Saturday, August 23, 2008

Budgeting: Part I

Timm and I have long had to live within little means- Growing up, I was not rich, but I always had nice things and in general, was accustomed to not going without. Our house was always beautiful (no matter which one it was at the time-) and we had finer than most in taste, if I do say so myself. Anyone who's actually seen one of my mom's houses can attest to the truth of that statement. And I should clarify- we've never had more than one house at any given time, I just remember moving a lot. When I first came out to school I was still finely appointed, especially in comparison to the typical first apartment. I had cute decor and all the kitchen gadgetry I could use. Still it was an adjustment because I wasn't living with mom and dad anymore and was sharing the bathroom with 5 other girls. Then once I started to move on, take on more responsibility, and eventually get married, things really changed financially. I should add that my parents are fantastic at spoiling us. I have a way cuter house than I deserve based on our income. As a general rule of thumb you can assume anything nice I own was definitely gifted from my parents. I never have to go without the things that really matter, and the very fact that Timm and I are still housed under this roof is a testament to the help that our families have given us time and time again.
I preface this by saying: we are not irresponsible with money, as a rule. I have learned to make many, many adjustments to my lifestyle over the years I have left the safety and luxury of my parent's home. Most of these adjustments are nearly painless, or what I have cheerfully accepted the standards of my living to be- this because of adjusting my expectations many, many times. I think I assumed that my upper middle-class upbringing was fairly typical- I recognized that we were blessed and more fortunate in material means than some others, but we were by no means flashy or ridiculous. Because of this I think I also assumed that my adult life would play out similarly. What I did not account for was the fact that my parents have been married for close to 40 years (!) and also started out as poor college students struggling to get by. I see what they have amassed and saved over the years and wrongly assume that it was easy to come by. Also I didn't know that my husband would be an incredibly hard working high school teacher with 3 part-time jobs presently. That doesn't really bring in the money that it deserves- even decades from now.
Timm and I have a budget- a pretty strict(ish) reasonable one, I think. We have a carefully organized series of spreadsheets for each month and year tallying many different categories. The only 'luxury' items on that list are our Direct Tv and high speed internet, which seem like necessities in our time. Every few days I update the spreadsheets against our bank account and account for every purchase. As a rule, we are careful with our money and weigh every purchase. Anything outside of the budget is discussed before we ever spend it, usually on an emergency. I have learned not to go shopping so that I am not tempted by clothes, accessories and 'things' for myself and others. I am willing and able to do without a lot of things.
I have read several books on the matter of family finance, and for better or for worse I have realized that I lack something the authors of these books possess. I am simply not willing to do certain things. For instance, I am not willing to turn on the shower long enough to get wet, then turn it off while I soap up, only to turn it back on to rinse and get out. I never shower ever day, but I am still unwilling to extend the period between showers with sponge baths. I am not willing to cook or bake only during off-peak hours, whatever that means. I think I am reasonable, and even careful about most financial matters. I turn off lights as I leave the room, I only run full loads of wash and dishes. This said, I know where I have a problem- where I could be saving us much more money and seem to really struggle with: food.
Part 2 to come.


Anonymous said...

Those suggestions are funny- I have never read a book that suggests stuff like that nor have I done them- and for the most part, we have always lived within a tight budget! The shower thing is laughable :)

I really, REALLY liked The Total Money Makeover one- Dave Ramsey. I have heard that Money Harmony by Mellan or something like that is good as well but haven't read it. Looking forward to part 2!

michelle said...

I too have had to adjust my expectations and learn to live without a lot of things since leaving Mom & Dad's home. And I too can attribute almost all of my cute things to their generosity!

(I'm glad you realize that your house is way WAY cuter than most people's, and not just most people who are recently married, etc.)

We are still struggling to tighten up the budget and I know that I could do better with food as well. I can't wait to see what you have to say about that!

Tasha said...

I love hearing how other people work at budgeting. I recently decided that I want to bow out of consumerism as much as I can, kind of an experiment, for the next 8 weeks. I have realized how much money I spend as a way to feel good or better. I also have realized how much I have that will work or make do, how much I have that does not need to be replaced, but has "perceived obsolessence" because the new one just came out. Adjusting my expectations has been big as we have finally finished school and I expected the big payday to come, momentarily forgetting that along with that comes adulthood, more responsibilities, and all the student loans that have been deferred all these years in school... I look forward to your next installment. Food is what is killing me right now. That is where we spend most of our discretionary money, and I feel like I am not willing to stop buying fresh fruits & vegetables..

Jill said...

I hate having to live on a budget. Even after 15 years of marriage we're still not good at it.

I'm impressed that you and Timm do so well. Your house is way, way cuter than most people's houses, especially young marrieds!

marc said...

Not having money sucks. Not a very sophisticated comment, I know, but still... I remember my first year as a professor, finally in my career path and making less money than when I taught one class as a grad student and Michelle worked part time. Very depressing. Teaching at any level is underpaid (which is why I started doing photography on the side), but that said, being rich is also overrated (or so I'd like to believe).

Denise said...

Amen to Marc's "unsophisticated" comment! The hardest part for me--and it sounds so stupid to put it in writing--is that my financial life isn't what I'd pictured it would be after 23 years of marriage. What right do I have, anyway, to have my life go exactly as I pictured? Stupid, huh?

charlotte said...

To quote George Bailey, from "It's a Wonderful Life": "It [money] sure comes in pretty handy down here, bub!"

Diana said...

It's hard being newly graduated. I expect to live as I did as a kid but I forget how far along my Dad was in his career compared to Louis.
You're doing great. It's hard but worth it.

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