Budgeting: Focus on what you’re budgeting FOR

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that the first time I really put myself on a budget was when I was in grad school. Before that budgeting either didn’t exist because I didn’t have to worry about budgeting much more than how I would manipulate my school lunch allowance to get maximum amounts of coffee without passing out from starvation (I had a stressful high school experience) or just the general mantra of I don’t know how much I’m making or how much stuff costs but I live by the basic rule of nope I can’t afford that and make myself miserable.

I had a lot of fun googling ridiculous images for this post..

My husband and I learned how to budget together and what “kind of spenders” we were when we started talking about planning our wedding and our plans to combine our finances. We learned that I am really bad at letting myself spend money on small pleasures. While my husband doesn’t beat himself up for days if he decides to splurge on a soda or a hotdog once or twice a month, I tend to hate myself for it. I would rather squirrel away and then spend on something large and fantastic that I know I will cherish for a long time or either through the memories an experience will give me or an item I know I can use, enjoy, or invest in. You might think these opposite styles would mean that we are constantly fighting about spending or saving or that we are foolish with our money because we are spending on little or big things but it turns out, like most things in our marriage, somehow we just balance each other really well.

Learning from the spending on small stuff mentality has allowed me to beat myself up less which actually keeps me more on track if I screw up on a small budgeted item and I can usually rebound and  come in under budget in that category the next month. Learning to enjoy the big things has helped my husband agree to invest in appliances or other household items that will last us longer instead of having to repurchase an item year after year because it’s still college dorm quality which is so appealing in consumable, disposable American capitalistic culture. (planned obsolescence is basically what everyone from Target to Apple thrives on, right?) Budgeting ties in so closely with balance and that balance is probably going to change often so it’s not a one time discussion. I have a wonderful set of friends who try to have ice cream whenever they discuss budgetary issues- so there’s something sweet and positive associated with some of these hard decisions!

mason jar

One of the ways we saved money during our wedding- recycling pasta sauce jars and shakespeare scripts to create beautiful hanging lights. One of my favorite details and some of our friends still have these jars as mementos from the big day!

The other great thing about that time in my life is that for the first time I began to have a healthy relationship with money. I think for the most part I had learned along the way to look at it as a constant stress, the root of all evil, whose only purpose in life was to make me miserable with being hard to find/obtain/hold onto. I looked at money through the lens of scarcity and always felt like there were no good choices and everything was shrouded with anxiety. I STILL approach lots of monetary decisions that way but I’ve learned to at least identify that I’m doing it and that it is not a healthy way to interact with money.

It’s scary how long we waited to start saving for retirement and how many friends I have who still haven’t started… let me encourage you to look into it NOW! Even if it’s just a little bit each month!

We had a beautiful wedding and stayed in budget thanks to will power and a lot of Do It Together help/contributions from friends and family. We continue to make decisions together about the big goals because that is what helps us keep our day to day spending in check. We are far from perfect. Sometimes we aren’t quite where we want to be and we go over budget. (I.E. Sometimes it’s pumpkin spice latte season and my coffee budget is hard to reign in) BUT the more we think of it like we are budgeting FOR a stable family life the less we feel bitter that we can’t go out for a night on the town or get tickets to the show we really want to see touring through Gammage. The more we calculate how many months further our next goal gets if we take the theatre job that sounds fun but doesn’t pay enough to cover gas expenses, the easier the blow is when we have to turn it down. The more we realize that cooking at home often tastes better and is an activity that brings us together as a couple and a  family, the less we miss happy hour…

So now that I’ve gotten through the mentality with which we approach budgeting… I’m excited to write some posts the rest of the month with specific ways we save! More on that next week 🙂 Hope you all are enjoying your holiday weekend!

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