Ever since I can remember I've worried about money. Really. I'm not kidding. For example, when I was little, I'd lie to my friends parents when they had asked if I had eaten so they wouldn't have to pay for me to eat somewhere. Or, if we'd go out to eat I'd consistently order the cheapest thing on the menu, or tell my parents I wasn't hungry. I did not want people spending money on me for fear that it would cost them everything.
Fast forward to adulthood, I was married at 20 and took over the responsibility of handling our family's finances. It didn't last long, as I'd sit and cry when writing out bills and checks. There was no method to the madness, it was just getting used to seeing a very small number in our checkbook and praying another bill wouldn't come in until that number went up. Ugh. I did not enjoy it.
While we were on the road, there wasn't much to worry about with finances. We put into our savings every dime we could, because everything we made had to go back into restarting our lives post-road, and though our savings account was beautiful when we left our on the road experience, one car down payment and one down payment on a house, plus furniture pretty much wiped it out. So, back to paycheck to paycheck and worrying about finances.
While we lived our short stint up north we took a class called Financial Peace, a study by Dave Ramsey. Watching the videos were convicting and enlightening all at the same time. It all looked so... easy. We asked questions like, "Why did we never think of that?" Everything made perfect sense, and showed us how far short we were falling.
We worked hard to create a budget and stick to it, but it was difficult with me not working and with life ever changing. The budget fell on the way-side.
I've tried a few times since then, and never really found myself successful... not even for a little while.
Here in the past year or so I've found an interest in couponing. I don't do it as much as I could, but it almost became a game to see how much I could save. It felt good to see on the bottom of my receipt that I'd saved my family $20 on my shopping trip, or even more. It has become a game to me, and has revolutionized my shopping experiences.
And then it happened. The magic words that have rocked our world since the end of 2009. "I get a basement, you get a baby." My initial reaction was utter disappointment. I knew what it would cost to finish the basement (think, oh, $15,000). And I knew that, even with me working, we are living paycheck to paycheck putting nothing away. But, this was my shot at a baby. We're going to give it all we've got.
So I started making phone calls to waterproofers, talking to my dad about the finish - work, and started trying to work out the financial details. I sat down and worked out a budget for our family... using just Aaron's paycheck, so that my paycheck could go completely and utterly towards childcare and then towards the basement. After tithing, setting money aside for our new church building and paying bills, it turns out, if we budget carefully and I shop carefully, we even have money out of Aaron's paycheck to put in our savings... like over $200 a month! I was shocked! Where was that money going every month? I felt an unbelievable amount of conviction for handling the money so poorly. I gave myself a pretty short -leash for grocery shopping, thinking it'd increase it if I had to, but two things have completely revolutionized my shopping. Number 1 - sorry Wal-Mart, you are out, the grocery store is in. Sure, there are times I HAVE to shop at Wal-Mart, but if I'm there twice a month now it is rare. Number 2 - Meal Plans! It's amazing how much money you can save when I make a meal plan for 10 - 15 days at a time, based on what I already have in the house, and then what is on sale at the grocery store. I went from spending somewhere over $400 a month on groceries to much closer to $250. Meeting my budget gives me a great amount of satisfaction. It really is a game to me!
Which brings us here. We are far more "strapped" now than we've ever been, saving for a basement and a new baby. We have more reasons to be more worried than ever financially. And I feel the most peace than I ever have about our finances. I know when the next check comes where every dime of it will go. Aaron and I both get "blow" money, which I've not allowed myself in a VERY long time, so I'm looking forward to getting my nails done in February ;) We're looking at a car to better fit our hopefully expanding family, and we're looking at it from a perspective of not increasing our monthly expenditures.
Sure, we still have a long way to go, when the basement is done and the baby is here we'll work our socks off to pay off the one car payment we have (our only debt besides our house). Then we'll rock our socks off to get our 6 months of living expenses in our savings... but I'm excited about it. And for the first time ever, I really believe we can do it.
Best of all, we're starting the Dave Ramsey study for the youth, Generation Change, at the beginning of February, teaching them how to give, save, and spend. Best to get to them now before there is debt. I hope it gives them financial peace all of their lives. :)