In the beginning: BUDGET

Let’s talk about budget. BUDGET. What's your gut reaction? I know, it’s such a big 4-letter word that it’s six letters.

A little background on our budgeting, or lack there of. And where we’re at now. Later posts will go on to share how we get what we want, while staying within our means.

I read an article, Why Do People Avoid Budgeting, and the first reason they listed was being worried about finding out they’re overspending – this immediately made me think of when we had 3 kids in diapers & growing out of clothes faster than I could buy them. We also had just bought a house that was barely within our means, it was 2/3 empty, and needed updates – and I wanted to fill it and do all the updates immediately. We had a half-crafted budget, but our expenses exceeded our income, so we dipped into savings regularly (I'd like to make a huge shout out to my former self for saving before kids). What’s odd, or embarrassing, about that time, is that we also spent money more frivolously, it’s like we couldn’t keep to a budget, so why even try?! I think that’s when I started getting a pit in my stomach when I bought things and had mini-panic attacks when Husband and I would talk money. Such talks usually ended in my shutting down, feeling frustrated, out of control…and wanting to buy something to make me feel better. I also often felt myself annoyed at how Husband spent money – I’d justify that the things I was buying was for OUR house, and OUR kids, so I had more right to spend money than he did.  

We’ve gotten better about how we spend. We live within our means. We don’t dip into savings (good thing, cause there isn’t much left). But we still don’t (didn’t) feel the freedom to accomplish what we wanted (go on vacation, home updates, pay for kids sports). We were part of the more than 60% of Americans that don’t keep a budget (our government is sure showing us the way – spend what you need to get what you want. I really want to apply that train of thought to my kitchen asap. Okay, but no politics here). This year we made a budget, not just tracking what we’re spending, but also mapping out goals we have. And, guess what, it feels so good.

Last month I bought some clothes from an online boutique. They were on sale (like I’d ever by something full price), but old me would have tried to figure out how to pay cash or Venmo or some form or NTM (non-traceable money) so Husband wouldn’t know. And then snatch the package in so quick, put the clothes in my closet and act like I had them for ages - “what, you don’t remember this dress?” Now I put the $54 in the budget, under the line item “Melissa” and that was all. No underlying angst. No elaborate ordeal to sneak items into the house. No weird circus show. Let me also say, Husband never berated me for buying stuff, I’ve never been lectured or made to feel bad for my spending, I just know our finances and the “old way” was essentially just trying to not spend money, so whenever I did I felt like I went against our goals.

I’m a stay at home mom. I’ve chosen to be a stay at home while my children are young. I knew, we knew, that this choice brought certain financial limitations. We simply couldn’t spend as much, because we didn’t have as much. But a weird thing has happened – totally in my psyche, this is not actually perpetuated by Husband – I felt like I didn’t have any money of my own, no access to money that was mine. A lack of freedom to make financial decisions. My husband held the purse strings. My husband controlled the money. The reality is that Husband has always been better about keeping track of our money, he makes the majority of our money (want to know how I bring in money as a stay at home mom? I’ll write a post about it. I’ve gotten creative), he often suggests bigger purchases when we can afford them, and that all equated to him being the gate keeper of our bank account. Having a budget gives me money. I have dollars allocated to me, to my garden, to my kids. Husband has money allocated to him. It’s freeing! It eliminates the financial blame game (I think this game was also only played by me…um, I kinda suck). And we see where our money goes. I highly suggest a budget to anyone and everyone, but especially if you’re struggling with feelings of having liberty to spend money, make a budget! Allocate money to you, to your goals.

Not only does a budget allot dollars to specific areas (including you!) it also opens a dialogue (or monologue) about how you want to spend your money – goals you want to reach. Our initial discussion about money included opinions on apple sauce poaches and yogurt tubes (they’ve been deemed essential), prioritizing a new TV before new carpet, and me pointing out that our kids needed their own budget line (like, where did he think their clothes, toys, school supplies would come from?).

Sidenote: how much did it just bug you that I’m writing about a budget and mentioned buying a new TV or new carpet? It was such a peeve for me when people would talk about their budget and in the same breath talk about some luxury they were going to buy. I’ve since learned that having a budget isn’t about deprivation at all. “Living according to a budget can actually enhance our lives, because it gives us a sense of exactly what we have on hand to spend, and how much we can plan for the future. Think of it as a guideline for getting what you want – and not a rigid set of rules that’s preventing you from buying a coffee or spending a night on the town.” 1

It still peeves me out when influencers post about something being budget (meant to be synonymous with cheap or inexpensive, not your financial planning) and it’s so expensive! Like, “budget master makeover $5,000,” umm…I do not call a $5,000 bedroom makeover budget. Where are those sheets from?! I am not dissing the makeover, great, spend what you want…but don’t call it budget.

And back to the main train of thought.

We tracked all our hard expenses. The ones that happen every month. Mortgage, internet, water, trash, gas, electric, Netflix, Disney+, food, charitable donations, insurance, gas, living expenses.  With Husband’s income we were left with $2.17. Ha, ha! I wish I could convey how much this makes me laugh almost every time I see it. A piddly little $2.17. I could buy two large Dr. Peppers from McDonalds for that, and that’s it. We then put other things into our budget (these things DON’T fit in our single income and I make up the difference. Talked about in an upcoming blog post. Which I will link here). Saving, car repairs, car maintenance, 1 month savings fund, garden & yard, food, sports, kids’ fund, Melissa’s play fund, Husband’s play fund, Costco membership, vacation. 

  • I need to make up $10,353. That’s $862.75 a month. $215.29 a week for 48 weeks (I get 4 weeks off). Anything over that is SURPLUS and we discuss how to spend it. Together. That's where our TV fund is coming from. 
  • Do you forgive me for talking about getting a new TV when you see I get $83 a month to spend + $83 for my kids (which needs to be saved for back to school).
  • We have $400 a month for groceries in our hard expenses, whatever we spend over I make up. Our goal is $525 a month total. This includes eating out (spoiler: we don’t eat out much).
  • I took out the numbers for our 1 month savings fund, but we are building savings. The older we get the more differentiated our savings. Car, home repair, general, college, braces. When we get to this as our new norm, I really REALLY want to add in a kitchen reno savings line. 
Do you have a budget? 

In case you're wondering, these are the clothes I bought myself. 

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