Approximately 15 months ago, my man and I decided to pursue our dreams by better handling our finances. If it was land and home we wanted, we needed to begin living like we wanted it. And so, we started a budget.
It’s been 15 months and certainly an experience to remember!
When I use the word “budget” I don’t mean that we use coupons and shop sales only. It doesn’t mean that we try to save a little bit of money every month. That we refrain from buying 4 pairs of new jeans and settle for 3 instead. Or that we only eat out 2 times a month, instead of 6.
I’m talking BUDGETING. Taking control of our bank books. Making certain we are caring for ourselves, giving to others and meanwhile, making the money go where we want it to go, making it do what we need it do. Making sure we were saving but also maintaining a healthy balance so we wouldn’t go bananas and blow everything we’d saved in one weekend.
15 MONTHS AGO…
We set up our budget by going back and reviewing bank statements from debit card usage. Some necessities, we couldn’t control: rent, vehicle maintenance, medical/health, insurance, fuel for work travel, basic food staples, etc.
However, there were some (unnecessary) things we could control: excess grocery costs, extra clothing, vacations, “fun money,” gifts, etc.
We capped the “unnecessary” things, being hard on ourselves rather than too loose. And then we looked at savings. Realistically, how much could we put into savings? Could we cut somewhere else? Buy clothing at thrift stores only for the next year? Err…socks and underwear excluded!
After typing out what we thought was a realistic budget, one we could feel but wouldn’t be completely suffocated by, we posted the paper on our pantry wall. Yep! Where we could see the grid.
Throughout the following months, we kept an envelope for each category and tracked what we actually spent while trying our best to hit the budget. Some of our caps were bang on (or at least doable) while others (such as miscellaneous) were off. Way off! There was no way we could get the bare necessities for what we had allotted. This had to be adjust partway through.
What a year!
We tallied numbers last week and realized we saved more than either of us had thought possible. I’m still a wee bit dumbstruck. How’d we do it? With my man bringing home such a small paycheck and the cost of living being moderately high? With my paid-from-pocket health appointments?
Yes, we worked some Fri-Sat weekends, redoing flooring. We lived cheaply during the summers, primarily from the garden. I managed our food supply as best I could. But I had expected about half of what the numbers showed.
I’m not saying it was easy. To be sure, there were times when we felt the encroaching parameters of our budget. Times we wanted to rip that paper off the pantry wall and tear it to shreds. Then chew it up and spit it at the walls.
I joke! About the chewing part. Though I do remember thinking it was great fun as a kid!
It’s been tight, but it hasn’t been all that bad!
With my man being the primary bread-winner, he felt the tightness of our parameters more than I. Somehow, I relished the challenge. The pain felt…good. Like burning muscles during a hard workout.
IT GAVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK TOWARD
I often felt helpless when it came to our financial situation. If it wasn’t for my health, I would be working full time… until we had kids, that is. However desperately I wanted to contribute to our goals with added income, the plain, sad truth is this: I was unable. At the peak of my health, I attempted to hold down a part time job. I crashed. Big time!
Being unable to help financially was difficult. But even harder was the fact that my health needs often consumed a large portion of the monthly pay cheque! Far more than I like to think about.
I felt helpless. Stuck. Like a leech. Terrible feeling, it is!
However, when we began budgeting, I began to feel I had a place, could contribute something by managing the kitchen/grocery side of things. Which I’ve done with all my might and main through home cooking, gardening, preserving, raising/butchering birds and hunting for meat.
Not only is this lifestyle well suited to my health needs, but I now know it has paid off financially as well! Absolutely and totally. Which makes me happy we’ve stayed the course, grateful we choose simplicity and I am so ready to keep going.
YEAR TWO ON A BUDGET
Going on year two, we are! I feel more confident this time ’round. Tracking finances and budgeting does take time, but its totally and absolutely worthwhile!
We have a better sense of our spending, an estimate on the cost of living for a year (which will be very helpful if we do buy/build this upcoming year) and are developing the know-how for leading a healthier lifestyle.
So we carry on with our budget for round two, not so that we can lock the doors, pull the blinds and gleefully count our pennies, our little “nest egg” as it adds up. No. More money doesn’t=a better life. Not by a long shot!
But better managed time, money and resources usually does=more freedom to give and help others. Money is a tool to be used, not a treasure to be hoarded.
We want to stand by this conviction!
Here’s to year two! May we faithfully stay the course, remember that all we have ultimately does belong to God, retain our sanity and (hopefully) refrain from spitting balls of paper at the walls!