When you know where your money is, you can make decisions on the fly.

Earlier this week I dipped my toes into TJ Maxx for some quick window shopping, and walked away with $200 worth of shirts. (PS: never go window shopping at TJ Maxx). But despite that sounding like I’m a huge moron with my money, there’s actually some good reasons behind it:

  1. I needed new shirts! I can’t even remember the last time I bought one, and The Maxx seemed to be having a “J. Money Appreciation Day” because I pretty much wanted their entire inventory. (I wear a t-shirt and jeans every day to “work.” Along w/ my beloved hoodies)
  2. They were almost all on sale! Which, as many of you know, is crazy already because TJ’s prices are *already* pretty much on sale, haha… And no this is not an ad for them though it might as well be ;)
  3. I had to max out on the deals. You know those people who do extreme couponing and get like 100 mustard bottles and 50 bars of soap because they hit the “deal jackpot?” Well, that’s how I feel about awesome t-shirts for sale – only I actually USE THEM (oooooooooh).
  4. I didn’t have time to try anything on. I was supposed to be in and out within minutes (ya know, the whole “window shopping” thing), but as soon as my eyes locked on I just knew I had to have these bad boys and walked them straight to the counter. With 100% intention of returning the duds that didn’t fit (which turned out to be 50% of them, ugh…)

So that’s the “why” part of the story here. The “how”, on the other hand, is the more important takeaway here. And that is: When you know where your money is, you can make decisions on the fly.

It sounds obvious, but a lot of people don’t think about that. They hear “budget” and scream for the hills as if they’re being chased by an axe murderer. When the reality is budgets tell us where all our money is coming and going, and how muchΒ extra we have after all our bills are paid attention to. If you knew you had, say, $500 every month to do as you please, doesn’t that sound like the opposite of boring? Knowing you had freedom to make choices easily and with less stress throughout the month?

Now of course you can’t go spending all your extra money all willy nilly like because you have things like savings and investments and all kinds of other places it’s probably going to, BUT, the point is you don’t have to get all worried every time you buy something and wondering if it’ll put you in financial ruin. It’s a nice feeling to have regardless of the amount of money in question.

Another perfect example of this comes courtesy of my parents. Every time something major broke in our house, or we had to fix something expensive on the car, they never got *that* stressed out about it. I mean, it didn’t make them happy or anything of course, and I’m sure it upset them like crazy, but I remember very clearly how they pretty much just chalked it up to a “that’s what happens in life” type deal, and then used some “special account” they had to pay it off.

I never understood it as a kid (I mean, come on – anything over $100 and you were like a millionaire!), but looking back it always impressed me. And still does. They weren’t fazed because they knew where their money was. Not in the exact same sense as my t-shirt example above since here it’s more about the Emergency Fund, but it’s the same in that they could make a quick decision right on the spot ‘cuz they knew the deal with their finances. They didn’t have to pour over all the numbers scouring for a way to make it happen – it was already set up as part of their plan. I should actually tell them how much it influenced me one day, what a great lesson to learn through example, right?

Anyways, just wanted to share all this with you today. The “making quick decisions” thing is one of my favorite perks over the past 5 years of getting my money in order, and I only hope you guys are – or will be soon – in the same boat :) It’s a good place to shoot for!

Happy weekend, y’all.

{Dollar shirt art by Richard Elzey}

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  1. Lance @ Money Life and More March 22, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    You can have even more freedom is you budget your saving and investing and then just have a fun fund instead of left over money for saving/investing/spending that you have to decide what to do with every month. That’s what I do and I normally know the balance so if something pops up I can take advantage if I want to.

  2. K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! March 22, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Murphy stopped by my house last week to the tune of $1133 and I reacted much like your parents and wasn’t stressed about how I was going to pay for. If this had happened back when I was in debt, I would have freaked out big time. Being debt free definitely has its perks!

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:54 AM


    2. Retire By 40 March 22, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      UGH! I just heard the chimney in one of my rentals is crumbling. The estimate is $1,500! We are investigating alternatives, but it just sucks because I was hoping for less repair this year. I’m not losing sleep over it though. I hate Murphy.

      1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        Another reason I’m done with thinking about rental properties – yuck.

  3. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle March 22, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    I have a household account for yearly expenses (house insurance, vet, car registration) and that includes money for home repairs and life’s little emergenices which happen all the time.

    Last year I had a broken windshield, shredded tire and a holiday vet bill all in a few weeks. I have increased the amount I add to that account with every pay because something if always breaking around here.

  4. Shafi March 22, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Your point is well taken.

    I went over to a friend’s house (actually he is a cousin as well). He said he bought ten shirts that were selling at 25% discount. I said a month ago, you told me the same thing when you bought six shirts. Did you need all those shirts – 16 of them in almost a month. He said he has this weakness that when he sees something on sale, his palms start itching for taking out his wallet.

    Everyone is different. I will never buy anything even if they offer discounts unless I really need it.

    I went to a wedding 2 weeks ago. I shop around and luckily was able to find a suit for $20 – yap! you read it right twenty dollars. That was a little irregular. The irregularity was due to a couple of buttons missing. One on the rear left pocket (which I never use anyway) and another on the coat. For 10 cents, I was able to fix the coat button and I didn’t do anything with the pant pocket.

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Nice grab! Your friend/cousin is funny – and pretty much like lots of others out there that fall hard for deals even if they don’t need any of it. It’s fine if you’re gonna use them at *some point* of course (or even turn around and sell them for a nice profit even!) but I’m over deals just for the sake of ’em anymore. Though I’d love to take those shirts off his hands ;)

  5. John S @ Frugal Rules March 22, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    I LOVE being able to have that freedom! I never understood it before I started to budget, but now I totally get it. I have dome this very same thing before and it feels great to know that I can walk into whatever store and buy whatever I need (generally) and have no fear of where the money is going to come from. I wear a t-shirt and shorts every day to work & it’s great, isn’t it?!

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      ” it feels great to know that I can walk into whatever store and buy whatever I need ”

      YES! Exactly.

  6. Christian L. March 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    J. Money,
    I agree: Once I put my finances in order, I was more comfortable spending money as needed. I know what fits into my budget and what is not allotted.

    The best part is my emergency fund. Without it, I’d be in debt to doctors and dentists. Thanks to my preparedness, I’m in no debt!

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  7. Martin March 22, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Another “quick decision” is the ability to join a trip last minute. A few years ago a buddy found out that me and my brother were going on a trip. What did he do? Bought a ticket and showed up at the resort. It was a pleasant surprise that was greeted with a shot of tequila.

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Hell yeah doggy. I didn’t think twice about flying out to Europe for 10 days with my friends either the other year – it’s the worse missing out on huge things like that!

  8. Kat Reag March 22, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I like this post! Too often do we deem “budgeting” as a negative thing. I am definitely an impulsive person, but the fact that I budget and keep track of my money affords me the infrequent splurge. At least that’s the way I justify things :)

  9. AverageJoe March 22, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Sadly, I know tons of people who make quick decisions WITHOUT knowing where their money is, and it bites them over and over…..generally they make them when there’s a little peer pressure. “Everybody’s headed to the movie! You should come, too….”

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      I know, that sucks :( I have to watch myself when I’m trying to convince others to do things with me too ‘cuz I know all our situations are different… I used to be really bad at it but I think I’m getting better.

  10. My Financial Independence Journey March 22, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    I budget religiously, save over 50% of my income, and am building a very considerable emergency fund. This allows me a ton of flexibility should I need it. I’ve had to flinch at car repairs, a new post weight loss wardrobe, or other sudden major (or minor) purchases. I just pay for them. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed spending the money, or that I didn’t complain about it. But it does mean that the sudden spending didn’t send shockwaves through the rest of my financial life.

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Yup! Definitely a-okay to complain and bitch about stuff too – that’s human nature :) We just do a lot less of it over time cuz the band-aid gets pulled right away by just paying it off like you mentioned so it doesn’t drag on and smother our lives!

  11. SavvyFinancialLatina March 22, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    This happened to us last year during graduate school. Despite the fact we were super broke, we had a savings fund. My hubby’s car needed maintenance that we hadn’t planned for, to the tune of $500. It sucked, but thankfully we had the money.

    I don’t understand how people live paycheck to paycheck. I have always had a small savings.

  12. Michelle's Finance Journal March 22, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    I’m just starting out and still trying to build emergency fund and tweaking my budgets weekly to make it work. I do worry about and agonize over little unexpected expenses, but hopefully it’ll be better as I get my finances in order one by one.

    1. J. Money March 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      It will, don’t worry :) The more you save and pay attention to your money, the better it gets week in and week out! You’re just in a phase right now – you’ll be out of it one day.

  13. Financial Black Sheep March 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    It’s nice to know exactly where my money is now that I am debt free lol. Before a budget was just to make sure I had enough for expenses and debt. Now I can do more with it and it doesn’t feel like a chore. (Who am I kidding I would spend hours on it before dreaming of what I would do with my money anyway.) I now get to have a fun money category that I can spend on what I want like shirts, hoodies, eating out, or video games! It’s awesome, because I know how much I have and I don’t feel guilty in buying what ever it is I want. Kind of like you and your shirts, you don’t have to feel guilty because you know how much money you have and it won’t affect your budget. :)

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      EXACTLY! Fun Funds are where it’s at, yo.

  14. Nick @ ayoungpro.com March 22, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    When I was first married, my wife hated the whole “budget” concept. It took me a while to get her to try it, but now she is a budgeting maniac. Just like you said, she came to the knowledge that budgets actually free you from having to worry about where your money is.

  15. Grayson @ Debt Roundup March 22, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I do this when I go shopping for clothes (rarely). I know how much I need to spend and that I will use each shirt to the fullest. I go in and know that if I overspend by some, it is ok because I have some space in the clothing budget.

  16. Edward Antrobus March 22, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Ever since my wife got serious about budgeting and spending, she actually spends MORE time making spending decisions. :)

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      HAH! Guess it’s not the end of the world though :)

  17. Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey March 22, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Since I started working at home three years ago, I rarely buy clothes for myself, except for special occasions, like when I attended two weddings of my former students. I had been satisfied with my jeans-and-shirt pair. This post made me realize I need to go out and get myself a new set of shirts and jeans. LOL. After all, I should reward myself once in a while.

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      you most def. should :) we gotta feel good in sexy clothes at home, too!

  18. Melinda Gonzalez March 22, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    The perks of living in an apartment – you don’t have to fix anything that breaks. Of course I have to hear my neighbors daily life, but hey it’s free entertainment.

    My parent’s never had extra savings, and when they stressed – I stressed (kids pick up on that stuff). You are very blessed J to have such calm parents. It can change your whole outlook on life when you grow up in a safe and calm environment.

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Totally. Good things to keep in mind now that WE’RE parents too!

  19. Nikki March 22, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    Well said in your post! When I first got married, I heard about Dave Ramsey’s concept of building $1000 emergency fund before paying off any debt. I didn’t understand it at first because I wanted that debt GONE, but then a couple of things needed repairs. I get it now, and we keep a little over that aside for those major incidences.

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Yup! Always good to have some saved on the side for all of life’s doo-doo dumping on us ;)

  20. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets March 22, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    Lol, I actually celebrate anytime one of my 30+ year old appliances break. Our water heater, dishwasher and dryer have died, but we’ve spent less than $1,000 to replace them all. I’m super pumped for a dead fridge!

    But for real, I have an emergency fund, I know I can pay for it because I know where every dollar is going. I’m a month ahead of my bills, we have savings buckets for infrequent expenses, and my wife and I NEVER fight about money. It’s kind of ridiculous how awesome being on a budget is!

    1. J. Money March 23, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      haha… I can get down with that :) if only our 30 year old laminate cabinets would just fall and break! ;)

      1. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets March 25, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        Right?! Our cabinets are pretty disgusting too, and ugly. I might just *accidently* empty them and take a sledgehammer to them one day….hmmmm

        1. J. Money March 27, 2013 at 9:51 AM

          bring it over here too accidentally!

  21. Cherron March 22, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    TJ Maxx rules. They got some good s**t in there!
    You shop smart!

  22. Daisy @ Young Finances March 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    I love this, because it’s so true. I couldn’t imagine going through life having no idea how much I could/should be saving, or how much I should be spending on certain things. I am far too much of a planner for that.

    1. J. Money March 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Being a planner gives you a nice advantage :)

  23. Mrs. Driver March 23, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    So true! We had been paying for a home warranty on one of our rentals because the air conditioner is unreliable and we know at some point it will need to be replaced. We finally realized we have plenty of money set aside to cover the cost of an air conditioner and were just throwing it away on this $500 a year warranty. We stopped letting those cost drive us and got into the driver’s seat.

    1. J. Money March 25, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Woo! I kinda wish we had kept our original home warranty, but I agree it’s safer with a nice stockpile ready to be used in the future for stuff like that.

  24. Jacob Erickson March 23, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    Can’t agree more with your take on budgets and emergency funds. They both can be a pain to create, but I feel a lot more at eaze about everything when I know I have both. Plus, I don’t have to feel bad about spending money as long as it’s in the budget.

  25. stephanie March 23, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    TJ Maxx-one of my best friends! And well within walking distance so I can get a bit of fresh air, then swing that bag (along with my hips) as I waltz on home with something smashing!

    Of course! it fits in my budget ’cause I have that little extra line item for me & my clothes. Now if I could just figure out a budget for my closet space-I’m running out quickly!!!

    1. J. Money March 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM


  26. Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 24, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Good hustle on the shirts! Hope you’re having a good weekend.

  27. J. Money March 27, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    WOW. Just… wow.

  28. Mary Anne @ BillGuard March 28, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    “They hear β€œbudget” and scream for the hills as if they’re being chased by an axe murderer.” — Haha, J. Money, I love the way you describe things!

    Seriously, though, you’re right: people are turned off by the word “budget” because it sounds so austere. It alternately conjures images of hunching over a spreadsheet or living a life that’s so frugal it’s worthy of its own extremist reality TV show.

    In reality, though, a budget saves you from stress when unexpected expenses hit … like it did for your parents, and for several of the people who have left comments above. So it’s important to redefine the word “budget” and make it — as this blog title says — sexy!

    1. J. Money March 29, 2013 at 8:08 PM

      AusterityIsSexy.com is coming out next ;)

  29. Joel March 29, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I couldn’t agree more J. Money. I’ve never been good at budgeting…but I really don’t have to be because I save way more than I spend. It is a freeing feeling to be able to drop some dough if I go on a thrift store binge (which is similar to your TJ Maxx runs) or get some dope new Levi’s and not have to worry whether or not I can afford it.

    1. J. Money March 29, 2013 at 8:09 PM

      That works too! If you know you’re always banking cash every paycheck you can live much more freer! Way to go :)

  30. Joel @savoutsidethebox March 29, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Oh, and next time go to Cardpool.com and get yourself a discounted gift card. You’ll save an extra 10% on those t shirts.

  31. J. Money March 29, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    that would require effort and planning ahead :)