Why I don’t calculate the cost

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.

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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.

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I’ve bodyclipped so many horses that I’m pretty sure there will be tiny horse hairs embedded in my eyeballs until the day I die

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.

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No price can be placed on this feeling

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.

34 thoughts on “Why I don’t calculate the cost

  1. This is exactly how I am as well. I always feel a bit inferior when I read how well others budget their horse money LOL, so it is nice to know I am not alone! It is funny because I am so meticulous about everything else in my life. Oh well. Works for me! 🙂

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      1. Yes! The only thing I really “budget” for is feed and hay. And that is because the costs are so high here for anything with decent quality. It is less about wanting to track how much money I have and more about never running short.

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  2. This is a great post and I feel like you’re saying the exact same thing as Emma and I did if you dig down deep enough, even if it sounds different on the surface. This is exactly why I harped on the fact that my way is not the right way and that there IS no right or wrong way to how you handle your money.

    It’s not an either-or thing I don’t think, being aware of what you spend doesn’t mean you HAVE TO regret that spend or that you feel guilty about it. Knowing what I spend gives me the freedom to not feel guilty about it, personally, whereas I get anxious when I’m in the dark about it. But that’s the way my brain works.

    I actually think it might surprise people to learn that just like you, I don’t add it all up either. I may be meticulous in my monthly budgets, but you’ll notice I didn’t say anything about adding up what he costs me in total over anything more than a month. I know how my brain works and I think that number would shatter me mentally, lol, so I just don’t do it. I keep track of what’s in my control (impulse spending) and completely shove my head in the sand when it comes to necessities (total yearly board/vet/farrier/etc).

    The only total sum yearly cost I make myself aware of is the horse show one, I add up what my show season costs in a year in order to budget monthly for it, but that’s it.

    Love this discussion!

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  3. I feel the same way. Life is expensive, big surprise. As long as the bills are paid and you know how much things cost, then you’re good to go. I find keeping track of every fraction of a cent too stressful, so I don’t do it. Life’s too short.

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  4. i often wonder when you actually sleep 🙂 You are such a busy person. I get why people track expenses. I prefer to keep my head in the sand as most know!! I am sure with your brain you have a running total in your head even if you are not tracking (again when do you sleep?) 🙂

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  5. I did all my budgeting for the past year on a lease horse for a possible award and was horrified with the number that came back. If I didn’t work my ass off with my trainers it would have been higher. 😬

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  6. I was thinking of writing something along these lines, but you said everything and better than I could haha! But I do exactly what you do. I’ve considered many times putting my expenses to a spreadsheet, and I even did for a few months which helped me rearrange a few things (hint: it wasn’t the horse I was overspending on lol), but when it comes to that, I’m a lot more like you. I’m not full on YOLO, but still definitely will do it if I feel I will get value out of it. It’s really freeing to realize that – my whim to go to Kentucky in 2017 remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The value far outweighed the price for me to go, and it turns out it was the perfect time for me to go. I have realized the value of doing the things that bring me joy, and if that means its pricey and I have to get a few side hustles or cut something else for a bit, well then it was more than worth it.

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  7. I love this. I do have a number that I budget or set aside for the horses every month (separate account) because now I have a lot more to account for financially than I did when I was single and the only needs I was responsible for were mine.
    That said I dont have a set number that I will spend monthly. If the horses need something they get it. I don’t make the important decisions based on how much it costs unless its so huge that I cannot afford it reasonably – but thats why I have insurance.
    I don’t actually add up what it costs me for every lesson, show, or trip in total. I don’t want to mentally come face to face with the number in total when for most of last year I had 3 horses, and then for over 8 months of the year at least one horse was in full training. That’s a full nopety nope for me. I love the horses and that’s enough for me. I am a freak about our finances in other ways but I don’t need to make myself feel bad about the money spent on horses.

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  8. I am the same. I feel that while it adds up to a lotta moola, I never buy anything that I don’t need. At times, I buy something I am less than thrilled with so I try to sell it when I find something that works better.

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  9. I do have a set amount of money I can spend on the horse each month. My situation is tricky in the sense that I part-board a lovely mare, owned by an absentee owner. So much of my monthly horse $ goes to my part-board fee (owner) & bi-weekly lesson (coach). I get that my horse’s owner doesn’t want to spend alot of money on a horse she isn’t riding, but it’s hard for me to justify spending $$ on items that are one horse specific (like blankets). Other items that I view as “universal” such as halters, saddle pads, brushing boots, etc I don’t have a problem purchasing, but do hunt for deals.

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  10. I had to keep it written down carefully for the first year or two of owning Frankie, purely from necessity since I was getting down to having $5 in my account at the end of the month. It was worth it for the amazing things I got to do with Frankie, but the margin for error was so narrow that I literally didn’t have a choice but to be extremely attentive all the time. Now that I have a bit more breathing room, it’s just become an ingrained habit and a curiosity to see how it changes over time!

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  11. Yup, yup, yup. I always have a basic knowledge of my bank account, I know my standard bills outgoing, and if pushed I could tell you how much I basically spend on the horses, but I don’t have any interest in line iteming my horse life out. If I want to take a lesson or go to a show, I know if the money is available for it or not. It helps that I am inherently frugal so I don’t go splurging often. I’d be a lot more prone to it if I didn’t have the kiddo who is a way bigger drain on the bank account than horses will ever be. I mean, who else gets an entirely new wardrobe every single season? Underwear, socks, shoes, shirts, pants…. the entire thing gets overhauled every single season. Yeah..horses can’t touch that.

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  12. my attitude is the same: if it’s cool, i want to do it. i know how to make sacrifices and i’m willing to work hard for what i want. and when my financial house is balanced, it works. my system flew off the handle in a major way this summer tho, when a major component of my cost of living increased by more than 40%. i still want to be in a position where i can seize any opportunity, where i can act in those moments when the stars DO align. but there was a serious moment of reckoning to get my system back into a balance. to reboot my internal calculator. and it was worth it bc it helped me make changes in those other details of my life that don’t mean as much to me.

    the coolest and most inspiring aspect of this equestrian blogging community to me is how everyone fits horses into their lives in different ways, coming from different backgrounds and resources and ambitions. that’s what made me realize that i *could* find a way to own a truck and trailer, for instance. we all find a way. and there is no *wrong* way, from what i can tell. and by sharing our own approaches and strategies, well, that just adds to the hive mind of how to get ‘er done, right?

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  13. I started to add my expenses up for a post, then deleted the whole thing because it made me feel bad when in reality, splurging on the horses is what gets me going in the mornings. I have a 12 year old car with electric nothing and cook most of my meals at home to save some bucks, but my show schedule has all my favorite destinations on it and that makes me happy.

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  14. I feel the same way. My husband tries to make me pin down numbers for budgeting purposes but I tend to evade doing this at all costs. Let’s be real, I’m going to do what I want. If I need more money I typically just take more call at my hospital. Sucks sometimes, but it’s worth it when I get to do shows or buy stuff for Rio. Like you said, YOLO and we aren’t saving for kids so might as well enjoy it!

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  15. Yup! Ditto! Honestly, if I kept track, but I’d probably have a panic attack. But I make sure the bills are paid, the 401K is getting its regular contributions, and the dogs and horses are fed. And me too, but let’s be real, I should eat less anyway. THEN I buy all the boots. And honestly, the boot buying is mostly the result of not horse showing. Before I stopped doing that I only had a pair of every day boots and a pair of show boots like a normal person.
    And I’m 100% on the tomorrow is never guaranteed part. Especially with horses. And the return on investment emotionally is off the charts (at least when things go according to plan).

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  16. Finances and budgets are SO personal and in the end, it’s about what works for you. I don’t have an internal calculator, so I started out really honestly not having a great idea of how much I was truly spending. And at the beginning, I was making so little money that I had to know where every 10 cents was going or I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.

    Now, I do it because I like to know. To me, it’s empowering having that information at hand. It allows me to make the decisions I want to make without looking back and feeling like “oh… maybe I wouldn’t have made that choice.”

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  17. Don’t worry, I don’t budget either, I use Mint to keep track and only really look at the totals at the end of the year, I have a budget set up that if I go way over one month, I may try to curtail a bit the next month but even then, I’m not going to pass up something awesome.

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  18. Forgive me for not knowing, but you have a non-horsey full-time job correct? I would love to learn more about the different types of side gigs you do and how you’re able to do them all, take care of your horses, AND also sleep occasionally. I work full-time and only have 1 horse, but I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, let alone take up side gigs!

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  19. Love the commentary and the statements about cost versus value. You cannot put a value on loving another living creature, be it a person, horse, dog, whatever. Loving completely and without guilt makes for a life fully lived.

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