#34 Line item veto with Jen Turrell

Financial Fluency Episode #34: Line Item Veto

Today’s episode is called “Line Item Veto.” For those of us in the United States, that has a certain meaning. I found out this morning when I was talking to someone in the UK that they had no idea what that meant.

So let me explain it real quick. Here in the United States, we have our House and Senate, the Congress who make laws and make budgets but then those budgets get sent up to the Executive Branch and the Executive Branch has the power of veto. Here in the United States, the president does not have line item veto, they just have full veto which means they have to either accept or reject a budget completely the way the Congress sent it to them.

There used to be something called “Line Item Veto” for the president and currently 44 states still allow their governors to have line item veto. So what that means is Congress puts together this budget, it goes through both houses, if it gets passed, it gets sent to the governor and the governor can then go through line by line, item by item and accept or reject the pieces of the budget without accepting or rejecting the entire budget as a whole.

Well, let’s say they usually accept it. So they can accept the budget but reject a few things. The purpose of this is to get rid of bloated spending, pork barrel projects, things that don’t really belong in the budget for one reason or another.

At the national level here in the United States, they decided to pull that power from the president because they felt like there was too much risk of the president punishing political opponents by line item veto-ing their particular projects for their states and their constituents. For the President, he either has to accept or reject the whole thing.

Sometimes you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater or you’re taking the baby and drinking the bathwater.

Okay, that was kind of a bad stretch on that analogy but it means that a lot of times things that you wouldn’t necessarily get passed on their own, gets squeezed into a budget either put in last minute or put in in a way that is not quite bad enough for them to reject the entire budget because the budget has to get through, there has to be money to spend but a lot of things go through that some people, at least, wouldn’t want in there.

You can listen in to the full podcast below

So how does this apply to your personal finances? Well, to be honest, it’s a little bit of a stretch except I love the idea of going through a budget line by line. Now what I’m talking about is not you actually making a budget with lots of lines in it, I’m talking about going through all of your transactions over the last month, couple of months, if you’re really ambitious it can even be the whole year, and seeing what you have spent on in the past that you are going to veto from now on. How about that?

My Favorite App

A great tool to do this, my favorite tracking app which I personally use, Mint.com. There are a lot of different tracking tools out there, what I like about Mint is that you can put all of your different accounts in there. I hook them up to everything, personal and business alike, so I can see this as the one place where I see the whole of my financial picture all in one place at one time.

I have my mortgage in there, car loans, our credit cards are in there, business accounts, personal accounts, anything that we own that I can put a value to. I did even put in values for other things, different collections of different kinds, anything that had a significant value if we were to liquidate it, that’s kind of how I use it, I put in there because it also gives you your net worth which is great.

In terms of this line item veto that I want you to do a really neat function that mint.com has is that you can hit an “All Transactions” button and it will show you all your transactions across all accounts and all categories, chronologically. What’s neat about this is I feel like sometimes when people look at their personal and at their business and at different categories and different budgets there are ways that some transactions can hide when you’re only looking either at one account or one category at a time that you may not take into consideration when you’re looking at the whole.

So this way, if you go onto mint.com, hook up all your accounts; retirement accounts everything, let’s just see everything in one place at one time and then hit that “All Transactions” button and you can either print out the downloadable Line Item Veto pdf, download the PDFs or if you want to be old school, just take out a legal pad, and start going through every item line by line, every single transaction that you’ve made; deposits, spending, credit cards, everything.

KonMarie for Finances

Now, this is where I’m going to go a little off the beaten path. I recently read a book called, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It’s by Marie Kondo. They call it the KonMarie Method and I’ll be honest, I have not managed to completely KonMarie my house, I would love to and it’s definitely something I want to work up to.

I have two kids and two dogs and a husband, yes I will get there eventually but I’ve managed to do it in little segments so far, like my jeans. I KonMarie-d my jeans. But the point behind it if you haven’t read the book, one of my favourite parts of this book was the idea of systematically taking every single thing you own, every item in your home, holding it in your hand and seeing if it sparks joy. Now that might sound a little esoteric, a little “woo-woo”, a little emotional for you and it doesn’t quite exactly apply to finance because there are some things that may spark no joy whatsoever, but which we still have to do for one reason or another. Regardless I still like having that criteria in there.

Here is what I want you to do. As you go through item by item, transaction by transaction through your Mint.com “All Transactions”, I want you to take a look at each line and ask yourself:

  • Is this an absolute necessity for my family?
  • Is it keeping us warm and fed and healthy?
  • Is it doing something important which would cause my life to be significantly diminished without it?
  • Is it something that helps me make money in some way?
  • Does it support my job, or my business?
  • Is it a tool that I use?” and then the last criteria I want you to take is,
  • Does this spark joy?

Looking at those three basic things (do I need it, does it help earn income and does it spark joy), really if it does any of those, it’s a “yes”. If it doesn’t do any of those, I want you to take a good hard look at it, think about that item. The items that I want you to write down are the ones that don’t fit into any of those three criteria. So if it does not sustain your family in some very significant, real and positive way, if it does not help you to earn income in some way and if it does not spark joy in your life, ask yourself, “Do you really need it?”

If it’s something that recurs and you don’t need it, cut it right now while you’re doing it, just stop, go cancel that subscription, change that thing, get rid of it right now. You’ll feel a new lightness come over you. You just decluttered a financial drain on your system. If it is not a recurring charge, if it’s something you bought once but regret, is it something that you could return to the store and get a credit for it? Is it something that you could sell on eBay or sell in some other way? Is there some way you could get rid of it and recoup some of the cost?

Is It REALLY Worth Your Time to Sell it

This one can be a really tricky one. I did an episode a while ago with Lisa Sharp from the Clear Calm Space and on the episode I brought up this idea of selling things as you declutter them and she said there’s a fine line because sometimes people think that they will be able to recoup some of the money and that makes them hold on to it. They put it in a closet, thinking,

Oh one of these days, I’ll get time to list it on eBay and do all of that

But they never do which means they have a closet of clutter. They’d be better off just getting rid of it. As you do this, if you find any purchases that you regret, ask yourself, “Will I feel better just getting rid of it or do I want to go ahead and try listing it, try selling it, try doing something? Is it worth my time? Will I be able to recoup enough of it to not only be worth some of what I paid for but really just to be worth the time that it’ll take to photograph and list it right now?”

Could you make more than that doing something else? Like if you’re going to sell some books on Amazon, how much do you really get for used books? Are you going to spend 25-30 minutes, taking pictures, writing the description, listing it and then get $3 for the book? That’s not worth it, just give the book away, just take it to Goodwill, take it to a used bookstore. Give it to someone as a present if you think they’d like it.

If it’s something like, say, a handbag and you keep thinking, “I’m going to use it” or a dress that doesn’t quite fit right but it was really expensive. If it’s something that’s brand name enough, do a quick search, look up what people are getting for them, especially if you’ve not worn it much and see is it worth it? Could you get $100 for it? Well $100 is probably worth 15-20 minutes of your time to go and take some photos and list it. If it’s less than what you get paid or pay yourself hourly then really question whether if it’s worth the time. You might feel better just getting rid of it.

Now that you’re doing this, try at least once a month. I recommend doing at least every quarter if you can and if you’re super ambitious, go through a whole year. Even though in some ways it might be depressing to see the things you’ve spent money on that you don’t now think were worth it, it also can be really liberating because you can put that information to work from now on and not spend that money on those things anymore.

The problem is that a lot of times we have those experiences, it’s unpleasant to realise that you made a purchase that you regret. So rather than thinking about it and being intentional about it in the future, we just kind of ignore it, push it aside, try to pretend it never happened, just put it somewhere else. But then I think that makes us susceptible to that same kind of purchase again in the future.

We ALL Do This

Have you ever bought something again that you once regretted for some reason? Anything? Courses, clothes that don’t quite fit, things you’re going to grow into.. You know, I feel like we all have these things, maybe, weight loss programs. I’m thinking of myself here. I have done a lot of things since having babies to lose those last few baby pounds and a lot of them didn’t work.

I kind of wished I hadn’t spent that money and yet I would do it again another time and then another time I’d try something else. I don’t do that anymore. I’m stopping because the results that I’ve gotten have not been worth it and the money that I’ve spent, in the end, you know, I could have put that to better use.

If you have anything like that, maybe it’s online courses. A lot of people do repeatedly buy online courses now because it’s such a huge industry. We all want to be learning things all the time and we can learn a certain amount from books but with the courses, there are these specific things that we want to get from them and the sales pages can be so persuasive, they can have so much influence over you that you get in there and once you’ve bought it, once the purchase is made, the money is spent, you might get distracted.

A lot of the courses have great material but what you’re really buying is the experience of going through it with the other people in it and getting some of that attention from the person leading the course, right? You want to learn directly from them and a lot of them give you lifetime access so you’re like, “Well, you know, some things have come up. I’ve not been able to really keep up with it but I can always go back.” How often do you go back? If you’ve bought courses before and haven’t gone back, stop and go back now. Go back and take stock of them, look at all of them.

Ask yourself how much ROI you got on them, how much return on that investment. Could you get more? Could you go back right now and squeeze more out of that investment by revisiting that course?

Do that before you buy another course. Make sure you get something out of it, enough out of it and I’m just speaking from experience here myself because I’ve had a few times where something’s come up, one of my kids have gotten sick, I haven’t been able to finish something and I think I’ll go back and do it and some of them I’ve never gone back to. So, that’s some of my decluttering that I’m doing right now is I’m going to go through and get rid of the things on my hard drive, things I’ve downloaded.

There’s so much information out there now that there are times when free stuff that just takes up space somewhere isn’t worth it either. It isn’t worth cluttering up your space with something just because it’s free and might someday help you.

Just In Time, Not Just In Case

One thing that I really like from some of the productivity books that I’ve read is this idea of “just in time” instead of “just in case” and it came from looking at the Toyota model for manufacturing where they set up the companies where the parts that were needed and the things that had to happen, these different process used, things would arrive just in time for the next thing to happen.

That way, they wouldn’t keep tons of inventory just in case they needed it and that saved them so much money both on buying the extra inventory and then on the storage for it and then if it was things that perished like rubber pieces, belts and tubes, they wouldn’t lose the money on the items perishing. So it saved a lot of money, it cut out a lot of the waste and bloat in the U.S car manufacturing industry and the U.S car manufacturing industry learned from that, they learned a lot from the Japanese model. Again, that takes us back to this cutting the waste, cutting the bloat, line item veto.

You’ve got the information. If this sounds like something that could help you out, do it, go and do it, do it right now. Sign up for mint.com, print out the PDF or get a legal pad or something with enough pages that you can really go through and write all those things down and ask yourself how much you’re getting out of this. Yes, you’re investing a little time in this but you might make some really good discoveries and take some really good action that can save you a lot of money that will be worth the time of sitting down and going through all of your transactions, one by one.

If you like this episode, if you like any of the episodes, please subscribe to the channel so that you’ll get it every week and I would love for you to come over to our Facebook group. Join the group and join the discussions there. I’d love to hear what happened when you did this, how it went for you, did you discover you’d forgotten about or make some connections you’ve never realised, have an “a-ha”, I would love to hear it. So, join me over on the Facebook group and I will talk to you soon!

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