s: About four years ago, I attended a local artist friend’s art show in his studio. I fell in love with one of his large, colorful paintings: a sunrise farm scene with cows, chickens, and sheep all heading towards the viewer. The animals seem to be talking to me, “Go with your morning!” The painting was on sale for $2,500 – well beyond my budget. Soon, the artist emailed me to say the painting had not been sold, and that he needed to make space in his studio and wanted to gift it to me because he saw that I was intrigued by it. I have luck! Since then, it has been hung in my kitchen and the animals seem to cheer me up every morning. The artist called me today and said I needed to return the painting because it was sold out – unless I wanted to buy it. I re-read his old email and the painting was actually a gift, but I don’t intend to get into a fight. It still doesn’t fit my budget, and I have more important financial commitments, but I thought I’d write to you so you could tell me not to try to convince myself otherwise. I shouldn’t buy it, right?
a: I took those words off my mouth. If you already know it’s beyond your budget, there’s no need to go — at least for now. Perhaps, as your financial picture changes over time, you can make purchases for life’s discretionary joys, like some favorite artwork – and I have a strategy to help you.
First, take a picture of the painting on your wall so that you will forever remember the pleasure it gave you. You can always re-visit the photo, to have a great deal of (almost) fun and a bit of morning sunshine in your life.
At the same time, you can immediately implement a regular monthly savings plan to create a “Joy Account” for yourself. For example, you can set aside at least $50 each month in a separate account for exactly this purpose. Later, you will have cash available for discretionary purchases without feeling guilty or unable to meet your other important financial obligations. With proper planning, you can be financially wise and use money as a tool to create joy in your life.
But there’s also a great financial lesson the painting inadvertently taught him: the value of delayed gratification.
I also know about delaying a large discretionary purchase. You see, I still have a picture of a classic car that I had in my heart. I loved the dark blue 1963 Buick Wildcat, but at the time in my life, I didn’t have the budget for it. I keep the picture on my vision board to remind me of my wise decision to put off an unnecessary purchase. The photo also reminds me that I can save money to get the things I want in my life, without compromising financial commitments or wise savings. I bought a 1966 Buick when my financial situation required it.
You can do the same with painting. Keep a picture of it as an incentive to save your money for discretionary purchases in the future.
In the meantime, return the painting to your friend – without any hard feelings – and know that it can continue to delight the following owners. As hard as it may be to break away from the plate, you can take solace in knowing that you learned the double financial lesson of not spending outside of your budget, while working to enrich your life thanks to your Joy Account.