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October 13, 2013

How to budget for 'fun'

My husband and I are debt-free except for our house. I’ve been having a discussion with a coworker over how much money to allow for fun in your budget. I think $100 for a bottle of wine is okay, but she says something like that is unreasonable. What do you think?

It depends entirely on your financial situation. Paying $100 for a bottle of wine is pretty dumb if you make only $20,000 a year. But what if you make $200,000 a year? Quit worrying and buy the wine! When you have a great income-to-asset ratio — and you’re living debt-free, have control of your money and are saving and investing for the future, that’s the time to relax and enjoy a few things.

You’ve got to take the whole picture into account. Otherwise, you’ll get caught up in the whole envy and jealousy thing. I know a guy who makes $15 million a year, and recently he bought a $400,000 car. Now, I grew up in a small town in Tennessee. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of a $400,000 automobile. But as a ratio, that’s a very small part of his income. It would be like someone who makes $150,000 a year buying a $4,000 car.

That’s a good rule of thumb for determining if something constitutes an outrageous purchase. If it’s a big-enough percentage of your income to rock your world and mess with your finances, then you’re spending too much. But to say that a certain item is too expensive or an irresponsible purchase based on price alone, that’s kind of silly.

Should term life insurance be purchased based on your current earnings or future, projected earnings?

I usually recommend people have 10 to 12 times their current annual income in a good, level term life insurance policy. However, if you have a solid reason to project your income jumping significantly in the near future, there’s nothing wrong with basing your amount of life insurance coverage on that figure — as long as you can afford it.

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