Sunday, June 9, 2013

budgeting 102

We are in the beginning of our fourth month of our detailed documentation of cash flow. Month #1 was exhausting and stressful; not gonna lie. For example, we made decent guesses regarding the amount we'd need in each category and found that we WAY underestimated when it comes to food and gas, and we kept having unexpected issues (mower repairs, etc.) that we didn't really plan for with a zero-based budget. We save as much money as possible each month, so it wasn't a huge deal; it was just more annoying than anything.

In March, our first month of extreme budgeting, I also set out to cook at home more, and thus to keep more staples on hand than I usually have. I also tried to decrease the number of grocery trips I take each month, which meant in my first trip to Sam's I spent a LOT of money I probably didn't need to spend on things like paprika, thyme, and zesty Italian dressing packets. But those things did come in handy, and now they should last until next January!

April was a pretty easy month as far as budgeting goes. I shouldn't say it was "easy," but it was a lot less stressful because I was used to writing documenting things, and I also wasn't experiencing as much dismay about the amount of money one must spend on food and gas.

And then there was May. Oh May...The month of graduations, weddings, baseball games and a few unexpected large purchases. Ah-hem...a new-to-us car, some fencing materials for a bottle-fed calf or two, and that ridiculous $670 expense at Family Medical Walk-In Clinic (for physicals, not brain surgery). Those purchases hurt, but we realize all of them will have lasting benefits. Example: After only paying $57 for gas each week instead of $75+ for Brad's truck, we are pretty confident we made the best decision. And don't even get me started on the lasting benefits of adoption!

Buying the car was a lesson in risk-management for us, and it turned out to be more risky than we thought because the week after we bought it we learned that the house Brad and his dad were renting out to someone was going to be vacant, which means that we would have to start picking up the mortgage payment AND we'd have to replace the carpet, repaint every square inch of the place, and fix several other rather large defects caused by renters. (To the former tenant: Thanks for smoking a pack a day and locking your apparently always-wet-and-dirty dog in the laundry room all day, both of which were clearly against the guidelines written in the contract, but whatev. Also, thanks for never cleaning anything. You've just made me lose a little bit more faith in humanity.)

So May was frustrating. And the beginning of June is frustrating, as we are still spending a lot of time, energy and money on that house (which actually looks really GREAT now!). BUT we just sold the truck and we have high hopes that this house can get sold as well. (We have a pretty stinkin' good realtor, might I add.). In addition, the budget for the last few months has been a great tool in figuring out where we are spending unnecessarily and how to reduce extra costs in order to account for mandatory new ones.

June, by the way, is now 'No Eating Out Month' and 'No Frills Month' (which pretty much every other month is) so we can SAVE SAVE SAVE for the adoption, and upcoming needed vacation with Brad's fam, and to make sure we have a cushion in case we take a loss when selling the house (or we have to continue paying the mortgage for months). By the way, are you praying for the house sale? We'd appreciate it if you would!

Overall, the meticulous budget has been eye-opening and very good for us, but not necessarily fun. I will say that knowing where your money goes does give you peace of mind, which is a great gift to give yourself. If you're considering starting a budget, I highly recommend it. Dave Ramsey has some great budgeting materials, and this budgeting tool can help you get started easily.

Here's one final thought: We have learned that God provides, and He provides well. We somehow end up with more money in the account at the end of each month than we think we should have in there, and we don't think that's accidental. We tithe, we save, we trust (although I do sometimes stress over stupid stuff, even when it's completely unnecessary). And we are learning to do all of it better.

(Someday remind me to write about the time I totaled my Jeep and ended up with more money and a much nicer car...See, I told you He provides well. We just want to make sure we use it well.)