Thursday, August 20, 2009

Budget vs. Life

We get paid for my husband's hard work.
We give what we feel is right to give.
We pay the mortgage.
We pay utilities and car insurance and budget for gasoline.
We budget a small sum for groceries and a little for dining out (to keep the cook of the house from feeling too deprived).
What little is left gets divided between all other needs and wants, from shoes for the kids to birthday gifts, to a part for a vehicle, to things we need to maintain our home properly.

And nothing is left. I guess that is the goal of zero-based budgeting, spending every dime on paper before you ever really spend it. But we're missing out on some important things. Things like family vacations with our kids, getaways as a couple, date nights, flowers that will fade away but add beauty for a time, day trips to mountains or local points of interest, church community events that would require us to afford childcare, and things of this nature. What we're lacking in one word: fun. Yes, I know there are a million ways to have fun without spending money, but so many experiences do come with a tangible price tag, be it ever so small. And sometimes when you take something free to do and then have to add all the work it takes to prepare one or more meals to take with you or a very long day to avoid paying for a night of lodging it suddenly loses some of the fun for me.

A budget is a tool to bring boundaries and freedom within those boundaries to use the resources you have. But what do you do when it just feels like that budget is covering the necessities only and nothing simply for the sake of enjoyment? If you know me, I'm not saying I want to throw lots of money away on temporary pleasures, just a little on some life-enriching, memory-making experiences.

And then, oh the guilt of even having this pity party in the first place! Don't you know you already live better than 90% of the world! Um, yeah, I remember that. Indeed, we are very blessed. But I still live in these United States and see what others around me are able to spend money on, and more importantly, experience. And I grow tired of saying "no" to our kids for even good and wholesome things they request whether something at the grocery store or a $2 carousel ride.

So maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board to find a better balance between financial responsibility and actually living life to the full.

Lord, give me a contented heart.


Melissa S. said...

I appreciate your honesty in this struggle. If it helps, I am very motivated by your words of frugality when I read your blog.
You are serving your family well, even when it is frustrating.

Melinda said...

I hear ya!!! This is the MAJOR reason we do NOT stick to our Dave Ramsey budget. It leaves no room for fun! We have lots of family events that require spending cash and instead of saying "we can't afford it" and then having my in-laws pay for it, we just pay for it ourselves to save the guilt of having them pay. Then there is the guilt of overspending.
In the summer we basically have no budget because there are so many things that do not fit in the budget that it gets too stressful to see that we have no money for it. So thanks to a credit line on our checking account we just spend willy-nilly in the summer.(with some restraint of course- no cruises to Mexico or anything)
But I am very impressed with how well you guys are doing with your budget. I have a friend who rarely overspends and if she can't afford something she just doesn't do it. I have a really hard time doing that. I know you will appreciate it down the road when your financial situation is stable because you were faithful right now. Maybe you can find a way to earn some extra money - sell your cute crafts on Etsy or sell some stuff on craigslist- and then use it for some fun. Or when you get a nice catalina or RR, use it for something frivolous.
Be encouraged that there are many moms out there struggling with the same thing but living with the guilt of giving in and spending money they don't have on stuff that usually turns out to be a disappointment. You are being a strong and wise woman to control your spending. Your family will thank you later.
Keep up the good work!!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Thanks for your honesty, Rachel. I've been in your shoes and it's a hard place. I hated it and I had a poor attitude 95% of the time.

My husband took on a HUGE freelance job this summer and while the extra income has been very nice (we were able to have a nice vacation and buy our kids a trampoline), it has come with a price. Most weekends find my husband slaving away. It's the whole money vs. time issue.

Hang in there. And it's okay to vent! I think it's hard to be cheerfully frugal all the time.

Heather said...

My husband and I struggle with our budget too. This month it was the unexpected dr.bills that thew us off. It is never for anything fun. The thing I miss the most(from not working)is being able to take trips to see friends who live out of town whenever I wanted. Now there is no money for that, and I find myself growing increasingly resentful of our frugal lifestyle as I miss my long distance friends. THanks for sharing your struggles.

Melinda said...

Hey i just had another idea for you. Have you heard of Swagbucks? It is a search engine that awards you points that you can use to get gift cards and other prizes. You download the "thingy" to be your automatic search engine and then it randomly rewards you points when you search. If you refer other people it gets you more points. So..... click on my link and download it for yourself.
It takes a while to accumulate points by yourself so try to recruit people. But even if you just do it by yourself you could get a $5 starbucks gift card in a couple months. Pretty good for something that requires almost no effort.

Tere :) said...

We love our Ramsey budget and have worked it the fun factor. We actually call it our "blow" fund and it goes to whatever each one of us wants to use it for each month...Paul sometimes saves his up for several months. I will spend it on a decorating item or perfume or whatever! It has keep us loving our budget and gives us the breathing room we so desperately need.