The “B” Word: On Budgeting and Saying No

My husband and I have been using Dave Ramsey’s “Every Dollar” method of budgeting for our monthly expenses. I love the sense of control it gives me over my spending, and while things inevitability get moved around because of unforeseen circumstances, all-in-all Ramsey’s tools for getting debt-free and building a respectable savings account are helping us make better choices.

That does not mean that making these choices is easy, though. We wanted to put money in other categories this month, so we decided to make a pact to not eat out until February. This occurred to us after looking over our spending for the past few months and seeing that much of our “fun money” was going to lunches together or with coworkers, dinners with friends, and so on. When we combined these costs with that of buying presents for Christmas and birthdays, and then calculated in semiannual dental work for our daughter and me and yearly vaccinations for our two pups, things got, well, uncomfortably tight.

So, we made our pact to check unnecessary spending, focusing on dining out, and are sticking to it…

…which means our number of invitations to events for this month tripled. Natch.

I have never been one to turn down an opportunity or event, even if I didn’t really want to go. If I didn’t already have plans, the answer was yes. Hell, even if I did have plans, I would try to figure out a way to make it all work or make rain check plans immediately. Thus, my calendar was always full and my wallet was always empty.

Much of this “yes” behavior stemmed from bad experiences with friendships as a child/young adult, and a deeply-seated fear of disappointing anyone, ever.

Looking for the approval of others through spending money? Yep, that’s a sure path to bankruptcy.

So, if I have decided that I don’t want to pour money into the void of seeking human approval, what do I want to spend money on?

  1. I want to get out of debt. My husband and I both have doctorate-level degrees and thus student loan debt, a mortgage, and a car payment. If we did not have these payments to make monthly, I could BUY the restaurants where I want to dine with friends. Ok, so not quite that, but you get my meaning.
  2. I want to store up a war chest for my daughter’s college and future. My parents paid for my undergraduate degree, and I want to do the same for her. I also want to leave her a decent inheritance so that she can not only practice medicine (let’s say) but start her own practice with money from good ol’ mom and dad.
  3. I want to give to charities freely. I not only want to give more to our home church but also give to other causes close to my heart, including research for Parkinson’s Disease, women’s/family shelters, and local food pantries. Moreover, I want to have the “fun money” to spontaneously treat people who just need a pick-me-up, like a cup of coffee or what-have-you.

When I think about what I would do with more money, I don’t think about more clothes or more fancy dinners; instead, I think about getting free from debt (sort of wish I had a studied up on the Bible’s viewpoint of usury before making some financial decisions, but oh well. Better late than never, right?), providing for my family, and giving to others. The best way to do the second and third is to take care of the first, and if I want to get out of debt, I’ll have to say “no” to more than just one month’s social outings. But who knows? I might not only get out of debt but also learn to say “not this time” without visibly cringing and inwardly panicking.

And that’s a win/win.

 

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