Obviously, under ordinary circumstances, the family or the individual should live within the income, but if health makes a call on savings or even requires borrowing, then health, not savings, and not keeping free of debt, must come first. The good business man often borrows in order to enlarge his business operations, and his judgment is justified by increased gain. So an individual may borrow to regain his health or for educational opportunities, and be justified in the result. In both cases this is really investment, not expenditure, and in accurate accounting a trip South for health would be considered an investment, though it must in one's personal accounts figure as expense. Such expenditure is not common, but it is important to note it because it illustrates the principle underlying budget making and budget adjusting.
Economy needs a word, by the way. Unfortunately to most people the word has a rather unpleasant sound, because to them it means going without things one wants. It is certain that if we cannot get with our resources all that we would like to get, we must go without some of it, but it is most regrettable to have this negative aspect of economy so prominent. "Economy" does not mean "saving," but "right use." The right use of part of our money leads to saving that part, but what we spend on recreation, food, clothing, or anything else is just as economically used as that saved, if we have been wise in our distribution of our money resources.
It is evident that budget making must be a personal matter, differing for individuals or families who seem at first glance alike as to resources and needs. Each of course is bound to provide conditions that make for health - a place to live in that is comfortable and sanitary, food that is wholesome and appetizing, clothing that is adequate, and some provision for the recreation needed by every human being. Each must for safety accumulate a reserve fund for emergencies - illness, death, failure of income, loss of any sort. But when even these fundamentals are interpreted by different individuals, differences manifest themselves at once. It may be possible to come to a common agreement on what is "sanitary" in a living place, but "comfortable" means very different things to different people. Personal tastes, likes and dislikes, begin at once to play their part. The desire for beauty in one's surroundings is general, but what seems beautiful to one is to another distressingly commonplace or ugly. The budget as an aid to the development of individual or family must be planned by the people who are to live under it on the basis of their own tastes and desires.
The budget can never be imposed on the family or individual. Many with good judgment gathered from experience can offer worth-while advice to those who are beginning to plan, but no one else can make the detailed decisions. We are all only too apt to try to do so. Few of us are guiltless of having accused some one else of "extravagance" when what we meant was that for us personally that particular expenditure would have been foolish or wasteful. We all have the right to certain opinions on others' expenditure - such as that they have poor judgment, if the expenditure seems to us inefficient in gaining the ends they seek, or that their standards are low if those ends are what seem to us frivolous ones, such as showy dressing or indiscriminate entertaining. But we have no right to condemn as "extravagant" any one who meets all his obligations.
It is a commonplace that in America we suffer from too much uniformity in the practices of everyday life. We are held too rigidly by little conventions, and what we gain by doing as our neighbors do is sometimes small compensation for what we lose in individual expression. The deliberate planning of the budget should help us in many minor ways - not always the spending of money - to do what we really want to do instead of what is expected of us. The family that has faced the choice of having a houseworker regularly employed or of giving good music lessons to a talented child, and has made a deliberate decision for the musical education, ceases to be apologetic about not having a maid to open the door.
The greatest importance of the budget is, indeed, that it makes one consider values. For the sake of simplicity, and because the family budget is always of greater importance socially than can be that of an individual, this book will speak in the terms of the family, giving special consideration to the budget of the individual in Chapter XII. The family, then, by adopting a budget must acknowledge frankly its desires and hopes and then arrange these in the order of their importance. In other words, the family must put itself on record as to its ideals. Any person who does this at stated intervals makes a better choice than when he or she leaves ideals in the vague realm of some-day-or-other. Indeed, the greatest value of the budget to individual or family is that it forces them to make clear their own ideals and to decide how far those ideals are to be regarded in daily living. Given the resources available and pro-viding out of them the necessities, what is the order of importance of the other things the family income can obtain?
There is a fairy story or folk tale common to many lands in which three wishes are unexpectedly granted to some individual. A man is told that he may have anything he likes in the world, but he may wish only three times. Invariably he has to use the third wish to undo the evil brought on him by the first two. One version tells of a peasant who thought first of something to eat, so wished for a big black pudding, the height of his gastronomic desires. The pudding appeared, but in a few moments, his wife in a fit of temper cried: "I wish the pudding would stick to your nose!" Which the large black pudding promptly did. Then no other wish was possible than the separation of that pudding and that nose, since gold and lands and honor could hardly compensate for such a burden. So the pudding came off, the three wishes were used, and the partially damaged pudding was the only result. It is not only folk humor that told that tale, but also folk wisdom. And the moral is as good to-day as it was when the cave man began to develop desires.
So the question for the family is what kind of happiness they want - out of what they choose to get it. The wishes allowed by the budget are not unlimited in extent, but they are more than three in number, and, best of all, they may be changed as often as the vision broadens and as the family learns better the art of wishing.