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Budget and dreaming are words that feel out of place together in the same sentence, but indeed if you’re going to make a big project come true, you’d better be able to pay for it. More to the point, you’d better want to pay for it. And keep wanting to pay for it until it’s done.

One of the things that happened within months of buying the villa is that we suddenly found ourselves having to move back to Canada. We’d bought the place assuming we were going to continue living in Milan, but alas the working world didn’t cooperate. As a result, all kinds of new priorities entered our lives – buying a house in Toronto (we’d been renting as expats in Milan), a car (that had come from the company before), living fully in this country, and traveling back and forth to the old one. We’re not crazy spenders or lavish livers, but we can rack up a bill or two doing the things we love.

And our focus shifted. Every time I was back at the villa I thought wow this place is magical and so worth the effort and money. Months later and back in Canada, the memory of that feeling would become dim and I’d think things like it would make much more sense to spend the money on fixing up the back deck in Toronto than on electrical channels in the villa. Being so far away made a huge difference to the perceived reward of doing something, when the gratification of money spent in Canada was so immediately satisfying. That was a killer.

Hmm…shall we fix this gross thing that’s 5,000 miles away, or get laptops for the kids?

Advice: set up a budget that allows money to be put aside specifically for the project. Make sure it always goes there, and only gets spent there. We have an account in Italy and this actually did help – once the money had gone over, there was no means to spend it here.

Budgeting is very personal and relates to your own priorities. I’m not going to tell you where you should spend your money, only that you have to decide for yourself and stick to it with a firm resolve. For more ideas on budgeting, there’s a good book available that, although a bit extreme in its application, gives tons of good pointers: Dream Save Do: Stop Dreaming and Start Living: Betsy Talbot,Warren Talbot: Amazon.com: Kindle Store