This post is going to be rather blunt and transparent. If money matters stress you out, like they do me, I suggest you stop reading. However, if you enjoy the challenge of a budget, like I do, read on.
The truth of the matter is debt stinks. There is no other way around it.
When Chris and I got married we each "inherited" from the other about the same amount of debt, upwards of $20,000-ish each. Not to mention what we've managed to rack up in credit card bills through all of our moving (x3)-changing jobs-having babies endeavors. Now, I tell you this not to draw attention to the excess that we've lived in, rather to inform you of why we desperately needed to set a budget for ourselves. And it's not even that we spend, spend, spend. We just weren't really keeping up with where our money was going. Now, when I am working, it's not as big of a deal to watch the ins and outs of our bank account; but, we made the choice for our family that it would be best for me to stay at home with the bubba, at least for now, working here and there with the Environmental Education program here at camp. You see, we live in the sticks, ladies and gentlemen, and it would most likely cost more money or we would break even once you fill the gas tank for me to go back and forth to town.
Some months we would have extra, some months we were counting pennies. And that is stressful, my friends. We always had enough to pay our bills, thankfully, but stressful nonetheless.
So, in November we started really putting thought and prayer into what we needed to do, seeking the best route to effectively eliminate our debt as quickly as possible. I know there are programs out there (Dave Ramsey amongst others) that are great tools and have really worked for some people, but we know ourselves better than that to try and live their rules. We also knew that we wanted to give our support, our "tithe" if you will, to organizations and people we care about, people who are making a difference in people's lives who are so poor and in such need they aren't even blessed enough to have to have a budget to live on.
Yeah, think about that one for a minute.
As of the first of January we are living on a carefully crafted budget, trying at all cost not to swipe a credit card unless absolutely necessary. We know that God will provide. We know that it may be uncomfortable at times and we may have to go without something we want, but we know we will have a roof over our heads and full tummies...which is considered wealth to many, many people. Even here in our own backyard. Poverty isn't limited to overseas and developing countries...have you seen how many people live on the streets? Children whose teeth are rotting out of their mouths because they have NEVER been to a dentist? Students who save their free lunch at school to take home with them for dinner? It's real.
I write all of this to tell you a few things:
#1 We love hand-me-downs and are thankful for Noah's aunts and cousins who provide him with very cute clothes. I encourage others to love and re-love, for yourself and for others.
#2 We have been blessed in weird ways since putting ourselves on this budget:
- Bills for Noah's birth came in December, we had no idea how we would pay it other than credit. Ugh. Well, about a week later we received an $800 check in the mail from when we overpaid my OB/GYN when we were switching insurances. It covered most of it.
- Chris was given coupons TWO different times from random people. Once in the store, once when we treated ourselves to dinner. We saved $7.50. This may not seem like much to you, but when you are figured to have $0.17 at the end of the month left, it makes you warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks, ladies, for your generosity.
- Family members have paid our way, given us gifts of monetary love, and provided us with many, many things for Noah. We are ever grateful.
#3 It makes you aware and appreciative of what you do have. And makes you want to give more.
#4 There is a feeling of relief and freedom in being on a budget. Backwards, I know. But try it. It's very refreshing to know where your money goes each time you swipe a card or write a check.
#5 It's possible. It is totally, 100% possible to minimize spending and still be comfortable. Or marginally uncomfortable compared to before, but still very, very comfortable.
#6 If we can maintain our current pace, we will be debt-free in five years, maybe sooner. Considering our age, the amount of debt we have, and that I only work seasonally, that's pretty fantastic if you ask me. And then, all that has been put towards debt will go straight into savings. We are blessed in our current situation that our housing is provided, no rent & no utilities. Hopefully Noah will have a pretty fat college fund and we will have a good chunk to start investing for our retirement, in 60 years.
God calls us to give. Give what isn't even ours in the first place. Of our money, our time, our hearts, ourselves. Selflessly. Monetarily, we may not be able to give abundantly right now, but what we have committed to give has opened our eyes and our hearts to the needs of others. And we are by no means giving everything that we could, we are far from it, so please don't read this as I am tooting our own horn. That is certainly not the case.
It's possible folks. I held an unactivated debit card in my wallet for a month (Chris switched our accounts to another bank) and just used it for the first time today. I don't feel like I've missed out or sacrificed too much. It can be done.