On Saturday Ben and I sat down and put together a budget for the next couple of months. We were quite successful at this budgeting business; not only did we establish reasonable guidelines on spending, we also did it without throwing things at each other. Not that we normally throw things at anyone, but if you have ever read a pre-marriage counseling book, you'd know that happily married couples turn into evil ogres bent on destroying their marriage as soon as the words finances and money come around. At least that's what I think they said. Anyway.... Ben and I maintained our sanity and avoided become ogre-like.
Putting together the budget was easy. Living by it is hard. This is now day 2 of our new life of self-control. We've already tried to negotiate around it a couple times and have found one loop hole. We are doing good!
The next time I go grocery shopping will be the first time that I have grocery shopped with a budget. Ever. I don't even really know how much things cost. I know! Crazy! Ben is destined to financial ruin with me at his side!
It's not that I've been all willy nilly with my finances up to this point. I had a rough budget before (don't spend more than I earn), and I have a pretty good idea how much my cart of groceries cost, I just couldn't ever tell you what one individual thing cost. This is because I pretty much bought the same food every week. I knew how much it cost and it wasn't more than my paycheck. Now I have this husband who eats things like cereal and milk and pretzels. I know! He's so extravagant! He seriously needs to cut back on his contribution to the grocery bill. I have no idea how much cereal and milk and pretzels cost. They get added to my cart and I have no concept of what the final bill will be. So now I need to pay attention to how much green leaf lettuce costs verses romaine lettuce. All to feed my husband's cereal habit. My life is hard.
But it's not really hard. God has blessed both Ben and I with good jobs. What is hard is determining what is "enough". When do we have enough? When does what we make become excess funds? My dad has told me that what I spend will grow proportionally to what I make. I'll always find some place for that money to go. I'll never have too much money that I won't know what to do with. And he's been right.
Ben and I have both been accustomed to a middle class standard of living. And middle class in the US is pretty dang comfy. But do we need that? At what point do things go from what we need to extravagant. Everyday I spend time with people who's concept of what they need involves SUVs and new condos and meals out. Not bad things. But then part of my week is also spent time with people who get by on so much less. So where's the balance? How do we live in a spirit of charity, and yet still make sound financial decisions?
Good questions and I am guessing the answers will be hard ones....