Ok, so this post is a little out of my norm... and it's long... and it's pictureless, sorry. I have been reading a lot of blogs lately about budgeting, being money wise, etc. I've rolled the idea around in my head of sharing with you how our household works and decided what the hey, why not be a little vulnerable. I am doing this for two reasons really. First of all, money will always be an issue, for everyone. Even if you are comfortable or have more than you need, it should still be an issue because I feel you should be a good steward of what you are doing with it. Second, we struggled with what to do with the green stuff when we were first married. Both Chris and I were used to not thinking about finances to a degree and it was difficult to make that transition. So, if this can be helpful to any of you out there, good deal.
The six letter word, budget, has, in the past, been a joke to me. For the five years I was out of college and on my own, I was on a "budget." When it really comes down to it, all that meant was I attempted to keep my checking account above a given mark. I was mindless of where my money was being spent and I always hated when I got my W2 at the end of the year and reflected on how much I made versus how much I actually had in the bank.
Then someone liked it and put a ring on it and things changed.
Prior to our wedding date, we discussed finances and what have you (if it is too awkward to discuss finances before walking down the isle, check yourself). I was going to begin a new job (which I thought would be a pay increase, but turned out to be a decrease... from teaching... but most of that is my doing, more on that in a few), and Chris was to begin his residency. His first adult pay check of his life. He was ecstatic to be getting paid, selfishly I was astonished to see what residents actually get paid (not a whole lot folks). We were clueless as to how much we would be bringing in from month to month, or week to week for that matter, so it took a while. I made several lists, spread sheets and did a whole lotta number crunching.
I always wanted Chris to take over the finances. I get worked up about money. We quickly learned though, that I was more adamant about keeping track of things and mindful of what was coming into and out of the bank account on a weekly basis. Yup, we get paid every week. It is nice that it turned out this way.
As mentioned earlier, I was expecting a pay increase with my new job. With my position, if I work, I get paid, if I don't, nada. So, it is up to me to maintain my client load. Through lots of prayer and sleepless nights, Chris and I agreed on a number that was financially suitable for our needs, but allowed me to have my sanity. Some weeks I have more clients and it is rough (hair pulling wise), some weeks I have less and it is rough (money wise). But, we manage and for this reason it is even more important to me to maintain our budget.
All that being said to point out that we had to have a budget. Not just a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. A real, grown up budget. We get paid every week, but only Chris' check is consistent. Mine vary a great deal at times. We's got bills to pay and don't want our power turned off.
So, I sat down and wrote out all of our expenses. Tithing, giving, savings, bills, and loans. When I had this number in front of me, it made the shopping I was doing a little less important. Since all the bills are in my name and I was used to getting paid once a month with teaching, all of our bills are due at the same time. We were getting paid every week, so I had to make sure we were setting aside enough weekly to make our payments at the end.
Then I was left with what we actually had at the end of each week for us. Geez. It took a while to realize we could actually manage weekly on that number. This is what works for us...
We go grocery shopping weekly. I hate it, but it helps. We have $70 a week for our grocery trip. This includes any toiletries, house cleaners, etc. that are needed. If we are out of TP and shampoo, it might be a slim picking meal week. In all honesty, we usually are well under our $70 mark. I debated on decreasing the weekly grocery budget, but knew there would be times we would run out of every thing and didn't want to be upset for needing to go over. Rather than letting that extra just stay in the account though, I keep track and add the extra onto my student loan payment monthly. Sometimes it is only $15 more, sometimes $50, but it helps.
We also started keeping cash. Yup, we are those change counters that you see out and about. I tried to wrap my brain around the whole Dave Ramsey everything in separate envelopes system, too overwhelming. So, we have an allotted amount weekly for each of us that includes eating out, shopping, gifts, etc. Every Friday when we replenish, we empty our wallets into a jar and save up for bigger things we want (our camera, the ongoing desire for an iPad, and the recent baby crib fund). When we only have to get through Friday with what we have and those bigger things are in sight, we tend to be less likely to swing through the drive through or go buy little things.
We have a gas budget as well for the week. But, with both of us having to drive for work and gas prices changing regularly, I admit this hasn't been top priority. I probably need to take a look at this system again.
I was worried at first because we didn't really take into account any unexpected expenses. You know, needing the oil changed (I know this isn't unexpected really), Chris having to pay for a CE course, etc. But, it has always worked out.
Here's confessional time. When I was on my own, if I was running low, I would simply transfer money over to my checking from savings. Of course I had the intention of putting the money back once I was paid, but rarely did that happen. I wish I wouldn't have done this. It is ok to say no to things! I am happy to report though, that in the 9 months we have been married, I think there has been one or two times we have had to dip into our savings and we have put the money back. Blessing!! We were talking the other day and realized the money we received from our wedding still hasn't been touched.
I do not write this to boast, apologizes if it is taken that way. I simply write this because as I said, money is always an issue. I remember calling my mom in the past in tears over finances. Since saying "I do" it has really set in that what we are given, we are to be good stewards of. I feel I am much more mindful of where our finances go, but through this is a lot of freedom. God continues to provide when we feel it is needed and we are doing just fine.
In a matter of months all of this will change when Chris leaves his residency and begins a new job. We are so thankful for this year of living well below our means. We have learned so much of what you really can get by on and what is important.