June 22, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait: The Blessings and Blues of Living on a Budget

My husband and I went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University back in January of 2011. I was pregnant with my second child and we were looking to buy our first home. We were fortunate not to have a great deal of debt. We were like most Americans, we had a car loan, a student loan, some medical bills and a few small credit cards bills that we paid in full each month. Still, when you added it all up, it came to around $10,500.

After a lot of discipline, hard work, and selling a TON of miscellaneous stuff we didn't really want or need, we were able to pay off the full amount of our debt in less than a year. For a two-income family that might not seem like that much money, but for our household, it was a sizable percentage of our income. If you look at your finances and feel discouraged, I just want to let you know that IT CAN BE DONE.

I'm not going to lie, living on a budget takes discipline, and discipline is hard work. There are a lot of times when you have to just wait. I have had to resist the urge to just go out and buy what I want (even if it is on sale and its a great deal).

At the moment our countertops are cracked and warped and our dishwasher has a hole in it thanks to a plastic lid that fell and melted on the heating element. Pre-budget Sarah would have checked the bank account and if there was money available I would have just gone out and bought what I wanted (probably putting it on a 0% interest credit card). I've always been frugal, never paying full price, shopping around for the best deal, but I admit I was a bit of an impulse purchaser. If I liked it and it was a good price, I bought it. . . and paid for it later.

If I'm honest, I don't really like telling myself no. I would love to just go out and buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. I'd love to travel and remodel my home. Heck, I'd even love to just go out to lunch with friends a few times a month without worrying about using up all of our "Restaurant" money. I'd love to just go out for a day of pampering and get my hair and nails done, but for the time being, Pro-cuts and Sally Hanson will do.

I suppose learning patience is just part of growing up. A child wants what they want when they want it. An adult is willing to delay gratification until the proper time. I have to tell myself "no" now so that I can tell myself "yes" later. 

One day I will replace my counter tops (albeit they will probably be topped with fake granite laminate instead of the real thing), but for now I'll just hurry up and wait. There are other, more pressing concerns: my husband's tuition for the Fall semester, replenishing our emergency fund after $1k in home repairs, saving up for the inevitable replacement car since both of our vehicles are nine years old, building up 3-6 months of living expenses in savings.

I must admit that living on a budget does have its advantages. I find it to be significantly less stressful. They call it debt freedom for a reason - it really does feel liberating not to owe anyone money. I know how much our bills are and when they are due. I very seldom have to worry about an "unexpected" event because we've usually gotten everything planned out far in advance. We even have an emergency fund in place for those things you can't plan for. And the best part, I never have to worry about missing a payment, because there are no payments. . . ahh that's a good feeling (it will get even better when we pay off our house one day).

It sounds hokey, but sometimes when I'm tempted to gripe about what I don't have, I take the time to remember that I have quite a bit. Other mothers around the country and around the world would be so thankful for what I have. I can honestly say that even though I may not have everything I want, I really do have everything that I need, and for that I am truly grateful.


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