There have been a lot of posts going around the blogosphere lately about how people budget their horse stuff for the year, what their total costs are, and how they keep track. It’s strategic, well thought out, and honestly pretty impressive.
I am none of those things.
It probably surprises precisely no one to find out that I’m more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type. I can be a bit impulsive, and I definitely live and breathe the “you only live once” credo. I am acutely aware of the fact that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and with horses especially, you can never count on “next time” being an option. Sometimes the stars only align once. If there are things I really want, or really want to do, and they’re even remotely feasible for me to find a way to afford, I’ll make it happen – budgets or spreadsheets be damned. And I flat out refuse to feel bad about it.
That’s not to say that I just live like gangbusters and run around buying whatever I want, racking up massive credit card debt like YOLO and not saving a dime. That sounds fun, but I’m not that level of irresponsible. I pay my bills on time every month, I have enough of an emergency fund to where I can sleep at night, everything is insured, and I’ve got a 401k. I don’t live on ramen (not that I would necessarily mind, sodium is delicious), nor do I live in a cardboard box.
If I want to go to a bigger more expensive show, maybe I’ll cut out a smaller less important one. Or maybe I’ll pick up another side gig. Sometimes work can also be bartered to help cut down on expenses. I’ve literally never had a trainer that I haven’t worked for, in some capacity, at some point. I once braided 18 horses in one night at a warmblood inspection, so that I could fund an A show I wanted to take my jumper to. I’ve spent more days grooming for people at shows, or cleaning stalls, or body clipping horses, than I can even count. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I do cut expenses where I can though, in my regular life, and I have a lot of side gigs. Doing my taxes is complicated, with all of my 1099’s. I’ve had to get very creative over the years to be able to afford to do a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do. It’s all been worth it, because I’ve gotten to do so many awesome things. And it’s on my dime, so I don’t have to justify it to anyone or feel guilty about it for even a second. I might not have new street clothes very often (and they’re always guaranteed to be cheap), it’s possible that I haven’t had a haircut in a year, my house is not fancy, and my truck might have hand-cranking windows, but these are sacrifices I happily make without a second thought. Everything else meets my basic needs – my indulgence is the horses.
Let’s be real, I know how much I spend. I have a calculator buried deep in the back of my brain, silently adding and adding and adding. Of course I have a good idea of what I spent on the horses every year. Pretty sure we all do. But I also pretty much flat out refuse to put it to paper. Mostly because I can’t think of a single reason why I should. It wouldn’t change a thing except for probably making me feel irresponsible or guilty or whatever else – which I refuse to do. I chose the horse-poor life a long time ago, and I’ve been exceedingly happy with it. I don’t want to find myself taking shortcuts with my horse’s care, or not buying things that I really want, because I feel duty-bound to fit inside of a number on a spreadsheet. If I can make it work, I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do it with no receipts attached.
Maybe that makes me selfish, or naive, or reckless… I don’t know. All I know for sure is that I’ve never regretted a single hour that I’ve put in, or a single dollar that I’ve put out. To me there’s a huge difference between the price and the value; the value I get back from horses and riding is astronomically more than the price I pay. I completely understand why people choose to track expenses and budget extensively, or approach things differently than I do, or have different priorities in life than I do. I respect and admire that a lot.
It just isn’t for me.