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What I Learned This Week: Budgeting For Stupidity

10/27/2014 11:05 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST

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I am writing this post mid-Saturday afternoon... and I am wasting a substantial sum of money while doing so.

To explain (without getting into too much detail to exacerbate the situation and inflate the already-ridiculous financial tally), I am currently embroiled in a nuisance legal matter dealing with an asset I owned many moons ago.

While I suspect this whole thing will blow over soon and be sensibly settled, the nuisance has already sucked away precious hours I'll never get back, as well as wasted many dollars that even if I tossed them into the wind off an office tower roof, they would be put to better use than they are dealing with this ridiculous situation right now.

The only "plus" in this unfortunate affair is that it has served as the obvious prompt for this week's lesson, a financial one I will call "Budget for Stupidity."

I'm sure that you, like me, have been the author of many a budget, be it for professional, corporate, project or personal household use. And you don't need to be a brain surgeon or forensic accountant to plan for the unexpected with a budget line usually under the title "Miscellaneous."

But what I'm talking about here is a little different.

To me, the "Miscellaneous" line item stands for the "well, that's life" part of life. It's how we deal with an unforeseen rise in prices or exchange rate, an unfortunate accident, a sudden opportunity (they're not all bad!) or unusual Act of God. Planning for the unpredictable is prudent, and an immutable part of the budgeting process.

But the Stupidity line item goes one step further.

It prepares you for the antithesis of an Act of God, as it's usually an act of a mere mortal that spawns it. If "Miscellaneous" sets you up to "deal with it," Stupidity allows you to at least "tolerate it,"...whatever that "it" may be.

Examples of things that would fill the Stupidity line item include expensive auction items purchased after having too much to drink, dry cleaning or clothes replacement bills after somebody spills something on you and doesn't offer to pick up the tab, parking tickets, and especially nuisance legal matters dealing with assets owned and sold a long time ago.

The best part of the Stupidity line item on budget is that it protects you two ways:

  1. If you regrettably have to spend it, at least the money is put aside, and you can simply shrug your shoulders and throw up your hands as a symbol of your frustration
  2. If you don't have to spend it, you can either transfer the sum into the next budget period, or use it on a great meal or even a party (depending on the provisional amount) to celebrate that a certain elevated degree of stupidity did not enter your life this year

Perhaps my definitions of Stupidity are different than yours, but I KNOW you have your own (maybe you'll even share them in the comments section of this blog). Define 'em, collect them and group them under one boldly-bannered line item next time you budget.

You'll face the world happier knowing that even if you can't beat Stupidity, you can be smart in your defense against it.