Living within your means is a journey, not a destination. When we began our living within our means journey, we thought that “living within our means” was something we would be able to reach – like nirvana, or something – and never look back.
But that’s just not the case.
I want to dispel a few myths about living without your means, and while everyone’s version of living within their means might be different, I think knowing that everyone struggles is half the battle in being ok with where you’re at financially.
You Will Fight – Sometimes A Lot
In most relationships, ours in particular, one spouse handles the money more so than the other. And that’s fine, except that it causes fights, especially with regard to large purchases.
Case in point: The $2,300 bike.
The hubs is big into road cycling. He does at least a race a month, rides a couple times a week with friends, and he rides a $2,300 bike that we got for $500 off of Craigslist. Very cool…. But one morning, on his way down to drill (with the National Guard) he didn’t strap the bike down correctly and it disappeared. No pieces on the side of the road….nothing.
I was livid.
Sure, he didn’t mean to lose the bike, but replacing it would cost us a cool $2,300. We scoured Craigslist for another deal, but since the hubs is so tall, he needs a bike that is bigger than we could find. The bike he had before had been a once a year find, apparently. But since he had a 100-mile race coming up that we had already paid the $75 entrance fee for, and that he had been training for, we pulled money out of savings and bought him a $900 base-model Trek, planning to upgrade the extras one at a time, as we had the money.
A week later, he tells me he’s not doing the race.
And I was livid all over again.
I’ll spare you the details, but the fight lasted a couple of weeks and was not pretty. If I’m being honest, I’m still not happy about it. I’ve just become resigned.
All of this is to say that the $900 bike was within our means, and yet it still caused a fight.
But it would have caused a bigger fight had it been outside of our means.
One Spouse Has To Say “No”
Because I handle the day-to-day PF stuff, when the hubs needs money for something other than a budgeted expense, he has to run it past me. It’s not ideal, because it means that if we cannot afford it, I have to say “no.” And that makes me feel like his mom. Now of course, I show him our bank accounts and budget so he realizes why we cannot afford said expense, but that doesn’t always make it go away. See, when he gets this idea in his head, he can be like a dog with a bone. And a girl can only say no so many times. Sometimes, I give in. And when I don’t, I feel lousy, and much like his mother, rather than his wife.
The Budget Is Fluid
Just when you think your budget is set, something changes. We forget budget lines, we forget to save monthly for big upcoming expenses, and even when we remember them all then something unexpected arises Our budget is a constant source of frustration, but we keep persevering because we know that without it we will be in a world of financial hurt. Some budget categories stay pretty steady, like utilities and our mortgage. Others, like gas and groceries, can be incredibly fluid and a source of frustration. I love to shop, and I make no secret of it. But we’ve been adhering to strict budget for so long that sometimes I just feel like I can’t say “no” to myself any more. It happens a couple of times a year, and while the hubs never gets mad at me, I get mad at myself. And then I take it out on him, which isn’t fair. Our budget is fluid, and sometimes it sucks, but it keeps us living within our means.
It’s Not A Habit
You would think after 2 years of adhering to a $300/month grocery budget and a $300/month gas budget would be old hat by now. It’s not. We struggle every single month to control our spending. Sometimes, we succeed. More often than not, we fail. But what we’re learning, no matter whether we win or lose at this budgeting thing, is how to communicate with each other. How to compromise and still stay on budget, and how to avoid fighting about money. We both get upset with each other and our budget, but every day we try to make overspending a thing of the past.
Honestly, Living Within Our Means Is…
Checking our bank account every day, like it or not.
Finding creative ways to make dinner when we’ve maxed out our grocery budget.
Skipping trips to the gym because the gas budget is getting close.
Returning a pair of workout pants to Target 5 days later after realizing I really didn’t need them.
And saying “no” to eating out with friends after church. Every. Single. Sunday.
There Are Good Things Too, Like…
Paying off $12,000 in 6 months – and the enjoying a budgeted-for celebratory dinner out.
Watching your bank account grow.
Getting a full month ahead on your bills.
Deciding together to increase your entertainment budget to allow for monthly dates.
High fiving each other after making a big deposit into an investment account.
Honestly, living with our means isn’t easy. It makes me crazy most days.
But for us, living within our means is kind of like having a kiddo. We love her so much, but the day in, day out can be tough. She makes messes, cries, gets frustrated, and makes me want to drink an entire bottle of wine one sitting. But in the middle of those long, hard days, there always something bright.
Whether it’s the way she greets me in the morning with a “Good Morning Momma! I love you!” watching her face as she watches a polar bear at the zoo, or those sweet hugs you never saw coming, every day has a bright spot that make the whole frustrating day seem like a win.
Living within our means is the same way. It’s hard, frustrating, annoying, and then something awesome happens.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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