Meg wants a budget for all reasons
IT’S MID-JANUARY, SO YOU’RE RIGHT TO ASSUME EVERY RESOLUTION THE MASONATOR AND I MADE ON A FRIEND’S BALCONY THIS NEW YEAR’S EVE HAS BEEN ABANDONED.
It’s true. We haven’t once tried stand-up paddleboarding. No one is eating more fsh, we’re already three behind on our book-a-week challenge and the combined household BMI remains at 19.1. But, impressively, our joint resolution to become ‘The Shit’ with money is holding. Not just to stop being slightly crap with it – that was 2015 – but to become the Jason-bourne-masons of personal fnance. You know, highly trained, rigorously disciplined silent-fscalassassins, who know the licence plate numbers of all six cars outside, that our waitress is left-handed and that the guy sitting up at the counter weighs 98kg and can handle himself. Except, the monetary version. It’s surprising, when you start asking around – preferably during the freworks with a Champagne in each hand and a pair of ‘hilarious’ Year 2000 novelty glasses perched on your nostrils – that most successful, otherwise intelligent people would rate themselves between ‘Ok-ish’ and ‘shocking’ with fnances. Only one or two claim to be nailing it (honestly, if you’re one of them and enjoy nothing more than entering lunch receipts into a custom spreadsheet and reconciling transport cards at day’s end, then turn straight to the cars section). So now, I’m obsessed with working out why. Were we never taught? Did our (step)dads forget to sit us down and explain that credit cards are the devil’s work and not to pay for European holidays? Did we convince ourselves that our twenties are really about having fun, and saving is for when you’re old – like, 30 or something. But when 30 came, we accidentally leased a Cayenne and the return on that investment hasn’t been what we’d hoped. And did no one flatly mention the only way you’ll ever own a house in this punitive market is to say no to everything fun for a long time, while adopting the diet of an 18th-century Chinese peasant farmer? Into the late thirties and still, for a lot of us, money remains a slightly messy, tail-chasing, directionless payday-to-payday situation. Even when the payday gets to be quite stonking, out of habit it’s run out three days before the next one and we’re left hunting ’round in the Cayenne’s coin tray for coffee money. And no budget app, spending tracker, spreadsheet or fnancial advisor paid silly-money to develop a savings plan seems able to solve the high-end hand-to-mouth situation we’ve got going. Well, guess what? Only three weeks into 2016, I’ve already fgured out part of the reason. And I’m offering it for free. The categories are broken. Every budget app I’ve ever tried and failed at covers off the main ones: rent or mortgage utilities, food… snore. But I’m yet to fnd one that puts suffcient emphasis on the real expenses that don’t ft into any regular category. Like fuck-ups. No one ever suggests putting money aside for fnes, forgotten PAYG, rear-enders, impulse jet ski purchases, knee reconstructions, evenings out that got silly, and night-time grind plates you were talked into by the adult orthodontist and wore twice, because who wants to resemble an NHL goalie in bed? Fuck-ups are expensive and real and unrelenting. So let’s stop pretending we’re better than that and simply set aside however much a month we need to pay for our unbelievably cack-handed moneybotchings in cash. The second missing category is Mandatory Shit. You’re thinking … like housing? No. I mean other people’s destination weddings. Adulthood turns out to be full of Mandatory Shit, and though most of us never think to prepare by putting $20 a month into our ‘vacation bucket’, the time will come when a friend demands you spend $7000 getting to his four-day wedding in Boracay. There’s no way around it, only acceptance and forward-planning that starts today. Also, Mandatory Shit almost always requires Special Gear, for which you may want to consider raising a sub-category. Tuxes, wetsuits, high-spec, single-use mountain bikes for a mate’s 40th weekend – periodically you’ll be required to splash out on kit that doesn’t ft into the Clothing Allowance. Accept it, and throw a tenner a month straight at it. Then, fnally, if you’re running a joint account, you’re going to need a category for Your Partner’s Pain. Their Weird Thing, The Glitch in Your Beloved’s Matrix, call it what you will, but it goes towards any spending born out of your spouse’s munted emotional landscape. You may not understand why she needs to be unnaturally and expensively blonde, or why he needs seven surfboards to feel safe, but it is what it is. A pineapple a month goes direct to Partner’s Pain, and never ask where it ends up. Unless you’ve been putting a little bit away each month in a Divorce category. I would develop the app myself, since I’d make a mint from it and my Cayenne coin tray would runneth over. But I have six novels to read, and 47 fsh dinners to eat this week, and that’s not easy on a paddleboard. n
TO ANYONE WHO’LL LISTEN, I’M CLAIMING TO HAVE ‘DISCOVERED’ THE PLAYWRIGHT AND NOVELIST WHO’S BEEN FAMOUS FOR 50 YEARS. BUT JAMES CORDEN AND MAGGIE SMITH HAVE JUST WRAPPED HIS LADY IN THE
VAN, ABOUT THE HOMELESS DAME HE LET PARK IN HIS NORTH LONDON DRIVEWAY FOR A DECADE. GET IN NOW, BEFORE THE FILM COMES OUT AND THE PLEBS PRETEND THEY WERE ALWAYS FANS.