Allowances (children). Another chapter deals with the advisability of this heading. As this is definitely budgeted, the recording on the accounts is simple, and it is done in detail only to keep check on actual payments.
Automobile. This item may easily be a very heavy one. Only a careful accounting will enable the family to be honest about it. Of course if the car is kept partly for business or professional reasons, the due amount for that must be charged to business or profession. That due amount should include not only all current charges for repairs, gasoline, oil, garage charges (or expense of garage if owned or rented with house), insurance, license, purchase and repair of accessories, and the rest, but should include each year a sum set aside for the purchase of the new car that is to follow this one. If a chauffeur is employed, his wages and other expenses incurred for him should be charged here rather than to
Service, although if he renders other service in house or garden that would otherwise be paid for, that amount should be duly deducted. Keeping the real costs of an automobile may be a task for a skilled accountant, but any family that is determined to be honest about it can keep an account that tells all they need to know.
Debts. This item explains itself. For convenience Debts and Debts-Interest should go on separate cards. Payment on the first really represents Savings, as by reducing debt one increases the balance between assets and liabilities. Payment of interest is a current expenditure, to be provided for like any other necessity. It is put here only if the money owed is for general purposes. If it was borrowed to buy an automobile, the interest should be charged to that heading. If the debt is a mortgage on the house one lives in, the interest is of course charged to Rent. In a similar way interest on money borrowed for Education is charged to that item, and that on money borrowed for investment charged to the proper investment account.
Education. It is simple to include here all school and lesson charges, whether for tuition or supplies. It is less simple to decide as to lectures, music and books, since these are often recreation as well as education. The heading Reading is provided to take care of all papers, magazines and books of a general nature. Whether a given lecture or concert should be charged here or to Recreation or half to each, must be left to the individual to decide. Where a child's allowance covers Recreation, the child should never be forced or even urged by father or mother to spend Recreation money on what seems to the child educational only; that is, to what he would not himself choose as amusement.
Entertainment. It might be possible to do fairly accurate cost accounting as to the expense of entertaining one's friends as house guests or for a meal. One could, for example, reckon the life of sheets and towels and the cost per day of the use of each, and charge accordingly to Entertainment the wear and tear caused by Aunt Mary when she stayed two nights. It might be harder to compute the "depreciation charge" on furniture - say the dining room chair she sat in - but it would be easy to get a fairly accurate statement of the cost of food. And it would not be difficult to strike an average and know what it costs, in general, to have guests.
But would home be worth having if one took this point of view about friends and associates? The tradition of hospitality that we cherish from the distant past would become only a painful memory. We do not pay to entertain our friends at home: we offer them what we have as being theirs. "My house is yours" is hospitality. "My house costs me $2,300 a year, of which $1.85 is charged up to your day here," could hardly produce happiness on either side, even if the words were not spoken aloud. The Food allowance includes the cost of all food consumed at home, whether by family, friends, employees, or the stranger within the gates. If too many guests by chance send the costs over the top, the family cheerfully economizes until the account is normal again. The same general argument applies to the pleasure given friends through drives or motor trips.
But "parties" may well be an extra cost, and estimated as such. And many times one entertains away from home, if only by an ice-cream soda or the entrance fee to the movies. When money is spent in this way, the share for the host or hostess is charged to Recreation and only that of the guest or guests to Entertainment. If one wishes to see a play and invites a friend, to charge both tickets to Entertainment would be deceiving oneself as to one's own generosity. In the case of membership to a social club where one often invites friends, each time club dues are paid, part should be charged to Recreation, part to Entertainment - half to each, or one-third and two-thirds, or any proportion that seems just.
Express, Freight, Parcel Post. This heading does not include expressage and cartage on baggage taken on a trip. The whole cost of the trip should go under Transportation, in order that one may consider it as a whole. All other cartage and transportation of packages goes here unless it is a legitimate part of the cost of some item classed elsewhere. For example, if food materials are shipped from city to country or vice versa as a matter of economy, the shipping costs of course are charged to Food. It is probably wise to charge the shipping costs on Gifts (especially at Christmas) to that heading, as often it costs as much to send as to buy the gift, and one's attention is not called to that fact if the express or parcel post is charged elsewhere. It would of course be possible to eliminate this item entirely, charging each expenditure to some one of the other heads, but in practice it has proved a convenience to have it.
Fuel. This item practically explains itself. See comment under Light.
Gifts (Church, charity, civic). This and Savings are the two headings of the budget that usually profit most by the existence of the budget itself. There are few people who would not like to give more generously than they do. And there are thousands whose conscience is continually uneasy because they are uncertain whether they are giving their share. When the family sits down to a delicious meal and some one speaks of famine in China or misery in Europe or the children dying of malnutrition even in our own prosperous land, how can the family be happy about its table except by relentlessly thrusting out of mind the appalling pictures the words conjure up? But if the family has deliberately planned its expenditure and has set aside a definite portion of the family income for giving "for the general good," and also deliberately decided that it has a right to a certain expenditure for food, then conscience does not clamor in just the same way. To be sure, one may still feel selfish - and still be so - but at least there has been an attempt to take one's share of the burden of the world.