One of the themes of my 2014 is frugality, and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. My husband and I never felt like we were really living above our means, and we knew, when during my second pregnancy we decided I’d stay home with the kids, we were going to have to make some really tough choices. The thing is, we never really seemed to make them. I wasn’t aware that we weren’t until recently, when we’ve actually started to budget.
Budgeting doesn’t mean cutting all frills and luxuries from your life. It just means having a plan for your money. That may include putting money in a vacation fund, or new TV fund, or even just a spending money fund. Not so much for us right now. We’re currently more on the cutting frills and luxuries plan. Maybe managing money will be more fun when I have more to manage, but right now, it’s like “okay, this will go to bills, oh yeah, and we need to be able to eat and drive to places, so…there, done.” It really takes me all of five minutes to make my budget.
Of course the hard part comes in trying to stick to it and make it work. I’m still trying to get the hang of this part, and it’s frustrating. I’m somewhere in the middle, between the people who just need to go down to one vacation a year and cut back on eating out for lunch and the people who eat only 5 different meals on rotation or try to earn some extra income as medical test subjects. I can’t save money with the simple tricks that all the Yahoo! articles I keep clicking on suggest, because I’ve already done them. And I can’t or don’t want to do some of the things that are suggested in the extreme budgeting articles because they just don’t fit into the lifestyle I want for my family. Money is a tool. I’m not trying to amass large quantities of it (but I wouldn’t turn it down, either). I just want to be able to have enough so I can use it in the way that best suits my family.
There are some upsides beyond getting closer to a place of financial security. Making intentional decisions about where you are putting your money helps you to examine what things are important to you and what you can easily live without. I’ve still been able to get creative with dinner time, although I’ve noticed we’re eating a lot more bread and bready things. It seemed many of our weekends used to involve us going out for lunch and then buying something. Now we are spending more time in our home together. Then there’s the fact that when we do splurge, like when the boys came downstairs Sunday morning and saw a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts on the table, it’s a big deal. My 3-year-old got in his chair and his whole body shook as he exclaimed “I’m just so excited.” These kids are now not ones to take donuts for granted.