How to Say No…Even to Cheese Balls

A story about sticking to a budget and using cash

On Saturday, our family went to Hickory Park in Ames, Iowa to take one of our daughters out for her birthday.  It was a perfect cloudy day for eating out.  Our daughter was full of excitement knowing that this treat was for her birthday and she definitely felt extra special.

As we sat down and began scanning the menu to see what each of us was going to eat, we carefully chose what each of us was going to partake of.  Before we got there my wife and I settled on an amount we were going to spend on this special occasion and had our cash ready to go.  After we made our order, our little birthday girl wanted to order some cheese balls in addition to everything else she was getting (and she was excited at the thought  of getting cheese balls).

After looking at the menu we determined that if we ordered these yummy balls of happiness we would be going over our agreed dollar amount.  We gave our daughter the news that we were not going to get any cheese balls.  It only bothered her for a moment and life went on just fine.

Now you may be thinking it is only an extra five dollars.  Surely you could’ve spent the extra five dollars for your daughter’s birthday?

Maybe, but if it is one thing we have learned it is once you go over your budget, it is easy to keep on going.  Like any habit (good or bad), the first time you do it is hard.  The second time a little easier and the third time you don’t even think about.  What habit has helped us stick to our budget?

Using cash helped stay accountable to our budget and our goals.  Studies show that when you use cash not only are you more careful on how you use your money, but you will spend less.  When you go to spend your hard earned cash you stop and think before you spend.

You see, the old us would’ve said it is only a few extra dollars and put it on a credit card.  Once that decision would’ve been made I can envision us ordering more appetizers, larger meals and more dessert (which is not including more to pay in sales tax and more to tip the waitress).  It was by lots and lots of little unnecessary purchases in the past that got us into a credit card mess; not large extravagant purchases.   Interestingly, when I first coach my clients, they tell me the same thing was true for them.

How did our story end?

We all had a great time, including our birthday girl.  She got a dish of ice cream with a birthday candle, a dish of whipped cream and the famous “Happy Happy Birthday” song sung by a few of the waitresses.  And forty-eight hours since we left the restaurant, she has never mentioned anything about cheese balls.

If you have trouble sticking with your budget, maybe having someone hold you accountable would be of great benefit for you.  To find out more how a financial coach can help you on your journey, click here and schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation today!

Justin Bennett

  1. Over the last few years I have helped facilitate the Financial Peace University course (produced by Dave Ramsey) for ten sets of classes adding up to hundreds of people. A common theme with the attendees is an appalling lack of financial training from their parents. In fact, many attendees have concerns that their parents will reach retirement age broke and require financial support from the family.

    One of the greatest gifts your daughter received on her birthday was a life lesson from her parents about wants, needs and living within a budget. Too many children reach adulthood without the discipline to control their spending impulses. They are destined to a life of debt, i.e., bondage to their creditors.

    I encourage all parents to take Justin up on the free 30 minutes consultation offer to change your family tree forever!

  2. Very nice story. It is so true, when it comes to your children, of wanting to make them happy and reasoning why you spend extra on them. ex. Birthdays, Holidays.
    But realistically, they always ask for extra things. They need to learn early how to spend wisely, and what better way, through Mom and Dad! Thank you for sharing.

  3. That is so true! It is so easy to let $5 here and $10 there go on plastic and before you know it, its $50 here and $100 there. Good story and illustration!

  4. Great story !
    When my wife and I go out we have agreed to split meals. We might add a salad or baked potato. We never order drinks ,as they have become way too expensive , and a little water and lemon should be good for us ! We have found this a good way to enjoy a night out .
    As for your kids, they are learning well. We do the planning thing as well. They know how much they can spend and they have to eat with that. They are learning a lot in this process. Like WOW ! is cost THAT MUCH to eat ??

  5. I love that you did not get the cheese balls. I understand not being able to control your spending with credit cards and the studies that show you spend more with them. I however do not have that problem. I have had no problems not buying anything with a credit card and I actually get additional cash back rewards for buying the things that I have decided to buy. I then use those gift cards to buy our daughters clothes. Those are the only clothes we buy her are the ones from the gift cards from the cash back.

    I think the important thing is to understand your own limits. I have no problem telling people no and not buying things that I don’t need or want, and enjoy the cashback rewards. I have never carried a balance and keep track of all my purchases. I also understand that I think about money in a way that not many do, so the using cash makes sense for them.

    The last 3 weeks I went to business meetings for work and when there was alot of extra food ordered and uneaten I asked what they planned to do with the extra food. All three times they asked me if I would like it. So for three weeks we have saved alot of money on groceries with the food that would have most likely been thrown away.

    Also when we go on road trips, we like to visit family and friends that have invited us to stay with them to eliminate the hotel rooms. If we can’t make it there in one night, we will sleep in the vehicle at a rest stop.

    It is not that we don’t spend any money at all. We look at what we trully value and we spend our money on those things. The things that we don’t value (eating out, full priced clothing, etc.) we do not buy.

    I love listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio. Although I don’t agree 100% with his ideas, I think people like him and yourself are helping those that need mentoring. Just like trainers or weight loss programs, you guys give people the help they need and deserve to be the best that they can be.

    Thanks for the story and for leading the charge towards a more prosperous future!

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