For as long as I have known Seth... which is about 10 yrs now..., he has always been a person who lives on a budget. When the rest us dumb college kids paid our school bill (hopefully) and blew the rest, Seth was careful with every penny.
When we first married, I didn't always appreciate his frugal nature. But as time went on, I realized that I really like having lights that go on when I flip the switch. I really like not having bill collectors call me. I really like knowing that we could be approved for loans should we need one. I really like the freedom and lack of stress that comes with no debt looming over us.
So somewhere in the first year or two of married bliss, I embarrassed the budget way of life. Not that I was a crazy extravagant spender before hand... as a single girl, I had been "paying my own way" since age 16 and did an okay job. But I never knew exactly how much was in my checking account (just a ball park figure) and I never stuck to a rigid budget. Given the opportunity, I would impulse buy. Thankfully, Seth converted me before I had time to develop any really nasty spending habits.
In the past several weeks, however, we have been knee deep in home remodel and moving and those made from scratch dinners I usually prepared were impossible. Even since moving in 3 weeks ago, we have not had a functioning kitchen so most of my grocery shopping has been done through a fast food drive through window. Even the convenience foods at the store cost more than I typically spent on a dinner and definitely did not taste as good! So what happens when you add double food costs and extra house hold expenses that come with moving (I'm sure the neighbors really appreciate the curtains we finally put up!).... you get a budget that has been blown to Smithereens! (I am not sure where exactly "Smithereens" is...?)
So this week, with our kitchen now a few dollops of putty and a few strokes of paint away from being totally done, I am committed to getting back on the budget band wagon.
I. will. not. spend. more. than. I. have. been. allotted.
Its hard. The habit of just buying whatever "I need" has already taken root. Isn't is amazing how quickly bad habits form? I'm always amazed by how fast we as people form terrible habits but a new good habit can be such a struggle to learn!
I've been reminding myself of the blessing of sticking to a budget. I need to remind myself of these blessings a lot because its only Thursday, I'm all out of money, and I don't get another "allowance" until Monday. Its gonna be a long weekend, driving by all the garage sales filled with treasures, and past McDonalds and its refreshing iced coffee calling to me as I blink away the tears.
So I may be a mite over dramatic but still... lets review some of the blessings of a budget:
• Growing in self control. Always a good thing. "Just Say NO!" was the anti-drug slogan when I was kid. But I think most us like to live by "Just do it!" as Nike would suggest! ;)
• Allowing God to provide in special ways. When we always take matters into our own hands and just go purchase what we want or even need, we don't give God an opportunity to provide for us in a way that doesn't compromise our good judgement... that judgement we had when we set up a budget but so quickly loose when faced with a temptation to spend.
A year and a half ago, my husband went out of town for one week. He left me with my weekly money, and I had planned to eat as frugally as possible (not hard when its just me and the girls) and leave some to do special fun things with the girls to make our week more bearable without Daddy around. Seth left on a Sunday afternoon, after church. He hugged and kissed us goodbye and then drove off.
Maddie started sobbing right away. She was so sad to see Daddy go. She was soon distracted by her cousins all playing and riding their bikes. She was still in her dress shoes because we had not yet bought her sneakers. She had out grown hers and since it was just the beginning of Spring, she was getting along fine in her boots. This day happened to be the first good day to play outside of the year.
I really felt badly that she didn't have any sneakers to play outside with her cousins in. I did not want to spend a lot of our week's money and be forced to skip one of the activities I had planned. I decided I would check the nearby dollar store on the off chance that I would find something suitable that didn't cost a lot. I knew that playing outside would be the most fun activity in Maddie's opinion.
I was praying as I drove to the store and walked in side. I asked where the children's shoes were and headed to the back corner. The shelves where the clerk had sent me were totally emptied... except one pair of white and purple sneakers. Initially, I thought They probably won't be her size... but then I thought, Why wouldn't they be? Don't you think God has be listening to you pray?
I picked up the shoes and turned them over to see the size. They were just what she needed!!! WOW! Then I found the price tag. I was disappointed to see $8. That probably sounds really cheap to everyone, and it is... but I knew that WalMart occasionally had bins of sneakers for $4, and I had been hoping to get a $4 pair of sneakers.
I debated for only a second but I knew Maddie was stuck inside in her dress shoes instead of playing outdoors with her cousins. Oh well, I though. Maybe we won't go to Children's Museum. I took the not-so-cute but perfect size shoes up to the clerk. While I was waiting in line, I laced them up so that Maddie could get out and play the minute I returned. When the clerk scanned to price tag, the screen said $0.01 I didn't think anything of that, since obviously their machine was broken. Then the lady said "One penny." I smiled and thought she was joking. She held out her hand for my one penny.
"That can not be right. Are you sure?" I said.
"Yes, it's right. They are the last ones and clearanced out. One penny, please."
"God is so good to me!!" I said, knowing that she may think I was a wacko. She seemed to actually agree rather than think I was strange.
I took those shoes back to Maddie and told her the story of the "shoes that God gave her". We have those worn shoes packed away for safe keeping in our basement.
• A budget forces us to prioritize. There have been innumerable times when I did not have enough funds to make a purchase, but left the store planing to return the next week to buy the item, only to forget totally about it. Obviously, it wasn't so important after all! I'm so glad I don't have the extra clutter that those things would have ended up being!
• Creative thinking. Any homemaker trying to make the most of her home knows that when the money runs out, that is when our creative juices get flowing! How can we reuse, fix up and improvise instead of just buying what you need or want?
As a teenager, I spent a bunch of time with my best friend, Holly and her mom, who is the Queen of Fun! It was like her whole occupation in life was to spend her days doing fun things with us girls... and then making us something good to eat! At least that is how it felt to me. I remember her saying "Okay girls, I've got 4 bucks! What are we gonna do?" We'd put $1.50 in the gas tank and then go to the thrift store, or make crafts or buy fabric to sew something, or drive to the apple orchards, or dress up in ridiculous outfits and take pictures, or dress up in even more ridiculous outfits and video tape ourselves acting out scenes from "White Christmas" or "Fiddler on the Roof", or a create a themed dinner party using items found around the house, or .... we made a million memories and spent pennies doing it.
• Proper perspective for our children I genuinely feel bad for kids who own everything they want. I know from experience that when I earned things... whether it was clothes, a trip to camp or youth conference, or even simple toothpaste, I appreciated them so much more. I remember really wishing for cool toothpaste as a kid and young teen. But when I had my first job and went WalMart to buy toiletries for myself with my own money, that $1 tube of generic stuff looked just fine! We are still a few years from being able to teach our little ones about budgeting, but Maddie is saving in her piggy bank already. She thinks she has enough to buy her Daddy a motorcycle, but unless its a match box version, she is mistaken!
• Demonstrating contentment We can say we are content all we want. But our actions will always speak louder than our words. A fat credit card bill shows that we truly are not content. Not content with what our husbands can provide. Not content with what the Lord has given us.
• A chance to bless others. If you really want to have some fun, sit down with your spouse and plan out how to you are going to bless other people with the money you will save by adhering to your budget. It is even more fun than garage saling and drinking iced coffees!
Well, I personally needed to make this list! Budgeting is a blessing, truly. Can any of you think of more blessings to add to the list? (Comment, people, comment! Hint hint!☺)