Defining “Splurging” (or, How I am Using Tags on Wesabe)

I recently joined Brazen Careerist, a network of young professionals (mostly with blogs). It is currently a blast–people are open, interesting, and literally within 5 minutes of finishing my profile I made contact with someone who administers a fellowship in which I am interested. Good stuff. Anyway, one of the blogs on Brazen Careerist had a neat post on the “3 White Lies We Tell Ourselves When Spending Money.” The author then asked readers to post their little white lie in the comments section. I wrote the following:

The white lie I am always fighting with is the “it doesn’t count as splurging, because I need it!” lie. The “it” can be a cab ride (instead of finding a friend to drive me), a $10 meal (when I should have packed lunch), or a nice hotel on a trip (when I would have been fine at a Best Western).

In my Wesabe tags (Wesabe is like Mint, but with a money-tracking focus) I’ve defined a “splurge” as anything for which I could have paid less. I couldn’t pay less than X for my cellphone bill, because they they would take away my phone. But I could have paid less for lunch.

This does not mean I do not continue to tell myself this lie :-D.

To try and fight this little white lie, I have been working with Wesabe to better understand my finances: where I spend money, why I spend it, and what I can do to keep my spending sensible. I do not have money problems, nor am I in debt, but since most of my passions do not pay much, learning to live below my means will be a good life skill.

I recently took the over 30 tags I have started using, and condensed them into 8  static tags for spending:

  1. bill
  2. charity
  3. crosscountrytravel
  4. education
  5. food
  6. housing
  7. localtravel
  8. splurge

currently 4 short-term tags for spending (so I can keep track of how much I spend on short-term projects):

  1. pfour
    [more on pfour]
  2. qatarphotoshow
    [some images from this photoshow]
  3. qatartrip
    [more info on my trip to cmu-qatar]
  4. summerinternship09
    [more on my internship]

and 5 tags for income:

  1. interest
  2. grants
  3. parents
  4. refund
  5. work

All of these are (fairly) objective tags–“localtravel” is for what I spend on Caltrain or the Metro, “crosscountrytravel” for what I spend on airfare. “parents” is how much money my parents give me, “work” how much I make at work.

“splurge” is the most difficult to define tag because it encompasses my most discretionary purchases. I formally defined “splurge” to cover anything that I could have spent less on. Wesabe has a great culture that supports spending that is responsible. When I take a cab, or eat out with friends, or spend money on a hotel during travel, in the back of my head I am thinking: how much is this worth to me? If I only spend $5 on lunch, I will have $5 more towards my “buy cute sandals” fund (something else which would go under “splurge”).

This is a rather radical definition of a “splurge”: most budgets I have seen, “splurge” or “fun money” or “pocket-change” or “misc” are for untracked purchases. But I rather like to track those purchases that I most enjoy making. Anyone else have a different approach?

Inspirational Quote:

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.” Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemala Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1992

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