Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I think budgeting is a doubled edged sword, but one side is duller than the other. When I was single, I didn't write everything down and stick to a budget. I just didn't spend much money. Every time I was switching jobs or my income would change, I would sit down and see if I could make it work. Based on that, I kept it in the back of my mind and was just very careful about how I spent the money I had.

There were two really lean times in my single life when I had very little and it made me very frugal. The first was my senior year in college when I made $441 a month the first semester and somehow paid my books, sorority dues (one of my part time jobs cooking at my sorority on the weekends), rent ($220/mo), food, and gas. I didn't pay for my car or tuition. The second time things were really tight was when I was in grad school and I made $752 a month. My rent was $250 and I was paying for my insurance and gas at that point. The only thing my mom helped me with was my health insurance--which was such a blessing! I had 2 part time jobs plus grad school. I am so thankful for those two times in my life. I learned a lot of lessons during those times...I had to trust God to provide for me when extra things came up (and He always did!). I had to let go of money--I couldn't spend whatever I wanted. I had to really learn what needs and wants were. I was convicted to get through grad school with debt--I didn't know why, but I felt that conviction, so I pursued that wholeheartedly. It made me really appreciate school and be thankful when I was done and had a full time job! But, one of the other lessons God taught me through that time was how to be generous to others. My friends modeled were very generous to me when I couldn't afford things and I have never forgotten that.

When I got married, the finances changed! Everything got more complicated. Budgeting was one of the things we started doing to keep track of everything. We discovered that when we didn't write everything down, we were always over budget. Even now, I find that when I lose track and forget to write things down, I overspend. So, I write things down and we're able to stay in our budget because we know when we have to say no to ourselves. I made a simple Excel spreadsheet to track everything. We evaluate our budget and adjust it anytime my husband's income changes and we make sure we're staying in it. We struggle. A lot of unexpected expenses come up. I think that's the hardest part. But, we press on and do the best we can.

The thing I've found is that there's stress involved in keeping a budget and saying no to yourself (the dull side of the sword), but there's even more stress when you spend not knowing if you have the money or not (the very sharp side of the sword). I grew up with a father who always over spent and a mom who was frugal. When I got older, I resolved to always pay my credit card balances every month. Credit cards can be useful tools and make life easier and more convenient. But, I think they only work well when you pay them off every month. If you care a balance, it takes a really long time to pay it off--especially if you only pay the minimum balance.

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