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Senior Correspondent

Budget Busters: Four Times You Could Easily Lose Control

You’re on a budget. You finally got serious andput some numbers down that allow you to close out the month with no problem.

You’ve been on it for a couple of months and the lack of stress feels really good.

Then comes one of those dangerous moments that can cause even a die-hard, long-term budgeter to lose her resolve. Here are four of them:

Entertaining at Home

Nothing seems to bring out the need to impress as much as having someone to our home who has never been there before. It doesn’t matter if we’ve invited them for a barbecue or for a formal, sit-down dinner (although those are pretty rare these days).

All of a sudden, the tablecloths all look shabby and washed out. The china looks old. Pulled threads on the throw pillows on the couch are testimony to the cat doing its favorite “paw-paw” action. The paint on the front hall walls looks awfully dingy.

Solution: Unless you’ve invited Martha Stewart over, stop and take a deep breath. You don’t want someone as a friend if they’re coming to do an inspection.  Look at your budget and decide what you can spend on food and drinks. Then invest your own elbow grease in de-cluttering, scrubbing and putting a shine on the place you lovingly call “home.” And welcome them into it.

Meeting New People

You’re going to a networking event. Or a high school reunion. Or some other function where you’re going to meet new people. (Maybe even a future love interest?)  Of course nothing in your closet could possibly put out the image you think is needed. And your shoes are so “last year.”

The temptation is to splurge on a new outfit, new makeup, new hairstyle, new everything. (The more insecure you feel, the more you’ll want to spend.) After all, they say first impressions are everything.

Solution: What’s the last time you had fun in a pair of new shoes that hurt? Or in an unfamiliar outfit you couldn’t sit in easily? You’re the only one who knows how many times you’ve worn something, as long as it’s in great shape and looks good on you. If there’s money in the budget to splurge on an accessory or hairdresser visit, go for it. Then remind yourself that a good impression rides to a great extent on how you feel about yourself, not on what you’re wearing.

Going On Vacation

You finally bought the ticket for your dream vacation. Because it’s so special, everything has to be perfect. You’ve sunk a lot of money in the travel and lodgings, but that’s just the start. From your old luggage to last year’s summer clothes to your scratched sunglasses, everything is crying to be replaced.

Solution: Hopefully you’ve budgeted for some critical purchases, ideally some that will have use again once you come home. Pick the things that will really make a difference to your trip’s success. And remember that you’re going to need money to spend when you’re on the trip itself, and you don’t want to find your credit cards are maxed out.

Working Too Hard

Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, nothing rings the “I deserve a treat” bell like slogging through really long work hours. And you probably know exactly where your weak spot is when it comes to feel-good purchases.

Nothing is wrong with splurging. In fact, as long as you’ve budgeted for it, it can be a really effective way to get you to your goal, through occasional stressful times. (But if it’s constant, you probably need to look at whether you’re flirting with being a workaholic.)

Solution: This kind of overspending often comes from chemical triggers in your brain that override any good judgment you normally have when it comes to buying. The best thing you can do is put off the purchase: bookmark the website URL of what you want and promise yourself you’ll buy it in 48 hours. If you still want it after that time, it’s probably your “normal self” that’s making the buying decision and you have a greater chance of staying within your budget.

Other Budget Busters

You might have other triggers that can easily tear down your resolve. Maybe when you’re home sick and are letting a shopping channel entertain you. Or when someone makes you angry or puts you down. Or when your son feels left out because his friends can afford to do something he can’t.

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