Living Without A Budget

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” – Oscar Wilde

I have never understood the concept of a budget. Like Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey when she pithily asks, “What is a weekend?” the idea of saving is as foreign and unpleasant to me as “Gangam Style.” That is probably why for the past six years I have lived exceedingly well while constantly on the brink of destitute (in a worst case scenario I would be the best dressed homeless person you’ve ever seen). My reasoning is that when one makes so little money, there’s no point in reducing one’s income even further to save, especially when there are so many fabulous things to enjoy.

The truth is that I simply cannot imagine life without dinners at the Beverly Hills Hotel, weekends in Malibu, first class travel, or any of the other myriad material pleasures that money can buy. These things are like my oxygen and champagne, deprive me of them and you deprive me of my ability to live.

There is one small problem – I don’t make nearly enough money to support my predilection for profligacy. Much to my chagrin, while life has given me many blessings, it didn’t include a trust fund, inheritance or Daddy Warbucks. Worse still, my income has always been sporadic at best due to the creative nature of my work. But I haven’t let any of that stop me from living like I have all of those things in abundance.

Whatever I have, I spend, and then some. I spend money before I have it. I spend money once I get it. I spend money that I may not ever have. While all of that might give Suze Orman a coronary, it’s a spending strategy that so far has worked well enough that six years later I’m still mansion hopping around the world.

Now it might help to elaborate on the “strategy” I’ve just employed as it relates to my expenditures. I’m not actually as reckless as my credit card statements might imply. My philosophy is based on the fact that most creative industries have a delayed payoff. You must toil in anonymity for years before anyone recognizes your brilliance and rewards you with a commensurate income. But I have no desire to be a starving artist living on beans and Pabst Blue Ribbon until then.

Basically, if you’re going to make your money later in life, then the concept of working until 65 and retiring is non-applicable. If you love what you do, you’ll want to keep doing it until you die like Andy Rooney or Cher. Yes it’s a gamble, but if you believe in yourself enough to take a non-traditional career path, then you may as well go all in. Live the best life that you can now – after all, you could fall into a sinkhole tomorrow and then all that frugality will have been for nothing.

What I’ve realized along the way is that you don’t need to have a ton of money to live like the 1%. You must, however, be willing to make some sacrifices. For example, I never eat dessert. I calculate that besides the innumerable calories and inches on my waist this saves, it also must come out to at least a couple thousand dollars a year in savings. That’s money that can be spent on Gucci loafers, a week in Goa, or Juvéderm.

Once you get the hang of that, you realize most discretionary spending can be neatly trimmed. These day days, I buy only the absolute necessities: Whole Foods, Gas, Marijuana, and laser hair removal. Occasionally a dinner out when decorum dictates that it’s my turn to pay. But aside from that, I’ve streamlined the mundane expenses to leave more room for the luxuries. After all, who needs toilet paper or electricity? When it comes to living large, everything else just comes down to an irreverent attitude, a lot of style and some Xanax for when you’ve spent your rent money at Max Field’s. TC mark

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