Pony Finances

Let’s talk expenses! Not specifics, because that’s fairly private and incredibly region-dependent, but let’s talk about how we handle them. Mostly because I just made a big change in my approach to horse expenses, and I want to know if all y’all already do this and are like “dude obviously,” or if you’re going to tell me that this is super weird and definitely awful.

Let’s get into it.

There are a few very predictable expenses for Frankie every month:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides (if I opt for them that month)
  • Farrier (this isn’t quiiiiite every month, he’s on a 4-6 week cycle depending on time of year and how good/bad his feet are at the time. Still rather predictable tho.)
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Unlimited snugs are included for free in our monthly package

And then there are some that pop up regularly but not as consistently:

  • Vet care- both routine vaccinations/checkups, and more intense things like injections. Also who knows when everything could go sideways and he needs emergency vet care (knocking on wood SO INTENSELY HERE PLEASE STAY ROBUSTLY HEALTHY)
  • Frankie’s insurance- I pay in 3 lump payments throughout the year, but they’re not all the same
  • Shows- different venues have different fees, shipping costs more/less depending on how far the venue is, I compete more often in the summer, etc.
  • Gear- blankets break, saddles need re-fitting, my spurs need replacing, etc. This is the hardest to predict.
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Thank the good Lord above that I don’t have to pay for a 2-week horse show every month. PC- Tracy

So what these means is that in any given month, I only really have a solid handle on the “no less than” number in advance. It’ll be at least X amount, and likely much higher. I have historical data (yes, obviously Frankie has his own spreadsheet, duh) to plug in for shows/vet/insurance so I’m not totally in the dark, but it still makes consistent budgeting hard when expenses fluctuate so much.

Now that my Human Mate and I are combining forces, I decided it was time for a full audit of my spending habits to figure out what makes the most sense as I move from doing-everything-solo-all-the-time to sharing-a-home-and-a-life-with-a-person. Which brings me to my big change:

Frankie got his own debit card.

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“It’s about time I got paid”

He won’t get to use it himself (honestly his dexterity with small objects extends exclusively to eating them), but I now have a separate account exclusively for horse expenses. I’ve taken my total horse expenses over a full year, divided by 12, and added a cushion, and that amount will automatically be going into his account every month.

Some months I will need more than that average, some months I will need less, but over time it should even out to have a constant buffer.

This simplified my budget like you wouldn’t believe. It took my line items from this:

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To this:

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Literally cut the number in half.

This makes my monthly budget A MILLION TIMES more predictable. Obviously if something totally unexpected happens I’ll need to pull from my main account, but I purposefully made Frankie’s monthly budget higher than I usually need (except in months where we compete) to try and build up some “savings” specifically for him.

So talk to me, folks. Is this a total no-brainer thing that you did years ago? Or do you think giving Francis his own bank account is overkill?

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The Money Talk

Everyone says that if you want to keep the peace, avoid talking about politics or money.

You’re in luck for the first- I don’t plan to ever talk about politics on this blog beyond urging y’all to get involved in your state and local governments.

But screw it. I’m gonna talk about money.

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Frankie gets top notch care and we compete at some bigger shows, all of which comes with a price tag. One that I’ve always been willing to pay because I’m an idiot who can’t stay away from the barn, but one that I could only kinda afford to pay.

I don’t know how it comes across in this blog, but I was making a lot of sacrifices to make it work. A LOT. And it was only kiiiiinda working thanks entirely to the flexibility and understanding of my support network. The bills got paid every month. By a hair.

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Every month after bills

I started making a list of all the luxury items I would get down the road once I was able: underwear without holes in it. Makeup that isn’t just a sample I got from Birchbox in 2014. Windshield wipers for my car that actually, ya know, wipe the windshield. A damn haircut. The cheese I keep seeing at the grocery store that I’ve never actually tried but looks amazing.

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How I feel about the cheese aisle at Wegman’s

I’ll be honest: if I could go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t. Budgeting down to the nickel, being super disciplined with my spending, and maintaining that level of awareness of my finances were all skills that I needed to learn and carry forward. The opportunities I got to pursue were worth every moment of stress about how to pay for it, and there is a definite sense of pride that at the age of 25, I’m able to do what I love every day because I’ve worked hard for it.  

I don’t regret any of it- given the choice between anything else and doing another class at a show, I’d pick competing more every single time. As long as Frankie was getting what he needed to be solidly ready for his job, I was fine ignoring everything else.

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Right? RIGHT?!

But I did make a few big shifts lately- changed my budget, adjusted some spending, made some huge life changes (new job, new apartment), and took some steps to get into a healthier place financially.

I didn’t realize what a constant source of near-panic my finances were for me until they weren’t anymore. There was such a physical sense of relief from making these changes that I literally giggled out loud to myself.

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After a year-ish of stress (definitely a coincidence that I bought a horse a year-ish ago) I’m finally at a point where I’m able to do both- take care of Frankie AND myself. Nothing crazy, but I can now say yes to the occasional happy hour and have non-holey underwear and get the damn haircut. My life balance is shifting a little.

For my barn life, this will hopefully mean more horse shows next season (including a solid 2 weeks in the winter at Ocala or WEC), more frequent preventative vet visits for Frankie as I ask for harder work, more professional training rides for him, and more non-traditional care- I’m excited to see how he likes chiro/acupuncture/massage. He’s a sturdy dude and isn’t showing any signs of discomfort, but I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to get some extra pampering.

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I think the conventional takeaway from the past year would be “learn from your mistakes, don’t overextend!” But like I said, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Only other horse people can understand the near-compulsion to keep coming back to the barn and trying again no matter the cost.

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but holy crap am I glad to have a break. Frankie’s earned a massage (and so have I).

How I Budget in One Easy Step

One reaction I’ve gotten alarmingly often when I mention that I ride horses is, “Oh so you must be rich, right?”

Yeah, I wish. I’m comfortable enough, but that’s only because of careful budgeting. Let’s face it, I’m an early-twenties research analyst living in a place with an absurd cost of living.

I was a little hesitant to write this post, because let’s face it- budgets are boring. But some of my favorite blog posts out there have talked about budgets and financials, so I’m jumping in and joining the conversation anyways. Honestly, for me it all boils down to one question:

What do I have to give up to pay for this?

When I get that delicious Chipotle for lunch, that could be a drink at the bar with my friends. When I crank the heat up instead of putting a sweater on, that could be a new show shirt. You get the idea.

That’s how I keep my spending in check day-to-day, but I also try to prioritize my spending. I know that certain things are necessary and certain things are wants, and I try to keep those in balance as best I can. For example, riding breeches are needs. Twelve pairs of riding breeches are wants.

And that’s my super simple way of making sure my budget works for me each month: on a high level I make sure I’m paying for my highest priorities before spending on things that aren’t as important, and on a smaller level I justify each purchase with myself by asking what else I could be spending that money on.

If there was interest I was thinking about doing a series on more specific ways that I make my budget work for me as a professional twenty-something, let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that!

What’s your favorite trick to keep spending in check?