My husband home from his dental cleaning last week with an appointment card to have a filling done and to have another filling fixed, preemptively. The appointment was for 3 weeks out. The cost would be $661 for that appointment. Obviously, he knows everything is planned out and very intentional in our financial world. Of course, we have an emergency fund, but this isn’t an emergency. I’ve been clear that we will not be funding things that can fit into the budget within a few months from our emergency fund unless they are actual emergencies. If these fillings were resulting in pain, or a broken tooth that would make sense and fit the criteria of an emergency in my book. But they aren’t. One of them is totally cosmetic an isn’t even broken yet! So, I went in to discuss this with our dentist. I informed her that I would be rescheduling the appointment because we don’t have $661 in the budget this month for dental work. She gave me an odd look.
I think there is a common misunderstanding with the phrase “It’s not in the budget” and it gets confused with “I can’t afford it” which holds so much negativity both speaking it and hearing it. I asked her for her professional opinion about prioritizing these fillings, so I could work it into our cashflow. She said she’d like to see my husband within 3 months for one of the fillings, therefore taking priority, and that the other really was just cosmetic and didn’t need to be done unless it broke, but better to fix it before that happened. So, I rescheduled one for May and one for July.
When I left her office, I started thinking about ALL the things that don’t fit into our monthly budget and why they don’t. For us, it’s not that we can’t afford the fillings, I could pull from savings, and I could also redistribute our earnings from going into our savings and use that to pay for things that come up, however that is just not in alignment with my goals.
My goal is to retire one day. That requires paying my savings first.
My goal is to never be in debt again. That requires that I save for unforeseen medical and veterinary costs, car replacement/repairs, vacations, etc.
This means that what is left over after I pay my savings is what I we allow ourselves to spend. Period.
There is a difference between not being able to afford something, and it not fitting into the budget, but both are part of life and need to be recognized. I’d like to see a culture where people are able to distinguish those phrases and there isn’t judgement and shame around either of them. It takes a lot of discipline to wait to purchase things instead of just putting it on a credit card. It takes a lot of vulnerability and courage to speak the truth that you can’t afford it, or that it doesn’t fit in the budget. Discipline and vulnerability are some wonderful qualities exercise. I think acknowledging these is crucial to financial wellbeing.