Saturday, May 26, 2012

We Can't Afford It - Or Can We?

A friend of mine brought up the topic of summer camps other day.  Like many middle class parents we know, her goal is to book the kids up with camps, so the kids stay busy and the parents stay sane.

In the past we've enrolled our kids in camp, maybe one week out of the summer for 1-3 hours a day that week.  A couple years ago, my best friend and I decided to put on our own soccer camp to save money, and so our younger kids could participate along with their older siblings.

Camps cost money, and when I consider all-summer-long camps for two kids, my first instinct is to tell myself, "We can't afford that."  But it bothers me when people say, "We can't afford it."  It could be anything - from a new car or a vacation, to smaller splurges like eating out or a buying certain toy or and outing for the kids.  Sure, sometimes this is absolutely true.  For an extreme example, I can't afford to go buy a jet.  I literally and objectively do not have enough money.

I just think, in general, we throw that phrase around too loosely.  In many cases, for the smaller items or activities, if we reworked our finances, made sacrifices, saved, planned, and budgeted carefully, we could totally afford whatever it is.  Sometimes this is even true for the "big" stuff.  If it was a priority, we could do it.  If it was that important to me, I could send my kids to summer camp every day all day for the entire summer.  I won't delve into the reasons why this is not a priority for me and why I'd rather spend my money on something else, but the point is, objectively speaking, I have enough money - it IS possible.  To say we can't afford it feels an awful lot like a lie.

I know I'm splitting hairs, but I prefer the phrase, "It's not in my budget right now."  To me, this statement at least implies a sense of forethought and flexibility of thinking.  A budget can be reworked and revised, with money shuffled in any number of ways, as long as it comes out balanced in the end.   If you wanted to go even stronger, you could say, "I'd rather spend my money on something else," - but although true, I think this would come across as rude.  However, to at least THINK that phrase to yourself the next time you're contemplating a purchase is much less defeatist and much more empowering.   Really, it's just less whiny.

On a related note, my husband has always had a similar issue with with the phrase, "I'm too busy."  People often say they are too busy for something, but what they really mean is that it's not a high priority.  We actually mean we have not budgeted time for it, but rather we have given that time to something else that is more important in our eyes instead.  If we reworked our "time budget," in most cases, we could make the time.

What would be a good alternate phrase for "I'm too busy."  Is "it's not a priority for me right now" too strong?  How about, "It's not in my time budget?"

I'll think about it.  Meanwhile, enjoy these photos of Homemade Soccer Camp 2010.  Because you have to admit, they're pretty cute.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true! I have always felt that we make time or money for things we truly find important. And I feel a little bit this way about people complaining that they're not happy--it's often a choice as well! I have a friend who often reminds me that "everything is a choice", which fits right in with your comments. And love the pictures! And miss you and your darling kids already!