I am deep in the work of finishing the first draft of my next book and James came to me a few days ago saying, “Um, I know you’re busy but we need to schedule our annual big budget meeting.”
I hate, I mean HATE the budget meetings. They are a rip the Band-Aid off, face reality, things-are-about-to-get-tight-around-here torment. For you Dave-Ramsyians out there, there’s no question which of us is the free-spirit and which is the nerd. But I knew that this past year I had gotten out of control and spent a lot more than I wanted to know about.
I told him I would stop writing early on Saturday night and we could talk. We ate dinner, played some games with the boys and I braced myself for the meeting that was to come. I had been praying for a few days and asking God to prepare my heart. No, seriously, I really don’t like these.
My dread is not just because of the inevitable budget changes, but knowing that he will ask me things like, “That $17 you spent at Target on October 9th, what was it for?” No! Please don’t ask me! I don’t even remember and no way am I going to find that receipt. But he needs to know and for good reason. I get it. I just don’t like it.
And then there’s the announcements. “OK, here is the grand total we spent last year on eating out…..” Or “Guess how much we spent on your hair.” I grab the arms of my chair, tighten my shoulders and close my eyes for the shock.
Turns out that the only real surprise was how much I spent on iTunes. It was ridiculous. I will just order a song and be like, “Oh, it’s only $1.29” until I have a-dollar-twenty-nined myself into a big chunk. That one’s easy. No more iTunes. I am not even upset about losing that. I can take a year off or, if I want a few new songs, put it into the budget and not do any more spontaneous buying.
As I prayed all day about the meeting, asking God to give me a heart toward my husband, I felt God softening me and reminding me that this is good for us. I know James spends hours getting all of our finances in order so we can keep on track. I know he takes such good care of our money and is so sweet about my receipt challenges and iTunes purchases. I have mad respect for how well he keeps us in the black around here and manages all of this mess. I put some Peace & Calming in the diffuser and got my mind and heart ready.
I think 2015 was just such a hard year and I didn’t pay much attention to money. I was focused on other things and let the important, daily life stuff slip past without intentionality. I am ready for that to change. I needed this meeting, as much as I didn’t want it.
We talked for about 3 hours, going through it all and planning for how to use our money wisely this year and where we can cut back so we can afford the things we want to do. And in the end we are still friends. #BFFs
In case you don’t know, my husband is a CPA and a tax attorney. I tell you this so you will understand that this meeting wasn’t just a piece of paper with a list of numbers and dollar signs. It’s columns and documents and words like assets and amortization. My head nearly explodes.
But even with his mad skillz, budgeting is not that complicated. We add up all of the money we brought in last year and all of the money we spent. Then divide the spent columns into categories (groceries, insurance, clothing, entertainment, etc.) and we see where our money went and make decisions for the coming year. Sadly, there’s no iTunes column.
Years ago we were all cash, which I liked because I didn’t have to think about my spending as much. If money was in the envelope, I could afford it. If it wasn’t, I couldn’t. We’ve tried apps and other methods of keeping up with it but we haven’t found one that works for us. Since having my car broken into I don’t like carrying much cash anymore, so I just need to be aware and get better about giving him all of the receipts.
Managing the money is a constant process. Even with this big annual meeting, we will still have to sit down together a couple of times a month to check on the progress and see where we need to adjust.
In the end I am glad we did it. It’s as necessary as rain to the plants, not just for the health of our finances but for our marriage and our future. I want to encourage you all to sit down with your spouse and make a budget for 2016. Be realistic about what you can afford and what your goals are. It will make such a huge difference in how you make decisions.
Happy New Year!