Dealing With Spending Outside Your Control

By | 2016-09-14

If you have ever uttered the phrase “Taxes Suck” or “My POS washing machine cost me a fortune” this post is for you! It seems like every time I am in a group setting someone starts whining about spending money on something outside of their control. In fact, I have heard it enough that I filled out 3 full categories of “Spending Outside Your Control” below along with some ways you can reduce the costs

Spending Outside Your Control: “Things”

Objects or Things you own will dictate your spending occasionally. Most of us have baked a ton of convenience into our life that revolves around something that costs money when it brakes. While these costs can suck, they are inevitable and the sooner you accept that the better off you will be.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t control in this section, think about what you can control to reduce the cost or frequency of the expense:

  • Turn these into fixed costs – If you have a hard time dealing with uncertainty, instead of finding a pile of cash when something happens, put a fixed amount away every paycheck or month to cover these expenses.
  • Warranty- Save your warranty information! I was surprised when the guy who fixed our washing machine told me some people don’t bother tracking down their warranty information and just pay the fee.
  • Maintenance – Routine maintenance goes a long way with most appliances and vehicles. Change your furnace filters and oil!
  • Buying Quality Items – The cheapest item is not always the lowest quality, do your research. There is a plethora of information at your finger tips – read the reviews and seek out a deal. Best case scenario is ask an expert, or use a unbiased product review site.
  • Service Plans – Not talking about the warranty plan they try to up-sell at the store. If your utility company offers an Appliance Repair/Replacement plan it might make sense for you (especially for your furnace if it is on the older end). Personally I haven’t done this but I know some people prefer the peace of mind and convenience.

This section could be covered by an Emergency Fund depending on the amount

Spending Outside Your Control: Government

This is an obvious one, but the Government will get their money no matter what, even the pros at dodging taxes pay Uncle Sam one way or another. This is as political as I will get on this site, but regardless of who wins any election, at any time, or any place – you will be taxed.

  1. Do I like it?  No.
  2. Are there inefficiencies in the government?  Yes.
  3. Am I doing anything about it. No. 

Your income tax bracket may shift slightly up or down depending on who is in office. Some might be more favorable towards long term gains. Over time they will go up and down, kinda like that stock market thing we are so fond of.

Outside of casting your vote for the least evil politician that shares your views, running for office, or going door to door to campaign for your candidate there is not a lot a single individual can do to change the Government.

What you can control at a personal level:

  • Use tax advantaged accounts  (Income Tax)
  • Buy Less (Sales Taxes)
  • Don’t own a car (Registration Taxes)
  • Don’t own Property (Property Tax)

Outside of the first item this may be an impractical list for most (assuming renters cover the property taxes for their landlord), but dealing with the Government is impractical. Its nearly impossible to win, all you can do is lower the bill. Your time is better spent finding ways to earn more than finding a way to win here. 

Spending Outside Your Control: Events

This category is slightly different, in that you have more of a choice, but most of us want to be part of these experiences. However, they can be crazy expensive and I have heard people whine about it many, many times. Especially the first category.

Weddings – Assuming you weren’t part of a shotgun wedding where everyone was forced to attend, you had a choice to being a part of this day. Weddings are expensive, not only for the Bride/Groom, but for the people you ask to be in the wedding party.

I did some quick math and we have spent on average, about $1,200 a year on attending weddings for the last 5 years (not even counting the destination wedding we went to that was $3,500). The bulk of these costs fall on renting/buying tuxes, bridesmaid dresses, gifts, and hotel costs*.

I used to whine about the above expenses, especially when a few stacked up in a short amount of time. Spending $600-700 on someone else’s wedding can be a tough pill to swallow. Focus on the experience and remember that (for those of you that are married) people did the same thing for you. If you had a small wedding without a bridal party, rest assured that people would have done it for you if you asked.

*I wonder what the average wedding balance is counting guest expenses for travel, hotel and gifts is

Baby Showers and Graduations – I swear these come in waves! Again, when they stack up it can be stressful and can destroy your monthly budget.

What you can control

This is a tougher category to lay out, unless you are very bold and telling the bride-to-be your max tux rental limit (Danger). There are a few things you can do to cut down on costs:

  • Carpool –  Pretty straight forward, find someone going the same direction, ride together.
  • Cut Hotel Expenses
    • Share Rooms – Book rooms together and cut the cost in half.
    • Drive Home – If the reception is within a reasonable distance drive or take a cab home vs a hotel.
    • Stay with Family or Friends – We have started doing this whenever we head back to our college town or out of town family events.
  • Set Gift Limits* – We have a set amount that we usually spend on gifts for events. If it is a really close family member or friend we spend a more.

*I had to ask Mrs. AE how she handles this part, she doesn’t agree with my gift giving policy….. “Here is a check with no card, don’t send me a thank you”…. I don’t believe in cards.

Take Away:

 

I have slowly accepted all the costs on this list, and do my best not to complain when something happens or we have a incredibly expensive month that we can’t control. It’s not worth getting frustrated over them anymore.

Instead we have focus on the costs we CAN control and try to smooth expensive months by cutting costs there. You will be surprised how much less stressed you are over spending money once you have a system in place.

Thanks for reading! How do you deal with Spending Outside Your Control?

Some products that can help you:

Disclosure Policy

Personal Capital: Personal Capital has a ton of great Free features, you can track your spending, net worth and even analyze your portfolio. It has top notch security and I am able to connect all of my accounts. Saves a ton of time!

Sofi – I saved a ton of money using SoFI for a Student Loan Refinance. They are great to work with, the process was super easy (compared to my previous refi) and I got a great rate. If you have student loans be sure to check them out.

11 thoughts on “Dealing With Spending Outside Your Control

  1. Financial Panther

    Definitely a fan of turning costs for “things” into fixed costs. I do this every year for things I know I’ll have to buy, such as Christmas gifts. I don’t even notice the money being put away each month and it makes it much less stressful when the time comes to purchase the thing.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thats a great strategy Financial Panther, definetely drops the stress through the holidays. Might have to steal that one

      Reply
  2. S
    Stefan - The Millennial Budget

    Very smart idea. I am a huge fan of trying to predict cost ahead of time. Like you said a wedding can often be expensive but if you plan ahead it will just be another cost. Regarding taxes I always prepare my budget after tax rather than pre-tax so I get an idea of how much money I can actually spend a month. Using tax advantage accounts is a great way to reduce your income and taxes paid especially if you believe you will retire with a lower tax bracket.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      I am hoping that we increased our 401K enough this year to have a break even tax bill – I don’t want a repeat of last year.

      Thanks for the comment Stefan

      Reply
  3. Dollar Engineer

    Great thoughts here AE! I just did some major service on my car as it just crossed 90,000 miles. I definitely didn’t enjoy paying $500 for it but considering this is a one time expense and not something like a monthly car payment (I own my car) it’ll pay off long term in hopefully keeping my car running well longer.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      That is a good way to look at it Dollar Engineer, one $500 expense is better than a $500 expense every month. That preventative maintenance may not work every time – but it definetely reduces your odds of major issues.

      Reply
  4. [email protected] Smarter Decisionsm

    I had to laugh when I read the part about the warranty! I wonder how many people actually use warranties too! I’m pretty good with paperwork and I can never seem to find them…. or the issue happens just outside of the warranty window! I think you are right about buying quality items too though. We try not to stress out over things we can’t control – but that can be a challenge at times too!

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thanks for the comment Vicki – Thankfully I had all of our warranty information in one spot from when our house was built as I sometimes struggle to find warranty information as well (Maybe I should be registering my products after I buy them!)

      It can be a challenge! But we are way better are ignoring it than we used to be.

      Reply
  5. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    So much great advice here!

    Keep your warranty information! 2 1/2 years ago, we moved into a new house, with new appliances. The appliances had the standard one year warranty, but the microwave died at exactly 14 months. Even though it was out of the standard one-year warranty coverage, I contacted my builder, got the contact information of the company they purchased the appliances from and got the microwave fixed for free! It doesn’t ever hurt to ask.

    On the taxes – agreed! Take advantage of as many of the tax advantaged accounts as you possibly can to lower your tax bill (401k, HSA, IRA). Plus, check into property tax credits (some states offer a “homestead” discount) and, if you are shopping for a home, some towns/cities offer property tax abatements to encourage growth (we have 7 years property tax free!).

    Reply
  6. Dividends Down Under

    I read a great article that mentioned taxes recently, I think it might have been financial samurai? I can’t remember, I read so much! Anyway, the article mentioned considering taxes as your contribution to the community – I’ve always tried to think of them that way. A lot of people get so angry that their “hard earned tax dollars” get handed out for free to people who are unemployed, retirees or those who have disabilities. If I was in any of those positions and struggling financially I’d be extremely grateful that the systems are there to help me. Taxes can be considered a small way of helping those that are struggling 🙂 (Although I choose to ignore all the other wasteful things governments do with the cash!)

    Jasmin

    Reply
  7. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    Good way to look at it. I know we try to keep a fair amount of discretionary/miscellaneous wiggle room in our budget because stuff (field trips, kids activities, birthdays/weddings/showers, holidays) seem to come up almost every month.

    I like to think my federal taxes go to the national park system and my state taxes go to education and roads. It’s a bit easier to pay than when I think it’s probably just going to pay bond interest to Chinese investors.

    Reply

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