Super Bowl Sunday was a day of gluttony for my wife and me. Normally we eat very sensible and healthy foods. On that day of days, however, my wife and I ate like kings. For breakfast we had omelets and potato pancakes. Lunch was leftover fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, followed by homemade brownies and ice cream for dessert. For dinner we ate a healthy serving of nachos with salsa and bean dip, and I had a couple beers.
All things in moderation
Now, I understand these meals sound like a coronary waiting to happen, but my wife and I are actually very healthy. We exercise several times per week, we normally eat healthy meals, and we are by no means close to being overweight. We typically prepare our own meals and eat a lot of fresh vegetables, homemade bread, and other healthy foods. We may go out to eat once or twice a month and we rarely eat foods that are typically considered unhealthy. For us, this was a “cheat day.” A day that we allowed ourselves to enjoy our food and eat what we wanted. Sometimes you just have to allow yourself these types of days.
When my wife and I talked about how bad the food was for us, (not that we cared at the moment, we were enjoying it!) I noticed several similarities to eating and budgeting. Primarily, you have to make a little room for a cheat day every now and then because it helps you satisfy your cravings, prevents you from binging, and lets you enjoy the things you like.
For many people, a budget can feel restricting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A budget can, and should, be about freedom. Freedom to plan your expenditures, and freedom to know and understand where your money goes. Once you have a good idea of your expenses, you should be able to plan a little wiggle room for an occasional cheat day. The key is not to have too many cheat days, and not to make them too big!
Focus on your end goal, but enjoy yourself
I’m not saying to go out and max your credit cards by purchasing a large flat panel television and matching stereo system. But I am saying you should build a little wiggle room into your budget to enjoy those things that are special to you.
Maybe it’s a date night with your significant other, or catching a basketball game at the local university. It could even be as simple as picking up a trashy magazine that has no value whatsoever except that you enjoy killing 20 minutes of time reading it (get your mind out of the gutter, folks. I’m talking about Star Magazine or US Weekly. Utter trash.) But, they are basically harmless entertainment for the people who buy them.
Budgets and diets are important guides to follow. But sometimes you need to allow yourself a detour every now and then. Enjoy your food, and enjoy your money. That is why they are there.