coupons or comparison. I gladly go without in other areas of the budget so I can splurge with our grocery budget!

  8. JEve

    I really appreciate this post because it embodies what — for me — is the most important part of the YNAB approach: your budget = YOUR priorities. Not someone else’s priorities. That central non-judgy part of YNAB (though YNAB users might get their judgy on and like tell folks what they think priorities *should* be, YNAB’s philosophy is explicitly not that way) is what makes all the difference for me. I love that this post makes real the idea that a budget means your dollars go where YOUR priorities are, including eyelashes or wine or frou frou coffee or, as in my case, yarn and mani/pedi treats.

    So thanks for this, a post that really, truly centers the whole YOUR budget = YOUR priorities, and demonstrating that YNAB isn’t about judging other people’s priorities. After a full year using YNAB (having never, ever budgeted before … and paying for it over and over again), this is the thing that makes me stick with it and also constantly tell my friends about it (6 families and counting have started YNAB-ing).

    • alexblogsforynab

      Thanks for your high-five, JEve. “Get their judgy on” made me laugh!

      And congratulations on being such a powerful spreader of the good word YNAB!!

  9. Jeff

    Chocolate. Dark Ecuadorian chocolate. Dark Ecuadorian Kallari 70% or Pacari with dried cherries.

    My wife doesn’t begrudge the money we spend on chocolate (considering we’re spending thousands fixing up her house), she begrudges the amount I eat.

    I don’t drink coffee or tea, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, no drugs since the late 70s. Chocolate, excellent chocolate (okay, I admit, some not-so-excellent chocolate too!) is my only vice.

    When I can’t find where she’s hidden the really good stuff, I dip into MY hidden stash!

    • simplify...

      Wow… Just Wow !!! (hopefully not in a judgy way, LOL)

  10. Judy

    Each summer I can buy from the vendors at the county fair guilt free.

  11. maxcat101

    I spend $120 a month on my hair. I want my hair to look nice at any cost. I budget for it, so why not?

  12. M Myers

    My splurge would seem irrational to many, but I will explain (and yes, I know I don’t need to explain, but I like to): I live in central Florida, where the tap water doesn’t taste good and isn’t good for you. I know I could have a pretty good water filter (BTW, I rent) as I’ve done so in the past, but I don’t particularly like the taste of filtered water either. And water carried in from the store in plastic bottles tastes like the plastic bottles, I don’t care what brand it is. Since my diet is severely restricted compared to others, due to celiac disease and a myriad of other sensitivities, and there is no longer any alcohol or flavored drinks of any other sort in my life, I rationalize and justify buying plain seltzer water in 2 liter bottles, cases at a time, which I enhance with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. I drink alot of seltzer water, which is just fizzy water, no added anything, and I’ve been called out on it by many, but its my decision because its fizzy and the fizzy overcomes any off taste and it makes me feel like I’m having a treat every time I drink it. And since I’ve been following YNAB for almost a year now, and I’m actually getting better at this budgeting thingy, I stress less about that decision all the time…

    • alexblogsforynab

      Yeah, you go! Drink your fizzy watta and to heck with all the haters. Good for you. But yes, that bit about being called out on it…that’s the judgment part that rankles. While I appreciate what Jana said in the early replies, I do find that people challenge the way a budgeter allocates her money. It’s difficult to simply dismiss.

    • Sonny

      I moved from NY to CA and was shocked that no one drinks seltzer here! It’s really popular in NYC. We are really fond of our SodaStream to make lightly flavored seltzer at home.

      • M Myers

        I know what you mean; I’ve lived “out west” and if you asked for it in diners, they’d look at you funny, lol. My “soda” habit was acquired from friends from NY living all along the Florida coastline from Miami up to West Palm Beach, lol! And my other “bad” habit that is far less frequently indulged, is Earl Grey tea with cream, that one acquired from British ex-pat friends in those same areas of Florida.

  13. Eric

    I’m not gonna lie: I love having a few drinks (usually beer) at home on the weekends. I don’t go overboard (usually – really). I enjoy it and when I have planned for it and can afford it (I make sure I can as much as possible), I do so.

    Is it something everyone wants to do each weekend? Nope.

    But it’s something I want to do, so I do it.

    Such a small thing… not the best or the worst, but it fits in the budget as best I can make it and I feel better knowing that I can drink a bit and buzz on 1) the beer, 2) that I can afford it and it’s my plan and my choice.

    No matter what though:

    1. Bills
    2. My daughter
    3. Dates with my girlfriend
    4. Whatever else comes up that is important
    5. My weekend drinkathon lol

    Am I wrong for this? I don’t think so. Then again, it’s just what I like and everyone has their own opinion and plans for their finances.

    Okay, really, what do you think of my gotta-have-it-in-the-budget-thing?

    • simplify...

      I say rock your “gotta-have-it-in-the-budget-thing”. The challenge (I believe) is when we fail to acknowledge that we know ourselves better than anyone. What I mean to say is: If you fail to acknowledge that you enjoy an alcoholic beverage (or two, or several) so you don’t put them in the budget, Then, because you’ve been dishonest about what is important to you, you buy them anyway and have to scramble to make the budget work again, or the budget breaks as a result. I think that is where it becomes a problem. It’s like the other budgeting guy (Dave Ramsey) says, if you don’t allow yourself a little “blow” money, you’ll spend some anyway and blow your budget.

      You’re handling yours, have ranked your want where you feel comfortable (given your circumstances), and are honest enough to admit, at least on some level that you might have a twinge of guilt for it (or so I assume given your solicitation of public opinion as it relates to your choice).

      • Eric

        I completely agree.

        Be honest about what you know you want to spend so when you spend it, nothing breaks. It’s not something everyone may want to do (spending the money part) but if you don’t plan for it accordingly, what will happen when you buy it anyway? Things break and you’ll see honesty on the back end.

        And I don’t feel guilty of spending money on alcohol given I don’t drink like crazy but do want to have a good time here and there in that way… and can, thanks to my budget.

  14. simplify...

    I’ll post my own: I drink FAR TOO MUCH soda. I know that I drink to much soda and tell myself I am going to quit. Alas, any attempts to quit have been temporary in nature. This last one had me off caffeine (with the exception of the rare piece of chocolate or the occasional headache medicine) for 1.5 years. Then, one day, I said to myself, I am still getting headaches and I sure do miss the taste… To heck with it, I want a soda. Thus, I stand before you now, head-long back in my addiction (to the tune of $40-60/month). I do, however, have it budgeted. I confess to some guilt, not because I splurge on that, but because I know that it is (ultimately) bad for me and I chose it anyway. True addiction, I suppose.

    My other splurge item is dining out. Our family of 7 has a dine-out budget of $150/month, though YNab reports show that, over the last 12 months, we’ve spent an average of $181.55. We are past the consumer debt phase (having paid all loans, cards, etc). We live below my wage, so any excess is applied to whatever our current goal is (now home-improvement). So, when a category exceeds budget, we simply reduce the amount added to current goal.

    I know that I should just up the dine-out budget, but I struggle with the fear that,l if I up it, my consumption will also simply increase.

    • alexblogsforynab

      Simplify, I love your honesty. What’s your soda poison? Mine is Coke Zero, although I’m enjoying a shift to Diet Pepsi lately.

      • Jessica

        Try Pepsi Next if you’re in Canada! It’s reduced calorie, not low calorie (100 per can) but in Canada it’s made with sugar and stevia. I don’t know for sure whether artificial sweeteners are truly bad for you or not, but I made the switch from Coke Zero and have been loving it.

  15. Michael

    Audiobooks. So many audiobooks. I listen to them all the time, during every activity.

    • Kathy

      We are addicted to audiobooks as well Michael, but about two years ago, we realized we could borrow them online from our library. That opened up a whole new world! We cancelled our Audible subscription and haven’t looked back.

      • alexblogsforynab

        Such a good addiction. I got all the way through Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” on audio – otherwise I would never have found the time.

  16. cathiwarren

    Satellite radio. It costs way too much and I love it. No longer have to fiddle with the tuner and beg it to find something on all my car journeys…I can listen to whatever I want whenever I want.

    • alexblogsforynab

      Concerts, definitely. I was gobsmacked when I looked up tickets to see Arcade Fire in Seattle next month…I can’t drop $325 just so I can dance to Reflektor! (I realize I likely would have gotten a better deal had I shopped earlier…)

      Enjoy your tunes!

  17. Joel Black

    Hmm… I like Morse code keys… and I’m always looking at ways of selling this or that to get one. My favorites are made in Italy. Names like Begali and Frattini.

    Hmm… I just looked up at the previous response. It was liquor. Me too. I like good, smooth whiskey and scotch. It good to take the edge off a frazzled day.

    You see, I have a relatively expensive hobby – amateur radio. No, it’s not as expensive as car collecting or motorcycling or RVing or some other stuff, but it is as expensive as you can make it. The ironic thing is that I have cut back.

    I fund some of my expenses by selling stuff I no longer use or use very little. I have an upcoming expense of removing an antenna and tower that I didn’t anticipate. That is going to cost about $200 for the man-lift rental (the tower is rusted at the base just as it goes into the ground and is unsafe to climb).

    The last Morse code key I looked at ranges in price from 440 – 452 Euro. That’s about $590 – 610. That’s expensive! You can buy an equivalent, mass-produced key that is US-made for about $250 – less than half the price. The Moustachains amongst us are cringing now.

    So, I have to stay focused. What is focused for my family and me? Well, paying off *all* of our debt in about five years including the house. I’ll be 51 when that is done. I wish I had found YNAB (and MMM) much sooner than 45, but I’m starting now. My goal at 51 is to go up to 25% contribution to my 401k and whatever OT I get will get split into a SEP IRA and Betterment account.

    I am running short on time, but I use a combination of YNAB budgeting, MMM philosophy, and Dave Ramsey, in-your-face attitude when it comes to my financing. It works for us.

  18. savethestationery

    Handmade cosmetics and toiletries.

    • Sonny

      I’ve fallen down the indie cosmetics rabbit hole lately too. The individual items are cheaper than department store cosmetics (especially perfume) but it sure can add up! Do you have any favorite stores to recommend?

  19. jessiebird

    Great post. I recently hired a house cleaner to come in a couple of times a month and it’s been incredibly liberating to say that without being ashamed of the luxury of such a service. It’s in the budget. :-)

    • alexblogsforynab

      I’m on my way to that, too, Jessie! I have promised myself that with the signing of my next book, I’m getting someone in to clean…and also likely will move to a two-bedroom place so my lads can have a little more space to wrestle.

  20. chrisandryo7424

    Running… as in paying to run marathons and other events. It’s an expensive hobby – I need shoes often, but otherwise I make do with the gear that I already have, so that I can afford the race entry fees. I’m not even a fast runner, but I love to take part in events, so $100 to run a marathon is probably crazy, but thanks to YNAB it’s something that I can do guilt free now. It’s not every month – I only do a few events a year in order to make sure that my running budget isn’t taking money from any categories that are real needs. Hopefully after a little more time with YNAB (only 8 months so far) I’ll be able to take part in more events, and afford to buy the race T-shirts too. :)

  21. Lizzy

    Thank heavens for this post. I see so many posts about downsizing, cutting back, and lowering expectations all for the sake of “the budget”, which may work well for some people, but I am on the other end. My husband and I just bought a big first home and we spend our extra money updating and fixing it up. Yes we have 4 bedrooms and no kids (yet). but you know what, it is in the budget and we can afford it. Do what you want, and as long as you can pay for it, who cares? …Eyelashes make you feel better? Fantastic! Hired a maid to clean bc you simply hate doing it? Makes perfect sense. Makeup, coffee, hair, booze, soda, all perfect ways of spending money. If you budget for it and have the money, then splurge away. That is the point of budgeting: to find wasted money and spend it on something that you want. Don’t judge others bc of what they decide to spend their money on.

  22. jenmas

    My house cleaner. She comes every other Wednesday and I am always so happy to come home to the smell of cleaning products. Plus if she thinks she hasn’t done enough that week she irons anything I have on the drying rack!! In the past, I have done doomsday scenarios where I cut internet and cable before I cut her out.

  23. Richard

    Graphic Novels. Yes, Collected Comics bound in a single volume, usually six or seven issues in one bound volume. Right now I concentrating on trying to catch-up on DC Comics New 52. And I don’t just buy them in groups of five or seven or ten (though I have) I also pre-order. I’ve got pre-orders stretching out from August 2014 thru February 2015. And this category has a set amount ($500) so when I spend in that category I have to pay it back either from the funds that drop back (when I zero balance the Groceries and Automobile Fuel categories each month) or by budgeting funds to the category the next month. So far I haven’t overextended myself but we’ll see.

  24. Narla

    I was just catching up on the blogs and this one is perfect for me today! My coworker just asked if I had won the lottery since my husband and I bought a sailboat and a motorcycle this summer.

    It’s just choices, and I love YNAB for help making the choices so clear for me. No more pedicures/fancy haircuts for me! We have one car, and my husband takes the bus to work when he can’t take the motorcycle. We also live in an “up and coming” neighbourhood.

  25. Shayna

    i blow my money on private ballet classes. to pay for this, i eat a lot of beans and rice (not a travesty; my family is from new orleans!) and invite my girlfriends over for coffee/wine instead of going out. the classes are private because i was embarrassed by my lack of finesse when i started, but i’m considering joining a group class this fall, which will cut back on the price a bit. is it weird that a 27 year old woman with 2 left feet is spending all of her extra money on classical ballet? i don’t care. it’s in the budget and it makes me feel good. :)

    • alexblogsforynab

      I love this. Good for you! I’m a sucker for dance, too, and would add it to my world if there were a reasonable way. I’m totally into inviting friends over, too – I am shocked (sorry, *gobsmacked*) at how frequently people just decide to “meet for drinks”. In my experience, every time that happens there’s a $20 tab (minimum) attached.

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