Yes, it’s true, I’m a budget freak. In some ways I can say budgeting has saved my marriage! Think I’m being overly dramatic? Well, let me tell you a story….
My husband and I come from very different backgrounds. My family was a middle-class, 2-parent, one income family. We always had everything we needed and much of what we wanted. We took summer vacations, nothing extravagant, but we always went to fun places. All three of us kids went to college – I even got my master’s degree – basically on my parents’ dime (my mom went back and got her own degree and began working when I was a teenager and contributed to our college funding).
My husband’s mom was a single parent for many years. She struggled and worked hard to provide for her three boys. Her parents weren’t any better off financially, but sometimes the boys had to stay with them. One time, when the boys were young, my mother-in-law wanted to take them to the beach but she couldn’t afford to stay overnight. So, she packed the boys in the car, drove for almost eight hours so they could see the ocean and then drove back home!
Two totally different worlds, totally different mindsets, collided when we got married thirty years ago.
When we first married my husband was an E3 in the Navy. Basically the lowest paygrade. I worked part-time, and we lived in the basement of a house. With a noisy sump pump in the next room. And floors that “leaked” when it rained. And we were happy, and we were broke.
As the years went by we added kids, and I occasionally worked but usually just enough to pay daycare and retain my sanity. And, we argued about money. How to spend it, when to save. He was a long-term thinker, and I wasn’t. In my defense, I’d never had to be, and I didn’t understand.
Thank God for my husband’s Uncle Kenny. He instilled a strong work ethic in my husband. He also taught him about spending. And saving.
I Heart Budgeting
Along the way we had tried budgets but never stuck to them. Because of my husband’s Navy career he wasn’t home much (lots of sea/underway time). When he was home, we didn’t want to argue about finances. I didn’t want to tell him “no” when he wanted something either. I mean the guy was sacrificing for our family and our country! Shouldn’t he have some extras when he wanted? Lucky for me, those extras weren’t extravagant.
I do remember one particularly nasty argument when I was pregnant with baby #4. We desperately needed a bigger vehicle, and we had gone to look at the coolest van around. It was awesome, and we’d spent a lot of time checking it out and taking a ride. The kids were so excited to get a new van. There was a hitch though – we couldn’t afford it, and I knew it. I was in charge of the money, and I knew in my heart of hearts that this would be too much of a stretch for us. I finally told him, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. To this day the kids remember the van we didn’t get, and I still remember our fight.
Arguing hurts. It can be helpful, if it’s constructive, but we weren’t finding any common ground other than we loved each other and our family. So, we limped along. Sometimes finances were better, sometimes not. Because of his savings-minded nature, we have money set aside for retirement. But even still, we found ourselves almost 30 years into this adventure and still arguing over money!
Finally, I gave up. I turned it all over to my husband. Well, let me be honest. I went kicking and screaming into a TIGHT budget. So tight that our debit card squeaked when we spent anything. Our biggest expenditure has always been our grocery budget. And you know as well as I do that that’s a tough place to cut back.
What did we do? We sat down – with much eye rolling and lip biting on my side – and made up a super pared-down budget. Only the barest essentials. I did beg for an occasional haircut and I still have my book club lunch once a month. My husband isn’t a Scrooge. Just a penny pincher.
Having this crazy tight budget has made a huge difference. Where we were spending several hundred dollars every month above our monthly income, we now are spending only what comes in AND making a dent in our debt. Sometimes a small dent, but at least it’s progress!
The biggest benefit – because let’s be honest, there’s never enough money to do everything you want no matter what – is to our marriage. This strict budget has made us talk to each other (what a concept!), be honest about what we want and need, and look towards the future. We can look at each other and say, “Now do you really need that??” It’s strengthened a pretty good marriage and helped heal some of the hurt places. The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Well, I’m giving up loving money and moving on to loving my husband more – even if that involves a squeaky tight budget!
Check out my Pinterest board Budgeting for budget information and templates. Also, see my blog post Monthly Menu Planning 101 for ideas on menu planning and cutting back on your grocery budget.
Over To You
What are some of the things you do to keep within your budget? Share them with us in the comments section below.
[bctt tweet=”Manage your spending by creating and sticking to a #budget. Alexa Von Tobel #quote”]